The movie event of the year. First Man is an exhilarating experience, full of wonder as we watch the personal struggle it took on Neil Armstrong to become the first man on the Moon. This film receives a five-star review from me.
Director Damien Chazelle's (La La Land and Whiplash) dizzying spectacle will leave you in awe. Ryan Gosling also helms a quiet, yet raw performance as Neil Armstrong. While Claire Foy is a complete knockout. This is a film you don't want to miss, it was unforgettable. Now, let's first address the so-called American flag controversy. In short, there is none. While we never see Armstrong actually plant the flag, that's because we (as an audience) have seen that image and video a thousand times. The controversy arose on social media and caught on like wildfire from there. Florida Senator Marco Rubio described the omission as "total lunacy," before he had seen the film. Maybe, stop tweeting silly statements Senator Rubio and start doing your job for the sake of the American people?
Chazelle responded to the controversy with a statement, saying: "I show the American flag standing on the lunar surface, but the flag being physically planted into the surface is one of several moments [...] that I chose not to focus upon. To address the question of whether this was a political statement, the answer is no. My goal with this movie was to share with audiences the unseen, unknown aspects of America's mission to the Moon." Plus, Chazelle scatters images and shots of American flags all throughout the film, end of story. Now, back to this incredible movie. Chazelle switches gears from his music-based films and zeroes in on a biographical drama that helped shape the way we look at space. If you believe the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing was all a conspiracy, then I cannot help you here. Kudos to Stanley Kubrick.
Our story follows Astronaut Neil Armstrong (an emotionally strong Gosling) and his years with NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration) from 1961 to 1969. It's a riveting story as we witness NASA's bloodthirsty attempt to land the first person ever on the Moon. We see at first-hand the sacrifice Armstrong had to make in order to take on one of our nation's most dangerous missions. Chazelle doesn't hold back with the technicality and filmmaking pizzazz, he straps you right into center view. The camera moving and guiding all over the place, at times, like a roller coaster. This gives the audience a feel for what these astronauts go through. With Chazelle's near-perfect execution and razor-sharp acting from both Gosling and Foy, First Man is an Oscar-worthy contender.
Foy is a powerhouse, as she taps into Janet Armstrong's mind and what Mrs. Armstrong might have been thinking during her husband's life or death space mission. Actors Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, and Corey Stoll also help fill in the cracks with strong supporting roles. First Man is based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen and had its world premiere at the 75th Venice Film Festival. Chazelle also focuses the story on Armstrong's personal struggle with losing his daughter to cancer at a young age. We see this trauma hit Armstrong head-on, while Gosling makes it poignant on screen. You'll be in awe with this movie. First Man shows us the sheer fear and wonder of space. I project this film to receive some Oscars for its memorizing special effects and it even has a shot at grabbing a Best Picture nomination. The first Moon landing was a pivotal moment in human history. In doing so, First Man guides its audience through a monumental journey. That's what made this movie so memorable.
First Man is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language.
Eighth Grade is a raw and authentic look at middle school warped in the digital age. Funny, heartbreaking and, above all, real. It’s one of the very best films of 2018 and it receives a five-star review from me.
Eighth Grade is a tour de force for Bo Burnham and his directorial debut, plus a breakout performance by actor Elsie Fisher. You’ll fall in love with this movie and everything about it. Eighth Grade is a bona fide look into the daily lives of middle schoolers, nowadays. So much has changed in the means of technology since I was a kid. It's great how Burnham used that as a technique for his filmmaking, showing how teenagers (growing up in 2018) are plugged into the digital world. This little indie film is heartbreaking, yet funny as hell. The relationship between the father-daughter storyline was brilliantly executed. I wish the film could have kept going as the credits rolled by in front of me. Our story follows thirteen-year-old Kayla (breakout star Elsie Fisher), who endures her final week of middle school, capping off a disastrous eighth-grade year.
While Kayla makes her way through life as a contemporary suburban adolescence, we stick by her side every step of the way. Fingers crossed Eighth Grade doesn't get overshadowed this awards season. It stands tall as one of the best films of 2018 and aces the test. It’s an honest portrayal of what it’s like to be a middle schooler post-2016 election. With the expansion of technology increasing year-by-year, we see these teenager’s lives wrapped around their tiny operating machines. At times, Burnham blends the screen with the visual appeal of Kayla thumbing through her phone. Whether that’s YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat, all of them show her reliance on social media. This brings us into Kayla’s world of acceptance, anxiety, and bliss. "I wanted to talk about anxiety and what it feels like to be alive right now, and what it is to be unsure and nervous. That felt more like middle school than high school to me. I think the country and the culture is going through an eighth-grade moment right now,” Burnham said on writing the story.
As we see, the film's themes include heavy use of social media, along with mental health in Generation Z, sexuality and consent. Burnham even watched YouTubers to learn how Gen Z talks. "I was just trying to capture the staccato way they spoke," he says. "You’re watching someone try to articulate themselves and think out loud while their brains are still growing." In addition to the perfect acting, writing and directing, there’s the score. Burnham fueled the score with electronica music and pizzazz, giving us some hilarious results. Like whenever Kayla saw her crush walk by and we were blasted with loud, booming electronica music. I died of laughter every single time. Actor Josh Hamilton’s on screen presence was also a total delight to watch. Hamilton portrayed Kayla’s dad and incarnated what it’s like being a single father while raising a middle schooler in America.
It’s a difficult, but rich role and Hamilton knocked it out of the park. At times, he’s a goofy father trying to be hip and in other scenes, we see him pouring out deep love for his daughter. The bonfire scene will break your heart, as we witness the father-daughter bond finally connect. Mark (Hamilton) puts aside his ‘dad-jokes’ and finally opens up to Kayla. After Mark is done, we see Kayla take it all in and accept her father’s compassion. While Mark and Kayla hug around the bonfire, a raw open wound inside your heart pours out onto the seats in front of you and towards the screen. Burnham master crafts his little indie film into one of the biggest phenomenon’s put-on film this year. This will be an instant classic for my kid’s generation years down the road. In the end, Burnham and Fisher really capture the realism of middle school warts and all.
Eighth Grade is rated R (Restricted). For language and some sexual material.
In the eyes of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), middle schooler's portraying middle schoolers on screen is 'too adult' for real-life middle schoolers to see. Seriously? Oh MPAA, you'll never learn. Ignore their petty rating.
This is a film you don’t want to miss. It needs to be seen. BlacKkKlansman is a phenomenal movie, striking a parallel between our country’s past and current problems with racism. It’s one of the best movies of the year and it receives a five-star review from me.
This new Spike Lee joint (Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X) could go down as one of his greatest achievements ever put on film. It’s a blunt force that will knock you off your feet. Fueled with realism, poetry and anger; Lee’s newest masterpiece is telling America to wake up! In his own way, Lee is trying to ‘Make America Great’ but not by grotesque rhetoric or verbal narcissism that the current administration has chosen to do. Instead, Lee – a film poet in disguise – is using the medium to remind our country that prejudice hasn’t gone away. Fueled by valid anger and historical context, Lee parallels our country’s past and current racial tensions to prove that nothing has really changed. So, let’s dial it back to the early 1970s, and Ron Stallworth (an incredible John David Washington) is the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department.
Determined to make a name for himself, Stallworth bravely sets out on a dangerous mission: infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Stallworth then decides to recruit a more seasoned colleague, Flip Zimmerman (a top-notched Adam Driver), to help with the undercover investigation. The pair become a winning team as they tackle the investigation of a lifetime. Together, they team up to take down the extremist hate group as the organization aims to ramp up its violent rhetoric to appeal to the mainstream Colorado lands. One of their slogans is ‘America First,' sound familiar? This is a movie that, at times, will have you laughing and then suddenly crying in despair. It’s a movie that zeros in its message to the mainstream movie audience. BlacKkKlansman did not disappoint. Lee’s dialogue was blunt and crisp throughout the film. He did not hold back and I applaud him for that. This is a bold film and is one that should spark conversation well after the credits roll.
Washington did a fantastic job in his incarnation as Ron Stallworth. I am looking forward to seeing him in future films to come. Also, this was probably Driver's best performance to-date. He was strong, confident and on-point with his character. And how about Topher Grace? His incarnation as the despicable David Duke was a surprise show-stealer. It was incredibly brave of Grace to take on a role like this and he knocked it out of the park with wit and ignorance. Everything throughout the film had an exact purpose, even the tilted camera angles. To me, these camera angles were very jarring and they kept me on edge. Personally, I would love to see Lee be nominated and even win the Oscar for Best Director. He deserves it. Something that also struck a chord with me, was how Lee incorporated the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation into the movie. Clips of that movie were used towards the end to show how the KKK rallied around this particular movie, due to its racist roots. Yes, cinematically, that movie was groundbreaking back in the early 1900s. But, it was also highly controversial because of its racist undertones. In the end, D. W. Griffith’s movie helped revive the KKK back into existence. For film buffs, we need to talk about this and the repercussions. Sadly, there are many who want to brush off those horrid parts of Griffith’s movie. To me, that's not enough.
After seeing the film, I was reading an interview that Time Magazine did with Lee. During the interview, Lee said this regarding The Birth of a Nation: "He recalls being shown 1915’s The Birth of a Nation as a student at New York University’s film school. 'They lectured about D.W. Griffith and his film,' Lee says. 'But the social and political implications of the film were never discussed.' During that period, the KKK was largely inactive. 'The film brought about the rebirth of the Klan,' Lee says. 'And therefore, it was directly responsible for black people being murdered and lynched. Never discussed.'" Now, Lee is using his voice for the good of our country and to remind everyone that we need to wake up for the sake of our current democratic crisis. He’s also saying to the people who think they can just sit back and let the system take its course, you're part of the problem.
By standing up for what you know is right, making your voice heard and calling out bigotry, we can come stronger together as a nation. Under our Lady Liberty, we are a country that represents freedom no matter what your gender, race, ethnicity, religion and or sexual orientation is. But in 2018, all of this seems to be shaken. The film ends with the events of last August’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA. Lee rings in the parallels of the past with today. BlacKkKlansman even opened in the United States on August 10, 2018, which was chosen to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the Charlottesville rally. Lee was doing this for a reason. Those lasting frames of anger and tears will stick with you long into the night. While Trump's tweets continue to viciously drive a wedge more into our country; Lee decided to instead speak from the heart through the power of film. In hope, we can come together united as a nation. Years from now, Trump’s botched speeches, stormy lies and grotesque tweets won’t last, but Lee’s timely masterpiece will. Trust me.
BlacKkKlansman is rated R (Restricted). For language throughout, including racial epithets, and for disturbing/violent material and some sexual references.
Leave No Trace is an absorbing drama, brilliantly acted by Ben Foster and Thomasin Mckenzie from the first frame until the last. It’s one of the best movies of the year and it receives a five-star review from me.
Leave No Trace is a companionate character study through the lens of a father-daughter relationship. Directed by Debra Granik (2010’s Winter’s Bone), who’s one of many women showcasing their directing chops this year in film. This is a must-see movie, as it reflects on many personal and social issues. These issues include homelessness, depression and veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The movie also helps shine light on America’s underclass. The film takes an effectively low-key approach to a sensationalistic story. We follow a father, Will (a humble Foster), and his thirteen-year-old daughter, Tom (a powerful Mckenzie), who are living an ideal existence in a vast urban park in Portland, Oregon. But, when a small mistake accidentally happens it derails their lives forever. Next, Will and Tom are both put into social services. Their lives drastically change, until Will decides to make a run for it, taking his daughter with him. Granik’s film was phenomenal throughout.
A razor-sharp film that takes its time fully engulfing you with the two leading actor's every thought and emotion. I loved seeing actor Ben Foster finally tackle a leading role. Normally, Foster stays more in the supporting role territory. So, for me, it was exciting to see him tackle something more up front. And what a breakthrough performance for actor Thomasin Mckenzie. She shined brightly throughout, giving us a raw and, in the end, heartbreaking performance. The movie promises to make a star of Mckenzie. The cinematography was also beautifully filmed, zeroing in on the father-daughter relationship. This is a real, beautiful and quiet movie. It didn’t need big action set pieces or witty one-liners, all Granik had to do is introduce you to real people struggling with real situations in everyday life. Leave No Trace a phenomenal film. And there isn't a thing that I would change.
Leave No Trace is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For thematic material throughout.
Worth the 14-year wait, Incredibles 2 is a rousing animated sequel that packs a punch.
Bright, vivid and full of fleshed out characters, Incredibles 2 is a worthy sequel to the 2004 animated hit. Director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) returns to the director’s chair and doesn’t miss a beat. Though it’s been 14-years, our heroes haven’t changed or aged. The film takes place right after the ending events of the first feature. Actor’s Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter both return and voice their respected roles as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl. Actor Sarah Vowell also respires her role and voices Violet Parr. Actor Huck Milner replaces Spencer Fox for the voice of Dash Parr. This time around Helen AKA Elastigirl is in the spotlight, leaving Bob AKA Mr. Incredible at home with Violet and Dash to navigate the day-to-day heroics of "normal" life.
The family is also still unaware of baby Jack-Jack's emerging superpowers. This leads us to some hilarious circumstances and interactions between Jack-Jack and Bob. The plot thickens, when a new villain hatches out a brilliant and dangerous plot. But I won’t spoil, you’ll have watch this superhero treat for yourself. Incredibles 2 hasn’t lost any momentum in the 14-year hiatus, the film is now the highest grossing animated feature ever in the United States. Pixar’s latest flick has now grossed $600 million, domestically. This brings the grand worldwide total to $1.16 billion. Incredibles 2 brings out your inner child. A rousing experience full of big action, witty humor and strong developed characters. It will go down in the books as one of the best animated films to hit the big screen in recent memory. This is a film the whole family will enjoy, I guarantee it.
Incredibles 2 is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For action sequences and some brief mild language.
If there’s a film that our country needs more than ever right now it’s Won't You Be My Neighbor?, the powerful documentary film about Mister Rogers. He was an incredible person who showed the world how love and kindness always prevail.
“Love is at the root of everything - all learning, all parenting, all relationships. Love or the lack of it. And what we see and hear on the screen is part of who we become.” Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is the best documentary of 2018. The doc takes an honest look at Mister Fred Rogers' life and legacy during his time on WQED. Mister Rogers was a Children's television pioneer, a puppeteer, a Presbyterian minister and a registered Republican (with morals). He was a radical, who fought for the arts and for education to be available to children everywhere, no matter the circumstance. He believed a neighborhood was suppose to be a safe haven for children growing up. Through his gentleness, Mister Rogers helped transform our country and the world. His message still resonates today. Mister Rogers was also a creative genius who inspired generations of children through his compassion and limitless imagination on the television. His show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, aired from 1968 – 2001 on WQED in Pittsburgh, PA.
Director Morgan Neville (Best Of Enemies) takes us on a journey from the start of Fred Rogers' career, 1968, until his death in 2003. Neville takes his time with the camera, letting the story unfold beautifully before our very eyes. You’ll be in tears by the end of this doc, I know I was. Neville also takes us behind-the-scenes of Mister Rogers’ daily life and in-between the outtakes of his famous television show. Here, we explore the life, lessons and legacy of a gifted man, who was also a selfless human being. Fred Rogers was soft-spoken, yet he expressed profound ideas. He wasn't afraid to talk about hard subjects with children and even explored different ways to think about them. Something, no other children’s show dared to do at the time. He was a sweet-tempted individual all throughout his life and his career. On set, Mister Rogers was also an idealist day in and day out.
“From the time you were very little, you've had people who have smiled you into smiling, people who have talked you into talking, sung you into singing, loved you into loving. So, on this extra special day, let's take some time to think of those extra special people. Some of them may be right here, some may be far away. Some may even be in heaven. No matter where they are, deep down you know they've always wanted what was best for you. They've always cared about you beyond measure and have encouraged you to be true to the best within you. Let's just take a minute of silence to think about those people now.”
It’s an invitation waiting to be opened. To travel to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe or to talk with Daniel Striped Tiger. Mister Rogers knew the best way to teach children in-person and on-air. He provoked strong ideas and even spoke to the US Senate Subcommittee on Communications to keep funding open for PBS in 1969. He was a man on a mission, that mission was to share love with others and then for them to spread that love they just learned. This documentary receives all five stars from me and is one of my favorite movies of 2018. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? offers us hope for our country, befriending all who choose to watch this intimate documentary of a good-hearted person – sneakers and all.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For some thematic elements and language.
The Rider is a beautiful movie, full of life and inspiration. Oh my, what a ride.
The Rider is a fact-based tale that’s executed perfectly through the hands of writer-director Chloé Zhao (Songs My Brothers Taught Me). Ms. Zhao is one of many women leading in the director’s chair this year. The film stars a South Dakota cowboy and now breakout actor Brady Jandreau as a once rising star of the rodeo circuit warned that his competition days are over after a tragic riding accident. Zhao based the scripted around Jandreau’s real life head injury from a bullriding competition. The story follows Brady’s day-to-day life after the accident along with his father Tim (Tim Jandreau) and younger sister Lilly (Lilly Jandreau), who has autism. His family also lives in financial poverty on the back plains of South Dakota.
Brady finds himself wondering what he has to live for when he can no longer do what gives him a sense of purpose: to ride and compete. Brady has to search for his new identity as a means to keep on living. This is a film that deserves to be seen. Through grit and grace, we see Brady’s character evolve throughout the film. A grand character study on the forgotten people in the heartland of America. Ms. Zhao’s committed craft on the film’s narrative blossom’s throughout. She knows how to take risks, just like Brady. As we, the audience, sit there in theaters socially observant, we witness a young man constantly being knocked down and getting right back up. Brady’s sense of struggle is raw and powerful. The Rider is a slice-of-life drama that’s making a name for itself in 2018. The docu-style realism is a sense of wonder, as we watch this majestic beast of a film gallop through the grasslands.
The visuals, along with the vivid scenery are a feast for your eyes. I also had the privilege of watching this masterpiece in Billings, MT. It seemed like a fitting movie, given my location. My hopes are that, someday, The Rider will go down as a classic, modern-day Western. Ms. Zhao’s heartbreaking beauty is one of the best films of the year. The film receives all 5 stars from me. As Brady and his horse pass through the grasslands, we are struck with awe. It's a cinematic experience you don’t want to miss. This heavy-handed cowboy movie is one for the ages. And if you’re ever in Billings, MT. I highly recommend stopping by the Art House Cinema & Pub. It’s a non-profit, independent movie theater located in the heart of downtown Billings. You can enjoy a cold beer and some delicious popcorn at the bar right next to the big screen. You won’t be disappointed. It was a marvelous experience.
The Rider is rated R (Restricted). For language and drug use. – Oh, MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) you'll never learn ...
A breath of fresh air, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a lighter and brighter Marvel platter. Actor’s Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly continue their streak together of irresistible charm.
Since we were left with the alluring fate of the Avengers back in April, it was nice to see a brighter superhero film come along and distract our brains for a while. Ant-Man and the Wasp follows the events resulting in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Scott Lang AKA Ant-Man (a terrific Paul Rudd) is under house arrest for the aftermath of Civil War and the events that happened in Germany. Hope van Dyne AKA the Wasp (a fierce Evangeline Lilly) and Dr. Hank Pym (a wise Michael Douglas) are also on the run because of Scott’s irresponsible decisions. As discussed, this sequel takes place before the events of last April’s Infinity War and zeroes in on Scott’s personal struggle as both a father and superhero.
As usual, there’s always a new mission to keep the plot rolling. These crucial events deal with Hope’s mom (Michelle Pfeiffer) and a new, mysterious villain known as Ghost (a knockout performance by Hannah John-Kamen). Ant-Man and the Wasp knows how to constructively balance humor and heart throughout the latest adventure. At times, giving us some of the best chemistry between Rudd and Lilly and, in others, poking fun at their own sci-fi jargon. While we are not as emotionally invested in this MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) flick, nevertheless, it was a real joy to watch it unfold on the big screen. Ant-Man and the Wasp is a $100 million (plus) superhero tentpole full of charm and blockbuster fun. A refreshing break as we get ready for next year’s Captain Marvel and Avengers 4.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For come sci-fi action violence.
The plot and theme are all too familiar, but these eight leading ladies (Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson and Awkwafina) are too hard to resist.
Slick and charming, Ocean’s 8 rolls into 2018 with style and glamour. And with just enough cast chemistry to keep the script going, it inevitably becomes an exciting caper. The film begins with the release of Debbie Ocean (played by a knockout Bullock) from prison. Debbie is the estranged sister of legendary and late-conman Danny Ocean (Actor George Clooney, who’s too busy being a dad right now). Keeping the family con-legacy going, Debbie puts together a team of powerful women to pull off a heist extravaganza. Their goal is New York City's annual Met Gala, and a necklace worth in excess of 150 million dollars. The necklace is being worn by diva celebrity, Daphne Kluger (a fabulous Hathaway).
Debbie pulls together the crew which includes actor’s Blanchett, Bonham Carter, Kaling, Rhianna, Paulson and Awkwafina. All six of these female actors embody their own unique characteristics into their on-screen portrayal. This is probably one of the reasons why I enjoyed watching this movie. Yes, the movie is a bit formulaic and, at times, feels like an unnecessary rehash. I get that. But overall, it’s still a light and fun caper flick that keeps the Ocean’s franchise alive and beating. In the end, resisting these star’s glowing spirits is simply impossible. Ocean’s 8 is a natural crowd pleaser supported by a strong all-women cast. I approve. Side-note, if you are ever driving through Billings, MT. I highly recommend stopping at The Amusement Park Drive-In Theatre. This is where I got to experience Ocean’s 8 on a big outdoors screen and on a beautiful summer night. "You would've loved it." — Miss Ocean.
Ocean's 8 is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For language, drug use, and some suggestive content.
Deadpool 2 is a gleefully profane sequel, full of action and raunchy pizzazz. Ryan Reynolds was born to play this role.
The merc with the mouth returns with more offensive jokes, more violent set pieces and a Josh Brolin cyborg. Deadpool 2 is a blast from the first frame until the last frame. The first Deadpool (2016) became a worldwide sensation, bringing in $783 million on a low $58 million budget. Making it the highest-grossing R-rated movie in box office history and the highest-grossing X-Men film. While the second feature didn’t top its predecessor’s box office gross, nevertheless; this anti-superhero proved not to be a fluke. Currently, the second go-around is sitting at $734 million worldwide. Director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde) swings this sequel back to action, with a touch of sass.
We return with the foul-mouthed mutant mercenary Wade Wilson (AKA Deadpool, AKA a never better Reynolds), who brings together a team of fellow mutant mongrels (X-Force) to protect a young boy (a fantastic Julian Dennison) with supernatural abilities. My favorite new mercenary being Domino (played by a fierce Zazie Beetz). Their mission is to keep the boy safe from the brutal, time-traveling cyborg named Cable (a grumpy Brolin). And that’s all of the plot I am willing to give away. Overall, this is another slick adventure with our dirty little friend. You'll laugh until your sides hurt, especially during the mid-credits scene. Deadpool 2 amps up the action, jokes and chimichangas all into one nicely packaged movie extravaganza.
Deadpool 2 is rated R (Restricted). For strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material.
RBG tropes the legendary life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as she continues to stand strong, influencing future generations to come.
The 'notorious' RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) finally gets her chance to let her voice be heard on the big screen. Though, the film may be preaching to the choir at times, you still have to admire her strength and empowerment from over the years. Co-produced by Storyville Films and CNN Films, RBG breaks down the legal legacy an unexpected pop culture icon of Justice Ginsburg. This documentary studies the unique personal journey of Justice Ginsburg, from her quiet warriorship in the lower courts, to her rise in our nation’s highest court of law. The documentaries' material is light, but full of passion. It's a documentary that will surely inspire many and should appeal to anyone with an open mind. Premiering earlier this year at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and then gaining widespread attention there afterwards, RBG’s voice shines brightly. No dissenting here. The doc is co-director by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, as they pay tribute to Ginsburg's work for equality.
The doc begins by traveling back to where Justice Ginsburg was born, Brooklyn, NY. She’s a first generation Jewish-American and during her college year’s she excels at Cornell University. Here, she meets her future life-long husband, Martin Ginsburg. Both of them would go on to become attorneys with Ruth specializing in the representation of sexual equality cases, while Martin went on to become a leading tax attorney working in New York. Ruth represents cases for both sexes experiencing inequality within culture and society regarding issues of sexual equality. Some of these cases involve Ruth representing discrimination cases against women in the armed services who were denied equal treatment in the armed forces, and others were successfully defending single parent male clients who were denied access to social security benefits. Many of these cases would go before the Supreme Court, where Ruth went head-to-head with the top male-privilege Justices.
During the Carter administration, Ruth was successfully nominated for the appellate court. Next, former president, Bill Clinton, successfully nominated her for the Supreme Court. Justice Ginsburg has been at the Supreme Court for 25 years now. Justice Ginsburg’s views and votes on the Supreme Court have helped shape and mold our American democracy to a more progressive landscape. Now, that seems to be shaken in the Trump Era. With Justice Neil Gorsuch joining the team last year and now possibly Brett Kavanaugh this fall, Ginsburg has had to move her views further to the left. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement announcement last month was a shocking blow to every liberal in our country. Kennedy was an incredible swing vote for the court, sometimes siding with the left and others with the right.
We could now be seeing a Supreme Court more conservative than ever before, affecting future generations to come. It’s going to be an epic political showdown this fall, stay tuned. Ginsburg, now 85, continues to stand strong in the face of opposition even within the far-left wing who wanted her out during the Obama administration. She responded no can do. Madam Ruth will stay at this reign until she ultimately no longer can. RBG is a spirited buoyant documentary, that’s worth your time. Full of heart and empowerment, in the end; you will surely concur here. I guarantee it. “Women will only have true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg
RBG is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For some thematic elements and language.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a narratively uneven structure, but ultimately it's still a fast-paced space opera. Dust off the rough parts and you’re in for a ride.
While, the newest Star Wars film failed to break records at the box office (possible franchise fatigue), nevertheless, it still aimed itself to be considered as a worthy tribute to the Star Wars saga. I would mostly agree with that statement. Solo: A Star Wars Story adds in an exciting story about the origins of Han Solo (a wonderful Alden Ehrenreich). Although, at times, it seemed to be fighting with itself narratively speaking. The film takes a good portion of the first act before it kicks up the pace, gears and stakes. This could be due to the creative differences between Lucasfilm and previous director’s Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street). Lord and Miller were reportedly fired about halfway through the production process. This led Disney to look for another director, who would take on the responsibility and finish the job.
That direction came into Ron Howard’s (Rush and A Beautiful Mind) hands. Howard mostly gets the job done for Solo. Guided through the rough patches, Han and his crew take flight and fight to save their own skin. In Solo, we are thrown into the dark and dangerous criminal underworld; while we also meet Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Lando Calrissian (the fantastic Donald Glover), Qi'ra (The fierce Emilia Clarke), Beckett (a stubborn Woody Harrelson) and L3-37 – a feminist fighting droid (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge). The film really takes it into second gear, when we are introduced to Glover’s notorious Lando Calrissian at a gambling casino. Glover embodies the role as the famous former smuggler played by Billy Dee Williams back in the ‘80s. To me, Glover was the best part of this movie and kept the ball rolling. I would love to see Glover in his own standalone Star Wars adventure.
While, Ehrenreich also brought his own unique attributes to the role of Han. Ehrenreich’s charisma and strength shined brightly throughout this picture. Overall, Solo is a fun flick – nothing more and nothing less. There were, at times, some extremely exciting action set pieces. Like when Han and Chewie piloted the Millennium Falcon together through uncharted space, barely escaping the tentacle monster. While, at others, the film’s plot seemed at a standstill. Along, with the dark and gloomy cinematography. Unlike The Last Jedi, Solo doesn’t take the franchise into any new direction. But in the end, that’s okay. So, if you check your brain out in the tickets admissions, you’ll surely enjoy this newest space opera extravaganza. I guarantee it.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For sequences of sci-fi action/violence.
John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls serves as both a living portrait and an insightful view of ‘The Maverick,’ who has helped mold our American politics and country forward.
The world is a fine place
And worth the fighting for
And I hate very much to leave it
— Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
This quote kick-starts the documentary of the influential US senator. The documentary is also titled For Whom the Bell Tolls because that is McCain’s favorite book. Mr. McCain has used the book as a guide for his life and after everything he has done and been through, it seemed like a fitting salute for the senator. In this hectic new world now known as the ‘Trump Era,’ HBO’s newest documentary of the Arizona senator is a breath of fresh air. John McCain has served our nation for more than 31 years of public service. Severing as a Republican throughout his tenure, Mr. McCain is still very well liked on both sides of the aisle. Due to his incredible bipartisanship on many issues, Mr. McCain has even been given the nickname as ‘The Maverick.’ His willingness to disagree with his party on certain issues continues to show why he stands out from other politicians in congress.
And in the documentary, For Whom the Bell Tolls, HBO forms a journalistically sound profile of a flawed, but ultimately admirable man. That is the difference that sets Mr. McCain apart for other politicians, is his ability to admit when he is wrong. Produced and directed by six-time Emmy winner Peter Kunhardt (HBO’s Jim: The James Foley Story, King in the Wilderness), along with Emmy winners George Kunhardt and Teddy Kunhardt, portray an illuminating profile of McCain in an exclusive interview of one of the most influential forces in modern American politics. McCain has been through it all, during the Vietnam War, he became a naval aviator and flew ground-attack aircraft from aircraft carriers. While McCain was on a bombing mission over Hanoi in October 1967, he was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese.
“During that period of time, they decided to escalate the air war over North Vietnam. We started striking targets inside Hanoi. … A missile took the wing off the airplane, so I ejected. When I hit the airstream, it broke my arm and also my leg.” He was a prisoner of war (POW) until 1973. This time as a POW stripped away nearly 6 years of his life. During these years, McCain experienced episodes of torture and refused an out-of-sequence early repatriation offer. The wounds that McCain sustained during war have left him with lifelong physical disabilities. After he was freed by the North Vietnamese and returned home, McCain retired from the Navy in 1981, moved to Arizona and decided to enter into politics shortly after. For Whom the Bell Tolls includes a fascinating passage about McCain’s evolving views on the Vietnam War. The doc also digest’s his relationship with fellow veteran and political opposite John Kerry, while they were serving in congress. There’s also some blunt talk about the disintegration of McCain’s first marriage to Carol. “He was looking for a way to be young again,” Carol says of John’s affair with Cindy, who eventually became his second wife. “I was blindsided, and it broke my heart.”
The doc doesn’t shy away from the senator’s missteps, there’s a segment about the Keating Five scandal of the 1980s and McCain’s side of trying to be fully transparent during the scandal. He made a campaign finance reform one of his signature concerns, which eventually resulted in passage of the McCain–Feingold Act in 2002. Along with the intoxicating stories of McCain’s past, we are also greeted with lifelong friends, family members and fellow politicians as well. People like: his wife Cindy McCain, daughter Meghan McCain, former President Barack Obama, former Vice President and good friend Joe Biden, former President George W. Bush, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and former Senator Joe Lieberman. During the 90s’ we see McCain work to restore diplomatic relations with Vietnam and succeed. The doc then brings us to a heated battle during the 2000 South Carolina primary campaign, where McCain and Bush were fighting for the top spot. Bush narrowly defeated McCain in a stunning upset. After the primary, McCain regretted not speaking out against the Confederate flag when he was asked. He later apologized for not having called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Statehouse.
''I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary so, I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth.'' Mr. McCain went on to say that his Confederate forefathers ''fought on the wrong side of American history.'' ''I don't believe their service, however distinguished, needs to be commemorated in a way that offends, that deeply hurts, people whose ancestors were once denied their freedom by my ancestors,'' he said. In Spring of 2005, McCain was a member of the bipartisan group known as the Gang of 14. They played a key role in reducing a crisis over judicial nominations. 'The Maverick' also talked about his regret towards choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate for the 2008 Presidential elections, whose selection proved to be disastrous. McCain instead wanted then-Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a former Democrat and now Independent. He was advised that it would not be a wise choice. In the end, McCain should have stuck with his gut. Sadly, in July of 2017 McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer but that hasn’t stopped the senator from continuing to fight and speak out. Most notably, his thumbs down last August to not repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). A snub to Trump. The documentary doesn’t mention Trump's name once and I believe that to be a good thing.
The current President tends to suck the life out of the subject matter, like a black hole. Take July 2015, as an example, when Trump mocked McCain for being a POW and stated that, “he’s not a war hero.” However, McCain has press-forward, demonstrating some of his toughest criticism towards the current Commander-in-chief. Example: “To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.” McCain tweeting about his disapproval towards the current administration’s stance on trade and our allies. In the end, this documentary was all about McCain and his bipartisanship towards moving a country he dearly loves. I have deemed myself as an Independent when it comes to politics. There are people on both sides, Democrat and Republican, that I look up too. On the right, McCain has always been the one I’ve connected with most.
While, I haven’t agreed on all of his stances throughout his career, the fact that he has a fighting spirit, works very bipartisan in our congress and is completely transparent, are all the more reasons why I look up to him. It’s also a reminder that not so long ago, Democrats and Republicans actually were civil to and respected one another. For Whom the Bell Tolls, is an intimate portrait of one of the bravest American hearts beating for our nation. “I know this is a very vicious disease,” says McCain of his condition. “I greet every day with gratitude … “I’m also very aware none of us live forever. … I’m very grateful for the life I’ve been able to lead. And I greet the future with joy.” To ‘The Maverick’ that keeps on fighting, we applaud you and your service Mr. McCain. Or as Mr. Obama better put it: “John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I've ever known. Cancer doesn't know what it's up against. Give it hell, John.” Today, these bells keep on ringing.
John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls is Not Rated (NR).
Don’t make a sound… A Quiet Place is an astonishing movie. This original creature feature will ruthlessly keep you on the edge of your seat from the first frame until the last.
Actor-director John Krasinski (The Office and director of The Hollars) has proven his talent in his second feature length film, A Quiet Place. Krasinski along with his wife, actress Emily Blunt, play fictional husband and wife in this scary new picture. The dynamic is great, as the two have an already developed relationship outside the screen. Both Krasinski and Blunt’s raw performances will knock you off your feet. It was a film that I was not expecting to be up to this kind of grand magnitude. The silence used as a center piece in the film was brilliant. It kept me on the edge, while Krasinski was tightly building the tension and suspense throughout. And, as for Blunt’s performance? It was a complete tour de force for her. Exceptional in every way with her silent emotions running wild, it will frazzle your inner conscious.
The year is 2020 and most of the human population has been wiped out by these mysterious monsters that attack by sound. So, a family of four must live in complete silence to survive from day-to-day. And by toning down the dialog and amping up the natural sound, we get a razor-sharp thriller. Another aspect that A Quiet Place got right was its central focus on the individuals in the family. I can’t tell you the last time I cared this closely for the characters in a horror picture as I did for the family in this film. A Quiet Place provided fully developed characters that gave us reason to grow with them in the brisk 90-minute screen time. Actress Millicent Simmonds plays the eldest daughter in the family, who is deaf in the film and in real life. Krasinski stated that he sought for a deaf actress because, "... for many reasons, I didn't want a non-deaf actress pretending to be deaf. Most importantly though, because a deaf actress would help my knowledge and my understanding of the situations tenfold. I wanted someone who lives it and who could teach me about it on set."
And Simmonds’ performance in the movie is powerful. She excels her persona from the first scene until the last. A Quiet Place artfully places your elements of fear and cinematically changes the game of what a horror picture should look and feel like. This is a smart film and breaks away from the normal clichés that have hinder past and current horror flicks. It’s 2018, and what I found so fascinating was Krasinski's ability to make a near silence movie and Millennials ate it up. This in part, is thanks to a really strong musical score, great sound design and a building tension that will send chills down your spine. A Quiet Place is mostly nonverbal, but it’s so well done. The bathtub scene with Mrs. Blunt was one of the most nerve-wrenching scenes I’ve witnessed in a horror flick. Mr. Krasinski’s creature feature receives all five stars from me, yes, you heard that right. A Quiet Place came into theaters quietly, then pounced on its prey, leaving viewers everywhere shaken.
A Quiet Place is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For terror and some bloody images.
Tully is a raw and honest portrait on the hardships of motherhood, backed by a powerful performance by the great Charlize Theron.
Parenthood is hard and Tully helps shed light to those hidden realities. Yes, being a parent is a blessing, as you help and watch your child grow into this modern world of ours. But, there can also be extreme trials that comes with it. In Tully, we see this through Charlize Theron’s character of a mother who is struggling with postpartum depression after giving birth to her third child. It’s a raw, but a sincere approach to this tough material. Director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air and Young Adult) is no stranger to dealing with these kinds of harsh realities. He hits it head-on in the film, but also crafts the subject matter with a gentle touch. This also marks the fourth collaboration between Reitman and script writer Diablo Cody, following Juno (2007), Jennifer's Body (2009) and Young Adult (2011).
So, Marlo (a strong Theron) is now a mother of three including her newborn, when she and her husband (Ron Livingston) are gifted with a night nanny by her brother (Mark Duplass). Marlo is hesitant at first but comes to form a unique bond with the new nanny named Tully (a wonderful Mackenzie Davis). Marlo sees her younger self through Tully, as the two form an endless friendship. Tully is only 26, but seems to anticipate Marlo's every need. It's Tully who gets up at night to care for the baby, only requiring Marlo to awake for breastfeeding. It's Tully who bakes fresh goodies for the kids to take to school and cleans the entire house at night. If mom has issues with baby weight or her sex drive is off, Tully offers her advise on both matters. "She'll grow a little overnight," Tully says to the newborn, named Mia. "And so will we." "You're like a book of fun facts for unpopular fourth graders," Marlo exclaims!
Together; these two actresses are dynamite and their acting will cut you deep by the final third act. Tully helps Marlo move forward in life as she battles the balancing act of life, kids and depression. It is also in the final act when her husband, Drew, finally wakes up and when realizes that his wife is emotionally and physically drained. Drew seemed to take the out-of-touch approach when his newest daughter was born. A lesson that shows how important communication is and how parenting is a two-person job. Many in a conservative society throw all of these pressures and responsibilities onto the wives, while the husbands mindlessly tune out the world through other activities. Like Drew did with his video games. This is a mindset I know that, and will strive to never fall into, when my wife and I start our family one day.
It’s more than breaking those social norms, it’s about being there for your wife, partner or significant other at all times. It’s about equalness between the two, something my wife and I strive to do in our marriage. We are equal and we are on this journey together. More reasons why I admired this movie because it was a real look at modern parenthood with a clear message. In doing so, Tully also broke down multiple barriers still hindering certain aspects of our conservative society. Both Glynis and I really enjoyed this movie. It was a deft blend of dark humor and bleak honesty through the lens of a bona fide mother. In the end, this is a film that packs in a punch. It will leave you and your partner talking hours on end about these types of hardships awaiting in the near future and how to tackle them together.
Tully is rated R (Restricted). For language and some sexuality/nudity.
Avengers: Infinity War is an emotionally heavy superhero flick, while also being one of Marvel’s most ambitious films to-date. At the end of the credits, sobbing fans everywhere will be anxious for more to come.
Coming in at the 19th film to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Infinity War has heart and sets the stakes up for the grand finale to the Avenger’s portion of the franchise. While, it is not the best superhero film because it does have flaws, nevertheless; this is a movie that is full of emotion and gives us already developed characters to care about. The action set pieces are pure fun for geeking out on, while the tone of the movie never reverts to dull or to grim. The Russo brother’s (Captain America: The Winter Solider and Civil War) also do a great job juggling an array of packed MCU heroes into its 149-minute clock time. It has been an unprecedented cinematic journey, ten years in the making and spanning the entire MCU, Marvel Studios' Infinity War brings to the screen the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time, cue Thanos (A powerful and vulnerable Josh Brolin).
The Avengers and their Super Hero allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe. That’s our stage and in the process the film gathers in Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Vision (Paul Bettany), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Sam Wilson/Falcon, Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Heimdall (Idris Elba), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Wong (Benedict Wong), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Shuri (Letitia Wright).
That’s a mouth full, but the MCU has been crafting and developing these characters on the screen for the past decade. We have grown to love them and have attached a bond with each one. That makes it hard when you see some of your favorite characters gone on screen before your very eyes. I won’t spoil who dies, but there will be blood. Brolin’s portrayal of Thanos is worth applauding, he gives our antagonist a soul. Yes, Thanos is out to restore order to the universe, but there’s a price that he must pay. By doing this, we see Thanos wrestling with his feelings. You can feel his struggle, but also get a taste of his dark side. The complexity of a multilayer superhero flick isn’t easy to pull off, but the Russo bros. manage the enormous task and do so. They also infuse action, humor and drama into one nicely packaged superhero movie expierence.
It’s no doubt that Infinity War would become a major hit. It shattered the worldwide and domestic opening weekend records, by pulling in $641 million worldwide and $258 million domestically. And as of now, it has grossed $2 billion worldwide in the last 46 days. Making it now the fourth highest grossing movie ever, behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Titanic and Avatar. There will be no doubt, that Avengers 4 could become the highest grossing movie ever surpassing Avatar. We will find out next year. This emotionally resonant summer blockbuster is worth the ticket price and will have fans everywhere on the edge of their seats. Our heroes have never faced this kind of danger and it is one that will leave you shattered at the end. With the snap of a finger, Infinity War has come and conquered the screen.
Avengers: Infinity War is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references.
Wes Anderson’s (Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel) definitive canine masterpiece is a force to be reckon with. Isle of Dogs is 2018’s hidden gemstone, full of vivid direction, lively storytelling and a top-notch voice cast. Right now, it’s the best film to hit the theaters.
Director Wes Anderson’s newest stop-motion creation was fresh and cinematically engaging. Let’s get down to the basics, Anderson is his own genre and has crafted so many grand little indie films that they have radically transformed the film industry as we know it. Films like: Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel and now Isle of Dogs. All of these films are incredibly unique, but still hold that Anderson pizzazz that makes them great. In Isle of Dogs, we get fully developed characters (human and animal), backed by a tremendous voice cast (Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Ito, Greta Gerwig, Akira Takayama, Frances McDormand, F. Murray Abraham, Courtney B. Vance, Yoko Ono, Harvey Keitel, Ken Watanabe, Mari Natsuki and Tilda Swinton). Now, that’s what you call a full house.
On top of this, our fury canine’s narrative was nothing short of brilliant, along with the film's eye-popping visuals. Our story begins with an outbreak of canine flu in Japan and that leads all dogs to be quarantined on an island. A boy (voiced by a radiant Rankin) journeys there to rescue his dog Spots (voiced by a grand Schreiber) and gets help from a pack of misfit canines who have also been exiled. His quest inspires a group of dog lovers to expose a government conspiracy. Behind these band of misfit dogs include Chief (Cranston), Rex (Norton), Boss (Murray), Duke (Goldblum) and King (Balaban). Each actor embodies their own personality into the animal, giving us a better understanding of them. Cranston provides the gruff leadership, while Norton has more of the rather quirky personality. Murray and Goldblum both give us wit and humor, while Balaban infuses a more awry trait into his fury friend. Out of all of these character’s, Cranston’s Chief stands out the most. Notably, because his character is the most humane and vulnerable ("I'm not a violent dog, I don't know why I bite").
And let’s not forget about the stunning stop-motion. At times, I didn’t even feel like I was watching a stop-motion picture because it was so well crafted and full of life. Anderson has also melded a film full of homage and tribute to the Japanese culture and cinema. Cultural appropriation one screams! Maybe, one could argue? Many Twitter critics have jumped to this conclusion and not actually watched the movie. I would advise doing so, to better craft your opinion of Anderson’s work. However, one of my first reactions to the movie was that it was like a love letter to Japanese cinema. Many on Twitter have also used film-critic Justin Chang’s (Los Angeles Times) review as a “battle cry” for pushing their negative agenda against the film. However, Chang has stated that "I wasn't offended; nor was I looking to be offended.” Yet again, another example of people not fully reading someone else’s writing and only taking small critiqued sentences to push their negativity.
I advise fully reading Chang’s review because it is incredibly well-written. I also advise watching Isle of Dogs in its entirety because it really is a worthy movie to appreciate. Anderson's film has heart companied by deadpan humor and a message for every dog lover out there. All-in-all, Isle of Dogs is an incredible film and needs to be watched by the masses. Fingers crossed, that Isle of Dogs doesn’t get lost in translation this awards season. A good friend of mine, told me that she’s rooting for this movie to receive a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars and to completely skip the Best Animation category. I completely agree and back her opinion. The film also receives all five stars from me. Isle of Dogs has proven that it’s a worthy film to be up in the ranking for Best Picture. Frame-by-frame, Anderson’s love for dogs artfully comes full circle. In the end, Isle of Dogs is an imaginative work of art, but it comes with a bite.
Isle of Dogs is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For thematic elements and some violent images.
Thoroughbreds is a darkly comic satire that infuses its audience into the world of teen divas, embodied by their killer instincts.
This is more than your average cup of tea. Thoroughbreds is a well-blended breed of black comedy and indie-retro savvy. First time director, Cory Finley, gets his hands dirty in a film that juggles unpredictable outcomes. Thoroughbreds takes its time with our leading ladies, as we are introduced to both of them and their desires. Childhood friends Lily (a knockout Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (an electrifying Olivia Cooke) reconnect in suburban Connecticut after years of growing apart through their adolescence. Lily is a polished, upper-class teenager going through all the ropes before college; while Amanda is a social outcast with a dark sense of humor. The film's trailer suggests that "Amanda feels nothing, Lily feels everything."
Lily is giving Amanda tutoring sessions at the beginning of the film, when Amanda realizes that someone is haunting Lily. That someone is her oppressive stepfather, Mark (a cold Paul Sparks). Lily can’t take him anymore and so, Amanda causally says that she should just kill him… cue a juggernaut plot that will slowly set off a ripple effect for our two characters. This cinematic style pulsating throughout the film, gave me an American Psycho and a Heathers vibe. Plus, Finley’s extensive slow camera work panning throughout the scenes developed a sense of eeriness and patience. Along with the provocative sound design and score, you’re in for a roller coaster of emotions.
Finley perfectly draws the viewers’ attention off screen with his timely designed music, racking up the suspense and drama. Wrapping our emotions around every beat, Finley knows how to make us quench in shock and laugh-out-loud at the same time. It’s a delicious film that offers more than one viewing. Sadly, this was also Anton Yelchin’s final film after he tragically passed away in June 2016. Yelchin’s small role is one to admire and woefully appreciate after watching years of his hard-moviemaking-work on screen. He is an actor who will continue to live out many lifetimes on past film. So, does Lily and Amanda achieve their goal in killing Lily’s stepfather? I won’t tell. You’ll have to carefully unpackage this dark cinematic treat yourself.
Thoroughbreds is rated R (Restricted). For disturbing behavior, bloody images, language, sexual references, and some drug content.
Shot entirely on the back of an iPhone 7 Plus, Unsane unleashes director Steven Soderbergh's (Ocean’s trilogy and Logan Lucky) inner B-movie craving. Plus, an electrifying performance from actor Claire Foy (The Crown) and her ability to help continue fueling the ‘Me Too’ movement.
Taking a brief director’s hiatus between his 2013 film, Side Effects, and his 2017 film, Logan Lucky; I am happy to say that Soderbergh is continuing his expedition of cinema grandeur. Keeping his feet wet and in the game, Soderbergh explores the horror/thriller genre with a twist! He adds a blazing fire, keeping the ‘Me Too’ movement in the very forefront of our minds. Shot in just 10 days and running on a $1.2 million budget, Unsane follows young woman who involuntarily commits to a mental institution, where she is confronted by her greatest fear. But, is this fear real or a product of her delusion?
Claire Foy plays Sawyer Valentini, who has suffered years of harassment and stalking from a man named David (a creepy Joshua Leonard). Turning the volume up to 11 on the anxiety meter, Soderbergh explores the worse possible fears of someone being harassed. Foy is dynamite in this role, as she continues to break new grounds in her promising career. You can also tell that Soderbergh has fun at exploring the B-movie style, craft and music; as he rushes his iPhone through the great halls of the hospital. What really resonates here, is the actor’s ability to amplify the narrative with plenty of shock and stark. Unsane may not be Soderbergh’s strongest film to-date, but it’s truly an admirable film experiment done right.
Through all of the twists and turns, we are emotionally strapped with Foy and her journey to freedom from her monstrous stalker. Unsane is a claustrophobic film full of dark tunnels waiting to be seen. With tints of blue and bleak arrays shining through the iPhone lens, we see a woman screaming for help and no one answering. This helps paint the very raw picture of what sadly happens in our society every-single-day. Unsane is a portrait of the hardships that women face through the amidst of sexual harassment. The film is also a timeless psychological thriller, that Foy willingly opens out her hand to help guide us through those eerie, white halls. So, will you take her hand?
Unsane is rated R (Restricted). For disturbing behavior, violence, language, and sex references.
This was my third year attending the BANFF Mountain Film Festival in St. Louis, MO and it was another exciting tour that continued to extended the arts through adventure. On this 2017/2018 World Tour, there are 37 films being displayed. Each tour shows a standard program between six and ten films. I was able to see eight on this tour at The Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries. Below is a brief summary of my thoughts on each film I watched that night. Enjoy!
Annihilation is a sci-fi mind-bender that packs in a punch full of visuals and a thought-provoking story. Director Alex Garland’s (Ex Machina) exploration of challenging themes should leave viewers scratching their heads well after the end credits roll.
An absorbing and hypnotic film, Annihilation combines elements of a sci-fi extravaganza and a creature feature. Helmed by a top-notch cast consisting of Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny and Oscar Isaac; Annihilation is one of the best films to come out in 2018. Based on Jeff VanderMeer's best-selling Southern Reach Trilogy, director Garland takes the well-written source of material and gives it life. The film follows five female scientists, who have signed up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don't apply. This mysterious zone is known as the "the Shimmer.” Portman plays Lena, a biologist and former US Army soldier. Portman is at the top of her game, giving us one of her most potent performances since 2016’s Jackie.
Leigh plays Dr. Ventress, a psychologist and the leader of the expedition. Ventress doesn’t give a damn who falls behind in the journey, her one and only goal is to make it to the beginning of “the Shimmer.” Next, we have Rodriguez who plays Anya, a paramedic. Anya’s rapid-fire tongue keeps the dialogue moving fast pace as we journey with her deeper into the unknown. As Anya’s paranoia rises, so does ours. Lastly, there’s Thompson and Novotny who play Josie and Sheppard, a physicist and linguistic anthropologist. Josie is the most clam of the group, while Sheppard is doing this journey in light of her daughter passing away to cancer. Sheppard has nothing to lose. Along the expedition the team encounters a mutated alligator, a mutated bear-like creature and a doppelgänger.
All bring out the real dangers and fears of this strange parallel world they’re in. Annihilation is beautifully directed and written. It proves, yet again, that Garland is a director who needs to be taken seriously. He has now created two masterful films (Ex Machina and Annihilation) that are both incredibly ambitious and thought-provoking. Sadly, Annihilation didn’t see the box office for very long. The film ran into a studio dispute with Paramount. After a poor test screening, David Ellison, a financier at Paramount, became concerned that the film was "too intellectual" and "too complicated," and demanded changes to make it appeal to a wider audience, including making Portman's character more sympathetic and changing the ending.
Luckily, Producer Scott Rudin sided with Garland in his desire to not alter the film. So, the version you are seeing is the purest form of Garland’s vision. However, due to this studio dispute Paramount and Garland had a fallout. Netflix stepped in and picked up distribution for the film internationally. That means, Annihilation was only released in theaters in the states and it was very limited. If you get the chance, I recommend trying to see this film in the theaters where it’s meant to be. Annihilation is an intelligent film, but don’t let that sway you away. This is the kind of art we need more in theaters. Its own ambitions are too impressive to set aside.
“We made the film for cinema. I've got no problem with the small screen at all. The best genre piece I've seen in a long time was The Handmaid's Tale, so I think there's incredible potential within that context, but if you're doing that – you make it for that [medium] and you think of it in those terms. Look... it is what it is. The film is getting a theatrical release in the States, which I'm really pleased about. One of the big pluses of Netflix is that it goes out to a lot of people and you don't have that strange opening weekend thing where you're wondering if anyone is going to turn up and then if they don't, it vanishes from cinema screens in two weeks. So, it's got pluses and minuses, but from my point of view and the collective of the people who made it – [it was made] to be seen on a big screen.” – Alex Garland
Annihilation is rated R (Restricted). For violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality.
With a brilliant cast and the surprise Super Bowl release drop, virtually everything else for The Cloverfield Paradox doesn’t work. What a mess of a film.
This movie is a real headache. The Cloverfield Paradox overshadows its top-notch cast with a mixer of muddled genres and undeveloped narratives. Paradox is, by far, the weakest of the Cloverfield series. It's a sci-fi flick that’s more bent on extending the Cloververse, than fully constructing a proper narrative. The marketing for this film was incredibly smart, by dropping the surprise trailer during Super Bowl LII and releasing the film immediately on Netflix after the game, this provided a sense of excitement for sci-fi fanatics everywhere. Yet, after the credits rolled on the screen, I was left utterly disappointed with the final outcome.
It’s never a good sign when your film begins production as a typical sci-fi thriller and then suddenly changes the script to make a connection with the Cloverfield franchise. The film simply did not know what it wanted to be and, in the end, it fell flat. Actors Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl and Chris O'Dowd do their best to uphold the picture, but the film leaves them astray. At times, Paradox was mildly entertaining to say the least. But a messy storyline, writing and editing will leave the viewer with a sour taste in their mouth. In 2008, the original Cloverfield introduced the use of shaky-cam and mixed tension with horror.
Then in 2016, 10 Cloverfield Lane was the acclaimed sequel that came out of nowhere. 10 Cloverfield Lane was a slow burning film that enriched the storyline with drama and fleshed out characters. You were on the edge of you seat from the very first frame. The pulsating score along with excellent performances is also what helped make 10 Cloverfield Lane so riveting. Now, we introduce Paradox the film that failed to deliver on quality and, in the end, left more people scratching their heads, pity. Right now, probably the best thing going for this film is that it wasn’t released in theaters.
The Cloverfield Paradox is not rated (NR).
Believe the hype. Black Panther is more than just another Marvel romp, director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station and Creed) was able to maintain his creative spark throughout the film sending a grandeur of Afrofuturistic escapism.
This history-making masterpiece can now be helmed as one of the greatest superhero films to ever hit the theaters. I have not been that thrilled after seeing a superhero movie since 2008’s The Dark Knight. Coogler’s film has now grossed over a $1 billion worldwide since its initial February 16th release, making it the highest-grossing film of 2018, as well as the seventh highest-grossing film ever in the United States and 20th highest-grossing film of all time. Currently, may I add. Its theater run is far from over and I wouldn’t be surprised if, by the end, it cracks $2 billion worldwide. We will see! Coogler also made history with his $242 million four-day opening weekend. This was the biggest debut ever for an African-American director.
What made Black Panther so great was its ability to elevate the superhero genre to exciting new heights. The film’s screenplay, direction, performances, costume design and soundtrack were all perfectly executed to the highest form of art. Full of pure pulp entertainment, Black Panther praises African culture and also raises awareness for black lives in America. A social commentary full of rich rewards and thought-provoking themes. Elevated by its predominantly black cast, Coogler’s film is a revolution for future films to look more like this. The story follows T'Challa AKA Black Panther (a brilliant Chadwick Boseman) who, after the events of Captain America: Civil War, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to take his place as King. However, when an old enemy reappears on the radar, T'Challa's mettle as King and Black Panther is tested when he is drawn into a conflict that puts his sovereignty to the challenge and raises the level of urgency with global consequences.
Boseman continues to shine in the title role of a lifetime, as he grows and shapes his character. Boseman’s versatility in his films (42, Get on Up and Marshall) is quite astonishing. Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger is one of the greatest antagonist to be put on the screen, regarding the superhero genre. Killmonger has been, by far, the best villain I’ve seen for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But I also hate calling him a villain because his character was so much more than that label. Jordan’s character was conflicted, at times I was rooting for him and in others I wasn’t. He made you believe in his message and he made some extremely valid points on what he was trying to accomplish. With every kill that Killmonger makes, he scars his body with notches to represent those deaths. This shows Erik’s tormented morality and humanity on an emotional scale.
Alongside T’Challa and Killmonger are key supporting actors that helped guide the rest of the film. Those actors consist of Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Sterling K. Brown, Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis. Nyong'o and Gurira both represent strong female supporting leads with their fierce acting chops and bravura character development. Coming off fresh the boat from his breakout role in last year’s critically acclaimed film, Get Out, Kaluuya’s hot streak continues to reign. With strong writing, acting and directing, Black Panther succeeds in virtually everything on screen. Coogler’s film paints a picture of what it means to be black in both America and Africa. It’s significance and cultural footprint will last for generations to come. Marvel’s masterpiece receives five out of five stars from me. Black Panther is a movie that matters because, right now, he is the best chance for people of every color to see a black hero represented on screen.
Black Panther is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture.
2017 blew away my expectations for the movie industry. Art, diversity, strong females leads and thought-provoking themes all prevailed. 2017 broke new ground in how we elevate the narrative and give powerful stories for people too rarely seen in the spotlight. It's a revolution for filmmaking and I cannot wait to see more films like these become a regular in the theaters. Here's my Top 20!
With the 90th Academy Awards right around the corner, let's take a look back at my favorite movies from the year 2013. This was the year I launched my film review site,