Shirley is a spellbinding experience, full of continuous camera techniques, an impressive cast, and a story that will fester under people's skin.
Shirley is not a movie for everyone, but it's an intriguing film and one that you cannot shake afterward. Upheld by the talented cast (Elisabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, Odessa Young, and Logan Lerman), Shirley's boundary bending mechanisms will rattle your bones. This approach was uncanny, yet all the more mesmerizing. Understandably, this approach may not be for every viewer — leaving one in a hypnotic state of mind. Shirley feels dreamlike frame after frame, as we unravel the mind of the great horror writer, Shirley Jackson. Directed by Josephine Decker (Madeline's Madeline), we feel the chills of this film's inner self shiver through our soul. Shirley follows a young, newlywed couple (a powerful Young and a persuasive Lerman) who are invited to stay with the Jackson's — in hopes of starting a new life and to be mentored by them. Shirley Jackson (a masterclass Moss) is a renowned horror author, who's at the start of writing a new novel. Jackson was known for her short story extravaganza — including powerful pieces like "Charles," Mademoiselle, July 1948, or "The Lottery," The New Yorker, June 26, 1948.
Where to begin with Mrs. Jackson, a kingpin for horror, mystery, and Gothic writing — she was also an inspiration to many future writers, like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Sarah Waters, Nigel Kneale, Claire Fuller, Joanne Harris, and Richard Matheson. Mrs. Jackson was married to an American literary critic named Stanley Edgar Hyman (a never better Stuhlbarg). Hyman taught at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont, and did not believe in a monogamous relationship. During their marriage, Hyman was adulterous, notably with his students, and Jackson reluctantly agreed to his proposition of maintaining an open relationship. I cannot imagine the emotional toll this must have caused Mrs. Jackson — Decker perfectly executes this tension between Jackson and Hyman in the film. We see Hyman make advances to Rose (Young), as she deflects and retreats to Jackson for sanctuary. Jackson's physical and emotional health spirals in and out throughout the movie, as she desperately tries to finish her new novel. Hyman's verbal cues don't help either, as he's critiquing her on everything thing she does — written and non-written.
Like Shirley's mind, the film's camerawork is a continuous motion, zigzagging throughout every scene. To me, this was a representation of Shirley's emotional health. There's one still shot at the very end of the film where Shirley has finally completed her novel. The stillness in this shot represented Shirley finally being at peace with herself. The cinematography is shot like a dreamlike sequence — exemplified through bright outside colors and hazy inside colors. Shirley is a biopic that forgoes normal film structures, keeping the audience on edge. I would not say I loved Shirley, but I deeply admire this kind of filmmaking. On top of all this, we are granted with another superb performance by Elisabeth Moss — through rage, fearlessness, and acute attention to detail, Moss delivers another Oscar-worthy performance. She's at the top of her game and nothing will stop her. While Stuhlbarg delivers another flawless supporting role. Known for films like Call Me by Your Name, The Shape of Water, Arrival, and Hugo, Stuhlbarg continues his impressive film resume. Shirley is a wild film about a legendary writer, who composed six novels, two memoirs, and more than 200 short stories over a period of two decades. Shirley is a movie that will creep inside your bones and stay there until the end of time.
Shirley is rated R (Restricted). For sexual content, nudity, language and brief disturbing images.
Directed by Josephine Decker
Starring Elisabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, Odessa Young, and Logan Lerman.
Available to watch on Hulu.
Tigertail is a beautiful love letter to America's immigration experience. This slow-burning family saga flourishes frame after frame — leaving our viewer's with a gracious cinematic wonder.
Tigertail is a wonderful-little film, shedding light on the Asian-American journey and one family's pursuit of immigrating to America. Directed by Alan Yang (Co-creator, Master of None), Tigertail is a deeply personal film that will resonate with your soul. This film marks as Yang's directorial debut — upheld by a thoughtful script, three-dimensional characters, and a love story that will break you. Tigertail is 'loosely' based on Yang's dad's own immigration journey from the shores of Taiwan to the skyscrapers of the United States. A poignant film that's superbly acted and glowing with green and yellow tints. Yang's script is a compassionate story that blossoms throughout the film — uplifted by talented actors and gorgeous cinematography. Cinematographer Nigel Bluck adds layers and depth with a skill vision of warm color palettes. A moving picture that sticks with you long after the credits are done.
In this potent multi-generational drama, Pin-Jui (Hong-Chi Lee) is a young Taiwanese factory worker, who makes the difficult decision to leave his homeland, seeking a better opportunity in America. But, this comes with a difficult price, Pin-Jui must leave the woman he loves behind, Yuan (Yo-Hsing Fang). Pin-Jui is allowed to make it to America through an arranged marriage with Zhenzhen (Kunjue Li). After Pin-Jui and Zhenzhen get into a car for the airport, he sees a woman who looks like Yuan in a crowded market as they drive by. She glances back at him and in the blink of an eye, she's gone. Pin-Jui and Zhenzhen make it to New York City — the couple move into a small rundown apartment. Pin-Jui gets a job at a local grocery store, where a works tirelessly to provide for his new family. Zhenzhen meets another Taiwanese woman at the local laundromat and they become friends. Overtime, Pin-Jui and Zhenzhen begin growing apart as a couple, only staying together because of their children. Jump to the present: we see an older Pin-Jui (Tzi Ma) arriving back home from his mother's funeral in Taiwan.
Pin-Jui is greeted by his daughter Angela (Christine Ko). Pin-Jui and Zhenzhen have been divorced for a while now and his relationship with his daughter is fragmented. Yang constructively jumps back and forth between the past and present in Pin-Jui's life. Pin-Jui must reconnect with his daughter and move towards finally building the life he once dreamed of having. Tigertail is a beautiful story of family, loss, and reconnection. It's also a powerful bond for the Asian-American experience and multi-generational love. There's a scene towards the end where Pin-Jui takes his daughter to visit Taiwan with him. It's a gentle moment between the film's father-daughter relationship. Tigertail is a little movie that resonates deep inside your heart, flourishing frame after frame.
Tigertail is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For some thematic elements, language, smoking and brief sensuality.
Directed by Alan Yang
Starring Hong-Chi Lee, Tzi Ma, Yo-Hsing Fang, Kunjue Li, Christine Ko, Fiona Fu, and Joan Chen.
Michelle Obama's Becoming is a fairly intimate journey with the former First Lady, as we travel with her through public life. Uplifting, Becoming embodies the best in Mrs. Obama and her mission to help our youth.
Netflix's Becoming is a delightful documentary that unveils how far our country has come during the Obama years and how far our country still needs to go. The doc offers an up-close look at Mrs. Obama's life, taking viewers behind the scenes, as she embarks on a 34-city tour promoting her memoir, Becoming. Director Nadia Hallgren highlights the power of our nation's community to help bridge our partisan divide. Through the lens, we see the spirit of relationships that open up when we honestly share our stories. Published in 2018: Mrs. Obama's memoir describes a deeply personal experience that led her to become our country's first Black First Lady. Becoming talks about Mrs. Obama's Southside roots, how she found her voice, as well as her time in the White House. Here, Mrs. Obama had to balance both her role as the First Lady — like her public health campaign (Let's Move!) — and her role as a mother to her daughters Malia and Sasha. One million copies of Becoming were also donated to First Book, an American nonprofit organization, which provides books to children.
Through grace and multi-city conversations, Mrs. Obama gently shines her presence into leadership for our youth. Becoming also recalls moments of profound change and progress during the Obama years — the historic 2009 presidential inauguration and 2015's legalization of same-sex marriage (LGBT rights) by the Supreme Court. Yet, Mrs. Obama doesn't hold back on talking about the racial inequalities, police brutality, and gun violence that still ravage through our country. We talk about Black and Brown communities that are still disproportioned. We talk about the mass shootings that still persist in our country with no gun control laws insight — specifically the 2015 Charleston church massacre. And we talk about the Black men and women who continue to be killed by police brutality — George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice — honing in on the importance of Black Lives Matter. We also see how Mrs. Obama interacts with our youth, encouraging them to vote — this is how change starts. Productive activism and voting are how we, as a country, will move forward towards a brighter future.
Mrs. Obama doesn't hold back on her criticism towards the Democratic voters who didn't turn out in 2016 — "The day I left the White House, I write about how painful it was to sit on that stage — a lot of our folks didn't vote, so it was almost like, a slap in the face." Sadly, there's a lot of progress that's been overturned from the Obama years, which is why this November is highly critical that we get out and vote. As of now, our country is heading in a terrible direction, making the 2020 election more dire than 2016. This election will affect generations to come — so please make sure you get out and vote, vote, vote. In the end, Becoming is flawed in certain areas, yet Mrs. Obama's compassion and grace help guide this documentary in the right direction. “For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.” — former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Becoming is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For some thematic elements and brief language.
Directed by Nadia Hallgren
Starring Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, Gayle King, Craig Robinson, Marian Shields Robinson, Phoebe Robinson, and Oprah Winfrey.
Available to watch on Netflix.
There's a lot to unpack in Netflix's Athlete A — a harrowing documentary that unveils the horrors of sexual abuse and a culture that allowed it to persist for years.
Athlete A is a challenging documentary by its nature, but it is necessary to hear from these brave women — their stories are vital. USA Gymnastics' toxic culture needs to change — in light of the reporting, the trials, and this documentary, we see an organization whose main priority was to protect the brand and not the girls. Filmmakers, Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk (An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power), grapple with the corrupt system inside USAG and the culture of predatory behavior that allowed Dr. Larry Nassar to prey on young girls and to continue doing so unprosecuted. Athlete A also shows us the power of journalism, its importance for holding others accountable, and the virtue of knowing the truth. The name, "Athlete A," refers to a then-anonymous gymnast whose complaint led to the first public disclosure of decades of abuse by Nassar. We would later find out "Athlete A" is gymnast Maggie Nichols, whose complaint was buried for more than a year, until 2016. By then, a team of reporters (Steve Berta, Marisa Kwiatkowski, Mark Alesia, and Tim Evans) from The Indianapolis Star were already investigating other abuse claims from the nation's most well-known Olympic organization.
The IndyStar had also spoken to other survivors, like former gymnasts Rachael Denhollander and Jamie Dantzscher. The abuse and change in this organization date back to the dynamic shift of the sport during the 1976 Olympics, when Nadia Comăneci ushered in a new era of gymnasts. After 1976, the competitors got younger and smaller — guiding a path for body and mind manipulation, and a system of fear and intimidation from adults. Within this new structure, coaches Béla and Márta Károlyi carved out a method of systemic verbal and physical abuse as the only model for achieving gold medals. During the '90s, Nassar had propelled himself deep into the organization, while he was commonly known as "the only nice adult" to these female gymnasts. It was here, where Nassar would gain trust — often passing out candy and making jokes to the children. When he was left alone in one-on-one interactions with them, this is where the abuse started. Nassar even strategically abused some of the girls when their parents were in the same room. He would position his body in ways to block what he was actually doing, leaving these girls traumatized for the years that followed.
The investigation by The IndyStar expanded over a period of nine months and found that the abuses were widespread because "predatory coaches were allowed to move from gym to gym, undetected by a lax system of oversight, or dangerously passed on by USA Gymnastics-certified gyms." These discoveries were downplayed and covered up by USAG's former CEO, Steve Penny. In October of 2018, Penny was arrested on the charge of evidence tampering in the Nassar case and was also accused of removing documents linked to the Nassar sexual abuse case from the Karolyi Ranch, the gymnastics training facility in Texas. Also in 2018, Lou Anna Simon (former Michigan State University president) and Kathie Klages (former MSU gymnastics coach) were both arrested with felonies and misdemeanor counts for lying to police about knowledge of sexual abuse allegations against Nassar and a disregard to the Title IX complaint against him from 2014. After explosive revelations came out in 2015 about Nassar — two years later, he would be sentenced to 60 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges. Additionally, in January 2018, Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in a Michigan state prison after pleading guilty to seven counts of sexual assault of minors. Finally, in February 2018, he was sentenced to an additional 40 to 125 years in prison after pleading guilty to an additional three counts of sexual assault — assuring that he will die behind bars. Over two decades, more than 368 persons alleged that they were sexually assaulted "by gym owners, coaches, and staff working for gymnastics programs across the country."
Since The IndyStar first reported the scandal in September 2016, more than 265 women, including former USAG national team members Dantzscher, Nichols, Morgan White, Jeanette Antolin, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, Jordyn Wieber, Sabrina Vega, Ashton Locklear, Kyla Ross, Madison Kocian, Amanda Jetter, Tasha Schwikert, Mattie Larson, Bailie Key, Kennedy Baker, and Alyssa Baumann, have accused Nassar of sexually assaulting them — making this one of the largest sexual abuse scandals in sports history. There's a powerful scene in Athlete A, where Angela Povilaitis (former assistant AG of Michigan) had 100 women come forward to give testimony in front of Nassar. These brave women looked Nassar directly in the face, as he glances down, and begin speaking of what Nassar had taken from them — physically and emotionally. That scene is a sense of awe as we see these courageous women openly speak up. Athlete A is a devastating and inspiring documentary about survivors speaking out and a culture of cruelty thriving within the institutions of elite-gymnastics. Athlete A reveals a sense of triumph for these brave athletes of refused to be silenced by an institution that rejected their humanity and only sought for the gold.
Athlete A is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For mature thematic content including detailed descriptions of sexual abuse of minors.
Directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk
Available to watch on Netflix.
A modern reinvention and provocation of Groundhog Day, Palm Springs is refreshing, funny, and brilliantly carried by its two leads (Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti). It's also one of 2020's best romances.
You'll fall in love with Palm Springs, 2020's time-loop phenomenon that's dazzling, wild, and irresistible frame after frame. It's a romcom that smartly blends science fiction, comedy, and drama all packed into one refreshing concept of immorality. In his directorial debut, Max Barbakow digs deep into reworking the Groundhog Day formula, while also relying heavily on Leaving Las Vegas. Similar scripts have worked with this formula and expanded upon it, think Netflix's Russian Doll. Palm Springs also succeeds in expanding upon this initial approach, blossoming into a potluck of genres and messages. Writer Andy Siara cleverly started the film with Nyles (a boozin' Andy Samberg) already stuck within the time-loop, making Palm Springs feel more like "a sequel to a movie that doesn't exist." Siara then adds Sarah (a wonderful Cristin Milioti) as a second character within the loop, serving as a navigator for the audience. Our film follows a wedding in Palm Springs, CA, where Nyles meets Sarah, the maid of honor, and the family black sheep.
After Nyles rescues Sarah from a disastrous toast, Sarah becomes attracted to Nyles and his nihilistic way of life. Yet, this all becomes complicated when Nyles is hunted down by a man named Roy (a hardy JK Simmons), shooting bow-in-arrows into his leg and shoulder. Sarah screams from the shock and horror of this encounter and begins following Nyles as he crawls into a mysterious cave. Nyles mumbles back at Sarah to turn around, but curiosity killed the cat. Sarah suddenly awakes the next morning — thinking it's the day after the wedding, however, Sarah soon finds herself reliving the wedding day (November 9th) again. Nyles reveals to Sarah that he's been stuck in the time-loop for God knows how long — if he dies or falls asleep he begins the same day over again. Nyles also reveals the man, Roy (Simmons), who occasionally hunts him was anciently brought into the loop with him leaving bad blood. This surreal interruption leads Sarah to trustfully join Nyles in embracing the idea that nothing in life really matters. Our two leads begin wreaking spirited havoc on her sister's (Camila Mendes) wedding celebration and around the town of Palm Springs — day after day.
Palm Springs is a near-perfect film that studies the effects of going through the motions of life while blending multiple genres into this wild film. Samberg has proven that he can both handle emotional drama and be a romantic lead — a new side I'm excited to see him in. While Milioti was able to shed both her emotional splendor and comedic charm. Milioti and Samberg's irresistible chemistry shines frame after frame as we follow their journey through the desert of vast eternity. Through many booze and even some special mushrooms, our characters hit the repeat on living like there's no tomorrow. This provocative romcom will make you laugh until your sides hurt and simultaneously punch you in the gut with its emotional toll. Our characters grapple with the real-life struggles of depression, pessimism, and abnegation in their repeating world — something many people are experiencing now for the first time in this COVID world of ours. Yet, this doesn't stop Nyles and Sarah from finding the best in themselves and finding comfort in the presence of each other. Palm Springs is a movie one could literally watch over and over again — through dark humor and a modern message on self-reflection, Palm Springs is one of the best films to come out in 2020. You'll find solace in this rejuvenating romance, I guarantee it.
Palm Springs is rated R (Restricted). For sexual content, language throughout, drug use and some violence.
Directed by Max Barbakow
Starring Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J.K. Simmons, Peter Gallagher, Meredith Hagner, Camila Mendes, Tyler Hoechlin, Chris Pang, Jacqueline Obradors, June Squibb, Tongayi Chirisa, and Dale Dickey.
Available to watch on Hulu
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is messy, narratively speaking, yet Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams' charm and chemistry keep this catchy tune full of visual fireworks and laugh-out-loud moments.
Through glamour, silliness, and high-in production numbers — Eurovision turned out to be a delightful comedy. This affectionate lampoon, directed by David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers and Fred Claus), delivers a goofy story chop full of pop songs and over-the-top production numbers. Ferrell and McAdams shine in the roles as Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdottir, aspiring musicians who are given the opportunity to represent their country (Iceland) at the world's biggest song competition, Eurovision Song Contest. Eurovision's plot is preposterous, yet we are sucked in with its infectious charm and addictive songs. Lars (Ferrell) and Sigrit (McAdams) are best friends, born and raised in Iceland, who make music together for their band Fire Saga. Lars and Sigrit apply and are selected to take part in Söngvakeppnin, the Icelandic pre-selection for the Eurovision Song Contest. Lars' dream is to win the Eurovision Song Contest and prove to his father (a bearded Pierce Brosnan), that he is a true artist. Lars and Sigrit's performance at the Söngvakeppnin is a disaster, leading them to leave the competition early. Looking out from a distance at the boat party taking place, Lars and Sigrit are sadden by their terrible performance. Suddenly ... the boat explodes killing everyone on board — even Iceland's beloved singer Katiana Lindsdóttir (Demi Lovato).
With Fire Saga being the only two surviving contestants, they automatically become Iceland's entry. A bizarre turn of events for a bizarre film — written by Ferrell and Andrew Steele. Lars and Sigrit make their way to Scotland, where the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest is being held. Here we meet a variety of different singers, including Russian singer Alexander Lemtov (a hilarious Dan Stevens). Lemtov's number includes fire, lion pattern costumes, and a burning passion for seduction. Lars and Sigrit decide to perform their catchy song, "Double Trouble." Other lavishing songs include "Volcano Man," "Jaja Ding Dong," "In the Mirror," and "Husavik." These songs will get stuck in your head until the end of time: "Woke up at night/I heard floating chords/They guided me ... "Volcano Man/He's got my melting heart/Volcanic Protector Man." Several former contestants of the Eurovision Song Contest also made cameos in the film, including Swedish pop singer, Molly Sandén (2006 Junior contestant), whose voice was harmonized with McAdams' voice creating the singing voice of Sigrit. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is a bit long, but it's upheld by amusing numbers and funny moments by our two leads (Ferrell and McAdams). Sigrit even believes in the old Icelandic tradition of elves, yes this is still very much a thing. Through all of the glittery costumes, infectious song numbers, and a pair of talented leads, we are given an entertaining show to waste time on. COVID may have you down right now, but Eurovision can help uplift your spirits — Viking accents and all.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For crude sexual material including full nude sculptures, some comic violent images, and language.
Directed by David Dobkin
Starring Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Pierce Brosnan, Dan Stevens, Natasia Demetriou, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Jamie Demetriou, and Demi Lovato.
Rejoice! Hamilton has finally arrived to Disney+, and it's better than ever. It's superior Theatre entertainment at its finest; that beautifully shines beyond Broadway's stage. This marvelous time-capsule is full of high energy and exemplifies the rap opera about our "ten-dollar Founding Father." Five-stars.
The streaming event of the year has arrived to Disney+, and it's a bonafide stage recording of musical fireworks. Lin-Manuel Miranda's 2015 phenomenon has captured America's heart and will continue to surprise you even to this day. The acclaimed show musical tells the story of an American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton — blending hip hop, R&B, pop, soul, and traditional-style show tunes. Hamilton also casts non-white actors (Black, Hispanic, and Asian-American) as the Founding Fathers and other historical figures. Miranda has described the musical as "America then, as told by America now." It's a glorious melody of our country's beginning shown through the eyes of diversity. Hamilton also went on to receive a record-setting 16 Tony nominations, winning 11 awards, including Best Musical. The pop-culture phenomenon also went on to win a Grammy (Best Musical Theater Album) and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Shot over three days in June of 2016 at the Richard Rodgers Theater in New York, we are blessed to see the original cast in their respected roles.
Referred to as Hamilfilm, the recorded stage version is a feast for our eyes. My hope for the future is that we will see more live recordings of Broadway musicals. It will be a great way to introduce people to the wonders of Broadway beyond the stage. Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography inspired Miranda's Broadway musical — "How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten/spot in the Caribbean by Providence impoverished in squalor/grow up to be a hero and a scholar?" Miranda is a first-generation Puerto Rican who puts on the blue coat as Mr. Hamilton while helping to support the revolution. Miranda's energetic presence will have you on your feet cheering him on. Hamilton proclaims, "I’m young, scrappy and hungry/And I’m not throwing away my shot!" Miranda is powerful, yet he knows the show is more than just him — full of other grandeur artists that prevail Hamilton to another dimension. At the start of the revolution, Hamilton befriends Marquis de Lafayette (Daveed Diggs), Hercules Mulligan (Okieriete Onaodowan), and John Laurens (Anthony Ramos). Respectfully, Diggs, Onaodowan, and Ramos all play dual roles in the musical. In the first act, Diggs articulates his French accent as the loyal companion, Lafayette, while he fiercely captures our third President, Thomas Jefferson, in the second act.
At the start of the second act, Jefferson proudly returns from France and sings to the catchy song, “What’d I Miss?” Hamilton and Jefferson begin to engage in rap battles on the direction they believe the country should be heading. Diggs' enthusiasm in both Lafayette and Jefferson is performed brilliantly. While Diggs' transformation from one character to the next is superbly executed on the stage. Diggs trades in his French accent and blue coat for a cocky attitude and a slick maroon coat. Onaodowan's dual role is both Mulligan (first act) and James Madison (second act). Onaodowan nails the energetic and gruff performance of Mulligan, who was a spy for the Continental Army. Onaodowan then slows things down as he transforms into the calm and quiet Madison. Ramos' dual role is both Laurens (first act) and Philip Hamilton (second act). Ramos' embodies the heroicness of Laurens — an avid critique of slavery, who fought for their freedom and died trying. In the second act, Ramos entails a more cocky attitude of a young Phillip Hamilton, who was killed in a duel at the age of 19. This tragedy haunted Hamilton and his wife, Eliza (played by Phillipa Soo). Back in the first act, Hamilton is introduced to the Schuyler sisters: Angelica (Renée Elise Goldsberry), Eliza (Soo), and Peggy (Jasmine Cephas Jones). "Work!" Goldsberry beautifully engulfs the nobility of Angelica Schuyler. She chooses to past on Hamilton, introducing him to her sister Eliza (Soo) instead.
This doesn't stop Angelica from majestically performing an illuminating song, "Satisfied", at Hamilton and Eliza's wedding. We see the lights glimmer and the rotating stage reverse in direction, illustrating a break in-time. Slow-moving, our characters rappel with backward motions to embody Angelica's thoughts as she recalls how she feels about Hamilton inside her head. "But Alexander I'll never forget the first time I saw your face/I have never been the same/Intelligent eyes in a hunger pain fame/And when you said hi I forgot my dang name/You set my heart aflame, every part aflame, this is not a game." It's a captivating scene that will send goosebumps down your arms. While Soo breathlessly captures Eliza's shining presence — we hear her voice roar as she sings to the heartbreaking melody, "Burn." In the second act, Hamilton becomes entangled in an affair with Maria Reynolds (also played by Jones). Eliza burns all of the letters Hamilton wrote her and rightfully so. "I'm burning the memories/Burning the letters that might have redeemed you/You forfeit all rights to my heart/You forfeit the place in our bed/You'll sleep in your office instead/With only memories of when you were mine/I hope that you burn." Soo's pain on the stage is raw and powerful a burning passion transforms from inside her voice and blasts through the screen. Actor Christopher Jackson is the another commanding presence on the stage with a massive build and a strong voice. Jackson plays our first President, George Washington. Hamilton is Washington's "Right Hand Man" and becomes our country's first Secretary of the Treasury. One of the most profound moments during the musical is during Jackson's song "One Last Time."
Here, we see a President who wants to step down and let the country move on. Washington knows his time in office should be limited and that democracy should prevail. Jackson's roaring words are a beating heart that will ease your conscience. “Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree/And no one shall make them afraid/They’ll be safe in the nation we’ve made/I wanna sit under my own vine and fig tree/A moment alone in the shade/At home in this nation we’ve made/One last time." Let us not forget, Jonathan Groff's dazzling performance as King George III — you'll laugh until your sides hurt from Groff's buffoonish incarnation as the tyrant king. "Oceans rise, empire fall/We have seen each other through it all/And when push comes to shove/I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love." Finally, Aaron Burr played by the marvelous Leslie Odom Jr. will burn your soul with his profound words. "And me, I'm the damn fool that shot him" or "Love doesn't discriminate/Between the sinners/And the saints/It takes and it takes and it takes." Odom Jr. won a Tony for his moving performance, giving us a tender and stirring feat full of range.
Burr and Hamilton started out as friends in the early days and then began growing farther apart. Once, Hamilton endorsed his known foe, Thomas Jefferson, instead of Burr for the 1800 presidential election, Burr's anger grew darker. "Jefferson has my vote/I have never agreed with Jefferson once/We have fought on like seventy-five diff’rent fronts/But when all is said and all is done/Jefferson has beliefs. Burr has none." This endorsement wedges a divide between Burr and Hamilton — leading them to settle their differences by duel, where Burr's political trigger is the striking blow to Hamilton's life. In addition to these splendid characters are a lively stage, dynamic lighting, a moving score, and a spirited Ensemble. Everything is meticulously calculated on the set — from the transcendent colors that brighten and darken, to the rotating sphere in the middle that keeps our actors always moving. Hamilton will continue to be a phenomenon, while also being a beacon of hope in this dark world of ours. "Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?" Hamilton will spark a light inside of you, as we get to watch it over and over again from the best seat in the house.
Hamilton is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For language and some suggestive material.
This masterpiece is directed by Thomas Kail
Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Starring Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Chris Jackson, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, Jasmine Cephas Jones, and Jonathan Groff.
Da 5 Bloods continues to prove that director Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, Bamboozled, Inside Man, Chi-Raq, and BlacKkKlansman) is ahead of the game with a masterfully crafted, politically aligned, and fiercely vocal film about the injustice of Black lives in America. As of now, Da 5 Bloods is the best film to come out in 2020. Five-stars.
Da 5 Bloods was everything I wanted in a Spike Lee Joint and more. The writing was solid works of art with compelling drama, stark violence, witty humor, and fierce ambition. I got whiplash from how abruptly the tone of the storyline would change, but this was Lee’s point. Da 5 Bloods revolves around four U.S. Veteran's prior trauma on a war we should not have fought in — while also focusing on what it means to be Black in America. Da 5 Bloods is also the first Hollywood film on the Vietnam War reflected through the eyes of Black Americans. All of the actors (Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isiah Whitlock Jr.) were superb, each bringing their past wounds and conflicts to their fleshed-out characters. Lee also chose not to use CGI for the flashback war scenes on the older actors. This was a brilliant move by Lee, showing how his craft has continued to mature. The CGI-less actors demonstrated how our characters are still haunted by their time in Vietnam, making it feel like everything is happening in real-time.
There's an emotional richness to Da 5 Bloods — as with every Spike Lee Joint, we are grappled with Hollywood's blind spots on minority communities. Lee continues to critique and reexamine the way we look through the frame of movies. Lee has always had a beating heart for American films, yet that doesn't stop him from quarreling with the status quo — proving that many parts of our American history have been distorted. In 1989's Do the Right Thing, Lee examines the horrors of police brutality and with the recent death of George Floyd, sadly; not much has changed. Lee's 1991 Jungle Fever, explores the beginning and end of an interracial relationship in New York City — studying the effects of racism that attacks both race and romance. While Bamboozled was a satirical comedy-drama of modern televised minstrel shows and Chi-Raq played as a modern Greek comedy with parallels on the gun violence debate. In BlacKkKlansman, Lee showed that racism in America from the '70s to the present has not changed and in some instances, we, as a country, are going backward in the age of Trump. Lee has always been ahead of the curb on topics dealing with race relations, the role of the media, crime and poverty, and political matters.
Da 5 Bloods continues Lee's passionate engagement with the Black Lives Matters movement. Our film tells the story of four African-American Vets — Paul (Lindo), Otis (Peters), Eddie (Lewis), and Melvin (Whitlock Jr.) — who return to Vietnam to find the remains of their fallen Squad Leader (Chadwick Boseman). The group, known as the Bloods, are also on a journey of promised buried gold and are joined by Paul's concerned son, David (Majors). Here, our characters confront their fears, hopes, and internal conflicts in a place they have fought before. Lindo plays Paul — a MAGA-loving Vet who's been beaten and broken down by a system that suppresses him. Paul's stance on politics and Trump leaves his other Bloods disgusted with him, but that doesn't stop Paul from running his mouth. Paul exclaims that our country needs that 'wall' and the 'foreigners' are taking all of our jobs! Paul has narrowed his views of discrimination and solely focuses on his struggle — leaving us with a flawed man who only wants himself to benefit at the price of others. Lindo is a revelation in the role of Paul. His acting chops are beautifully constructed and fiercely persuasive. Lindo captivates scene after scene, giving us one of his best performances to-date. He deserves an Oscar nomination in a Leading Role for this profound accomplishment. Raw and honest, Lindo will keep you glued to your seat. One of his best scenes comes when Paul breaks the fourth wall and begins reciting monologues while he rages throughout the jungle. This scene meticulously captures the mind of a Vet who suffers from PTSD.
Next, there's Otis (Peters), who's considered the new leader of the group since Norman, (Boseman) the fallen Squad Leader, has died. While in Vietnam, Otis visits a past love of his, Tiên (Lê Y Lan), who reveals that he is the father of her grown child. Otis is introduced to his daughter, Michon (Sandy Huong Pham). Michon's subplot is a small but important role to the film's core. Within this subplot, is a heartfelt father-daughter reunion that reveals the relationship to the Black-Amerasian identity. According to Amerasians Without Borders, “it was estimated that there were about 25,000 to 30,000 Amerasians born within a 10 years period during the Vietnam War.” Lee shows the conflict that Amerasians struggle with and embraces their identity — it's a small but moving treasure the film unveils. Peter shines as Otis through compassion and zeal, while reflecting on his strengths and weaknesses. Peter is a passionate man who's looking for hope. Lewis plays Eddie, while Whitlock Jr. plays Melvin — Eddie is struggling financially but hides it through pride and Melvin helps brighten the group with his warm comic relief. Melvin is the Blood happily boozing his way through Ho Chi Minh City. Da 5 Bloods is a combination of past films, like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Apocalypse Now, and a dash of Rambo. Lee is a master in control, showing off violent urges that's underlined with statements of activism. Through it all, we follow these Bloods on their dangerous mission through the wilderness to find their fallen leader and root for them to bring home the gold — land mines and all.
Lastly, this leads us to the role of David played by Majors. David is a concerned son who follows his dad, Paul, to Ho Chi Minh City and joins them on their journey. Majors grapples with a son longing for his dad's love, while also struggling with his mom's death. David blames himself for her death because she died in childbirth when having him. Here, we see a son who only wants to be acknowledged by his dad and given a voice to speak with. Just as he was in The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Major's gives us another heartfelt performance. Through blood, sweat, and tears, we feel David's pain aching from the bottom of his heart. One of the most intense scenes in the movie is when David steps on a land mine and cannot move a muscle or the mine will explode. This sequence between David and his father coaching him through will have you on the edge of your couch. Lee's intense scene is a combination of emotions and adrenaline rushing through your veins. It's one of the most heart-pounding scenes I've ever experienced on screen, even at the comfort of my home I was on edge. In the end, Da 5 Bloods is a combination of drama, trauma, grit, and activism, all piled into one hell of a movie. Like a head rush, Lee's newest Joint will seep through your bones. Da 5 Bloods is one of Lee's greatest achievements and I am excited for more to come. Through Lee's imagery, we see that Black Lives Mattered in Vietnam, too.
Da 5 Bloods is rated R (Restricted). For strong violence, grisly images, and pervasive language.
This Joint is Directed by Spike Lee
Starring Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Chadwick Boseman, Mélanie Thierry, Paul Walter Hauser, Jasper Pääkkönen, Johnny Tri Nguyen, Lê Y Lan, Nguyen Ngọc Lâm, Sandy Huong Pham, Jean Reno, and Van Veronica Ngo.
Experience this triumph only on Netflix.
From April 27 to May 6, 2020, I watched 25 Narrative and Documentary Shorts. Sadly, SXSW 2020 did not get to happen in-person this year in Austin, Texas, due to COVID. However, I am incredibly happy that Amazon picked up 39 films from the festival and was able to stream them for free to the general public. I proudly present part one of two packaged reviews. Up first, the 16 Narrative Shorts I watched.
Kimmy vs. the Reverend is a wonderfully joyous surprise for fans of the original show. Funny and fast-paced, this TV-movie special will brighten your day. Plus, the interactive mode is used to its best capacity -- giggles and all.
Fans of Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt are in for another fabulous streaming treat. With cheerful coda and our whimsical heroin (Kimmy, played by Ellie Kemper), our viewers are allowed to call all of the silly shots. There three different timelines that the viewers can take throughout the hour and a half special — all leading you to the same conclusion. If you make a bad choice that leads to a bad consequence Mikey, played by Mike Carlsen ) or actor Fred Armisen will come onto the screen, give you a pep talk and have you redo the last sequence. Depending on which road the viewers want to take, their paths can be wild and unpredictable or safe and smart — all are still an enjoyable experience. Trust me, I tried every option for every sequence multiple times. Yet, even with selecting the most ridiculous choices, the show always steers you back into the right direction.
Along with the witty interactive options is the return of a spectacular cast — Kemper as Kimmy, Tituss Burgess as Tituss, Jane Krakowski as Jaqueline, Jon Hamm as The Reverend, Carol Kane as Lillian, Lauren Adams as Gretchen and Sara Chase as Cyndee. In this newest adventure with Kimmy, she's planning her wedding day with her rich-British fiance, Prince Frederick (Daniel Radcliffe). Everything seems perfect until Kimmy realizes that there's another bunker The Reverend has hidden away. Will Kimmy be able to find the location of the bunker to rescue the girls? Will The Reverend foil Kimmy's plan to marry? Will Titus get his big break as a movie star? Will, you accidentally destroy the 'Me Too' movement or start a war with robots? The choice is in the palm of your hands and the comfort of your own house. Kimmy vs. the Reverend is full of non-stop gags from a very funny show — I hope we'll be seeing more of Kimmy and her friends sometime in the future. "Females are strong as hell." "Unbreakable!"
Kimmy vs. The Reverend is rated TV-14
Directed by Claire Scanlon
Created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock
Starring Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Jane Krakowski, Jon Hamm, Carol Kane, Lauren Adams, Sara Chase and Daniel Radcliffe.
Love her or hate her, there's no denying that Hillary Rodham Clinton has made her footprint in our country's politics and helped push our country forward in a vision of Progressivism.
Party affiliations aside, Hulu's four-hour documentary is razor-sharp — thoroughly examining her political life from her youthful days at Yale Law School to First Lady of the United States, from Senator of New York to Secretary of State, from her 2016 Presidential campaign to where she's at now. Hillary premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, was picked up by Hulu and premiered for streaming back in mid-March. This four-part bio-doc willfully explores Mrs. Clinton's life in and out of the public eye. Director Nanette Burstein (The Kid Stays in the Picture) not only shows Mrs. Clinton's progressive accomplishments but also exposes Mrs. Clinton's fight against sexism and right-wing critics. Yet, Mrs. Clinton is not perfect and she has her flaws — as do all politicians. Burstein moderately studies those flaws and how they have affected her throughout her career. Burstein conducted 30 hours of interviews with Mrs. Clinton and used 2,000 hours of 2016's campaign footage.
The opening title sequence for Hillary rapidly flashes photos of Mrs. Clinton aging throughout her years, yet her eyes are always fixed and focused in the same spot. Her photos and age may be changing and evolving but Mrs. Clinton's eyes never do — a nod to her vision for women everywhere to keep pushing forward. This fierce title sequence is backed by The Interrupters' 2014 rockin' “Take Back the Power." Hillary spends a great deal of time talking about her bruising Presidential loss to Donald J. Trump back in 2016. A loss that many found shocking, as did I. In the doc, Mrs. Clinton refused to mention Mr. Trump by name — referring to him as "my opponent" or "he". This keeps the documentary focused on Mrs. Clinton and not her "opponent" who tends to suck out all of the air in the room. Between the conversations about Mrs. Clinton's 2016 Presidential campaign, the viewers are given chronological flashbacks of her career. Parts of Hillary may seem rather simplistic for her robust career and four-hours is not enough to cover everything she's done.
Yet, it's the little moments in Hillary that shine brightest — i.e. in 1995 when First Lady Clinton delivered her "human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights" speech in Beijing, China. Mrs. Clinton's moving speech became a key moment in the empowerment of women from around the world. Hillary has a lot of groundwork to cover, Burstein examines everything from her advocation of healthcare reform as First Lady to the Lewinsky scandal, from her being the first female Senator elected in New York to her draining Democratic Presidential primary race against Bernie Sanders. Facing excruciating rage from toxic hardcore Bernie fans, Mrs. Clinton lets loose on her feelings about the senator. “He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It’s all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it." In the words of Rhett Butler, "frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn", Mrs. Clinton lays everything out on the table and has nothing left to loose. Mrs. Clinton has normally held back from this type of talk but after 2016, her attitude has changed.
Looking back at the past, Mrs. Clinton was born into a Moderate Republican family in Chicago, Illinois. She grew up with Conservative-Methodist parents and family members and was affiliated with the Republican Party throughout her teen years and early adult life. Mrs. Clinton later volunteered to campaign for Republican candidate Barry Goldwater in the U.S. Presidential election of 1964. In 1965, Mrs. Clinton enrolled at Wellesley College, where she majored in political science. During her first year, Mrs. Clinton was president of the Wellesley Young Republicans. This Conservative group at Wellesley College was known as "Rockefeller Republican", which supported the elections of moderate Republicans. Back then, Mrs. Clinton would describe herself as "a mind conservative and a heart liberal". However, it was the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the Civil Rights movement, and the Vietnam War that helped evolve Mrs. Clinton's political affiliation from a Republican to a Democrat. In 1969, Mrs. Clinton entered Yale Law School, where she would study to get her Juris Doctor (JD) degree and meet her husband, Bill Clinton. In 1977, Mr. Clinton was elected Arkansas Attorney General and Mrs. Clinton moved down to Little Rock, where she joined the Rose Law Firm.
During her time in Arkansas, Mrs. Clinton started encountering many instances of sexism — most notably because, at the time, she chose to keep her maiden name (Rodham). This upset many traditional Arkansasians. Mr. Clinton announced her presidential bid and won in November of 1992, defeating incumbent Republican opponent George H. W. Bush. During her time as First Lady (1993 — 2001), Mrs. Clinton was often regarded as the most openly empowered presidential wife in American history, right after Eleanor Roosevelt. Mrs. Clinton also became the first First Lady to have her own office in the West Wing. First Ladies normally have an office in the East Wing. Because of this, Mrs. Clinton was part of the innermost circle vetting appointments to the new administration. Her choices filled eleven top-level positions and dozens of lower-level ones. Mrs. Clinton's biggest focus during her time as First Lady was healthcare reform. Sadly, Mrs. Clinton's bill for healthcare reform was killed after the 1994 'Republican Revolution' led by Newt Gingrich. The GOP took back the House after being in the minority for 40 years. Nevertheless, Mrs. Clinton played a leading role in the creation of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the Adoption and Safe Families Act, and the Foster Care Independence Act.
Mrs. Clinton also traveled to 79 countries during this time, breaking the record for most-traveled First Lady previously held by Pat Nixon. Yet, with all that being said, Mrs. Clinton's image was damaged due to the Whitewater controversy and the Lewinsky scandal. Even though the Lewinsky scandal was Mr. Clinton's fault and his fault alone, Mrs. Clinton still took some criticism due to her choice to stay with him and reaffirm her commitment to their marriage. In 2000, Mrs. Clinton decided to run for Senator of New York — winning and becoming the first female Senator elected for New York. During her tenure, Mrs. Clinton was a noble advocate for medical benefits for first responders whose health was damaged in the September 11 attacks. “Everything changed on September 11th,” Mrs. Clinton said. “It looked like hell. I mean, any depiction — Dante’s Inferno — paled in comparison. It was the most terrible sight I’ve ever personally seen. I think about it all the time.” Yet, Mrs. Clinton reaffirmed her thankfulness of President George W. Bush and his leadership after the events of 9/11. “For all of my disagreements with President Bush, I will forever be grateful to him for guaranteeing we got the money we needed to rebuild New York.” During the Obama administration, Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013.
The doc explores the Benghazi and 'emails" exploitation some Republicans used against Mrs. Clinton at her time as Secretary of State and during the 2016 Presidential election. We all know that the 2012 Benghazi attack was a failure in the State Department, yet some GOP members and Fox News used Mrs. Clinton as a punching bag. There were 10 Benghazi investigations — six by Republican-controlled congressional committees — none of which found any faults from high-ranking Obama administration officials. And yes, Mrs. Clinton made mistakes with the email controversy, however; this controversy was vastly exploited by right-wing pundits, who used it as an opportunity to label her as 'untrustworthy'. Which brings us to the present, Hillary is a razor-sharp documentary that shows us how Mrs. Clinton's robust career was unable to, at times, keep control of her own narrative.
Mrs. Clinton has gone from being viewed as an empowering symbol for all women to two-faced or secretive, from passing progressive bills to being too submissive to her husband, from being a torchbearer for equality to being too corporate-focused. All of this led our nation to one of the most polarizing elections we've ever seen in modern history. Our country is and has been ready for a woman president, yet the misogynistic views ingrained into some voter's minds have held our country back. History will look back at Mrs. Clinton's definitive legacy and the impact she had on our society. Love her or hate her, there's no denying that Mrs. Clinton's political footprint has been established. Finally, I will leave you with some of the lyrics exclaimed by The Interrupters, let these words sink in both as a virtue for inside and outside of politics: "What's your plan for tomorrow. Are you a leader or will you follow. Are you a fighter or will you cower. It's our time to take back the power."
Onward is a sweet and colorful adventure for the whole family, adding another worthy entry to the Pixar canon.
This movie was watched from the comfort of my home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please stay inside, stay healthy, and watch some movies. Sadly, Onward's box office failure was attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in theaters around the globe being closed. However, do not let this stop you from watching the movie at home. Onward is available to rent or buy on VOD (including iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime, and FandangoNow) and is streaming everywhere on Disney+.
Onward is a whimsical and superbly sewn together piece of gorgeous animation. Padded with funny and heartwarming charisma by its two leads (Tom Holland and Chris Pratt), Pixar's newest mythical journey is here to stay. Our film follows a world inhabited by mythical creatures, where magic was commonplace many millennia ago. Yet, after the technology advanced over the centuries, magic became obsolete and was largely discarded among the creatures. Now, two teenage elven brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot (voices of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt), get an unexpected chance to spend one more day with their late father, embarking them on a quest to bring him back for a moment in time. Holland is the voice of Ian Lightfoot, a shy and curious teenage elf who wants to make new friends and looks up to his late father, Wilden Lightfoot (voiced by Kyle Bornheimer). Holland gives Ian a tender heart with his lighthearted mannerisms and his bashfulness.
Pratt is the voice of Barley Lightfoot, a loud and proud teenage elf who's obsessed with mythical stories and the past times of society's old magic. Pratt's brash and comical mouth gives Barley a sense of adventure — pushing his younger brother to vast opportunities. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the voice of Laurel Lightfoot, a strong single mother trying to raise her two teenage elves. On Ian's 16th birthday, Laurel gives the brothers a gift from their father: a magical staff, a rare gem, and a letter describing a "visitation spell" that can resurrect their father for a single day. After reading the letter, Ian accidentally succeeds in casting the spell, but only the lower half of their father's body is reformed before the gem explodes. This discovery becomes an impromptu for the boys to embark on a quest to find another gem completing the transformation of their father. Onward may never rise to the same levels as other superior Pixar entries, nevertheless; the film is still able to stand on its own merits with witty humor, beautiful animation, and heartwarming storytelling.
Pixar also added the first openly LGBTQ character (voiced by Lena Waithe) to their magical movie. Waithe voices Officer Specter who represents a significant moment for Pixar, as she's the first animated character who, through dialogue, identifies as LGBTQ. It's a small but important part of the film. Director Dan Scanlon (2013's Monster's University) said, "It's a modern fantasy world and we want to represent the modern world." After embarking on the extraordinary quest aboard Barley's epic van Guinevere, their journey is filled with magic spells, cryptic maps, difficult obstacles, and incredible discoveries. Yet, subsequently the boys' mom (Louis-Dreyfus) realizes her sons are missing, so she teams up with The Manticore (voiced by Octavia Spencer) and heads off to find them. Spencer's Manticore is a part-lion, part-bat, part-scorpion, and a former warrior of the mythical world. Adventure is out there and that includes a magical staff and even a motorcycle gang of pixies. This one spellbinding day could mean more than Ian and Barley ever dreamt of, hugs and all. Onward will magically spark the joy inside you during these troubling times. You'll laugh and cry, cheering on our elven brothers.
Onward is rated PG (Parental Guidance) For action/peril and some mild thematic elements.
Directed by Dan Scanlon
Starring Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mel Rodriguez, Lena Waithe, Ali Wong, and John Ratzenberger.
A Double Feature Review: Both of these films were viewed before the COVID-19 shutdown. Please stay inside, stay healthy, and watch some movies.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog is a colorful, energetic, and family-fun adventure — keeping the mood light and always moving. This video game-inspired film might just be the dash of escapism we all need right now. Lauded by Jim Carrey's goofy charm, Sonic lets him loose. On top of that, we get a wonderful voice performance by Ben Schwartz (Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Rec). Schwartz brings a sense of charisma to the table for Sonic and his voice, while Carrey's performance as Dr. Robotnik is a real hoot. The first trailer for Sonic was unveiled in April 2019 at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. Sonic's first appearance was heavily criticized by fans and critics alike. For good reason too, Sonic's first CGI appearance was uncanny to the eyes. Sonic's humanoid-like features were horrendous and did an injustice to the beloved video game character. Within two days, the trailer was viewed more than 20 million times on YouTube and had received hundreds of thousands of "dislike" ratings, drastically outnumbering the "like" ratings. The trailer also had Twitter fall into a polarizing frenzy.
Luckily, the director, Jeff Fowler, took note of the heavy criticism and decided to completely redo Sonic's appearance and CGI features. The redesign added an estimated $5 million to the production budget and took around five months — pushing back the film to February 2020. In the end, this decision was worth it and kept our Sonic faithful to his original self. Sega should be happy with the end result, I know I was. So, after discovering our small, blue, fast-running hedgehog (voiced by Schwartz), a small-town police officer (James Marsden) must help him defeat an evil genius (Carrey) who wants to do experiments on him. That's as far as the plot goes, but there is enough wit and adventure to keep the film moving for the whole family. While these last two months have been stressful and the future is looking weary, sometimes you just need a fun escapist movie to get you through. With vivid colors, action sequences, and silly humor — Sonic the Hedgehog might be the film to brighten us up.
Sonic the Hedgehog is rated PG (Parental Guidance) For action, some violence, rude humor and brief mild language.
Directed by Jeff Fowler
Starring Ben Schwartz as Sonic, Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, and Neal McDonough.
Bloodshot just isn't worth your time. Slicing through all of its padded mediocrity, Bloodshot marks a new low for Vin Diesel's career. This action movie hangover scraps together '90s comic book storytelling with bloated CGI and dull action sequences. Our story follows Ray Garrison (Diesel), a slain soldier, who is re-animated with superpowers and brought back to life as the superhero Bloodshot. That's about as much plot as you need to know. The rest of the premise is pretty much watching Diesel flex his muscles, taunt the cameras, and engage in tiresome CGI fight sequences — leaving the audience bored from this dull and forgettable experience. Unfortunately, Bloodshot doesn't even manage to fall into the "So Bad, It's Good" category. Instead, Bloodshot ends up just being a pile of sci-fi action trash. Like Forky exclaiming "I'm Trash!" in Toy Story 4, that sentence becomes a reality with Bloodshot.
Bloodshot is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) For intense sequences of violence, some suggestive material and language.
Directed by David S. F. Wilson — his first feature film ... yikes!
Starring Vin Diesel, Eiza Gonzalez, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell, Talulah Riley, Lamorne Morris, and Guy Pearce.
Emma. is another charming Jane Austen story. Fully of wit and beauty, actor Anya Taylor-Joy's wonderful performance will take your heart.
Emma. is whimsical and good-spirited fun from the Jane Austen vault. We're lead with a marvelous performance by actor Anya Taylor-Joy, who's shining role will put a smile on your face. Based on Austen's novel of the same name of 1815, our story follows Emma Woodhouse (Taylor-Joy), a young woman who interferes in the love lives of her friends. So, after her governess, Miss Taylor marries and becomes Mrs. Weston (Gemma Whelan, Netflix's The End of the F***ing World), Emma Woodhouse searches about for a new companion. Emma is the queen bee in matchmaking in her little sleepy town known as the village of Highbury. Handsome, clever, and rich, Emma is at the top of her social class but she soon realizes that she might not be the best at matchmaking. Emma takes on a new companion, Harriet Smith (a splendid Mia Goth).
Emma thinks that Harriet will be a good match for Mr. Elton (a funny Josh O'Connor, Netflix's The Crown). Mr. Elton is the village's local vicar and is quite a goofball with his faces and mannerisms. Like a religious self-parody, Mr. Elton is always raising his hands in the most awkward situations. Nevertheless, she thinks that Mr. Elton has an eye on Harriet, making him a good match for her. Come to find out, Mr. Elton likes Emma and she is taken aback with this news. This romantic misstep hurts Emma's pride and she also does not feel the same way for Mr. Elton. There's also George Knightley (a delightful Johnny Flynn) who's been a longtime family friend of Emma's. Mr. Knightley is by her side, but mostly to scold and correct her in every turn. Don't let this game from Mr. Knightley fool you. He's an impeccably well-mannered gentleman who wants the best out of Emma. Next, there's Frank Churchill (a stern Callum Turner) who's the son of Mr. Weston's (Rupert Graves, BBC's Sherlock) first marriage.
Frank Churchill is the daft-cool lad of the village. Not to mention, the village chatterbox, Miss Bates (a charming Miranda Hart, BBC's Call the Midwife) who continues to spread the village's latest gossip. Along with Miss Bates is her niece Jane Fairfax (Amber Anderson) — someone who makes Emma very jealous. Finally, adding a little bit of Bill Nighy to a movie never hurts. Nighy plays Emma's father, Mr. Woodhouse — he's anxious, fashionably dressed, and irresistible. His character brightens the mood in many scenes. Emma. is Autumn de Wilde's directorial debut — she has a keen eye for beauty. Her first feature film is lushes, beautifully shot, and ravishing in detail. The first half of Emma. is full of comedy, while the second half focuses more on emotional grandeur. On top of that, we have a marvelous musical score and breathtaking costume designs. In the end, Emma. is a delightful film lead by a delightful heroine, actor Anya Taylor-Joy. This movie is a real joy.
Emma. is rated PG (Parental Guidance) For brief partial nudity.
Directed by Autumn de Wilde
Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, Josh O'Connor, Callum Turner, Rupert Graves, Gemma Whelan, Amber Anderson, and Tanya Reynolds.
The Invisible Man (2020) is a fresh and modern retelling of an old story. Smart, scary, and well-acted by Elisabeth Moss. This film is a high-level fright night.
Writer-director Leigh Whannell (2018's Upgrade) takes H. G. Wells' classic story and propels it into the Me Too era. The Invisible Man is a fresh twist with heart-stopping moments one after another. This film was an unexpected scary delight. Cecilia Kass (a riveting Elisabeth Moss) is trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with a wealthy scientist, Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House). In the dead of night, Cecilia drugs Adrian and escapes with the aid of her sister (Harriet Dyer, NBC's The InBetween). Cecilia's childhood friend James (Aldis Hodge, Straight Outta Compton) and his teenage daughter (Storm Reid, HBO's Euphoria) take her in. Soon after Cecilia's disappearance, she receives a letter stating that her abusive ex has committed suicide, leaving her a massive fortune.
Later on, strange events start happening around Cecilia — the stove catches on fire, bed blankets are removed, and contents of her portfolio are gone. Cecilia also passes out during a job interview and the hospital finds that she has high levels of Diazepam in her system — the same drug she used on Adrian to escape. Cecilia begins to suspects that Adrian's death was a hoax and that he's figured out a way to turn himself invisible. This begins to take an emotional toll of Cecilia and Moss' powerful performance is a gut-punch. I won't spoil what happens next, but The Invisible Man avoids the normal horror tropes and sets the bar high for future horror films. There are tons of twists and turns in The Invisible Man — from the hold-your-breath opening sequence to the creepy attic scene to a chilling scene in a mental hospital. Whannell's wonderful craft to the horror genre will keep you guessing at all times.
On top of that, we get another tour de force performance by Moss — proving why she's one of the very best in Hollywood right now. Moss' performance was potent, gripping, and fully in control of one's emotional toll. I could feel her pain, her agony, and it was unnerving at times. Another aspect that made this movie so fun was its impressive technical work. Whannell lingered on long camera shots dialing up the suspense to a 10. He also used fast-moving and tightly constructed camera shots when Cecilia was being attacked by Adrian. Even though you could not see him, Adrian's invisible presence lingered in the shot, sending chills down your spine. The Invisible Man knew how to deliver the frights along with an updated message in the Me Too era. In the end, The Invisible Man is a real 'surprise' that no one saw coming.
The Invisible Man is rated R (Restricted). For some strong bloody violence, and language.
Directed by Leigh Whannell
Starring a fierce Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Benedict Hardie, and an invisible Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
There's a far superior film that came out several years ago before the newest English-remake, it's called Force Majeure (2014). Watch that film instead.
Downhill is a frustrating English-remake that takes its audience on a crash course with no return. Not escaping the inevitable avalanche are actors Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell. In the end, Downhill is a shallow attempt to construct anything new or original out of a previously marvelous movie. 2014's Swedish film, Force Majeure, was wholly original, darkly funny, and even uncomfortable at times. We studied the gleefully unsettling relationship between a husband and wife while taking their two children on a skiing holiday in the French Alps. Director Ruben Östlund's (The Square, 2017) psychodrama will get under your skin and cause you to reflect on your own communication skills with others. The husband, Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke), is a Swedish businessman whose profound narcissism will lead him to make some acute mistakes while on his family's holiday trip.
The wife, Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) doesn't want to listen to Tomas' workaholic mannerisms. Instead, she simply wants him to unplug from his electronics and spend more time with her and their children. The incident that happens next and spirals the story into a battling territory is a controlled avalanche that's being conducted nearby. This is a key shot for Force Majeure and the scene runs a little more than 3 minutes long. One of the avalanches sends a massive amount of snow down the mountainside. Ebba remarks: "Doesn't look controlled to me," but Tomas begins to take video footage with his camera anyway. The snow appears to be not stopping towards their dining area and what happens next doesn't cost any lives, but it does cost a break of trust between Tomas and Ebba. Within a split second, Tomas panics, runs, saving only himself, and leaves behind his family on the deck. Ebba instead grabs her two children and warps them into her arms, as any parent should. Tomas returns shortly after the snowy air begins to clear, but it is too late because Ebba has lost all respect for him.
From there, Force Majeure turns into a dark comedy and a brawling match between Tomas and Ebba. A game of tug-and-pull, their arguing will have you walking on eggshells. Force Majeure was a critical favorite and word-of-mouth sensation at the 2014's Cannes Festival, where it took home the Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard. Östlund's wickedly funny film was also nominated for an Oscar — Best Foreign Language Film. I am sparing you the agony of watching 2020's half-baked English-remake, known as Downhill. In Downhill, all of the charm and comedy is evaporated into thin air. There's no room for Louis-Dreyfus and Ferrell to fully grow into their characters, leaving us with an unsatisfying taste in our mouths. Downhill wants to be everything that Force Majeure was but still cannot muster up enough strength to be anything new either. So, allow me to save you some time and money: Right now, Östlund's Force Majeure is streaming on Hulu or you can rent it on Amazon Prime Video. Go quarantine yourself and watch this delicious Swedish treat.
This wannabe Force Majeure remake is rated R (Restricted) For language and some sexual material.
Directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell
Here are my picks for the 25 best movies to come out between 2010 through 2019. I believe these are the films that have defined the last decade. Each movie has impacted the progression of cinema and where we are heading for the future. Bold, beautiful, and rich in storytelling these movies each have made a lasting footprint. The films are ordered alphabetically and I have given them a brief summary of their influence on the art of cinema. — Arnold At The Movies
2019 was a wonderful year for the art of cinema. Profound voices were discovered and beautiful pictures blossomed before your very eyes. We had history made at the Academy with Parasite winning Best Picture. More female filmmakers and narratively diverse films were heard from around the world. This was a monumental year for world cinema and the distinctive voice it tells our culture.
1917 is a tremendous technical achievement for movies everywhere. This film receives a 5-star review from me.
In 1917, Cinematographer Roger Deakins used long takes to have the entire film appear as one continuous shot. I believe Mr. Deakins deserves his 2nd Oscar (Blade Runner: 2049). This epic war film is immersive and hard-hitting from the first to the final frame. Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty and Skyfall) captures the raw and unnerving horrors inside the trench warfare of WWI. I understand why 1917 has been getting all of the hype, it’s a strong film from the perspective of two British soldiers (actors George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman). MacKay and Chapman were both superb throughout the entire picture. 1917’s startling immediacy will send butterflies through your stomach. This movie will be on my Top 10 Film's List for 2019. Nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography — 1917 has been one of the surprise front-runners from this Award Season.
The film won 3 Golden Globes, including Best Motion Picture - Drama and Best Director - Motion Picture (Mendes). 1917 also took home 7 BAFTA Awards the other night, including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Cinematography (Deakins). Right now, 1917 seems posited to go head-to-head with Parasite this Sunday evening at the 92nd Academy Awards. I still believe that Parasite should win the Oscar for Best Picture, but 1917 is still a tremendous film and deserves high praise for its technical quality. So, it's April 6th, 1917 and as a British regiment assembles to wage war deep in enemy territory (Germany), two British soldiers (actors George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) are assigned to race against time and deliver a message that will stop 1,600 men from walking straight into a deadly trap. This heart-pounding film will keep you glued to your seat. Mendes' gentle touch over these two character's stories uplifts the film, while not sacrificing the realism of war.
MacKay was the central backbone of the film's narrative — delivering a potent performance. Actors Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, and Benedict Cumberbatch also make cameo appearances in the movie. On top of that, we got beautiful cinematography from Mr. Deakins himself. Showing off his staples of orange, yellow, and blue colors that brighten the backgrounds with a since of awe. Mendes has stated that he got the idea of the film's tale from listening to war stories from his grandfather (who also served in WWI) when he was younger. Mendes stated, "It's the story of a messenger who has a message to carry. And that's all I can say. It lodged with me as a child, this story or this fragment and obviously, I've enlarged it significantly. But it has that at its core." "I took a calculated gamble, and I'm pleased I did because of the energy you get just from driving forward (in the narrative), in a war that was fundamentally about paralysis and stasis." In the end, 1917 is a powerful movie, both on a technical scale and a human scale. Experiencing this grandeur in theaters, 1917 was a visual masterclass in the highest order.
1917 is rated R (Restricted). For violence, some disturbing images, and language.
Directed by Sam Mendes, a director with an ambitious film vision.
Starring George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman, our two main protagonist who we follow from beginning until end. Through thick and thin.
Little Women is a marvelous film, written and directed by Greta Gerwig (2017's Lady Bird). The acting, writing, and costume designs were all perfection. This accomplishment comes from Gerwig’s vivid direction on the retelling of its classic source material.
Actors Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothèe Chalamet, and Meryl Streep were all exquisite on screen together. Plus, the beautiful cinematography deepens the film’s timelessness. Little Women is one of the best films of the year and will be in my Top Five for 2019. This sensitive retelling of a timeless classic is one for the books. Gerwig's beautiful vision is accompanied by her talented cast of actors, who all work seamlessly to tell an old story in a brand new way. On top of that, we are paired with the lushest cinematography and a weaving storyline of past and present. The genius of Gerwig is seen on a larger scale inside Little Women. An absolutely lovely film in the highest orders — Little Women is the very embodiment of novel and film blended together, rewarding our viewers with an enriching experience. Our coming-of-age story follows the four young March sisters — Jo (a fierce Saoirse Ronan), Meg (a warming Emma Watson), Amy (a lively Florence Pugh), and Beth March (a wholesome Eliza Scanlen). In the film and book, Jo reflects back and forth on her life, telling the beloved sister's story of how they were determined to live it on their own terms.
In the film, Gerwig interweaves the story cutting back and forth between the past and present. This embellishes the sister's bond between one another at certain places in their lives. Jo (Ronan) is determined not to be defined by her sex in a man's world. Jo is independent, fierce, and full of life in telling her stories from pen to paper. Ronan received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. At 25-years-old, Ronan is the 2nd youngest person to receive four Academy Award nominations, behind only Jennifer Lawrence. Meg (Watson) is determined to be happy in starting a family with a man she dearly loves. Meg chooses John Brooke (James Norton), a tutor hired to teach the mischievous Theodore "Laurie" Laurence (a never better Timothèe Chalamet). John struggles to make ends meet financially, but that doesn't stop Meg from marrying him. In the end, Meg knows that she will always be happy with the man she fell in love with. Next, there's Amy (Pugh) — the most complex character of the March sisters. Amy is loud, snarky, and a total blast to watch on screen. In the book and past film adaptions, Amy has gotten a bad rap from Jo fans for 'stealing' Laurie from her. Here, Pugh gives Amy a beating heart full of compassion and gratitude. We see Amy's side of the story better, as she's the one who always loved Laurie ever since she first met him. Jo chose her writing over Laurie and in the end, didn't have the same feelings towards him that Amy always did.
Gerwig and Pugh perfected this perspective, making Amy one of the best and fully developed characters in this film. Pugh received her first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Pugh, a 24-year-old breakout star, has a bright acting future ahead of her. Lastly, we have Beth (Scanlen) who is the shyest, but musically gifted, sister. Beth expresses herself through music, Joe through writing, Meg through acting, and Amy through painting. In this version, Gerwig paired the events of Meg's wedding and Beth's death back-to-back — showing us how Jo lost two sisters in different ways. Nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Pugh), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Gerwig) — Little Women is one of the most superb movies to come out in 2019. Sadly, The Academy snubbed Gerwig from a spot for Best Director. This is a bitter blow to an extraordinary director and it leaves me frustrated. Gerwig deserved that nomination. The Academy is telling Gerwig that her movie was good enough to be nominated, but she (as a director) was not. “Since [Gerwig] started, she has made two perfect films, and I hope when she makes her next perfect movie, she gets recognized for everything because I think she’s one of the most important filmmakers of our time,” Ronan told Deadline.
“I think everybody’s angry, and quite rightly so,” Pugh said. “I can’t believe it’s happened again, but I don’t really know how to solve it. I don’t know what the answer is, other than we’re talking about it.” Unfortunately, this is a typical pattern for The Academy — Since the Oscars first aired in 1929, The Academy has only nominated five women for Best Director. Only Kathryn Bigelow has won, in 2010 for The Hurt Locker. The Academy needs to change and we need to start recognizing female directors for their work. Some of the finest movies to come out in 2019 were directed by female directors — films like The Farewell (Lulu Wang), Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma), Queen & Slim (Melina Matsoukas), Booksmart (Olivia Wilde), Hustlers (Lorene Scafaria), Honey Boy (Alma Har’el), The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent), Atlantics (Mati Diop), The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg), Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu), High Life (Claire Denis), and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Marielle Heller). In the end, this beautiful film adaption to Louisa May Alcott's classic 1868 novel receives a five-star review from me. Little Women is a enduring tale and Gerwig extends that timeliness we've all fell in love with over the years. What a marvelous movie — vivid, passionate, and powerfully acted. Little Women is here to stay, in our hearts and on film.
Little Women is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For thematic elements and brief smoking.
Directed by Greta Gerwig, AKA a far better director than Todd Phillips (Joker).
Starring an all-star cast — Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothèe Chalamet, and Meryl Streep.
Frozen II is a captivating sequel that travels deeper and darker into its animated roots.
With vibrant songs and splendid visuals, this Disney sequel is another great adventure for the whole family. Frozen II recaptures another showstopper just like its predecessor did (2013's Frozen). 2013's Frozen was a worldwide phenomenon and it looks like this more mature and ambitious sequel will be as well. This time, Disney Animation Studios takes you on a dazzling adventure 'Into The Unknown'. The charm and catchy songs are all still there — your kids and wife won't stop humming them for the weeks that follow...
"...Into the unknown
Into the unknown
Into the unknown
I can hear you but I won't
Some look for trouble while others don't
There's a thousand reasons I should go about my day
And ignore your whispers which I wish would go away, oh
...Hmm, sorry I got carried away there. Moving along, Frozen II takes our friends Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell), Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel), Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff), Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad), and Sven on a journey to an ancient, autumn-bound forest of an enchanted land. Here, the group sets out to find the origin of Elsa's powers in order to save their kingdom, Arendelle. Why was Elsa born with magical powers? The answer is that I won't tell you, you'll have to watch for yourself. We are also introduced to new characters, like Lieutenant Destin Mattias (voiced by Sterling K. Brown). Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck (2013's Frozen) return to the director's chair enchanting a darker story filled with humor and top-notched songs. Songs like All Is Found, Some Things Never Change, Into the Unknown, When I Am Older, Lost in the Woods, Show Yourself, and The Next Right Thing.
Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez returned from the first film to write new songs for the sequel, while Christophe Beck returned to compose the film's score. Lots of transformation happens to our characters in Frozen II, giving us some much-needed character development to propel the story forward. Frozen II has grossed $1.405 billion worldwide, had the highest all-time worldwide opening for an animated film, and is the second-highest-grossing animated film of all time and the third highest-grossing film of 2019, as well as the 11th highest-grossing film of all time. Frozen II is a worthy sequel full of beautiful animation, fun-filled characters, and a chorus line that will knock you off your seat. I enjoyed it.
Frozen II is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For action/peril and some thematic elements.
Directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck.
Starring Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Sterling K. Brown, and Evan Rachel Wood as Queen Iduna (Anna and Elsa's mother).
A Double Feature Review!
This based-on-a-true-story dramatization of sexual harassment at Fox News, Bombshell is a whirlwind of a movie. Bombshell is a vital film that tells the story of how women took down Fox News’ most powerful CEO. Actors Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie are knockouts throughout the entire picture. Theron portrays Megyn Kelly, Kidman portrays Gretchen Carlson, and Robbie portrays Kayla Pospisil (a fictionalized character). Theron and Kidman’s incarnations of Kelly and Carlson are perfection. While Robbie’s performance was riveting scene after scene. This urgent and high-energy movie will keep you glued to your seat. It’s a film that needs our attention. What struck me throughout this entire movie was Theron's ability to trick me in thinking I was listening to and watching the 'real' Megyn Kelly. Everything from her mannerism to her voice was constructed to a T. It was almost on the verge of scary. Theron's tour de force of a role is Oscar-worthy. Bombshell received two Golden Globe nominations for Theron and Robbie — Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama (Theron) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Robbie).
The film received four Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG) nominations for Theron, Robbie, and Kidman, as well as Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Bombshell received three BAFTA Awards nominations, including Best Lead and Best Supporting Actress for Theron and Robbie. Finally, Bombshell received three Oscar nominations this morning for Theron and Robbie — Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Theron) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Robbie). Bombshell is based on the real-life scandal, revealing a look inside the most powerful and controversial media empire of all time, Fox News. This is an explosive story of how a group of women brought down a predatory man (Roger Ailes, played by a strong John Lithgow) who ran Fox News. One of the most powerful scenes in Bombshell is one that, in fact, never happened. The scene is invasive and painful to watch, but it's also important. Kayla's character may be a combination of multiple real-life women, but her experiences in the film are real. They're summaries of several allegations made about Ailes in sexual-harassment lawsuits that Fox News employees brought against the network. Yes, there are pitfalls in Bombshell's dramatization, nevertheless; its message is still important.
Bombshell is rated R (Restricted). For sexual material and language throughout.
Directed by Jay Roach
Starring Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, Kate McKinnon, and John Lithgow.
Megyn Kelly Presents: A Response to Bombshell - Full Discussion
"What I love about Nicole..." "What I love about Charlie..."
Marriage Story emotionally wrecked me. Writer-director Noah Baumbach's (Frances Ha and Mistress America) latest film is a masterpiece, hands down. Marriage Story follows the story of a stage director (a never better Adam Driver) and his actor wife (a fantastic Scarlett Johansson) as they struggle through a grueling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them both to their personal and creative extremes. This is a hard movie to watch and it is also a film that emotionally wrecks your psyche. Driver and Johansson's performances are some of the best of the year. Through sweat and tears, we follow their stories and ache for them both. Through it all, Charlie (Driver) and Nicole (Johansson) are trying to do what they think is best for their son, Henry. Marriage Story holy observes the splintering union of a husband and wife falling apart before your very eyes. But, Baumbach gently crafts this picture with compassion and grace. Driver's performance, in particular, is one of the best from 2019. His acting was a tour de force of emotion and vulnerability. Driver put everything he had into this vital role.
Slowly, your heart will sink and in the end, you'll be left in a puddle of tears like I was. Nominated for six Golden Globes — actor Laura Dern took home the Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. Marriage Story was also nominated for five BAFTA Awards — Best Original Screenplay (Baumbach), Best Leading Actor (Driver), and Best Leading Actress (Johansson). This morning, Marriage Story was nominated for six Oscars — including Best Picture, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Johansson), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Driver), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Dern), and Best Original Screenplay (Baumbach). Sadly, The Academy snubbed Baumbach of Best Director. But, fingers crossed that Driver can take home the Oscar for Best Actor. Through thick and thin, we look at a marriage breaking up and a family staying together. Marriage Story receives a five-star review from me, yes it is that good. Hold your loved ones close tonight, because when you watch Baumbach's latest picture, you won't want to let go.
Marriage Story is rated R (Restricted). For language throughout and sexual references.
Directed by a wonderful writer-director (Noah Baumbach), who knows how to crush your soul.
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, and Wallace Shawn.
A Double Feature Review!
Knives Out is an exciting murder-mystery blended with a contemporary theme. Writer-director Rian Johnson's (Looper and The Last Jedi) stellar ensemble consists of Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and Christopher Plummer. This whodunit thriller delivers a handful of stabs filled with cheerful cynicism. It’s blockbuster entertainment that’s smart, witty, and stylish. Plus, Daniel Craig shows off his Southern accent. Nominated for 3 Golden Globes, including Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy (Ana de Armas) and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy (Daniel Craig).
Johnson pays tribute to author and mystery mastermind Agatha Christie, with a modern-day murder-mystery where everyone is a suspect until Craig can figure out the whole 'doughnut' surrounding this puzzle. Craig's acting is sleek and funny, while de Armas breaks through new ground with her attention to detail. Her performance is a revelation as she continues to add layers to her roles (Knives Out and Blade Runner: 2049). The rest of the cracks are filled in with terrific acting from Evans, Curtis, Shannon, Johnson, Collette, Stanfield, Langford, Martell, and Plummer. In the end, Knives Out is a grand murder-mystery you won't want to miss. P.S. Chris Evans kills it in his white sweater.
Knives Out is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For thematic elements including brief violence, some strong language, sexual references, and drug material.
Directed by Rian Johnson, AKA the mastermind who upset insecure Star Wars fans.
Starring Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer, and a lot of references about doughnuts.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a good and wholesome movie. Tom Hanks transforms into the role of Mr. Fred Rogers. Hanks’ Oscar-worthy incarnation comes full circle as he shows us how kindness prevails. It’s the movie to watch this holiday season. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood shares a powerful message about acceptance and understanding. Nominated for one Golden Globe, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Hanks), A Beautiful Day captures Mr. Rogers' love for humans and shares his gift of kindness with you on the big screen.
Director Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) succeeds in sharing a timely story of goodness triumphing over cynicism, based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod (Matthew Rhys). In the film, Rhys' character is changed to a fictional journalist named Lloyd Vogel. Vogel's incarnation is based loosely on journalist Tom Junod. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was chosen by Time magazine as one of the ten best films of the year. For his performance, Hanks was nominated for a Golden Globe, Critics' Choice, Screen Actors Guild Award (SAG Awards), and BAFTA Award (British Academy of Film and Television Arts). All-in-all, A Beautiful Day is a charming movie about an extraordinary man. "Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people." — Mr. Rogers.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For some strong thematic material, a brief fight, and some mild language.
Directed by Marielle Heller
Starring Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson, and Chris Cooper.
The Irishman is a landmark achievement in special effects and patient storytelling. Director Martin Scorsese’s masterstroke of perfection lives and breathes throughout this picture.
I Heard You Paint Houses.
The Irishman is compelling through its directing, acting, and writing. Actors Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino are a revelation together. The actors of this Holy Trinity are reunited for one last ride. This epic gangster film is one of the best of the year, a new American classic. I highly recommend seeing it in theaters if you can. This is 'Cinema' in the highest order. Scorsese's latest feature receives a five-star review from me. This three and a half hour mobster motion picture takes its time recalling a mob hitman's past crimes and reflecting on them. In this biographical crime thriller, we follow Frank Sheeran (a top-notch De Niro) as he recalls his past years working for the Bufalino crime family. Sheeran is a truck driver who becomes a hitman involved with mobster Russell Bufalino (a superb Pesci).
Pesci came out of retirement for this movie after Scorsese asked him to play the role more than 50 times. Pesci's bold silence and patient manner will seep into your bones. Pesci is a master actor, shedding new light in the supporting role. Russell Bufalino was an Italian-born American mobster who became the crime boss of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Now older, the WWII veteran (Sheeran) once again reflects on his most prolific hits and, in particular, considers his involvement with his good friend Jimmy Hoffa's (a fantastic Pacino) disappearance in 1975. Jimmy Hoffa was an American labor union leader who served as the President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) union from 1957 until 1971. Actors Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Stephen Graham, Domenick Lombardozzi, and Harvey Keitel help fill in the cracks to these lushes characters. Charisma and wit shine bright throughout this dark movie and will keep you smiling.
The production design, lighting, and score are all top-notch. These grand aspects help excel the stories' identity to a place of high virtue. The Irishman officially marks the end of an era with gangster movies. The classic mobster movies have faded away and we are seeing the repercussions of these men's past actions unveil on the screen before us. In The Irishman, we see them age and wither away, whether that's in jail or a nursing home. In past Italian gangster films like The Godfather, Scarface, Goodfellas, and Casino, we see violent men fueled by their hedonism and not giving a damn about where their actions will take them. In most of those past pictures, we see don't see them grappling with their past life after they've become elderly. This is where The Irishman comes into play. Scorsese shows a man, now crippled and forgotten by his family, struggling with his soul and reflecting on his sins. This is storytelling at its finest. Scorsese finally caps off his gangster saga (Goodfellas, Casino, and The Irishman), concluding with a man bound to isolationism and guilt. This is something that Goodfellas or Casino never made it too.
At long last, these criminal organizations have died and so have their counterparts. Throughout this film, we see many Scorsese staples like long tracking shots, freeze-framing on particular gangsters, tints of red lighting, and opening voice-over narration. This time with Scorsese's freeze-framing we get 'title cards' providing the death of each gangster — often in graphic detail. Not only is the storytelling perfection, but the special effects will blow you away. Industrial Light & Magic and visual effects supervisor Pablo Helman handled the effects for the film. Helman used a technique called 'digital de-aging'. Respectfully, to give De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino younger portrayals. Scorsese said that "the risk was there, and that was it. We just tried to make the film. After sitting on the couch for ten years [...] we finally had a way." Speaking about the de-aging process, Pacino told IndieWire: "I was playing Jimmy Hoffa at the age of 39, they're doing that on a computer [...] we went through all these tests and things [...] someone would come up to me and say, 'You're 39.' [You'd recall] some sort of memory of 39, and your body tries to acclimate to that and think that way. They remind you of it."
The Irishman starts its story in the 1950s and expands through 30 years of organized crime history. Screenwriter Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List, Gangs of New York, and Moneyball) penned the screenplay for this masterful film and based it off the book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt. The Irishman premiered at the 57th New York Film Festival, and had a limited theatrical release on November 1, 2019, followed by digital streaming on Netflix starting on November 27, 2019. Since then, Scorsese's film has gone on to win numerous awards (47) and has been nominated for 173. The Irishman was also nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director (Scorsese), and Best Supporting Performance in a Motion Picture (Pesci and Pacino). I know The Irishman will receive a lot of Oscar nominations come this January and it would be great to see this masterpiece possibly win Best Picture. This is a film that deserves the Academy's highest honors. Scorsese found a way interconnecting flashbacks and flash-forwards to help mold the story to a place of rich rewards. Scorsese's juxtaposition of the "ruthless gangster" now diminished of old age overshadows his previous installments. Here, we see the actual effects of a retired mob hitman asking for his soul's forgiveness. De Niro unveils the vulnerabilities of a man's inability to coil with his violent sins. In the end, The Irishman is a monumental accomplishment for cinema and should be preserved for generations to come.
The Irishman is rated R (Restricted). For pervasive language and strong violence.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, AKA the Master of Cinema.
The Holy Trinity: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino.
Also Starring Actors Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Stephen Graham, Domenick Lombardozzi, and Harvey Keitel.
Digital De-Aging Below:
Parasite is the best movie of the year. A haunting masterpiece that’s one for the ages. South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho's incredible film receives a five-star review from me.
Parasite (Gisaengchung / 기생충) is an urgent and timely film contrasting the inward struggles between the wealthy and the poor. A character study on our society, Director Bong Joon Ho’s film (Okja and Snowpiercer) is a master-craft in writing and directing. Parasite is darkly funny, twisted, and will get under your skin. This social commentary is fully gripping from beginning to end. A modern day Hitchcockian tale that lingers in your soul. It's some of the best writing I've seen in years. You won’t know what hit you — it’s dazzling and aesthetically energizing. Parasite is a pitch-black commentary on class division. Meet the Park Family: the picture of aspirational wealth. And the Kim Family, rich in street smart but struggling daily in the slums of the city. Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang Ho), his wife Chung-sook (Chang Hyae Jin), son Ki-woo (Choi Woo Shik), and daughter Ki-jung (Park So Dam) live in a small semi-basement apartment, working low-paying jobs and struggling to make ends meet. Soon this will all change, but will it be by chance or by fate? I'll leave that up for you to decide. These two houses are brought together and the Kims' seize on this grand opportunity.
The Kims' slowly start working their way into the Parks' Family affairs. Ki-woo becomes Park Da-hye's (Jung Ji So) tutor and also begins a romantic relationship with her. Ki-jung poses as an 'art therapist' and is hired to teach the youngest Park son, Da-song (Jung Hyeon Jun). Mr. Kim is hired as a chauffeur for Park Dong-ik (Lee Sun Kyun). Mr. Park is a CEO of an IT company. And Chung-sook is hired as the housekeeper for Park Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo Jeong), Mr Park's wife. This sophisticated scheme keeps the Kim Family enriched in a luxurious ecosystem provided by the Park Family. That is until the plan goes wrong. Nothing lasts forever and soon the Kim Family will be threatened to uphold their dominance in the world of the wealthy. Finally, there's actor Lee Jung Eun's haunting performance, as the Parks' previous housekeeper, which I won't spoil. This multi-layered storyline will keep you on the edge of your seat from the beginning until the end. Bong crafts a marvelous story that exceeded my expectations. I was in sheer awe with all the twists and turns and kept wondering what would happen next. The acting was superb, the directing was perfection, and the storytelling is one for the ages. Yes, each actor deserves an Oscar nomination, especially; Song and Cho's performances. Song's acting metamorphosis from ordinary family man to a raging avenger was striking. While, Cho's lofty provocation will hit you in the gut. Cho achieved to ability to have her character be both sympathetic and clueless at the same time. This was a masterclass in acting.
There are a lot of interpretations that blossom out from this wholly original movie. Parasite's main themes are between class conflict and social inequality. Bong's film also critiques and reflects on modern capitalism's role in our world. With that being said Parasite doesn't have the distinctive bad and good characters within the film. Instead, the Kim Family and the Park Family both have bad and good qualities that Bong explores. The Kim Family are trying to make ends meet and surviving from day-to-day. The Kims' are good people, but the inequality they've experienced leads them to scheme their way into the Parks' Family affairs. The Park Family are also nice people, but they're oblivious to the struggles of the outside world apart from their own. When it rains, the Parks' celebrate it as a blessing in disguise getting rid of the pollution. Yet, the Kims' suffer the consequences with the rain literally trickling down the roads and class lines to the poorer areas and flooding their home. Bong uses these techniques as a double-edged sword to examine and critique the division between class status and simply coexisting. Parasite also examines themes of colonialism and imperialism and their impact on our world. In the movie, Da-song is obsessed with "Indians" and he owns inauthentic replicas of Native American-themed toys. Bong has stated that "the Native Americans have a very complicated and long, deep history. But in this family, that story is reduced to a young boy’s hobby and decoration... That’s what happens in our current time: The context and meaning behind these actual things only exists as a surface-level thing." Another metaphor that stuck out to me was the Parks' own home structure felt like a living and breathing organism. There's also a balance in power and fate in Ki-woo's symbolic rock.
I have no problem with saying that Parasite is the best movie to arrive in 2019. It's a film-going experience that refuses to fit into any box — there's drama, comedy, suspense, horror, and tragedy. Parasite had its world premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival on 21 May 2019, where it became the first Korean film to win the Palme d'Or, and the first film to do so with a unanimous vote since 2013's Blue Is the Warmest Color. It was selected as the South Korean entry for Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards, Bong's second selection after 2009's Mother (Madeo). Parasite is a razor-sharp film that cuts deep and makes you reevaluate our society's norms. As of December 2019, Parasite has grossed $20.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $105.1 million in other territories (including $70 million from South Korea), for a worldwide total of $125.5 million. Parasite's U.S. opening weekend grossed $376,264 from three theaters. Its per-venue average of $125,421 was the best since La La Land's in 2016, and the best-ever for a foreign-language film. From there, the film expanded to 33 theaters in its second weekend, making $1.24 million, and then made $1.8 million from 129 theaters in its third. The film made $2.5 million in its fourth weekend and $2.6 million in its fifth. The film's theater count peaked in its sixth weekend at 620 when it made $1.9 million.
Continuing to hold well within the following weekends, making $1.3 million and $1 million. In its tenth week of U.S. release, the film crossed the $20 million mark (very rare for a foreign-language film), making $632,500 from 306 theaters. Word-of-mouth has been astronomical for this movie and I am incredibly happy Bong's movie has been doing so well. Parasite is also leading in wins this Awards Season. As of now, the film has won 40 awards including AFI's Special Award, NBR's Best Foreign Language, HFA's Hollywood's Filmmaker of the Year (Bong Joon Ho), and the Palme d'Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. Parasite was also nominated for a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and three Golden Globe Awards, including Best Director and Best Screenplay. This is a movie that I hope will be acknowledged by the Academy and I hope could take home the crown of Best Picture this February. Parasite is a haunting masterpiece that’s one for the ages and needs to be seen by the masses. This aesthetically-energized movie is a wild rush of adrenaline and anxiety. A bitter blood of class rage that will linger in your mind after the final shot passes. Parasite dares to challenge you. Bong Joon Ho and his entire cast and crew can take a bow. Job well done.
Parasite is rated R (Restricted). For language, some violence and sexual content.
The Best Film of 2019 is Directed by Bong Joon-ho
The top-notch cast: Song Kang Ho, Cho Yeo Jeon, Lee Sun Kyu, Chang Hyae Jin, Choi Woo Shik, Park So Dam, Jung Ji So, Jung Hyeon Jun, and Lee Jung Eun.
"It's so metaphorical!"
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