A Double Feature Review!
Minari is a wonder. Such a beautiful and gentle movie about family. With splendid storytelling, this is a film that will sneak up on you in the end. An honest portrait of the immigration experience, recognizing the hardships along the way. Director Lee Isaac Chung's (2007's Munyurangabo) gentle little picture roars with beauty and heart; Minari is simply one of the best films of 2020. Minari tells the story of a Korean-American family moving from California in search of a better life. The Yi family moves to a small farm in Arkansas in hopes of finding the American dream. Jacob (a brilliant Steven Yeun) and his wife Monica (a strong Yeri Han) emigrated from Korea together in the early '70s, trying to assimilate into a new country. Jacob and Monica have spent nearly a decade as chicken sexers in California, but Jacob wants more. They move to a little town in Arkansas, where Jacob has bought a trailer home for his family. Jacob and Monica have two children, Anne (a splendid Noel Cho) and David (newcomer and adorable Alan S. Kim), who enjoy exploring the farm.
David has a heart condition that keeps him from being too active, like running. Jacob hopes he can get his farm going, bringing happiness to him and his family. With Jacob working on the farm and Monica making ends meet as a chicken sexer, she suggests that her mom comes from Korea to watch the kids while they are away. Reluctant at first, Jacob finally agrees. The order of everyday life begins to turn upside down when grandma (a fierce Yuh-Jung Youn) comes to stay. Grandma is a playful and vulgar old soul who means well but has a wicked sense of humor. Youn is extraordinary in this role, while Yeun's performance as Jacob is raw and cunning. At first, David is disgusted with his grandma because she is not the Americanized version he imaged her to be. She does not bake or cook, and she "smells Korean." Yet, like a river flowing through a garden, we see a family grow and blossom before our very eyes. Minari is an intimate portrait of life, love, and family. This perfect little picture receives a 5-star review from me and deserves to be seen. Chung's film will ignite a spark inside you. In the end, Minari is the most American movie of 2020.
Minari is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) Rude Gesture, Some Thematic Elements.
Directed by Lee Isaac Chung
Starring Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Noel Cho, Alan S. Kim, and Yuh-Jung Youn.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is now streaming on Netflix. It will also be marked as actor Chadwick Boseman’s final film. Boseman was a powerhouse in this picture, giving us a raw and personal performance. It’s sad because it showed how much more Boseman had left to give. Actors Viola Davis and Colman Domingo also gave masterful performances as we explore the 1920s and the Blues. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is an ode to Black culture, and it is also one of the best films of 2020. Ma Rainey's is full of trailblazing performances as our actors talk and play fast to the beat of jazz. The film is based on the 1982 play by August Wilson and was produced by Denzel Washington. A majority of the film takes place inside a studio recording building in Chicago.
Here, we meet Levee (a masterful Boseman), Toledo (a strong Glynn Turman), Cutler (an exuberant Domingo), Slow Drag (a smooth-talking Michael Potts), and Ma Rainey (a knockout Davis). Levee plays the trumpet, Toledo plays the piano, Cutler plays the trombone, and Slow Drag plays the bass for Ma Rainey's lively band. Inside the studio’s claustrophobic rehearsal room, we see a band whose fears, ambitions, and hopes begin to spill out on the screen. An eruption of stories and truths are revealed, further developing our characters and bringing their stories full circle. As Wilson's superb dialogue crackles throughout, we see what lies beneath the surface of these characters. During filming, Boseman was receiving treatment for his battle with cancer, unbeknownst to his fellow cast members — further showcasing his impeccable acting chops. Ma Rainey's is an ode to Black culture and will be a lasting tribute to Boseman's legacy. "Dedicated To Chadwick Boseman In Celebration Of His Artistry And Heart". When the music plays, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom will sweep you off your feet.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is rated R (Restricted) Some Sexual Content, Language, Brief Violence.
Directed by George C. Wolfe
Starring Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, Michael Potts, Taylour Paige, and Dusan Brown.
Avaiable to stream on Netflix.
A Double Feature Review!
Gorgeous animation with a marvelous tale, everyone should watch Wolfwalkers as soon as possible because it's one of the best films of 2020. Now available to stream on Apple TV+. Wolfwalkers breathes life into the Irish folktales through its astonishing animation, beautiful storytelling, and full-of-life characters. Wolfwalkers tells the medieval story of a time in Ireland where people are superstitious about anything magic. We meet a young apprentice hunter named Robyn Goodfellowe (voiced by a splendid Honor Kneafsey), who journeys with her father (voiced by a grand Sean Bean) to wipe out the last wolf pack in Ireland. Outside the city walls, Robyn befriends a free-spirited girl named Mebh (voiced by a wonderful Eva Whittaker), who can transform into a wolf at night. Mebh is known as a 'wolfwalker' and roams the forbidden land with her mother (voiced by strong Maria Doyle Kennedy).
Mebh's mother has gone missing, so Robyn decides to help Mebh search for her. During their search for Moll, Robyn uncovers a secret that draws her closer to the enchanted world but risks betraying her father. Wolfwalkers marks a completion for director Tomm Moore's "Irish Folklore Trilogy"; following his two previous films The Secret of Kells (2009) and Song of the Sea (2014). It's an enchanting film that will sweep you off of your feet to a magical world. Wolfwalkers' animation used a unique 2D style rotation between a woodblock aesthetic and loose expressive line work, igniting beauty before our very eyes. This marvelous tale of bravery, courage, and family is one of the very best to come out in 2020 and receives a 5-star review from me. Wolfwalkers is a gorgeous combination of magic and wonder, one frame at a time.
Wolfwalkers is rated PG (Parental Guidance) Scary Images, Peril, Brief Language, Sequences of Violence, Some Thematic Elements.
Directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart
Starring Sean Bean, Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon McBurney, and Tommy Tiernan.
Available to stream on Apple TV+.
The Prom is sparkly musical bliss that may be enough to sweep audiences away. There is nothing groundbreaking about Ryan Murphy's The Prom, a deeply flawed musical extravaganza that keeps the ball rolling through star-studded showstoppers. The Prom is based on the 2018 Broadway musical, which received seven Tony nominations. The musical is loosely based on a real-life incident where celebrities rallied around a high school senior whose school banned her from attending the prom for wanting to bring her girlfriend. The film follows a similar path, as we meet two washed-up Broadway stars (James Corden and Meryl Streep) who decide to shake up a small Indiana town as they rally behind a teen named Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman). Actors Nicole Kidman and Andrew Rannells decide to tag along with Corden and Streep as well. Keegan-Michael Key plays the school principal, who supports Emma, and Kerry Washington plays Mrs. Greene, the bigoted head of Edgewater's PTA.
Mrs. Greene's daughter Alyssa (Ariana Debose), is the one who's in a relationship with Emma but has not come out to her mom or the world yet. All of these actors (Corden, Streep, Pellman, Kidman, Rannells, Key, Washington, and Debose) are wonderful and fabulous throughout. They sing their hearts out and dance the night away, keeping audiences everywhere entertained. Although there is a deep sense of irony to The Prom because the original actors from Broadway auditioned for their respected roles, however; Murphy decided to go with a star-filled cast. The stage version was designed to give leads to actors who had spent their entire career in the supporting roles, leading me to think that maybe Murphy missed a crucial point of the stage version's original message. Nevertheless, where The Prom is lacking in direction, it delivers in acting, glitter, and showstopping numbers. Through all of its flaws — The Prom's message of inclusion still resonates, and that's what is most important. Watching The Prom also made me deeply miss the theatre, it's where I go to escape.
The Prom is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) Thematic Elements, Suggestive / Sexual References, Language.
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Starring James Corden, Meryl Streep, Jo Ellen Pellman, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells, Keegan-Michael Key, Kerry Washington, and Ariana Debose.
Available to stream on Netflix.
A Double Feature Review!
Hypnotic entertainment, David Fincher's (The Social Network, Zodiac, and Seven) Mank is a glorious achievement for cinephiles everywhere. Mank is a bold, haunting, and well-crafted picture on the age of Old Hollywood. Fincher tells the story of an alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who has been given complete creative freedom to write a new project by Orson Welles and RKO. In return, Mankiewicz writes Citizen Kane — the greatest movie ever made. On a technical scale, Mank is a cinematic wonder; this is a film that looks and sounds like it was made during the 1930s. This black-and-white beauty is a feast for your eyes. Actor Gary Oldman shines throughout, while Amanda Seyfried is a marvel. Mank is one of the very best to come out in 2020. Maybe I’m a sucker when it comes to Old Hollywood self-obsessing — nevertheless — Fincher’s deeply political Mank fully captivated me from the first to the final frame.
It was incredibly refreshing to see a deeply political movie about Old Hollywood that was not glanced over or mythicized. When talking about its past, Hollywood loves to always spin itself in a positive light. Fincher gave us a picture that showed the good, the bad, and the ugly front and center on the screen. We saw the effects of the Great Depression on the lower class workers, the corporate greed by heads of big studios (MGM and Paramount), and the smear campaign against Upton Sinclair. It reminded me of Charlie Chaplin's deep political messaging of worker's rights in his film Modern Times (1936). Mank is a film that should pair well with Oscar votes this April because of its gorgeous cinematography and production design. Fincher's latest feature may not be for everyone, but those who love film history will gobble this up, every last bite.
Mank is rated R (Restricted) Some Language.
Directed by David Fincher
Starring Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tom Burke, Tuppence Middleton, and Charles Dance.
Available to stream on Netflix.
Happiest Season was an utter delight to watch. Director and co-writer Clea Duvall's (actor from Veep, Argo, and Girl, Interrupted) LGBTQ romantic comedy will spread holiday cheer this winter. Happiest Season follows a longtime couple Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis), who have made plans to go home to visit Harper's family for the Christmas holidays. However, Abby finds out, on their drive down there, that Harper has not come out yet to her conservative parents (Mary Steenburgen and Victor Garber) and plans on introducing Abby only as her 'straight' friend. This puts Abby into an uncomfortable situation, as she was planning on proposing to Harper during the yuletide season. Happiest Season is featured as a pioneering holiday-themed romantic comedy centered around a same-sex couple, which also includes several LGBTQ actors like Kristen Stewart, Dan Levy, Victor Garber, and Aubrey Plaza. Actress-director DuVall pinned this movie as a semi-autobiography, so she could see her own experiences play out on the big screen. Happiest Season is a funny, warm, and good-spirited film that will slap a smile on your face. Like a cup of hot chocolate, this is a holiday film that will warm you up. Duvall's Happiest Season will go down as a new Christmas tradition, one that we will be able to re-watch every holiday season. Cheers.
Happiest Season is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) Some Language.
Directed by Clea DuVall
Starring Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Mary Steenburgen, Victor Garber, Dan Levy, Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, Mary Holland, Burl Moseley, and Sarayu Blue.
Available to stream on Hulu.
A Triple Feature Review!
Director Steve McQueen (Shame, 12 Years a Slave, and Widows) has been at the top of his game this year, continuing to prove that he is a first-rate filmmaker. McQueen has gifted us with Small Axe — an anthology series consisting of five films, which tell distinct stories about the lives of West Indian immigrants in London from the 1960s to the 1980s. This review contains three (Mangrove, Lovers Rock, and Red, White and Blue) of the five films from the series. They're also some of the very best films of 2020. Small Axe is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Masterful and authentic, Mangrove reflects back on the breathtaking landmark 1971 trial of the Mangrove Nine (Barbara Beese, Rupert Boyce, Frank Crichlow, Rhodan Gordon, Darcus Howe, Anthony Innis, Altheia Jones-LeCointe, Rothwell Kentish, and Godfrey Millett), which exposed the anti-Black prejudice within the London Metropolitan Police department. Director Steve McQueen perfectly crafts this picture through bold storytelling and a sense of conviction. McQueen's film is deeply provoking through strong performances by an all-star cast, consisting of actors Shaun Parkes, Letitia Wright, Malachi Kirby, Rochenda Sandall, Nathaniel Martello-White, and Jack Lowden. The film's story centers around Frank Crichlow (a powerful Parkes), who's the owner of Notting Hill's Caribbean restaurant, Mangrove. It's a lively community and a safe space for locals, intellectuals, and activists all around. However, there is a reign of racist terror being provoked throughout the community by the local police department and their continued raids at the Mangrove. These unlawful raids are a sense of urgency for Frank and the local community to take to the streets in a peaceful protest. The ending results lead to a clash with the police department, who escalate the tensions and violence.
This incident leads the police department to wrongly arrest and charge nine people, including Frank, with incitement to riot. Altheia Jones-LeCointe (a compelling Letitia Wright) and Darcus Howe (a stern Malachi Kirby) were two of the people also charged with incitement to riot. McQueen vanquishes all ideas or myths that British racism is not as extreme as it is here in America through his thought-provoking storytelling and brutally honest crafting. Every single scene in this film is important throughout — displaying haunting and raw results for the viewers. Mangrove is an urgent and timely film putting racism front and center of its story. McQueen showcases the horrors that the Black community experience every single day through the view of a lens. There's a scene at the end of the film where McQueen slowly and steadily zooms the camera into Frank's face as we hear the verdicts. As we hear the words "not guilty" over-and-over again, you can see the sense of disbelief and emotional happiness expressed throughout actor Shaun Parkes' face. It's an emotional moment, one that cut me to my core. This riveting scene was well-executed by the hands of McQueen and the acting range of Parkes. Mangrove is a film that feels so life-like thanks to the visionary mind of McQueen, his gift of storytelling, and his team of exceptional actors. Through Mangrove's vibrant voice is a film that cuts deep into history, trying to move closer to a society of equality.
Mangrove is rated TV-MA (Mature).
Directed by Steve McQueen
Starring Shaun Parkes, Letitia Wright, Malachi Kirby, Rochenda Sandall, Nathaniel Martello-White, and Jack Lowden.
Lovers Rock was an intoxicating experience of freedom, moments in time, and an ode to Black pride. Lovers Rock could be classified as an experimental film — one that provides a singular viewing experience into the love and sound of an '80s London house party. McQueen's second film is a romantic reggae feature that will send your bones dancing and your mind buzzing. This fictional story follows a 1980s London house party, where Black youth found freedom on the weekends because they were unwelcomed in white nightclubs. These types of reggae house parties included tons of cooking, moving all of the furniture out, and the crisp sound of music. Lovers Rock was an immersive experience, as McQueen gently sways the camera from room to room. We are submerged with bliss as everyone in this film dances the night away, letting out all of their worries and fears. At 68 minutes, Lovers Rock pulls us into a kind of trance, watching the human connection blossom on screen. We follow the story of Martha (an excellent Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn) and Franklyn (a gifted Micheal Ward), who meet the night of the party. Martha and Franklyn's young love sparkles throughout the night and into our hearts. McQueen cuts loose with this film, giving us an exhilarating viewing experience through the eyes of young love and the joy of freedom. The cinematography is astounding, while the music is swaying, leading one to give in to the pure, unfiltered bliss. As two strangers meet in romance, Lovers Rocks excels through a vibrant spirit and a beating heart. Lovers Rocks is my favorite of the five films McQueen has provided us with this year. It will definitely be in my top ten of 2020. So lift a glass to Lovers Rock and let the music and romance take a hold of you.
Lovers Rock is rated TV-MA (Mature)
Directed by Steve McQueen
Starring Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn and Micheal Ward.
Red, White and Blue
Red, White and Blue is another urgent and timely film, upheld by an excellent John Boyega — continuing to prove he needs more lead roles. Director Steve McQueen's third film follows the real-life story of Leroy Logan (a superb Boyega), an officer in the London Metropolitan Police department, who founded the Black Police Association and attempted to reform the institution from the inside. Red, White and Blue is an excellent piece of filmmaking, as we witness a father-son relationship going through turmoil and the stubborn idea that institutions, fueled by systemic racism, can be quickly turned inside out by the hands of one individual. We see a character guided by a moral compass, whose ability to seek change takes a toll on one's mental and physical health. Red, White and Blue is an engrossing character study, as we follow Logan every step of the way. McQueen tells the true story of a young forensic scientist (Logan), who is yearning to do more than his solitary laboratory work. After Logan sees his father (a strong Steve Toussaint) assaulted by two policemen, he finds himself driven to revisiting a childhood ambition to become a police officer, wanting to bring change to the system.
Ambition and the naïve hope of bringing change to racist attitudes from within — McQueen shows us the hardships and failures that come with trying to achieve this goal. Of course, Logan's father disapproves of him wanting to become a police officer, driving a wedge between Logan and his father's relationship. Boyega is exceptional here — proving that he has the ability, and acting chops to take on more lead roles. Boyega is known for his role as Finn in the Star Wars sequel trilogy — a trilogy that could have done more with Boyega's masterful acting, instead of waste his talents. Unfortunately, Disney pushed him aside towards the end of the trilogy, not to mention the racist trolls who attacked him online. Boyega is exceptional here, as we see a man whose purpose is to root out systemic racism and bring change to an institution he deeply loves. Logan wants to help out his community and give everyone equal opportunity, yet we see him struggle with the harassment and racial slurs he encounters from his fellow officers. Red, White and Blue paints a brutally honest portrait of the toll it puts on someone striving for change. Through McQueen's keen sense of the craft and Boyega's gripping performance, we are left with a heartbreaking and a potent viewing experience. Red, White and Blue will cut you to your core.
Red, White and Blue is rated TV-MA (Mature)
Directed by Steve McQueen
Starring John Boyega, Steve Toussaint, Joy Richardson, Antonia Thomas, Seroca Davis, and Assad Zaman.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is holiday cheer for the whole family.
Netflix's Jingle Jangle captures the essence of the Christmas spirit, along with an uplifting message the whole family will enjoy. It's a glorious ball of Christmas cheer and music extravaganza. This is a musical blast that packs so much into one movie, through show-stomping numbers and spectacular performances (Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Anika Noni Rose, Madalen Mills, Phylicia Rashad, Ricky Martin, Lisa Davina Phillip, and Hugh Bonneville). A mostly Black cast that brings representation to the screen during a time of holiday festivities and gift-giving. Jingle Jangle follows a holiday tale of an eccentric toymaker Jeronicus (Whitaker), his adventurous granddaughter Journey (Mills), and a magical invention that has the power to bring change to their lives. Jeronicus has become a broken-down toymaker and has lost all hope in the world. The reason Jeronicus has become this way is because years prior his assistant Gustofson (Key) stole his invention and magical book. This stolen treasure allowed Gustofson to become the richest and most successful toymaker in all of the land. Yet, Jeronicus' granddaughter Journey comes to stay with him, and in the end, helps him return to a place of magic and wonder. This candy-colored musical spills out happiness everywhere it goes. Jingle Jangle is nothing groundbreaking, but it was a delight to watch, boosting our holiday spirits this winter season. Fueled by tap-dancing songs like This Day, Magic Man G, and Square Root of Possible — Jingle Jangle has a positive message of inclusion and spreading kindness to everyone you meet. If you are looking for a joyful and colorful movie to watch with the family this holiday season, then turn your eyes to Jingle Jangle. Cheers.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is rated PG (Parental Guidance) Peril | Some Thematic Elements.
Directed by David E. Talbert
Starring Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Anika Noni Rose, Madalen Mills, Phylicia Rashad, Ricky Martin, Lisa Davina Phillip, Hugh Bonneville, Justin Cornwell, Sharon Rose, Kieron L. Dyer, and Miles Barrow.
Available to stream on Netflix.
Sound of Metal is a powerful piece of filmmaking, thriving on actor Riz Ahmed's eyes and body language. Raw and passionate; director Darius Marder's picture is an emotional experience around the loss of sound.
Featuring one of the best and most innovative sound designs in recent memory, Sound of Metal stands tall as one of the very best films to come out in 2020. Actor Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler and The Night Of) gives an Oscar-worthy performance as we see someone struggling with a life-changing event. Ahmed captures the emotional depth of someone grappling with the loss of sound. Darius Marder (screenwriter for The Place Beyond the Pines) does not pull on any heartstrings or make the film feel melodramatic — instead — he focuses on the nature of loss and the road to rediscovering oneself. Sound of Metal is a movie that flourishes through silence. We, as the audience, are tossed into Ahmed's new world, often given long takes of silence with Ahmed's body language unraveling fear and rage right on the screen. The film follows a heavy metal drummer named Ruben (Ahmed) and his singer-girlfriend Lou (a strong Olivia Cooke). The two are currently on tour around the country, traveling in their makeshift RV — where they eat, sleep, and store all of their band equipment. One morning, Ruben awakes and goes through his normal morning routine, yet he is struggling to hear anything.
Marder tries to put us into Ruben's head as we experience this new fear of silence and loss. Ruben goes to see a doctor and is told that he has already lost 80-90% of his hearing. The doctor also instructs him that the rest of his hearing will likely follow. Ruben tries to conflate these realities by telling himself that he can play through it, he can get surgery, and that everything will be okay in the end. Lou knows that this is not the case because Ruben is also a recovering addict and has been sober for 4-years. She knows that trauma can send someone, who is recovering, back into relapse. Lou calls his narcotics anonymous sponsor, Hector, who finds a place for deaf recovering addicts for Ruben to go. Sound of Metal puts us into Ruben's shoes; we see an experienced drummer who's ability to hear is being ripped away from him. All of these fears and anxieties begin to weigh on Ruben and a path towards darkness opens up. However, Lou steps in to help Ruben move away from that darkness, towards a better path of healing and recovery. They go to a rural deaf community run by a man named Joe (an excellent Paul Raci), a recovering alcoholic who lost his hearing in the Vietnam War.
Here is where the majority of our film takes place. Joe tells Ruben that this is not a place to fix him; it is a place where one learns to live with their deafness. There is no correction because Joe advises Ruben that he is not broken. Raci's quiet and tender performance should not go without notice. Ruben needs to learn how to accept this new part of himself and how to move forward with his deafness. Here, we see Ruben interacting with the community — he observes and watches deaf children learning in a classroom. As he becomes more comfortable with himself, he begins to interact more with the children. Joe gives Ruben a task to distract himself from his fears of the world. Ruben is instructed to sit in an empty room, only to write down his thoughts and feelings. Ahmed's extraordinary performance is raw and cunning, as we see him slowly overcome his demons, letting calmness take place. Much of the film revolves around calm and how we find peace with it.
The final breakthrough for this film is the exceptional sound design. I recommend watching this movie with headphones (like I did) if you can. Marder puts us right into Ruben's point-of-view, as we hear what he's hearing — muffled sounds, indecipherable conversations, and then silence. Marder does not layer any music or score during these moments of silence. Instead, Marder engulfs the viewer with silence, letting them reevaluate their own struggles or anxieties in the world. On top of all of this, Ahmed spent six-months before film production to learn how to play the drums. He also studied deafness and learned ASL (American Sign Language) for the film, striking the emotional core of his performance. Sound of Metal is one of the very best films of 2020 and earns a five-star review from me. A beautiful tale of healing and moving forward, Sound of Metal's poignant beat will strike you to your core.
Sound of Metal is rated R (Restricted) Language Throughout | Brief Nude Images.
Directed by Darius Marder
Starring Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Lauren Ridloff, and Mathieu Amalric.
Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
RUN delivers a tightly packaged thriller led by two outstanding leads, Sarah Paulson and Kiera Allen. Though RUN has familiar themes, this is a well-paced, edge-of-your-seat thrill fest.
Director Aneesh Chaganty's (2018's Searching) chilling new movie will get underneath your skin and numb your bones. Run is well-paced, tightly edited, and skillfully acted — it's an impressive picture that checks all of the boxes on suspense and psychological horror. As always, actor Sarah Paulson delivers another remarkable performance, full of cunning dialogue and wicked tension. Newcomer Kiera Allen is a triumph as Chole, Diane's (Paulson) daughter. Allen's focused and steadfast performance is one of the best, or at least most noble mentions, of 2020. In the beginning scene, we see Diane, an expecting mother, who's daughter is born prematurely. She is taken from Diane and hooked up to machines for survival. Jump forward to the present Chole is someone who is chronically ill with arrhythmia, hemochromatosis, diabetes, and paralysis. Bound to her wheelchair, Chole strives to be as independent as she possibly can.
She's eager to receive her College letters, to see if she has been accepted. Yet, Chole's attitude begins to change when she discovers unfamiliar green pills, apparently prescribed to her mother. Diane insists this new pill has been prescribed to Chloe, under her name. This encounter leads Chole to question her mother's intentions and if she is really as sick as her mother says she is. The film runs with similar parallels to the real-life story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard and her mother's (Dee Dee Blanchard) murder. Chole's new discovery leads her on a mission to find out the truth with devastating results. Run is a controlled chaos film, where Chaganty feeds the audience small bursts of adrenaline throughout the picture. This tightly constructed high wire act is precisely edited and meticulously acted — giving us grandeur horror and suspense. Run is a fun and exciting thrill game, that keeps all of its cards in play, never showing its hand. In the end, Run is a psychological thriller that will get your blood rushing one frame at a time.
Run is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) Disturbing Thematic Content | Some Violence/Terror | Language.
Directed by Aneesh Chaganty
Starring Sarah Paulson and Kiera Allen.
Streaming on Hulu
A Double Feature Review!
The Personal History of David Copperfield
The Personal History of David Copperfield is a colorful and wildly ambitious adaptation of a Charles Dickens classic. Dev Patel stars as David Copperfield in this stylized and eccentric version by director Armando Iannucci (creator of Veep and 2017's The Death of Stalin). Iannucci's maddening ideas of imagination blend well with a contemporary view of Dickens' beloved work. To the purist, this bold step forward may seem a bit radical, but for Iannucci and his stellar cast, it plays right into their hands. Patel is a marvel as Mr. David Copperfield — charismatic and funny, Patel shines brightly in the role. Iannucci's camera work moves fast — likewise — so does his dialogue throughout the film. To some, this type of style may be a little off-putting, but for others, it will be totally engrossing. Alongside Patel are actors Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Ben Whishaw, Rosalind Eleazar, Aneurin Barnard, and Benedict Wong; each one gives their own entity on their respected character. Iannucci's keen style allows each actor to grow and develop into their roles throughout the film. Enriched with beautiful cinematography and gorgeous costumes, The Personal History of David Copperfield is a funny and bold revision to the beloved tale.
The Personal History of David Copperfield is rated PG (Parental Guidance) Thematic Material | Brief Violence.
Directed by Armando Iannucci
Starring Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Ben Whishaw, Rosalind Eleazar, Aneurin Barnard, and Benedict Wong.
The King of Staten Island
The King of Staten Island is another funny Judd Apatow (Knocked Up and Trainwreck) picture; it's also his most heartfelt film to-date. Led by a strong Pete Davidson, The King of Staten Island loosely plays as a semi-biography of Davidson's life. In Apatow's film, Davidson is a slacker who dreams of becoming a tattoo artist while living with his mother and hanging out with his friends in Staten Island, N.Y. In the film, Davidson's dad was a firefighter and has passed away when he was young. In real-life, Davidson's dad was also a real firefighter; who passed away during the September 11 attacks. Like a slice of life, Davidson plays Scott, a 24-year-old high school dropout who loves to smoke pot, cannot keep a steady job, and won't fully commit to his girlfriend Kelsey (Bel Powley). Scott seems pretty content with the way he's living his life, but one can tell that loneliness and other anxieties are eating him up inside. Scott's world blows up when his mother (Marisa Tomei) begins dating Ray (Bill Burr), who's also a firefighter. Scott's mom insists that he spend time with Ray and his two young children. The dynamics between Scott and Ray are hilarious and, at times, cringe-worthy. The King of Staten Island blends dark comedy and emotional conflict well together, giving us a deeply moving dramedy. Together, Davidson and Apatow tackle mental health and personal acceptance — gifting us, the audience, with a richly rewarding picture. In the age of anxiety, The King of Staten Island is an honest film that will help one tackle those personal struggles, one laugh at a time.
The King of Staten Island is rated R (Restricted) Language | Drug Use Throughout | Sexual Content | Some Violence/Bloody Images.
Directed by Judd Apatow
Starring Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Bel Powley, Maude Apatow, and Steve Buscemi.
Never Be Done: The Richard Glen Lett Story follows the real-life tale of Canadian comedian Richard Lett and his struggle with drug and alcohol abuse. During Lett's darkest period in his life, we see him decide to turn the corner towards the road of recovery, redemption, and self-reflection.
Never Be Done is a powerful documentary about addiction, vulnerabilities, and understanding one's place in the world. Lett began his stand-up career in the 1980s, touring nationally for Yuk Yuk's Comedy Club. Lett is known for his abrasive and unapologetic sense of humor — running past the politically incorrect; Lett embraces the urge to provoke his audience. At times, his jokes cut sharp like daggers throughout the crowd. His provocation begins to spin more rapidly out of control the more he is consumed by his addictions. Comedy and tragedy begin to intertwine Lett's professional and personal life. Director Roy Tighe personally documents Lett's life from 2009 up until the present. Tighe and his crew simply stand behind the cameras, asking questions, and let Lett, himself, steer the show. Never Be Done pulls no punches; this is a raw documentary of one man's failure and a second chance awaiting. The documentary opens with Lett and Tighe both being ejected from a Vancouver nightclub due to Lett's overreaching brashness.
Lett has built his career on this type of stand-up comedy, yet the more reckless he gets, the more we see him getting barred from every nightclub in town. Tighe does not sugarcoat Lett's low period; we are here for the long hall. As Tighe and his crew observe Lett's fall to the bottom of the barrel — we, the audience, get an immersive experience of his dark struggle with addiction. Throughout most of this documentary, Lett is a hard person to root for — many of his jokes and approaches are openly racist, homophobic, and just plain mean. Yet, this type of raw, unfiltered lens is exactly what shows Lett's full recovery on not only cleansing himself but also trying to be a better person. One of these people who acts as an emotional crutch for Lett is his daughter, Breanna. In addition to his daughter is his good friend, Kathleen, who also helps him along the way. Kathleen works tremendously hard to help Lett out. Her tolerance and calmness are glimmers of hope throughout this doc. Through Lett's downfall, he becomes evicted from his apartment and is homeless at the end of 2009, beginning of 2010.
On top of being homeless and an alcoholic, Lett is also a cancer survivor. Climbing up from the rabbit hole, Lett pushes back at everything trying to swallow him down. He finally checks himself into a rehab center. We are with Lett during the lowest point of his career, but we also see him turn the corner and begin his healing process. Never Be Done was a raw portrait of one man's self-destructiveness collapsing before our very eyes. Tighe and his crew do a fascinating job and weave together this nuanced real-life story. At times, Never Be Done can be grueling to watch, yet the ending results are incredibly rewarding. Tighe and his crew tightly construct this documentary without overstepping their boundaries. We see a controversial comedian go from the highest to the lowest point in his career and life. Lett found his second chance at redemption and took it. At the end of this month, Lett will be 11-years sober. Never Be Done is a raw and moving experience of one's mental health and self-reflection. In the end, this tale of comedy, tragedy, and healing comes full circle.
Never Be Done is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube Movies, AppleTV, Google Play, Vimeo, Microsoft XBOX, Direct TV, Breaker, Comcast, Cox Communications, Dish and Xfinity.
Directed by Roy Tighe
Starring Richard Glen Lett
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