A Double Feature Review! Two Terrible Features.
Amazon's Cinderella (2021) is a terrible re-imaging of the classic fairy tale. I understand adding a modern take to this old story, but the direction, writing, and acting all come off as cringe-worthy. The dialogue is clunky, while the songs are just downright annoying. The soundtrack was like listening to a Kidz Bop mixtape. We got songs like Queens' Somebody to Love or Madonna's Material Girl. They even sang songs like Ed Sheeran's Perfect and Jennifer Lopez's Let's Get Loud. Adding an updated soundtrack to this movie just did not work. Maybe on paper, it sounded good, but the execution was disastrous. Writer-director Kay Cannon (director of 2018's Blockers and writer of the Pitch Perfect trilogy) seemed like a good choice to revamp the Cinderella story. Sadly, her direction throughout this family feature falters. Not even the star power of Camila Cabello, Idina Menzel, Minnie Driver, Billy Porter, and Pierce Brosnan could save this movie. By the end of this jukebox musical, I had a headache. Did I mention that James Corden voices a mouse? Terrifying! To say this in the nicest way possible, Cabello has a great voice, but her acting is just awful. I know that Glynis was also incredibly excited to see a Latina be portrayed as Cinderella, but the film's ending results and execution ultimately let her down. Here's to hoping that Rachel Zegler's portrayal as Snow White in Disney's upcoming live-action remake will be a success. If you want to watch a Cinderella movie, then I recommend watching the 1950's animated classic, the 1997 Rodgers & Hammerstein's one starring Brandy, or the 2015 live-action version starring Lily James. In the end, this is a shallow and catastrophic re-imaging from the Bezos vault that is not worth your time.
Cinderella is rated PG (Parental Guidance) Language | Suggestive Material.
Stream it on Amazon Prime Video ... if you dare.
Directed by Kay Cannon
Starring Camila Cabello, Idina Menzel, Minnie Driver, Billy Porter, Pierce Brosnan, and mousey James Corden.
Diana: The Musical
I always enjoy watching a live recording of a Broadway musical, but Diana: The Musical is not it. Terrible cannot even begin to describe this live production. It's two hours of nonsense crippled with the exploitation of Princess Diana and her image. Diana: The Musical is a production that's incredibly cookie cutter and surface level in its storytelling. Shrill and desperate, this is a musical fueled with cold, hard cynicism. This production of Princess Diana adds nothing to her legacy as a mother, wife, royal, or celebrity. Instead, we get the greatest hits of Diana's life, with no emotional core. Biopic musicals can be hard to accomplish, but as long as there's an emotional core grabbing ahold of your audience in-between the catchy musical numbers — normally — you are pretty good to go. The musical follows Diana Spencer (Jeanna de Waal) from her first meeting with Charles (Roe Hartrampf) through her divorce and tragic death. While the acting is subpar, the musical numbers are even more forgettable. This all fades away to the sparkly production designs that make you wonder: "why am I even watching this?" Netflix is trying to take advantage of its royal content after coming off the heels of its current critically acclaimed television series The Crown (which I like), but don't let them fool you with this dumpster fire. Due to COVID-19, this live performance was recorded last year with no audience. But, I am beginning to wonder if COVID did not even want to attend. Diana: The Musical will open on Broadway starting next month (November), and we'll see how that goes. Maybe I am being a little too harsh on this production, but I really love the theatre. It's where I go to escape. With Diana: The Musical — escape — I did not.
Diana: The Musical is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) Strong Language | Suggestive/Thematic Material.
Stream it on Netflix ... if you dare.
Directed by Christopher Ashley (Shocking!)
Starring Jeanna de Waal, Erin Davie, Roe Hartrampf, and Judy Kaye.
A Double Feature Review!
Bergman Island is a fascinating and patient movie. While using the legendary director (Ingmar Bergman) as a backdrop for the film’s premise, we see a charming and creative story transform. One that is well-acted (Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth) and gentle, it's also one of the best films of the year. Bergman Island is a movie cinephiles will gobble up — one that shows us the back-end of a creative process and also explores the history of a legendary filmmaker (Bergman). Ingmar Bergman was a famous Swedish director who made some of the best pictures out there, including The Seventh Seal (1957), Persona (1966), Cries and Whispers (1972), Fanny and Alexander (1982), Wild Strawberries (1957), and Scenes from a Marriage (1973). All of which study the human condition, Bergman's most famous trait. Bergman Island is also a movie that one does not need any knowledge of the director beforehand. Writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve's (Things to Come and The Father of my Children) film stands all on its own, only using Bergman as a backdrop in its storytelling.
Hansen-Løve's film follows a filmmaking couple, Chris (a great Vicky Krieps) and Tony (a strong Tim Roth), who retreat to the Fårö island for the summer. This island is also the same island where Bergman lived and shot most of his famous pictures. Hint why the title and island are called Bergman Island. Tony is a director, while Chris is a screenwriter who has been suffering from writer's block. The cinematography and landscapes in this movie are breathtaking, while a gentle story unfolds. There is also a second part to this film, where Chris talks to Tony about a screenplay idea she has. We then see this fictitious screenplay blossom right on the screen as Chris describes it. Actors Mia Wasikowska and Anders Danielsen Lie play Amy and Joseph in Chris' story. It's about an on-and-off-again romance that also takes place on the Island. A tender picture blending both fiction and reality that will warm you up like a hot cup of coffee. Bergman Island is a movie that takes its time and, just like the legendary director himself, it's an engaging feature that will soothe your soul.
Bergman Island is rated R (Restricted) Nudity | Language | Some Sexual Content.
Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve
Starring Vicky Krieps, Tim Roth, Mia Wasikowska, and Anders Danielsen Lie.
Muppets Haunted Mansion
The Muppets are back! And just in time for the Halloween season. Muppets Haunted Mansion is a spooky surprise the whole family can enjoy. It's a quick 52-minute feature that will slap a smile on your face. The newest entry to this family-friendly franchise specifically follows The Great Gonzo (voiced by puppeteer Dave Goelz) and Pepe (voiced by puppeteer Bill Barretta), who are on their way to a fear challenge event; instead of attending the Muppets' annual Halloween party. The fear challenge takes place in the same haunted mansion where Gonzo's favorite magician, The Great MacGuffin, disappeared one hundred years ago. If anyone has ridden The Haunted Mansion ride at either Disneyland or Walt Disney World — then — you will notice that the film's storyline follows aspects of that ride while Gonzo and Pepe are inside. As usual Muppets films and shows go, this feature has a ton of celebrity appearances and cameos, like Will Arnett, Yvette Nicole Brown, Darren Criss, Taraji P. Henson, John Stamos, the late Ed Asner, Jeannie Mai, Chrissy Metz, Alfonso Ribeiro, Danny Trejo, and Sasheer Zamata. It's also chopped full of catchy songs (Rest In Peace, Life Hereafter, Tie The Knot Tango, Dancing in the Moonlight, and Grim Grinning Ghosts) and Muppets humor that the whole family will enjoy. So, if you are looking for something that is both spooky and family-friendly, then I advise turning on Disney+ and turning on the newest Muppets feature. You won't be disappointed. I guarantee it.
Muppets Haunted Mansion is not rated (NR)
Stream it on Disney+
Directed by Kirk Thatcher
Starring The Whole Muppets Gang and Will Arnett, Yvette Nicole Brown, Darren Criss, Taraji P. Henson, John Stamos, the late Ed Asner, Jeannie Mai, Chrissy Metz, Alfonso Ribeiro, Danny Trejo, Sasheer Zamata.
A Double Feature Review!
As someone who loved the 2018 picture, Halloween Kills was definitely a frustrating horror movie. Messy and chaotic in both its writing and directing. Not terrible, but also not great. There is a good story buried somewhere deep inside this film. You'll hear the phrase "evil dies tonight" over a dozen times in Halloween Kills until it drives you freakin' crazy. Coming off the success of 2018's Halloween, writer-director David Gordon Green's (Pineapple Express, Joe, and Stronger) follow-up sequel comes off as a bit of a disappointment. Halloween Kills is an incredibly safe horror picture that dives headfirst into the mythology of Michael Myers, AKA The Shape (James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle). While there are now 12 Halloween movies to this 40-year slasher franchise, 2018's Halloween wiped the slate clean and retconned all previous Halloween sequels. Instead, the 2018 picture is a direct sequel to the original 1978 classic (also named Halloween). This was a bit of a gamble that Green and writer-actor Danny McBride were doing, but it paid off in the end. 2018's Halloween was a brilliant slasher feature.
They went back to the basics of low-key slasher ingredients to build up the tension and terror. This was also something that John Carpenter and Debra Hill's 1978 masterpiece did. The original Halloween had almost no gore and was incredibly effective in its ability to scare you. Jump to Halloween Kills, and Green and McBride decide (for some reason) to throw everything that previously worked out the window. They rack up the body count this time around, while also taking a deep dive into The Shape's possible supernatural abilities. So, we are minutes after the previous entry, where Laurie Strode (a strong Jamie Lee Curtis), her daughter Karen (a wonderful Judy Greer), and granddaughter Allyson (a great Andi Matichak) thought they had left Michael Myers caged and burning inside Laurie's basement. Once again, he escapes and slaughters about a dozen firemen. Laurie is rushed to the hospital with life-threatening injuries; after being slashed in the stomach from the previous film. Sadly, this keeps Curtis' role pretty limited, while she goes on long random rants and monologues throughout the movie.
As Michael's bloodbath and rampage continue on Halloween night, the town decides to ban together and take down the monster. Green brings back some nostalgic characters from the original film: like Tommy Doyle (now played by Anthony Michael Hall), Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards reprised her role), Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers reprised his role), and Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens reprised her role). The sequel focuses heavily on Tommy's perspective and examines the role of mob mentality in the era of Trumpism. I felt like this aspect was a decent idea on script, but it needed to be better developed through the final product. Overall, the mob topic was poorly executed, heavy-handed, and came off a bit flimsy. The movie also heavily relies on recreating flashback scenes and adding new ones from the original 1978 film. While adding some substantial nostalgic nods to the franchise and fan service (Season of the Witch masks), Halloween Kills' story actually goes nowhere.
It's a frustrating horror picture to watch and examine as it wrestles with what it is actually trying to say and accomplish. The overall outcome is a tad half-baked and tedious. This is definitely a middle chapter movie of Green's Halloween reboot trilogy. But, I will give all of the actors a thumbs up, as their acting chops kept me engaged throughout. Also, the incredible score by Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies will also seep into your mind. Plus, the practical effects and makeup in the film's flashback sequences deserve high praise all on their own. Halloween Kills is not the worst Halloween movie out there (looking at you Resurrection and Rob Zombie), but it is sadly both chaotic and weak in its storytelling. Halloween Kills is an angry movie that goes full Rambo in both its kills and gore. We will have to see how this new trilogy concludes with Halloween Ends (2022) next October. For now, evil doesn't die, and it slashes at anything and everything in its way. One final note, long live Big John and Little John (Scott MacArthur and Michael McDonald).
Halloween Kills is rated R (Restricted) Language | Grisly Images | Some Drug Use | Strong Bloody Violence.
I ranked all 12 Halloween movies. Click Here!
Stream it on Peacock Premium or watch it in theaters.
Directed by David Gordon Green
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Thomas Mann, and Anthony Michael Hall.
Censor is bloody good — a slow-burning character study shown through artistic beauty and thought-provoking themes. One will fall down the rabbit hole to an eerie work of art and British horror. Censor is a balancing act of gory horror, media consumption, and mental health. Welsh filmmaker Prano Bailey-Bond's directorial debut will send chills down your spine and break your psyche. This psychological horror feature is a grand spooky picture to watch this Halloween season. Censor turns the clocks back to the 1980s, where we follow Enid (a fierce Niamh Algar), a film censor who works at the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) during the height of the Video Nasty controversy. Video Nasty was a time in the United Kingdom where low-budget horror and exploitation films found a loophole in their distribution of video cassettes (VHS). These films were able to bypass the BBFC's reviewing process, causing a public uproar due to their extremely violent, graphic, and lude content.
This is where Enid's character comes into play — she watches these films and approves what should be cut or banned for their approval rating. Hint at the film's title Censor. Yet, Enid is also dealing with past trauma of her own. Her sister, Nina, went missing when they were both children. Enid's parents believe that Nina is dead, but Enid is not convinced. Because Enid spends all of her time watching these extremely gory and uncomfortable movies, her mental health begins to spiral. Bailey-Bond then paints a brilliant portrait of Enid's mind as she begins to blend fiction with reality, losing sight of what is real and what is not. After Enid view's an old film from a veteran horror director named Frederick North (Adrian Schiller), she watches a scene that parallels a distant memory of her and her sister.
This discovery convinces Enid that the movie actress, Alice Lee (played by Sophia La Porta), is her real missing sister, Nina. That is as far as I will go into this juicy plot. Bailey-Bond weaves two stories (the missing sister and media consumption) together until they combine into a force to be reckoned with. As Enid's mental health begins to suffer, we see someone who is engulfed with fear and paranoia. While the story comes off as a bit uneven at times, the third act effectively mixes them, unleashing a fever dream of brilliant terror. Through the versatile lighting of neon reds and greens, distorted aspect ratios, and a bloody surprise, we are left with one of the finest horror pictures to come out in 2021. Bold, meticulous, and hazy, Censor will get under your skin. In the end, it's a film permanently ingrained to your mind.
Censor is not rated (NR)
Stream it now on Hulu for their Huluween.
Directed by Prano Bailey-Bond
Starring Niamh Algar, Nicholas Burns, Vincent Franklin, Sophia La Porta, Adrian Schiller, and Michael Smiley.
A Double Feature Review!
Come From Away
Glynis and I got to see Come From Away live a few years back, and the newest live recording is just as powerful as I remember — fluid staging, incredible acting, inspiring, and heart-tugging. One of the most beautiful musicals you will ever watch. You Are Here. Come From Away is an astounding Canadian musical that finds hope amid tragedy. With a folksy and bluegrass sway, this is a musical that will sweep you off your feet. You may even shed a tear. The music and lyrics were composed by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, while it made its Broadway debut back in 2017. The production went on to be nominated for seven Tonys, winning Best Direction (Christopher Ashley). The stage's setup is minimal, using a variety of lighting and raw human emotion to draw you in. The production's cast is made up of only 12 actors — all of whom perform multiple roles throughout this musical. Come From Away is based on a true story set in the week following the September 11 attacks. As part of Operation Yellow Ribbon, 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the small town of Gander in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
All of the characters in this musical are based on real Gander residents, along with some 7,000 stranded travelers they housed and fed. Because of Broadway's 2020 shutdown, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a live stage recording was directed and made by Ashley. The film was released on Apple TV+ on September 10th, a day before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. This live recording allowed Broadway to be brought to the doorsteps and living rooms of everyone at home. The original Broadway cast (Petrina Bromley, Jenn Colella, De'Lon Grant, Joel Hatch, Tony LePage, Caesar Samayoa, Q. Smith, Astrid Van Wieren, Emily Walton, Jim Walton, Sharon Wheatley, and Paul Whitty) also reprised their respected roles, gifting us with a splendid and emotionally resonate musical recording. Come From Away is a powerful musical that transcends through the healing power of human connection. If you were not able to see this musical on the stage, then I highly recommend watching its beauty from the comfort of your home.
Come From Away is rated TV-14 (This program may be unsuitable for children under 14 years of age)
Stream it now on Apple TV+
Directed by Christopher Ashley
Starring Petrina Bromley, Jenn Colella, De'Lon Grant, Joel Hatch, Tony LePage, Caesar Samayoa, Q. Smith, Astrid Van Wieren, Emily Walton, Jim Walton, Sharon Wheatley, and Paul Whitty.
The Many Saints of Newark
The Many Saints of Newark is a welcomed return of beloved Soprano characters fans grew up watching, yet the film does run into cinematic confinement in its storytelling. The Many Saints of Newark is writer-director-creator David Chase's prequel movie to his critically-acclaimed HBO crime drama series, The Sopranos (1999-2007). As a fan of Chase's TV show, I enjoyed going back in time and watching the younger versions of the Soprano characters. Unfortunately, The Many Saints of Newark finds pitfalls in its inability to fully develop its story through the medium of film. While The Sopranos' success came with its ability to nicely develop these dramatic stories and characters over a period of time (episodes) through the medium of television. Nevertheless, I was still drawn in by the great acting chops of this incredible cast (Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Michael Gandolfini, Billy Magnussen, Michela De Rossi, John Magaro, Ray Liotta, and Vera Farmiga). Newcomers beware: if you have never watched an episode of HBO's The Sopranos, then you will be confused.
The Many Saints of Newark is a movie that establishes that you already know the history of the fictional DiMeo crime family, later turned Soprano crime family. Our story follows Richard "Dickie" Moltisanti (a strong Nivola) and his rise and fall to power during the late 1960s and mid-1970s. We also see younger versions of the original series characters like Junior Soprano (Corey Stoll), Livia Soprano (Vera Farmiga), Paulie Walnuts (Billy Magnussen), Silvio Dante (John Magaro), "Pussy" Bonpensiero (Samson Moeakiola), and Carmela De Angelis (Lauren DiMario). Uncle Dickie was always a ghost character during the original run of The Sopranos. By the time the show had started, his fictional character was already dead, but we never knew who killed him. Saints of Newark answers those burning questions of how Dickie was really killed. Though this revelation could divide hardcore Soprano fans.
Dickie was also the father of Christopher (Michael Imperioli), the nephew and protégé of Tony Soprano (played by the great-late James Gandolfini in the original series and by Michael Gandolfini for this prequel movie). Saints of Newark's story is also sandwiched during the 1967's Newark race riots. One aspect that I admired was Michael Gandolfini's performance as a young Tony Soprano, the role his late father (James Gandolfini) played over a decade ago. Michael was a natural and a spitting image of his father. If anyone could pick up the mantle of Tony Soprano, it was Michael. The Many Saints of Newark never lives up to the great heights of the original series — nevertheless — it's still a worthy origin story and history lesson on the fictional Soprano crime family. One that is also dark, witty, and ultra-violent. Lastly, that ending shot with Michael's character (Tony) sent chills down my spine. Cue "Woke Up This Morning" by Alabama 3.
The Many Saints of Newark is rated R (Restricted) Sexual Content | Pervasive Language | Some Nudity | Strong Violence.
Stream it now on HBO Max until October 31st. Or see it in theaters.
Directed by Alan Taylor
Starring Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Michael Gandolfini, Billy Magnussen, Michela De Rossi, John Magaro, Ray Liotta, and Vera Farmiga.
Michael Myers has been terrorizing the town of Haddonfield, Illinois, for over 40 years. There have been great, fun, bad, and ugly movies produced from this slasher franchise. With Halloween Kills now out, I ranked all 12 Halloween films. "It 'was' the boogeyman." "As a matter of fact...it was."
Julia Ducournau’s Titane hits you hard. Provocative, thrilling, chaotic, and completely original. I was blown away.
Warning: Minor Plot Spoilers in this Review
How does one explain a movie like Titane? Writer-director Julia Ducournau’s (2016's Raw) newest French picture transcends you to another dimension. Titane is a film that one has to see to believe. It's wild, organic, and riveting, from the first to the final frame. Ducournau’s transgressive horror will seep into your bones; you won't know what hit you. Our film starts out with 7-year-old Alexia (Adèle Guigue), who gets in a car accident with her father and cracks open her head. Alexia goes into surgery, and the doctors have to surgically implant a large titanium plate into her skull. A metal brace is now placed around Alexia's head like an unholy halo. Ducournau's film sets the tone from there, gifting us with a violent, gender-bending, and orgasmic experience through blood and oil. Jump to adult Alexia (played by an intoxicating Agathe Rousselle), who works as a showgirl at a motor show.
Yet, there's a dark secret that lingers around Alexia. She's also a serial killer. Whether it's a female lover or a male harasser, Alexia will eventually penetrate them in their ear with her razor-sharp hair stick, killing them instantly. Without giving too much away, Titane is a film that's fluid in both its sexuality and gender, turning these subject matters upside down on their heads. You might have already heard, yes, Alexia's character has sex with a vintage Cadillac and gets pregnant. That's as far as I'll go with that topic. You'll have to watch and experience this for yourself. There's also actor Vincent Lindon who plays somewhat of an adoptive father in the film. One who is tormented by his aging body. Furthermore, there's a firefighter's dancing scene that I cannot get out of my head. Full of purple tones and cinematic bliss, it's wondrous. Rousselle's character is mostly nonverbal throughout the picture, but her demons run free.
As we see Alexia's pregnancy progress, she also begins to drip motor oil from multiple places on her body. Ducournau’s sadistic feature is one that cannot be shaken off long after the credits end. Titane had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival back in July, where Ducournau became only the second female director to win the Palme d'Or (the festival's top award). She also became the first female director to win the top award solo (director Jane Campion won in 1993, jointly). Titane was also selected as the French entry for the Best International Feature Film for next year's 94th Academy Awards. This should be an exciting awards season. Titane comes, starts its engine, and races to the finish line. A provocative odyssey that takes one down roads never seen before. You will gasp, laugh, and be hypnotized by Ducournau's dangerously vivid direction. Titane is a liberating experience. Go watch it NOW.
Titane is rated R (Restricted) Language | Graphic Nudity | Disturbing Material | Sexual Content | Strong Violence.
Directed by Julia Ducournau
Starring Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Garance Marillier, Lais Salameh, Bertrand Bonello, and Dominique Frot.
James Bond is one of the longest-running franchises to date. Nearly 60-years of 007. Our British spy has done everything for Queen and country. Bond will always be my favorite running franchise, from the spectacular action sequences to his martinis (shaken, not stirred). With No Time To Die now out, I ranked all 25 Bond films (Eon Productions).
No Time To Die: An action-packed, ambitious, and satisfying swan song for Daniel Craig’s tenure as 007. Craig is arguably our greatest Bond ever. An epic (overstuffed) spy adventure with heart. Craig’s conclusion gives us an emotional goodbye. Mr. Craig, I bid you farewell. Thank you.
Warning: Minor Plot Spoilers in this Review.
After being delayed three times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, No Time To Die coming to theaters has finally become a reality. I never thought I'd see the day. It was worth the 18-month wait, and I was excited that I got to finally sit in the theaters and watch it. At 53, Daniel Craig's 15-year tenure as 007 has come to a close. Mr. Craig parts ways from the tuxedos and martinis with a stylish, bombastic, and emotional farewell. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga (2015's Beasts of No Nation) strongly wraps up Mr. Craig's Bond arc with suave, action, and heart. The Craig-era took the 007 franchise into new directions. Not everything worked for these five films, but they all dared to say something. Craig's incarnation brought Bond into the 21st century, along with a more bruised and broken 007. The series also evolved Bond's past womanizing schemes and showcased what his reckless actions and misogyny could lead to. We saw this in 2006's Casino Royale, where Bond seduces a criminal's wife, Solange (played by Caterina Murino), for information.
Bond does not regard Solange's personal safety, only using her sex for intelligence, and she winds up dead in the next scene. Later in Casino, Vesper Lynd (played by the great Eva Green) exclaims to Bond: "You think of women as disposable pleasures rather than meaningful pursuits." Not only was the franchise tackling a more vulnerable Bond, but they were also confronting his treatment towards women head-on. Something past Bond films did not do. In addition, throughout these five films, we got an enormous amount of strong supporting female actors (Eva Green, Olga Kurylenko, Naomie Harris, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, and Ana de Armas). Craig's Bond-era was also the first of the franchise to complete a saga. In the past, each Bond flick has been their own story, never continuing over into the next movie. That all change when Craig took over, giving us a fully fleshed-out arc for our bruised and beaten 007. No Time To Die doesn't hit the heights of Skyfall (2012) or Casino Royale, but I would put it at No. 3 for the Craig series.
Spectre (2015) and Quantum of Solace (2008) would round out No. 4 and 5. Both Skyfall (my favorite) and Casino re-energized the nearly 60-year-old franchise with fresh missions and innovative stories. While Spectre and Quantum were both bogged down with their own shortcomings. Spectre had some extraordinary action set pieces, but it seemed to wrestle with familiar past-Bond formula and mythology. Spectre also literally tried to connect the previous three films. While Quantum was a chaotic movie in both its writing and editing. However, there were some great ideas hidden underneath Quantum, but they just never came to the surface. Nevertheless, Craig kept us intrigued and invested. No Time works as both a direct sequel to Spectre and also ties up every loose end from this five-film saga. So, in the beginning, No Time is sort of dominated by Spectre's mythical writing, but I applaud Fukunaga for embracing this started path and not departing from it. Looking at you The Rise of Skywalker (2019).
No Time was written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Fukunaga, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) came in to polish the script and add a little more well-rounded humor. So, coming off the heels of 2015's Spectre, Bond, and his new love interest, Madeleine Swann (a wonderful Seydoux) are en route to Italy. Bond, still tormented by the death of Vesper (2006's Casino), has to say a final goodbye to her grave. Bond needs closure to his pain and broken love, but the past doesn't die. Madeleine's dark past has also caught up to her, leading to a breathtaking car chase scene through the streets of Matera. This confrontation leads Bond to break it off with Madeleine and move on with his life and retirement from MI6. No Time then jumps to five years later, where Bond is living peacefully in Jamaica. Yet the world's problems do not stop, and (as usual) the world needs 007 for one final mission. Felix (a grand Jeffrey Wright) confronts Bond about a dangerous bio-weapon called "Project Heracles." This bio-weapon contains nanobots that infect someone like a virus upon touch but are coded to an individual's specific DNA.
The person behind these evil plans is a man named Safin (a creepy Rami Malek), who wants revenge on the entire SPECTRE organization for killing his family. No Time also gives us a brilliant and sinister cold opening with Safin's character confronting Madeleine's childhood home. This sequence in the icy snow sent chills down my spine. Now, Safin's character eventually molds into a generic villain who wants to take down the whole world — however — the introduction to his character was very intriguing. We also get Lashana Lynch, who plays the new 00, and Ana de Armas, who plays a CIA agent. Both Lynch and de Armas knock it out of the park with every scene they're in. I would have loved to of seen more de Armas throughout the film, but she was brilliant with her small on-screen performance. While Lynch's acting chops reign supreme throughout the picture. Her character adds new depths and layers to this old franchise. We also get some familiar friends back like Q (a brilliant Ben Whishaw), M (a stern Ralph Fiennes), Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), and Tanner (Rory Kinnear).
Clocking in at 163 minutes, this is the longest Bond outing for the franchise. Overall, the film kept chugging away, but I do think it could have been trimmed down just a touch. Cinematographer Linus Sandgren (La La Land and First Man) gives us one of the most beautifully shot Bond films in the franchise (right underneath Skyfall). As well as Hans Zimmer's roaring score. You could feel every 00 beat in your bones. Fukunaga also gives us some incredible action sequences like the car chase scene in the Norway forest or an exhilarating single-take staircase fight sequence with Bond. This sequence blew me away with its tension, adrenaline, and no cuts. Craig, as usual, gives us another rousing performance as 007. One that is also incredibly emotional and heartfelt. Fukunaga also made a bold stance and took No Time in a direction that no previous Bond movie ever has. For that, I applaud him. No Time To Die is not a perfect picture, but it is satisfying, powerful, and a worthy conclusion to the Craig-era. I am excited to see where this 60-year-old franchise goes next. For now, Mr. Craig, I bid you farewell. Thank you for these last 15-years. Mission accomplished.
No Time To Die is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) Sequences of Violence & Action | Brief Strong Language | Some Disturbing Images | Some Suggestive Material.
No Time to Die had its world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 28 September 2021.
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga
Starring Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, David Dencik, Ana de Armas, and Billy Magnussen.
Yeah, this has Paul Schrader written all over it. The Card Counter is a slow-burning character study that’s always engaging, always captivating. Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish are fantastic, and their chemistry together is strong. Plus, I would love to see Haddish in more future dramas.
Like in all Paul Schrader films (director of First Reformed, writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull), The Card Counter has his signature feature of a protagonist on a self-destructive path. Through sin and sometimes salvation, our protagonist tries to transcend on a redemptive arc. Schrader likes to throw his audience into the broken mind of his protagonist that he displays on the screen. Often, it allows the audience to see all of the demons laying out to dry right before your very eyes. In The Card Counter, we follow a gambler (a phenomenal Oscar Isaac) who taught himself how to count cards during his eight-year stint in military prison. William Tell (Isaac) is a troubled man whose dark past grows more frightening the more we know about him. We learn that Tell was an ex-military interrogator at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. As many know, during the early stages of the Iraq War, the Abu Ghraib prison became a place of torture where the United States Army and the CIA committed a series of major human rights violations and war crimes against the detainees.
The Abu Ghraib tortures and prisoner abuses were horrendous and will never be justified. In the film, Tell gets caught in a series of photographs, where he is convicted and has to do time. During these flashback scenes at Abu Ghraib, Schrader uses a fisheye lens to capture the horrors of the prison, giving off a paralyzing effect. These flashbacks are one small aspect of The Card Counter. Another crucial part of the plot involves a retired Major (a powerful Willem Dafoe) who got away clean from the Abu Ghraib tortures; a son (Tye Sheridan) who wants revenge for his father's death; and an investor (a fantastic Haddish) who backs gamblers for a portion of their winnings. All of these subplots intermingle throughout the picture until they all become tangled in a knot too hard to undo. Isaac's character likes living a life in the shadows. He enjoys staying under the radar, making small bets, and winning decent earnings from the casinos.
Haddish's character notices something special in him and wants him to join her 'stable' — where she can sponsor him for the big casino gambling competitions. Teller eventually agrees to take on La Linda's (Haddish) intriguing offer. Although Haddish is playing in a dramatic role, her character also offers moments of welcomed humor. From there, we travel down a foggy road full of twists and turns as more and more skeletons come falling out of the closest. This slow-burning picture is stamped with the seal of Schrader's cinematic trademark. The Card Counter will not be everyone's cup of tea. I know that Glynis and I were pretty split on this film. I found it much more engrossing than she did. So, fanatics of Schrader's filmography will gobble this movie up, while I think others will, at least, appreciate what he's doing here. The Card Counter might start out as a laid-back card movie, then it slowly begins to unravel into a psychological game of control. The Card Counter displays Isaac's gripping performance that is backed with a weighty storyline of morality.
The Card Counter is rated R (Restricted) Graphic Nudity |Brief Sexuality | Language | Some Disturbing Violence.
The Card Counter had its world premiere at the 78th Venice International Film Festival on September 2, 2021.
Directed by Paul Schrader
Starring Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, and Willem Dafoe.
Overall, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a pretty good film. It does cater to biopic tropes, but Jessica Chastain’s performance is a revelation. Andrew Garfield’s acting chops are strong as well. Plus, the costume and makeup designs are phenomenal. It’s worth your time.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye's substance might come off a bit surface level, but it's Chastain’s incredible performance that excels the film. So, our movie takes an intimate look at the rise and fall of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. A good portion of the movie is set during the time of the 1970s and '80s. We follow this religious power couple, as they climb to the top through fraud and false hope. The Bakker's created the world's largest religious broadcasting network (The PTL Club) and even a 'Christian' theme park. The Bakker's prevailed on a message of love and prosperity, except it was all a sham. Like all televangelists, the Bakker's profited on the vulnerable, racking in huge swarms of money. "Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless."
Now, director Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name Is Doris and The Big Sick) also gives Tammy Faye's character a bit of a redemptive arc. In Showalter's picture, Tammy Faye was oblivious to her husband's dubious schemes. If that was reality, I am not sure. But Chastain's compelling performance makes it so believable. The film also briefly touches on Jim Bakker's extra-marital affairs, sexual misconduct and rape allegations. Although, it keeps these discoveries pretty surface level and instead focuses heavily on his financial schemes. I took this as a possibility of looking through Tammy Faye's point of view and how she probably didn't know every detail of what her sinister husband was up to. Maybe? Tammy Faye was also known for her heavy makeup, wild eyelashes, eccentric singing, and enthusiasm to embrace people from all walks of life.
Tammy Faye's acceptance towards others transcended during the AIDS crisis. During that time, Faye began to reach out to the LGBTQ+ community. The movie also introduces us to other slimy televangelists like Jerry Falwell (played by Vincent D'Onofrio) and Pat Robertson (played by Gabriel Olds). As the story progresses later in the years, slowly Chastain transforms more and more into her role. She hits a point where she looks and sounds exactly like the real Tammy Faye. She's indistinguishable, in a good way. This is the power of great acting. Overall, through all of the story's faults, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is still a fun movie to watch. I was entertained the whole time. Chastain gives us one of her best performances, one that is also Oscar-worthy. I hope she stays in the conversation this awards season. In the end, through the glitter, glamour, fraud, and a bit of Jesus, this is Tammy Faye's story.
Want to hear more of my thoughts about Tammy Faye? I spoke with my good friends, Matt and Ashley, on their podcast, Mashely at the Movies | Listen Here.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye had its world premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on September 12, 2021 and is currently playing in theaters.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) Sexual Content and Drug Abuse.
Directed by Michael Showalter
Starring Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Cherry Jones, Fredric Lehne, Louis Cancelmi, Gabriel Olds, and Vincent D'Onofrio.
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