Rebecca is one of the most disappointing movies of the year. Vivid cinematography that is muddled by a weak storyline — actors Lily James and Armie Hammer's shiny performances are, in the end, hollowed out by chaotic pacing and a lack of direction.
Director Ben Wheatley (Free Fire and High-Rise) never gives us a good enough reason to enjoy the existence of this movie. Rebecca is like a shiny new toy, only to fall apart in a matter of minutes. Based on the 1938 novel by Daphne du Maurier, this Gothic tale follows a man who's haunted by the memory of his late wife, Rebecca. Director Alfred Hitchcock turned the novel into a 1940s feature film, and it was a huge hit. Hitchcock soaked his movie with tension, bravura performances, and lively cinematography. As any normal Hitchcock feature goes, Rebecca was able to seep into your bones, sending chills down your spine. His film went on to receive 11 Oscar noms that year, winning two awards; Best Picture and Best Cinematography. Remaking a classic Hitchcock film is no small task, yet Wheatley failed to provide us a sense of gratitude. His story structure was all over the place, making the film's pacing agonizing to watch. Yet, Lily James and Armie Hammer do their best to win the audience over with their fairly persuasive performances — James is good, and Hammer is even better. Unfortunately, their performance's become suffocated by the lack of direction towards the end of the film.
One thing this Rebecca remake did have going for it was the stunning cinematography, along with gorgeous set designs and costumes. The film follows a young newlywed (James) who arrives at her husband's (Hammer) family estate on a windswept English coast. Mrs de Winter (James) finds herself embattled in the shadows of her husband's first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy haunts the house long after her death. Wheatley has no business making a Gothic romantic horror film if he does not take the time and effort to do so — Rebecca proved this was the case. Underneath the surface of Rebecca is a story ready to explode with fascinating Gothic horror and pressing tension between two people. This highly polished (on the outside) remake takes too many wrong turns, in the end, leaving our viewers in the cold. If you are interested in watching Rebecca, I recommend watching Hitchcock's version instead. Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940) is more satisfying on every level, especially on the construction of a coherent story. Wheatley's Rebecca remake might achieve a visual pizzazz, but it squanders everything else along the way. Shame.
Rebecca PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). Some Sexual Content, Smoking, Partial Nudity, Thematic Elements.
This sad remake is directed by Ben Wheatley
Starring Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Keeley Hawes, Sam Riley, and Ann Dowd.
Available to Stream on Netflix.
Sofia Coppola's (The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation) latest feature may be her lightest film yet — One the Rocks still offers plenty of charm, emotional jabs, and a personal journey led by our two lead actors Bill Murray and Rashida Jones.
Since the birth of The Virgin Suicides (1999), director Sofia Coppola has been one of the leading directors in Hollywood every step of the way. For the last 20 years, Coppola has given us some of Hollywood's greatest treasures, like The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation (2003). Coppola has also gone on to make other aesthetic features like Marie Antoinette (2006), The Bling Ring (2013), and The Beguiled (2017). Coppola's style and craft have continued to mature over time — gifting her films with beautiful set designs, lavish cinematography, and potent storylines. Coppola has always been in control of her work, continuing to elevate her art. She continues to prove the importance of having a female perspective behind the lens of a camera. On the Rocks showcases some of Coppola's greatest talents as a director; while also elevating Murray and Jones' charming chemistry. Given its contemporary setting and adventurous vibe, On the Rocks' underlining theme will sneak up on you.
The film follows Laura (a compelling Jones), a New York City mom who's married, has two young daughters, and is a writer. Dean (Marlon Wayans) is Laura's husband, who spends most of his nights traveling as a successful entrepreneur. Through Dean's demeanor, Laura becomes suspicious that Dean is having an affair with a co-worker of his. Laura's larger-than-life father, Felix (a never better Murray), decides to form a stakeout and see if the affair is true. This impulse, brought on by Felix, is questioned by Laura at first — what if everything is alright and Dean's affair is not true? On the Rocks is a conventional dramedy with a few surprises tucked away inside. As Felix zips his shiny red car around the city, Laura wonders if she is doing the right thing. It's the perfect blend of a father-daughter relationship fueled by tension, affection, and past misgivings.
Jones' committed performance helps anchor this film, while Murray provides a zany blend of bad decision making. Visually satisfying, On the Rocks is a wonderful Coppola feature about the anxiety of adulthood and the blues of relationships. We see the day-to-day activities of being a parent, that is beautifully illustrated like a painting on a wall. On the Rocks may never go as deep as past gems, like The Virgin Suicides or Lost in Translation — nevertheless — Coppola's newest feature stands on its own. On the Rocks is a delight to watch, emotionally engaging, and gorgeously acted. Just like real relationships, Jones and Murray provide us with rough patches, never smooth. By doing so, we see their relationship come full circle, allowing us to reevaluate our own. Through its humanistic caper lens, in the end, this is a lighthearted dramedy that awaits to be watched.
On the Rocks is rated R (Restricted) Some Language | Sexual References.
One the Rocks is available to stream on Apple TV+
Directed by Sofia Coppola
Starring Bill Murray, Rashida Jones, Marlon Wayans, Jessica Henwick, Jenny Slate, and Barbara Bain.
Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm proves that Sacha Baron Cohen has not lost his comedic power — this sequel is full of laugh-out-loud moments along with nerve-racking gags crashing through the Trump era. It's a comedy that's full of heart; as we navigate our way through this scary new age of misinformation and alternative facts. Borat 2 is a movie 2020 desperately needs. Very Nice!
2006's Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan hit the U.S. like a firestorm. This mockumentary comedy featured real-life interactions with Americans, poking fun at our prejudices involving each other and real-world events. Sacha Baron Cohen's character (Borat Sagdiyev) is a fictional journalist from the country of Kazakhstan who travels through the United States. Borat is known for his racist views towards the Jewish community and also his misogyny. These types of prejudices and antisemitism built into Borat's character allowed Cohen to get people to let their guard down, unveiling their own forms of bigotry. Cohen, himself is Jewish, which adds to the layer of satire he is trying to convey on screen. Now, 14-years later, Borat returns to a country that has rapidly changed in the era of Trump. In Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm, Cohen's character is reflecting on what it means to be his authentic self in this scary new world of ours. Borat has become an outcast in his home of Kazakhstan because his 2006 documentary made the country a laughing stock.
Borat gets a second chance to redeem himself by traveling back to the U.S. and giving his daughter Tutar (played by a hilarious Maria Bakalova) as a prize to Vice President Mike Pence. Well, originally, it was a special monkey, but I won't spoil that gag. So that Borat is not executed; he decides to give away his daughter Tutar as the next best option. Bakalova is the breakout star in this movie — she steals every scene that she is in. Bakalova is hilarious, while she is also cunning. Line after line, Bakalova's performance soars to new heights. Bakalova deserves a Golden Globe nomination for her outstanding comedic performance. Also, her scenes with Jeanise Jones are sweet and caring. Ms. Jones is probably one of the nicest people you will ever meet. Borat and Tutar travel all around the U.S. in this sequel — crashing the CPAC, dancing at a debutante ball, tackling the Pandemic (COVID), and even mocking a March for Our Rights rally in Olympia, Washington. During the far-right rally scene, Cohen literally put his life at risk and was wearing a bulletproof vest.
Cohen even got the crowd to join into singing a xenophobic song. This scene will have your anxiety through the roof — it made me feel like I was watching Uncut Gems again. Behind the scenes, Cohen had to run for his life and almost got pulled out of a moving trailer. Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm goes deeper than it's predecessor by blending activism and comedy throughout. Since the start of social media, disinformation has been continuing to run rampant, growing from outside fringe groups and into the mainstream. QAnon is a great example of that. For a long time, Cohen has been an outspoken critic of big tech companies and their complacency towards fact-checking misinformation. A prime example has been the scary trend towards Holocaust deniers growing on sites like Facebook and YouTube. Cohen decided to tackle this issue in his newest film. There's a scene where Borat has given up on hope because he finds out that the Holocaust is a "myth" by a Holocaust deniers group on Facebook. Borat decides to commit suicide by going to a synagogue and dressing up as a stereotypical Jew. This scene starts off highly offensive and is uncomfortable to watch.
However, Borat meets two real-life Holocaust survivors (the late Judith Dim Evans being one of them) during his time at the synagogue. It's an important scene because these two elderly ladies treat him with kindness, looking past his bigotry. Cohen put this scene in to demonstrate the importance of history, activism, and making sure future generations do not forget about the past, like the Holocaust. Sources have said that Cohen ended up breaking character behind the scenes to reveal to the two ladies what he was trying to capture. Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm's shock value is still there, and the cringe-worthiness is stronger than ever. Cohen has outdone himself, proving his point at how deeply divided our country is and how conspiracy groups are growing at an alarming rate. The film ends with an outrageous gag on Rudy Giuliani, which I will not spoil for you. Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm is the same satire and mockumentary as the first film, but this time around, it's made with a higher blend of awareness and activism. As our country goes deeper down a rabbit hole of conspiracies and violence, Borat and Tutar are peddling their way out screaming at us to wake up. So, wake up America, the time is now. And please, wear a mask.
Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm is rated R (Restricted). Graphic Nudity, Strong Crude & Sexual Content, Language.
Directed by Jason Woliner
Starring Sacha Baron Cohen and Maria Bakalova.
Stream now only on Amazon Prime Video.
The Witches (2020) is a terrible movie; there is no sugar-coating this one. Director Robert Zemeckis' (Forest Gump, Cast Away, and The Polar Express) hamfisted remake is one of the worst films of 2020. It's an adaption without a clear direction or purpose, bloated with annoying special effects and a lack of magic.
The Witches is a 1983 dark fantasy children's book written by the beloved author, Roald Dahl (James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and Fantastic Mr. Fox). Dahl's book was later turned into a 1990 feature film starring Anjelica Huston. The 1990 film gained a cult following — receiving praise for Huston's wicked performance, Jim Henson's masterful puppetry, and capturing the spirit of Dahl's literary style. However, the same cannot be said, about Robert Zemeckis' stab at this witchy tale. Zemeckis has made some undesirable pictures in the last 20 years, but this film with a bald Anne Hathaway takes the cake. I would not say that The Witches (2020) is a "so bad it's good" film, but it was pretty amusing to watch at how bad it turned out to be. Our films starts in 1968, when a young boy (Jahzir Kadeem Bruno) goes to live with his loving grandma (Octavia Spencer) in the rural Alabama town of Demopolis, following the death of his parents. Since his arrival, the boy begins to encounter diabolical witches. So, his grandma decides to take him away to a seaside resort, out of the witch's path. However, this same resort becomes the destination for the world's Grand High Witch gathering. Anne Hathaway plays the Grand High Witch, the leader of all of the witches in the world. She is also the most evil and the most powerful witch of them all.
The grandmother reveals to the boy that witches never leave once they find a child. We also learn that real witches have claws instead of fingernails (they hide by wearing gloves), are bald (they hide by wearing wigs), have square feet with no toes (they hide by wearing sensible shoes), and have a powerful sense of smell which they use to sniff out children. Unfortunately, Hathaway's cronies and their powerful sense find the boy along with his friends — turning them into mice. What does not work with this version of Dahl's memorable novel is the overabundance of special effects, not to mention Zemeckis' poorly constructed screenplay throughout. The frustrating CGI engulfs Hathaway's performance from being anything more than a laughing stock. Hathaway gives it her all, but the film cannot make up its mind on if it's trying to be scary or a comedy — leading the film to be unapologetically foolish. Yes, The Witches (2020) aims to be a children's movie, yet, I cannot imagine seeing any children enjoying this catastrophe. Zemeckis' grotesque VFX is a nightmare for families everywhere, while it also lacks the author's original pitch. The second half of the movie turns into a Ratatouille adventure with some major eye-rolling shenanigans. The Witches (2020) lacks the magic and soul of the original novel; while also lacking the whimsy and imagination of the 1990's feature. Zemeckis' craft comes up short in this remake and forgets to make a plea for its own existence. In the end, Zemeckis brews up a bad batch of hoopla and leaves out Dahl's greatest attribute, eccentricity.
The Witches (2020) is rated PG (Parental Guidance). Thematic Elements, Scary Images/Moments, and Language.
This disaster is directed by Robert Zemeckis
Starring Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci, Kristin Chenoweth, Chris Rock, and Jahzir Kadeem Bruno.
Available to watch on HBO Max, if you dare.
Heartbreaking and enraging; 2020 has been a nightmarish year not only for America's politics but also for America's health and well-being. Director Alex Gibney (Citizen K and Zero Days) refocuses our attention to effectively detail how our country got to this destructive point, with 230,000 (and counting) American lives lost.
In Totally Under Control, Filmmaker Alex Gibney scrutinizes the U.S. response to the pandemic compared with South Korea. Both countries discovered their first case of Covid-19 on January 20th, 2020. Since then, the novel coronavirus has claimed over 200,000 Americans lives, while only claiming a little over 400 lives in South Korea. South Korea has a population of 51 million people. So, why did the US do such a terrible job on their handling of COVID? Gibney talks with numerous doctors, health experts, and scientists throughout the documentary explaining why we failed, starting at the top and with our leader of the free world. One of those doctors we talk with is Dr. Rick Bright — an American immunologist, vaccine researcher, and former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) from 2016 to 2020. In May 2020, Dr. Bright filed a whistleblower complaint, alleging that the Trump administration ignored his early warnings about the COVID-19 pandemic. After doing so, he was ousted from his position in retaliation from the Trump administration.
As President Truman once said, "The buck stops here." Yet, that line does not apply to the Trump administration. We all know that COVID was not Trump's fault, but it's his lack of leadership that has failed this country and left the American people in the dark — scared for their well-being and livelihood. While other countries (South Korea and New Zealand) have strategically and effectively led their people through this pandemic transparently, the U.S. has squandered at every turn. Even countries like Canada and Germany have done a pretty good job overall. Still, they are starting to see more recent COVID spikes, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chancellor Angela Merkel both have been open with their people, letting the doctors and scientists lead. Gibney along, with co-directors Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, avoid taking cheap shots or personal ambushes throughout the documentary. Instead, they let the timeline speak for itself, with the doctors and the scientists guiding us through it.
Totally Under Control takes an in-depth look at how the United States government handled the response to the COVID-19 outbreak during the early months of the pandemic — we have 4% of the world's population and 20% of the worldwide COVID deaths. It did not have to be this way. The Trump Administration's disastrous response to the coronavirus pandemic has led from anywhere between 130,000 to 210,000 deaths that could have been prevented, according to a report released on October 21st by a team of disaster preparedness experts. It's a sad and infuriating report, demonstrating the cost of having a narcissistic former reality TV star in charge, who has been ignoring basic science and health advice for a slight uptick in the stock market. Right now, universal mask-wearing in public could significantly reduce the number of Americans who die from COVID by February 2021; a study published in the journal Nature Medicine projects — suggesting we could save 130,000 American lives. During the documentary, we see South Korea's response on controlling the virus was rapid and efficient. Their government mandated universal mask-wearing, nationwide testing, contact-tracing, and mitigation all throughout February. While the US was slow to respond, letting the virus spread rapidly throughout our country without a strategic nationwide testing policy in place.
Trump downplayed the seriousness of this virus and continues to do so to this day. Making statements like, "It's one person coming in from China, and we have it under control" (01/22), "A lot of people think that [the coronavirus] goes away in April with the heat ... Typically, that will go away in April" (02/10), "It's going to disappear. One day — it's like a miracle — it will disappear" (02/27), "the vast majority of Americans, the risk is very, very low" (03/11), "You can do it. You don't have to do it. I'm choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it, and that's OK. It may be good. Probably will. They're making a recommendation. It's only a recommendation" (on mask-wearing, 04/03), "When we have a lot of cases, I don't look at that as a bad thing" ... "So, I view it as a badge of honor. Really, it's a badge of honor" (05/19, days later, the U.S. recorded 100,000 known deaths from COVID), "Many of those cases are young people that would heal in a day" (07/19), and "Take your hat off to the young because they have a hell of an immune system. It affects virtually nobody" (09/21, twelve days later Trump would test positive for COVID). Along with Trump's falsehoods, Gibney studies, and analyses the CDC's initial botch to implementing testing in February, the administration's slowness in declaring the Defense Production Act (to direct industries to produce medical equipment) not until mid-March, United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar's complacency, and Senior Advisor Jared Kushner's botched attempt at setting up a "shadow task force" with dozens of young volunteers from the private sector; searching for medical supplies and protective equipment.
On top of that, you see the falsehoods pushed towards Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, a 2018 budget cut eliminating the pandemic task force, the U.S.'s stockpile in Medical supply depleted, and our governor's left to fend for themselves in an all-out bidding war for Medical supplies — FEMA was even in on the bids. When Trump faced criticism for not doing enough to help out the states as the Federal government should, he quickly turned the tables back on them. By doing so, he made this a red state, blue state scenario — leaving our governors hung out to dry, and the more they criticized the less they would receive in help. This was a smart way for Trump to point the finger in the other direction without having to take responsibility. The tragedy of COVID in the U.S. is not only the countless American lives lost but also the retaliation from the Trump administration towards our health and scientific communities. This discourse and disinformation towards them are completely uncalled for. We need to trust our doctors and scientists, listen to the facts, and follow the science. Please continue to listen to people like Dr. Bright and Dr. Anthony Fauci — Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, since 1984. Dr. Fauci has worked 5 decades for Presidents of both parties (Republican and Democrat). Now, Trump has even decided to attack our nation's Top Infectious Diseases expert (Dr. Fauci). This Tuesday cannot come soon enough. Hopefully, our nation will rally together and vote this former reality TV star out.
Totally Under Control is Not Rated (NR).
Watch this documentary only on Hulu
Directed by Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, and Suzanne Hillinger
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