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

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Friday, January 28, 2022

The Legend of La Llorona

Lately, there seems to be a plethora of movies about the ghost of Mexican folklore, La Llorona. In 2019 alone two films were released. The first, “The Curse of La Llorona,” was released as part of “The Conjuring” universe of movies. It wasn’t a particularly good film. Later that year, a more serious take on the tale was released called “La Llorona.” While that was a much better film, it didn’t get much notice. A quick check on IMDB reveals that there have been a number of films produced about the legend over the years. Now comes director Patricia Harris Seeley’s film, “The Legend of La Llorona.” Are audiences really clamoring for this much material about the ghost? Surely not.

Seeley’s movie starts with a sequence that takes place late at night in a deeply wooded area by some canals. A mother and her two young children are making their way to cross the border when they are attacked by La Llorona. The sequence is ineffective, does little to build any style or suspense, and features some cheap-looking effects. It’s inconsequential, has no relation to the rest of the movie, and does little more than set up the tone for what follows. The Candlewoods, introduced as they ride in a taxi driven by Jorge (Danny Trejo), have come to Mexico for a quiet getaway. Carly (Autumn Reeser) and Andrew (Antonio Cupo) are having marital problems following the death of their infant daughter and have come to the villa, owned by Veronica (Angelica Lara), with their young son, Danny (Nicolas Madrazo), for a change of scenery. Carly and Andrew clearly have a strained relationship, which isn’t helped by Andrew’s obtuseness. He’s clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer as evidenced by an awkward make-out session with Carly who’s obviously not interested at the moment.

Shortly after their arrival, Danny is attacked by a ghostly shroud in the nearby canals. Carly and Andrew manage to save him. To Andrew’s disbelief, Carly and Danny claim to have seen a woman in the water. The woman is La Llorona (Zamia Fandiño), translated to English – The Weeping Woman. Carly continues to see visions of La Llorona, some involving the ghost kidnapping her son. Eventually, the kidnapping becomes a reality. Will Carly and Andrew be able to save their child from the spirit?

There is a lot wrong with “The Legend of La Llorona.” To start, the Jorge character keeps popping up for some reason. He’s at the restaurant Carly and Andrew go to for dinner. He’s suddenly there when they call the police following Danny’s disappearance, both parents believe the cartel took their son. He even seems to be staying at the villa as well later in the movie. When the ghost really starts attacking everyone, he’s there shooting a shotgun at it. Yes, you read that right. And while we’re on the subject of Jorge, he continually tells Carly and Andrew that the area they are in is not safe for them. Did this couple do any research before planning this vacation?

The ghostly happenings of La Llorona have no consistency. Veronica tells Carly that La Llorona only takes babies but we see her take older children and attack adults. Plus, Veronica is clearly terrified of La Llorona. It’s revealed in flashback why but, again, there is no consistency to why and when the ghost attacks. Too many of the characters shoot guns at the ghost. Do they really think a bullet would harm a supernatural entity?

To quote Carly, “none of this makes sense.” Thanks, Carly, for speaking our thoughts out loud. “The Legend of La Llorona” feels like a bad television show. The acting and the pacing are atrocious. Maybe this could have worked as a short film. As a feature, it’s stretched thin. You’ll be begging for this one to end before it’s finally over.

(Review by Bret Oswald)

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Director: Michel Franco

Studio: Bleecker Street

Review: Sundown!

As a movie buff, my mind is not familiar with director Michel Franco right there. He’s a Mexican film director, screenwriter, and producer. Of course, throughout his entire film career, some of his films typically deal with Mexican people, mostly centrally in regards with the themes of dysfunctional families, in particular Mexican upper classes. Distributed by Bleecker Street, the film features the main stars of Tim Roth and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

The story of Sundown focuses on a wealthy man named Neil who is vacationing with his loved ones at a resort in Acapulco, Mexico. One day, while relaxing at a resort, Alice receives a phone call and informs the family that there has been a death in the family. After hearing the news about this, everyone decides to return home. Neil, however, pretends to lose his passport which forces him to extend his time in Mexico.

Oscar-nominated actor Tim Roth (Rob Roy) receives his main solo role as Neil, a wealthy traveler while actress Charlotte Gainsbourg portrays Alice in the film. Roth certainly gives a magnificent underrated performance as he senses his character whose behavior breaks with expected norms, asking us to imagine his truly-intense motives. The subtlety of the actor gradually and naturally reveals the circumstances that overturn our points of view. Gainsbourg, on the other hand, gives a tremendous performance in her role, though her character seems to be profoundly and relatively confusing as her Alice character relationship status with Neil is unknown. She looks like she’s either a wife or a sister, but kinda looks like a serious actress with character family-role models.

Having been directed by Michel Franco, the film has a lot of humor, violence, and drama as the film questions how we can imagine ourselves on what we do in the past and present, in the same circumstances. On top of these roiling undercurrents, there are color-contrast scenes that feature a beautiful, but highly-exclusive beach resort with the crowded lively (and of course, deadly) beach that many locals inhabit. While the first half of the film seems pleasant, however, there are some dark images and scenes filled with trauma flowing in the second half of the film, which gives me the creeps and shivers in my eyes. Even the ending is a bit cheesy to say as it looks like most of the interesting scenes have been cut out. Regardless, the film provides some excellent performances coming from Tim Roth and Charlotte Gainsbourg respectively as they managed to round out a thought on this provoking and well-executed film.

There’s quite a small cast appearing in the film. We have Samuel Bottomley (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie), Albertine Kotting McMillan, and Iazua Larios. They both have their supportive roles as Colin, Alexa, and Berenice, Neil’s new love interest. And lastly, actor Henry Goodman (Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron) appears as Richard.

Sundown is ok, but is a nice subtle 80-minute film filled with drama, resilience, and endurance offered by director Michel Franco and actor Tim Roth. Although I enjoy the film as much as anyone does, I didn't hate it, it’s just that this film did not reach its level of expectations since this is an 80-minute feature the director has offered this year. Just to be advised, this film is R-Rated and also contains gun violence shown in the film. I would say this, you can watch this if you like, but take caution when you’re planning on seeing this film.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Parallel Mothers

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Review: Parallel Mothers!

This film is a very good turn of events for director Pedro Almodóvar, despite his age of 72. This goes to show, most directors have reached a peak somewhere during their career, like Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg for example. Their films stopped improving from then on. Any remarkable filmmaker can achieve their goal no matter what difference it makes. As he gets older, he makes his films increasingly intense and astonishingly pure. It's a very unpredictable challenge that any film is seemingly talking about certain topics and turning out to deliver something completely new and different. Featuring Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit in their main roles, this film had its premiere at the 78th Venice International Film Festival.

Parallel Mothers follows two women, Janis and Ana, who are giving birth to their child on the same day. Janis has a casual relationship with Arturo, a forensic anthropologist who is studying mass graves that contain the remains of those killed during the Spanish Civil War, and asks Arturo to research a mass grave where her great grandfather was buried. After getting pregnant, Janis meets Ana, who is much younger and deeply traumatized, in the maternity ward of the hospital. Oscar-winning actress and Pedro Almodóvar’s frequent collaborator Penélope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) portrays her main role as Janis while Milena Smit appears on her side as Ana. Cruz is magnificent as she expected great things about how she is able to get her act together and so is Milena Smit. She’s also outstanding in her acting, which is why both of them have a wonderful onscreen chemistry as if they’re best friends or simply next-door neighbors.

For starters, this film is pretty much like an autobiography of some kind as Almodóvar wants to make something to represent Spain, he is what makes this story intelligently integrated into the film, talking about death, war, and coping with something sinful. The contrast with the other themes in the film is striking: we see Cruz, and the other parallel mother Milena Smit, involved in childbirth, friendship and rethinking their future lives, which are the heavy main messages being carried all over the film.

When it comes to storywise and writing-wise, all of the usual Almodóvar-directorial ingredients have been blended in together exquisitely and smoothly, building up a courageous, unorthodox story about women and motherhood. The superb acting coming from Penelope Cruz is nicely well-done as well as the tasteful clothing and its interiors, beautiful cinematography, and intelligent dialogues with some surprising twists. But there’s one terrifying thing to be warned just to be on a cautious side, Almodóvar adds a little extra of what is called the attack on the political parties in Spain.

The majority of the Spanish supporting cast also did a remarkable job to add that comment despite having some small focal acting cast right there. Here in the film, we have Spanish actor Israel Elejalde as renowned forensic archeologist Arturo, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón as Teresa, Rossy de Palma as Elena, and Julieta Serrano as Tía Brígida.

With some emotional and scary images being shown onscreen, Parallel Mothers is a relatively unspectacular two-hour film, because it consists mostly of people talking and showing their emotions to each other. However, it takes extraordinary directing skills to make such an ambiguous film about women with such strong emotional storytelling ingredients to fascinate critics and audiences. This is one of those films that are just very good, because they are made by an experienced craftsman who knows what anyone has been doing all this time. I think this film is definitely worthy of being an awards contender for Spain, predominantly Oscar or Golden Globe for 2021 or 2022.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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Friday, January 14, 2022

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania

(Review by Chase Lee)

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The Tragedy of Macbeth

(Review by Chase Lee)

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(Review by Chase Lee)

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Hotel Transylvania: Transformania

Director: Jennifer Kluska, Derek Drymon

Studio: Amazon Studios/Columbia Pictures

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania continues gruesome, but laugh-out-loud misadventures.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania is a direct sequel and follow up to Hotel Transylvania: Summer Vacation, released in 2018. Originally, this new Hotel Transylvania sequel was set to be released in theaters, but since the COVID cases have surged back up on its feet, the film is, instead, heading towards Amazon Prime Video at your houses, and computers on January 14th, 2022 sadly. Animator Jennifer Kluska and Derek Drymon take their first directorial gig to helm this fourth and final sequel of the Hotel Transylvania film series. While most of the actors return from the previous films, a few newcomers are introduced in this film.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania focuses on Count “Drac” Dracula, who, after tampering with Dr. Van Helsing’s monster/human-transforming invention, has accidentally transformed himself and his monster friends into humans, while his son-in-law Johnny, the only human at the titular location, Hotel Transylvania, has also transformed himself into a monster as well. In their new bodies, Drac and Johnny, along with their newly-transformed buddies, must team up to put their differences aside and race across the world to find the cure in order to switch back into their old bodies before their transformations become permanent forever.

Count “Drac” Dracula is voiced by newcomer Brian Hull, replacing Adam Sandler, who has previously voiced him in the last three films. If you don’t know who Brian Hull is, he is a famous YouTuber known for singing Disney’s Frozen song, Let it Go!, in different Disney character voices, for which he became a YouTube phenomenon for all Disney fans out there. Under the directors’ influence, Hull, in his acting debut, takes his first motion-picture acting gig and completely follows his Dracula character and the script lines written by Amos Vernon, Nunzio Randazzo, and Genndy Tarkakovsky (who directed the previous three films and created Dexter’s Laboratory).

Saturday Night Live alumni Andy Samberg returns to the sequel, reprising his role as Johnny, an ordinary human who is Mavis’ husband and Dracula’s son-in-law. For this part of the movie, Johnny feels left out since he is a human and not a monster. He has two biggest fears shown in the film: in the future, he might screw things up at the hotel and his father-in-law Count “Drac” Dracula would not accept him for who he is. His persona as either a human being or a monster, along with Drac’s, is always the conscience of how to overcome one’s own differences between humans and monsters and understand what it means to be part of the family and how important it is on what he has become. It’s a life lesson for both families, in-laws, and friends along the way. Basically, Johnny is what reminds us of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, just like the first Hotel Transylvania film, released back in 2012.

The film is directed by Jennifer Kluska and Derek Drymon in their directorial debuts. As much as Hotel Transylvania watchers know Jennifer Kluska, some (maybe most) fans recognized Derek Drymon who is known for directing Spongebob Squarepants episodes from the past. Under their direction, this animated sequel, like the first film, depicts an interracial marriage as much interracial marriages historically had been illegal in most states of the United States. It’s where the directors have provided some dynamic elements for the Dracula character as they know what they are doing every single step of the way. They even provided comedy for both Dracula and the Johnny characters to keep the flow of the story. While the comedy and emotions draw upon the film, some unemotional writing tones and some empty plot holes, however, do need work. Nevertheless, it’s a fun-filled sequel with some minor characters being invited to the party, such as Frankenstein, Griffin the Invisible Man, Wayne, and Murray to keep this film entertaining. Even Mark Mothersbaugh is brought back on the set to score the film, having previously done so in the first three installments.

Also returning for the story are Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place) as Dracula’s daughter Mavis, Kathryn Hahn (Wandavision) as Dracula’s wife Ericka Van Helsing, Jim Gaffigan (The Jim Gaffigan Show) as Professor Abraham Van Helsing, Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire) as Wayne the werewolf, Molly Shannon (Saturday Night Live) as Wayne’s werewolf wife Wanda, David Spade (The Emperor’s New Groove) as Griffin the Invisible Man, and Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele) as Murray the ancient mummy. However, another newcomer Brad Arnell voices Frankenstein in this sequel, replacing Kevin James, who previously voiced him from the last three films.

Despite the valiant efforts coming from the directors and animators, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania somehow lies on the average 90-minute film, but it is the most improved animated film in the Hotel Transylvania franchise. It’s not a good movie or a bad movie, but it’s better than the previous three films. The voice cast did a terrific job, but Brian Hull really outshines them all as he steals the show. In my opinion, it’s nowhere near as good as other animated films or franchises like Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, Toy Story, or How To Train Your Dragon, but at least it’s not an newly-awful Ice Age sequel. Hate to break it to you, but this sequel is a hard pass for me. Just so you know, I already got to see this early in theaters for a full rare cinematic experience.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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A Hero

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Studio: Amazon Studios

Review: A Hero!

In this film, Oscar winner and Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi demonstrates the pitfall of many new and experienced filmmakers around the globe: attempting to innovate a way to tell a story based on family conflicts and society issues during his non-Hollywood filmmaking career. This is a film, along with his other films, where filmmakers, movie critics, and movie buffs should not skip or look down upon from their bystanding eyes at home and at a movie theater in any country. As a mind reader, my mind tells me that most people, including movie critics, are picky and lazy about movies, but later on in the future, they need to be pricker than ever regardless of how well the film has performed. The film’s prime focus for the film’s entirety is actor Amir Jadidi himself.

A Hero focuses on a prisoner named Rahim who is spending time behind bars due to his debt he was unable to repay. During a two-day parole leave, he desperately tries to convince his creditor to withdraw his complaint against the payment of part of the sum, but things go awry as it seems.

Iranian actor Amir Jadidi portrays his main role prisoner Rahim while supportive actor Mohsen Tanabandeh appears as Bahram. Jadidi is wonderful, trying to put his serious acting to it. He studies and knows what “The Hero’s Journey” means, which is what many non-Hollywood actors and filmmakers really define right there in their own terms. He exquisitely did a far better job as a protagonist actor than any drama other protagonist actors towards adding family-friendly emotions to the storyline along the way, leaving me understood, frustrated, sad, and happy throughout this emotional wild ride.

Asghar Farhadi is the director of the film. To those who don’t know him, he is the director of his films A Separation (2011) and The Salesman (2016), for which he won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film (now called “Best International Feature Film'' in that category) on both films, making him one of the few international film directors to do so. He’s a filmmaker who is unavoidable to mention or to recognize. With his direction in this film, the main theme of the story is debt, which is something everyone has fears about. Debt is something people can’t get out of, which is what the director is aiming for in terms of crafting his piece of work. The story is nicely put, filled with understandable points of view from the Rahim character. Farhadi proves that while Hollywood has a lot of visionary directors, international film directors outside of Hollywood certainly do have some vision about films too. While the first half is pleasant, the second half soon turns to nervousness that becomes so hard and steady to watch. Asghar Farhadi has once again left me to think deeply about the meaning of life whilst growing up. It’s clear that growing up is not an option, but it’s an agreeable way to think that he has defined his styles through layering in nuances within seemingly simple plots and strong character building arcs, but every movie is as unpredictable as other Hollywood films people have watched.

There are a lot of excellent performances coming from the cast who appear on Jadidi’s side thanks to their own capability of acting and Farhadi’s direction and script-writing. All the other aspects from the cast performances, the theme of being in debt, and the story really prove my word as they gave me experience with the exact timing for original score to extract, the exact angles for the cameras to see clearly and carefully, and some dark, depressing colors from the Jadidi’s scene which makes Farhadi's directing job a one to remember and a one to praise physically inside the theater or at home.

As a movie lover and only-focused Hollywood film critic, I’ll try my best to avoid being picky about movies, but I believe A Hero is one of the best international films in the whole-wide world of cinema, clocking in at two hours. Asghar Farhadi really put a lot of hard work into it and so does Amir Jadidi himself. I highly recommend this to anyone who would like to learn something through the joys and natures of cinema. I haven’t seen any of his directed-films lately but to me, it is obviously one of his best films and is a definite contender for the Academy Awards this year or in 2022. So let me say this, if you want to watch any international film, I would highly convince you to please watch this without a doubt.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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