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ALL I WISH REVIEW by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on March 29, 2018 at 5:50 PM

Directed by: Susan Walter

Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes

Release date: March 29, 2018

Genre: Drama and Comedy

Distributor: Paladin/Universal Pictures

MPAA Rating: Not rated


In the spectrum of woman empowerment, tis film is a character study drama of a free spirited woman who explores life as her journey to success.


Using birthdays as the structure to fashion designer Senna Berges' (Sharon Stone) plot driven presentation, she is passionate in becoming a success in her field.  However, she is also desparate to find her soulmate, and seeking a love interest with the assistance and persistance of her mother Celia (Ellen Burstyn).  Her bestfriend Darla (Liza Lapira) is always in her corner (right or wrong).  Famke Janssen plays Vanessa, a fashion designing colleague who tries to support Senna.


The dramedy is a Sharon Stone vehicle that examines and follows a 5 year timeline path of irresponsible behavior, changing jobs and having occasional relationships with younger men.  Everything seems to be out of control for Senna until her 46th birthday party where she meets Adam (Tony Goldwyn), a middle-age responsible man.


With a film that stars an all-star cast, this is too melodramatic to hold water on a big screen.  It is characterized by a plot to appeal to the emotions of the audience, but is penalized for poor execution.  The film fails to communicate and only fairly pejoratively to connote an unrealistic, pathos-filled tales of romance and domestic situations with stereotypical characters that would directly appeal to feminine audiences.


As the humor is an overtone in this light-hearted plot, it is deliberately designed to amuse and promote laughter by exxagerating the situations, the language, action, relationships and characters.  Yet, is shallow in presenting intense character development and lacks honesty in portraying frustrations of life, merriment, and momentary escape from day to day life.  It is a predictable film that falls into a happy ending, although the humor has a serious and pessimistic side.


Sharon Stone, the help of her supporting cast, gives as much as possible to her character(s), but the script doesn't allow the production to excel in any means that would formidible or win over its audience.  While the pacing is crisp and engaging, the narrative is weak.  While spotlighting good talent on screen, the storyline is more suitable for a cable movie presentation.


FILM RATING (C) 

RENDEZ-VOUS WITH FRENCH CINEMA 2018 coverage by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on March 9, 2018 at 12:00 PM

                                             RENDEZ-VOUS with FRENCH CINEMA 2018


Rendez-Vous with French Cinema returns in its 23rd edition to remind viewers that there is nothing like French cinema.  Emerging talents and established masters alike are highlighted in this selection, which is as full of surprises asalways, from unconventional biopics to tales of families on the edge.


Co-presented with UniFrance, Rendez-Vous demonstrates that French cinema is vast and inspiring as ever.  All films are subtitlted, as they are not reviewed (requested by host) but written in capsule form.


Barbara

Directed by: Mathieu Amalric

France, 2017, 98 minutes


The legendary chanteuse known only as Barbara, gifted with a tremendously expressive voice and striking stage presence is an enduring icon of French culture.  In this tantilizing tribute from actor-director Maathieu Amalric, a transfixating, chameleon-like Jeanine Balibar stars as Brigitte, a film actress cast in a biopic about the singer. This conceit yields, a 'Cassavetes' like Opening Night film', a mesmeriing meta-cinema high-wire act about the slippery nature of performance and identity as Balibar's Barbara merges with footage of the real-life diva until the two becme virtually indistinguishable.  The result is both a captivating experiment and a love letter to a singular artist.


This is a film in a film, creatively structured to reference itself to georges brassens that merge the narrative.



AVA

Directed by: Lea Mysius

France, 2017, 105 minutes


The bold, bracingly original debut feature from Lea Mysius is a coming-of-age tale unlike any other.  While on summer vacation on the crystal blue beach coast, tempestuous 13 year old Ava (Noee Abita) learns she is quickly going blind.  It is a revelation that leads to a breathtaking turn of events, as the newly emboldened loner Ava turns her back on her single mother (Laure Calamy) in favor of the outlaw male teen Juan (Juan Cano) and the wild freedom of the road.  Dazzling 35mm cinematography - with sun-splashed beach images by day and rich inky blacks by night - evokes the increasingly dark world of a girl taking in as much of life as she can, while she can.


Look for an unpredictable finale, and a precious pet dog.



NUMBER ONE

Directed by: Tonie Marshall

France, 2017, 110 minutes


An ambitious woman treads a dangerous path as she attempts to crash the corporate boy's club in this timely feminist drama.  Emmanuelle (Emmanuelle Devos) is a successful energy company executive tapped by a feminist lobbying grioup to step into the soon-to-be-open CEO position at France's national water company - a move that would make her the first woman to lead a major French corporation.  But first, she must navigate a minefield of sexism, blackmail, and a smear campaign designed to squash her.  Director Tonie Marshall blends twisty boardroom intrique with an impassioned message about the need for female solidarity in the workdplace.


The feminist tone is set early on in this film, and is very successful with brilliant performances.



A PARIS EDUCATION

Directed by: Jean-Paul Civeyrac

France, 2018, 137 minutes


Etienne (Andranic Manet), a serious and impressionable shaggy-haired young cinephile, leaves behind his steady girlfriend (Diane Rouxel) in Lyon to study film in Paris.  Settling into a dingy flat with a rotating cast of roommates, he immerses himself in a bohemian world of arists, intellectuals, and fellow film geeks who excitedly share their passion for Bresson, Ford, and obscure Russian directors.  It is a seemingly idyllic life of the mind - until more complicated matters of the flesh, as well as jealous creativity, intrude.  Shooting in timeless black and white and interweaving references to philosophy, music, and cinema - from Pascal to Mahler to Parajanov - unsuing auteur Jean-Paul Civeyrac conjures a bittersweet ode to the heady days of student life.


This is a good life journey drama of a young man maturing and finding his place in the world.


FOR MORE INFORMATION GO TO:  www.FilmLinc.org 


 


 



 

A WRINKLE IN TIME review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on March 9, 2018 at 7:35 AM

Directed by: Ava DuVernay

Running time: 109 minutes in Digital 3-D, Real D 3-D, and IMAX

Release date: March 9, 2018

Genre: Adventure, Family, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Adaptation, and Remake

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures


From visionary director Ava DuVernay (Selma - 2014) comes an epic adventure based on Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 globally famed novel by the same title.  Anchoring female empowerment, the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling the women's life and claiming their rights in the film industry, the screenplay is penned Jennifer Lee (Frozen - 2013) starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Michael Pena, Storm Reid, Zach Galifianakis, and Chris Pine.


In this coming of age film, young Meg Murry (Storm Reid), her younger brother Charles Wallace Murry (Deric McCabe), and mother Dr. Kate Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) pine after the patriarch of their family Dr. Alex Murry (Chris Pine). Peg's father Chris is an astrophysicist who is captured by a distant planet during one of his experiements discovering new planets.  However, the community believes that he abandoned the family, rendering harsh abuse from Meg's schoolmates.  A once grade-A student, traumatized Meg's grades fall and she becomes hostile towards her peers. Her school principal Mr. Jenkins (Andre Holland) is worried, and Meg's mother Kate must find resolvement. Meanwhile, younger brother Charles Wallace, who is quite sarcastically intelligent for his age, brings home a mystic astral traveling lady named, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), who tells the family she can find Chris.  Two other astral traveling ladies, Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), along with schoolmate Calvin O'Keefe (Levi Miller) and Charle Wallace set off on a quest to find Dr. Alex Murry in the celestrial world.


The characterization is masterfully portrayed, as Oprah Winfrey (Mrs. Which) plays the eldest of the three "Mrs. Ws" celestrial beings, and Reese Witherspoon (Mrs. Whatsit) steals the screen as the hobo-type chatty type, while Mindy Kaling blends right in as the quotation reciting Mrs. Who.  Giving praise to a $100 million budget, this film became the first live-action film with a nine-digit budget to be directed by an African American woman.


The adventurous journey takes Meg, Charles Wallace, Calvin, and the three Mrs. Ws into another dimension where events are unlikely to occur in real life.  The sequences transcend the bounds of human possibility and physical laws.  The scenes are elements of magic, myth, wonder, and the extraordinary.   The epic CGI production drives the non-stop motion, spectacular rthym and pacing, while the adventure adds the experiences of exotic locales in outerspace.  At times the plot sets the stage for an edgy thriller, promoting inense excitement, suspense, and nerve-wracking tension.  Meanwhile, the coming of age drama weaved a story whose central character struggle is about Meg and Charles Wallace finding their place in the world.


A Wrinkle In Time is a fine family film, but does find heavy use of CGI, special effects, and too many plot holes to follow.  However, this is a film that gives congrats to celebrating its message to female empowerment and diversity.  Hooray!!


FILM RATING (B+) 



RED SPARROW review/interview by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on March 2, 2018 at 7:20 AM

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

Running time: 2 hours 19 minutes

Release date: March 2, 2018

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller, and Adaptation

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

MPAA Rated: R


Jason Haythe pens the screenplay of Jason Mathews' 2013 novel by the same title for the large screen.  This is a film starring Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Joely Richardson, Charlote Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, and Jeremy Irons.  The adaptation is taken from the book synopsis of Dominika Egorova or "Red Sparrow" (Jennifer Lawrence), a former Russian premiere ballerina, who falls victim to an accident rendering her unable to ever dance again.  Her disability also renders her finacially unable to care for her ill mother Nina (Joely Richardson).  In order to maintain her lifestyle in the corrupt Russian society, her uncle Egorov (Matthias Schoenaerts) forces her to undergo espionage training for the Russian government.


This opens up the suspenseful plot of how Dominika finds herself being manipulated into being one of many people trained to sexually seduce their targets, at the Sparrow School.  Jennifer Lawrence uses the character as the vehicle the moves the story.  Other key figures are Korchnol (Jeremy Irons), a Russian double agent who provides intelligence to CIA, and Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), a CIA internal-ops officer who recruits and handles intelligence assets for the agency.  As Dominika aka Red Sparrow masters her specific kind of assasination discipline, the specialty of psychological manipulation and seduction, her 'cat and mouse' sequences against Nate Nash becomes intensified.


The multi-layered plot offers various dimensions to the film.  The edgy thriller promotes intense excitement and high level of anticipation.  Jennifer Lawrence stretches her talent with a tastefully professional nude scene that elevates the tone of the film with erotic ultra-heightened expections, uncertainties, anxiety, and nerve-wracking tension.  Her dramatic portrayal is realistic and formidably blends with intense character interaction.  The supporting characters display high production values in their performances with engaging dramatic scope, accompanied by grandeur and spectacle for a backdrop.


In a press conference with Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, and director Francis Lawrence they offered their insight in the film production.  Francis Lawrence stated, "this is the most genre tone they (cast) and I ever done, and the authenticity was very important to me."  Jennifer Lawrence stated, "ballet was the hardest thing I ever done.  The mental and physical mindset was different."  Joel Edgerton explained, "this was an optimistic character that I enjoyed......he wanted to make the world a better place."


Red Sparrow is an emotional impacting film.  The narrative is emerging, riverting, and stimulating.  With the many twists in the movie, the structure of the various stories holds together quite well.  Crisp pacing and rthym, along with challenging performances makes this not a great film - but a solid film.


FILM RATING (B-) 

NY INT'L CHILDREN'S FILM FESTIVAL 2018 coverage by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on February 23, 2018 at 1:10 AM

                NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN'S FILM FESTIVAL 2018

                                    Festival dates: Feb 23 - Mar 18, 2018


Celebrating its 21st anniversity, the 2018 Festival presents four weekends of groundbreaking and thought-provoking new films carefully curated for a new generation of filmgoers ages 3 to 18.  Comprising animated, live action, and documentary features from over a dozen countries, this year's lineup includes one World premiere, three North American premieres, one U.S. premiere, and six East Coast premieres.


Highlights include the World premiere of Hilda, Luke Pearson's episodic adaptation of his celebrated graphic novel series, in which plucky Hilda sets out on adventures evoking both Scandinavian folklore and Studio Ghibil.  Among NYICFF's trio of North American premieres are Sing Song (Netherlands/Suriname), Mischa Kamp's refreshing, inventive entry to the musical genre, in which a young singer travels to Suriname in search of her roots; Clovis Comillac's beautifully shot Belle and Sebastian, Friends for Life (France), the third installment of a Festival-favorite franchise set in the Frenvh Alps circa WWII; and Luc Jacquet's March of the Penquins 2: The Newxt Step (France), a feat of cutting-edge 4K cinematography that allows audiences deep into the Artic waters to witness a new generation of emperor penquins as they trek far and wide to survive.


The Festival's signature short film programs showcases selections from around the globe and are curated from thousands of submissions, and celebrate the many international animators and filmmakers who dedicate themselves to the short film form as an art and craft unto itself.  Among the Festival's most popular offerings, these programs represent a thoughtful, innovative range of the year's finest shorts for young audiences and are consistently sold-out in advance.  Throughout the Festival, audiences are encouraged to vote on their favorite films at every screening, as Festival-goers of every age determine several of the 2018 award winners.


For tickets and information go to www.nyicff.org .


   

                                                    REVIEWED FILMS



THE KING OF TWIRL

Directed by: Xander de Boer

Running time: 16 minutes in Dutch with English subtitles

Genre: Documentary - Netherlands 2018


In this new program of Boys Beyond Boundaries,  this series pushes against barriers of how boys and girls should be and be seen - and how to transcend differences.


The King of Twirl is  dance-documentary about the eleven year old boy, Janero who pursues competitve twirling and faces both physical and stereotyping in what is most considered a girl's sport.  The documentary short shows Janera as a boy who can't sit still and loves dancing.  He wants to prove himself and be the best in twirl, a sport that is traditionally just for girls.  He is the only boy of his age in Northern Netherlands who competes in this sport.


Baton twirling is a sport involving the manipulation of a metal rod (baton) with the hands and body to a coordinating routine.  Competitive Baton Twirling encompasses the manipulation of a baton and the performer's body to a coordinated program of skills set to music.  This discipline requires the simultaneous blending of fundamental characteristics all set to music, utilizing time and space to display both technical merit and artistic expression in creating a total package for the viewer's eye.


It is a little weird to outsiders in Janero's case; a guy that practices with his baton day and night.  But he doesn't mind being the only boy in this sport.  With the challenges of competing against girls who have an advantage in ballet, he relies on his martial arts training for techique and strength.  His goal is to prove that twirl is not a sport for girls and win in competition.




CAT DAYS

Directed by: Jon Frickey

Running time: 11 minutes in Japanese with English subtitles

Genre: Animation - Germany/Japan 2018


In this very playfu and imaginative story a little boy named Jiro feels sick.  When his father takes him to the doctor, test reveal it is nothing serious - a cold.  


The suprising news about Jiro is that he caught the 'cat flu'.  The situation is bizarre, but a veterinarian is called in for the diagnosis.  Is young Jiro a cat or a little boy?  His family finds it challenging to deal with the results - and so will the viewing audience as they experience great hand-drawn animation on screen.




 NEXT DOOR SPY

Directed by: Karla von Bengtson

Running time: 77 minutes in Danish with English subtitles

Genre: Animation - Denmark 2017


Using a comng of age scenario laced with a crime film noir backdrop, an Agatha Christie style animated story comes to life on screen.


AC or Agathe Christine is a 10 year girl who dreams of being a detective.  In the basement of the building where she, her mother, older sister, and younger brother has just moved in, she has opened her own little detective agency.  AC never goes anywhere without her detective attire, consisting of hat and her Miss Marble jacket.  She s intelligent, enterprising and a little stubborn.  Besides she is a daydreamer of mysteries, and she gets her first case one day as she encounters a boy, Vincent,  who frequents a kiosk store after business hours.


Using the primary mood and tone of melancholy, filmmaker Karla von Bengtson, weaves bleakness, disillusionment and paranoir in the storyline, as she is employed by Kiosk Arne (store owner) to find out who's stealing from him.  Her aspects to the theft is brought to mind is Vincent who lives in a house in front of her home. Vincent  is a mysterious looking skateboarder who lives with his mother, father, amd brother.  His long black hair covering his eyes gives off the aire of being suspicious.  


A major character in AC's life is her mother, a police officer who believes that they all need a new start in a new city, so AC can stop playing a detective.  Sanne, AC's big sister, also finds the detective antics is annoying. Sanne is always busy with cool stuff like hanging out with her friends.  However, AC's little brother finds this fun, as she sometimes has to take care of him.


As AC's first mysterious case looks like it is going to be simple to solve, she finds herself involved in much more complicated and story takes on intensity.  With intense character developemnet and interaction, this film becomes edgy.  Yet the coming of age drama exerts a story whose central struggle is about her finding a place in her family's warmth and the world.


 








BLACK PANTHER review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on February 16, 2018 at 6:10 PM

Directed by: Ryan Coogler

Running time: 134 minutes

Release date: February 16, 2018

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Adaptation

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13


This is an epic saga superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.  It is the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  The screenplay is from filmmaker Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole.


The cast consist of Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa/Black Panther: The king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, who gains enhanced strength by ingesting the Heart-Shaped Herb.  After the events of Captain America: Civil War, and the death of his father.  T'Challa is in mourning while ascending to the throne.  But when two enemies conspire to bring down the kingdom, T'Challa must team up, as the Black Panther, with CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) along with is operative and T'Challa's love interest Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), and members of Wakanda's all-female special forces Dora Milaje led by General Okoye (Danal Gurira) to prevent a world war.


In this epic saga the tone is set with elaborate adventurous themes with extravagant and lavash African costumes.  The intense character interaction is highly appreciated as Michael B. Jordan is brought into the film as the villain Erik "Killmonger" Stevens.  He is a Wakanda exile who became an American black-ops soldier and seeks to overthrow T'Challa.  He has his own opinion on how Wakanda has been ruled and should be ruled. 


However, in the background is Ramonda (Angela Bassett), the Queen Mother - T'Challa's mother - who advises T'Challa with some of the answers of what his father might want or might do.  Se may not be exactly right all the time, but she definitely has insights.  T'Challa's 16 year old sister and princess of Wanda is Shuri (Letitia Wright) who designs new technology for the country.  She has an innovative spirit and mind, and wants to take her country forward, while still holding on to her cultural past.  Another cast member is Forest Whitaker as Zuri, an elder statesman in Wakanda and the keeper of the Heart-Shaped Herb.  He is a religious and spiritual figure, and a way to reference the spirituality within Wakanda.


The plot thickens when T'Challa's mettle as king and as Black Panther gets tested when he is drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk.  Faced with treachery and dange, the new king must rally all of his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.


Additionally, Florence Kasumba and John Kani reprise their roles as Ayo and T'Chaka respectively from Captain America:Civil War.  Sterling K. Brown plays N'Jobu, a figure from T'Challa's past, Isaach de Bankole plays the elder of one of the larget tribes in Wakanda, and Stan Lee has a cameo.  These characters add to the high energy, big-budget physical stunts and chases with rescues, battles, fights, escapes, destructive crises (explosions, disasters, fires, etc.) non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, and adventurous often two-dimensional 'good guy/gal' heroes and heroines battling 'bad guys' - all designed for pure audience escapism.


As an action tending to feature a resourceful hero(s), the film thrust them into a series of challenges that include physical feats, extended fight scenes and frantic chases as they struggle against incredible odds.  The majority African and African-American ensemble give formidible and engaging performances with advancements in CGI that create significant action sequences and other visual effects.  The production is visionary and imaginative in a sci-fi setting.  It takes the audience to netherworld places and another dimension where events are unlikely to occur in real life.  Yet the plot ties into a moral situation that concerns Africa pertaining to the relationship with African Americans.


Black Panther promotes suspense, a high level of anticipation, nerve-wracking tension, and ultra-heightened expectation.  It is an edgy fantastic science fiction film with a lot of eye candy.


FILM RATING (A)



THE 15:17 TO PARIS review b Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on February 9, 2018 at 8:30 AM

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes

Release date: February 9, 2018

Genre: Drama, Thriller, and History

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG:13


From filmmaker Clint Eastwood comes the real-life story of three American men, portrayed by the real-life men, whose brave act turned them into international heroes in the prevention of a terrorist attack on a Paris bound train travelling from Amsterdam via Brussels in August 2015.  Even more so, this is a character(s) study bio-drama on these three men from their childhood to adulthood.


These men are Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler.  The film picks up as the three are school kids from Sacramento, California, whose mischievious deeds in the Freedom Christian School, forge a close bond.  William Jennings, Bryce Gheisar, and Paul-Mikel Williams respectfully portray the three youths in a fine coming of age performance.  With the focus on Spencer Stone, he grows up with a determination to serve his country and medically save lives in the U.S. Air Force.  While Alek Skarlatos joins the Marine Corp to give his support to the Afghanistan War, Anthony Sadler is left home in California to pursue an undecided career.


Using the three main characters to portray themselves, the film takes on a quasi docu-drama format, as they get on in their lives.  Having them not only play themselves, but star as the three leads in the film, would be an experiment for acclaimed filmmaker Clint Eastwood as well as for Sadler, Skarlatos, amd Stone.  Director Eastwood is quoted by saying, "these three boys really stepped up, and their efforts had a big effect on a lot of people". 


Gaining international fame, the film documents how Stone along with his fellow Americans was recognized by the U.S. Ambassador to France for his actions in saving countless lives and by U.S. President Obama with a ceremony held at the Pentagon .  Oddly enough, The U.S. Air Force broke tradition by within minutes promoting Airman First Class Stone ( a Senior Airman) to a non-commissioned officer to the rank of Staff Sergeant.  However, not shown in the film is the fact that in October 2015, Stone was severely stabbed by a California man during a fight in a downtown Sacramento club.


The 15:17 To Paris is a well structured and clever character(s) study drama of realism displaying great story development and interaction.


FILM RATING (B) 

HOSTILES review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on January 26, 2018 at 5:05 AM

Directed by: Scott Cooper

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Release date: January 26, 2018

Genre: Drama, Western, Action, and Adaptation

Distributor: Entertainment Studios

MPAA Rating: R


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. - George Santayana.  This is a study of past events connected with a particular people, country, period, person, etc., usually written, but not always, as a chronological account.  In this American period piece western film written and directed by Scott Cooper, based on an original story by Donald E. Stewart, tells of older years of the Old West and the perils of its western plains. 


Hostiles follows a U.S. Cavalry officer Captain Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale) in 1892 who must escort a Cheyenne war chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family; son Black Hawk (Adam Beach);  wife of Black Hawk, Elk Woman (Q'orianka Kilcher); and Black Hawk's sister Moon Deer back to their home in Montana.  This is a sentimental request granted by the U.S. government to the dying war chief, and the soon to be retiring Captain Blocker must take on his last order.  Making the harrowing and perilous journey from Fort Berringer, an isolated Army outpost in New Mexico, to the grasslands of Montana, the former rivals in war encounter a young widow Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike), whose family family was murdered on the plains by natives.  This suicidal woman joins the band of escorted travelers across treacherous terrain, which determines acceptance of differences.


This is an epic historical costume drama that cover a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop.  It is a film that shares elements of the elaborate adventure films genre, taking on an historical time in American society with an extravagant outdoors prairie setting and spectacle.  


The characterization maintains a high standard with brilliant performances all around.  The cast share dramatic scope, high production values, and grandeur.  Each member of the cast add to a serious plot-driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction. 


As a western, the film is a major defining genre of the American film industry.  It is a eulogy to the early days of the expansive American frontier.  It is also, one of the oldest, most enduring genres with very recognizable plots, elements, and characters (six-guns, horses, dusty towns and trails, and Native Americans).  Suspensefully structured and edgy in its delvery, Hostiles promotes a high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty, anxiety, and nerve-wracking tension.  The texture of the film displays authentic harshness of the times and the gritty performances of life during this era of American history.  These are stories whose central struggle plays out in the midst of a clash of great forces and in the sweep of great historical change.  It is also stories whose central struggle is between a problem and injustice in society where there is a personal stake in the outcome of the struggle, delivering an episodic string of picaresque adventures.   This compliments the brilliant cinematography.


Hostiles is a methodically pace brilliant film that recaptures the life and times of the American frontier in the 19th century.


FILM RATING (A)

DEN OF THIEVES review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on January 19, 2018 at 2:45 PM

Directed by: Christian Gudegast

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Release date: January 19, 2018

Genre: Drama, Action, and Crime

Distributor: STX Films

MPAA Rating: R


Co-scripted by Christian Gudegast and Paul Scheuring (WGA credits pending) is a gritty crime thrilling saga that is set in Los Angeles, California.  Starring a stellar cast consisting of Gerard Butler, Paulo Schreiber, O'Shea Jackson, Jr., Brian van Holt, and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson III, is an edge of your seat hardcore gangster tale.


The story depicts a cast of antagonists, avoiding the usual protagonists found in films developed around the sinister actions of criminals and mobsters.  As the cast should consist of good guys and bad guys, this tale consists of all bad guys.  Nick O'Brien (Gerard Butler) is a hard-drinking leader of the Special Crimes Division, an elite unit of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.


Using intense character development and interaction, the focus is the underworld figures and ruthless corrupt police force who operate outside of the law, stealing and murdering their way through life.  The ensemble gives outstanding performances, while supporting a formidably engaging plot of twists and turns.  It is a shocking yet mesmerizing crime story causing its audience not to be able to take its eyes away.  It really pushes the envelope and is emotionally impacting with blazing shoot-outs, car chases, and unnerving harsh dialogue.


While action is always apparent, this movie is high energy with big-budget physical stunts and chases.  Rescues and battles, fights, and escapes are non-stop in motion with spectacular rhythm and pacing.  It is adventurous, often two-dimentional questionable 'good guys' battling 'bad guys' - all designed for pure audience escapism.


As Den Of Thieves is a "throw back" to the British Guy Richie style of crime stories, this Hollywood structured crime thriller is gritty and desolate in nature.  It is a wild ride from start to finish, but the final scenes gives the film all the validity a viewer would want and like.  


This is a rock solid movie!


FILM RATING (B+) 

PADDINGTON 2 review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on January 12, 2018 at 9:15 AM

Directed by: Paul King

Running time: 1 hr. 43 mins.

Release date: January 12, 2018

Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Adaptation, and Sequel

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG


Following the worldwide movie hit Paddington (2014), one of the most successful family films of all time, this much anticipated sequel finds Paddington (voice of Ben Whishaw), the little human-like bear, happily settled with the Brown family in London, where he has become a popular member of the local community, spreading joy and his beloved marmalade wherever he goes.


While searching for the perfect present for his loving Aunt Lucy's (voice of Imelda Staunton) 100th birthday, Paddington sees a unique pop-up book in Mr. Gruber's (Jim Broadbent) antique shop, and embarks upon a series of odd jobs to buy it.  But when the book is stolen, it is up to Paddington and the Browns to unmask the thief, presumed to be an egotistical has-been actor Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) set on a revenge scheme.


Reuniting many of the original film's cast while welcoming those in new roles, Paddington 2 stars Golden Globe nominee Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) as patriarch Harry Brown, Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) as matriarch Mary Brown, three-time Golden Globe nominee Brendan Gleeson (The Guard, In Bruges, & Into The Storm) as Knuckles McGin, and Oscar nominee Julie Walters (Billy Elliot) as Mrs. Bird.


In this romp, Paddington is wrongly convicted of the theft of the book and is jailed.  While in jail, his marmalade delights the prisoners and staff.  This is when he befriends the short-tempered chef Knuckles McGin (Gleeson), and they escape prison.  Paddington is set on finding the book he wants for his Aunt Lucy's birthday present and thief to prove his innocence.  In the series of adventures set in a comical theme, the tone is developed around the sinister actions of criminals.  The film takes on amusing stories involving intense character development and interaction.  Hugh Grant is a bundle of fun to watch on screen in his villianous character Phoenix Buchanan.  He steals the show.


Paddington 2 is by far a great fun-filled family film.  It is even better the first film Paddington (2014).  Very funny situations that Paddington gets into as he attempts various jobs to earn money for his Aunt's birthday gift is a roller coaster ride of laughs.  This life action animation film offers great visuals and the special effects are fantastic.  This is a must see film by every member of the family.


FILM RATING (A)     



THE POST review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on January 1, 2018 at 11:05 PM

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Running time: 116 mins.

Release date: January 12, 2018 (wide)

Genre: Drama, Suspense, and History

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

MPAA Rating: PG-13


The Post depicts journalists from The Washington Post and New York Times periodicals who published the leaked documents of the Pentagon Papers regarding the involvement of the U.S. government during the Vietnam War.


This is a film examining the cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country's first female newspaper publisher, Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) of The Washington Post newpaper, and its hard-driving editor, Ben Bradler (Tom Hanks), to joi an unprecendented battle between journalist and government in publishing The Pentagon Papers.


In understanding the the theme and plot of this film, the backstory and governmental climate of this story must be stated.  The Pentagon Papers, officially titled United States - Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, is a United States Department of Defense history the United States' political-military involement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967.  The papers were released by Daniel Ellsber (Matthew Rhys), a government whistle-blower who had worked on the study; first brought to the attention of the public on the front page of The New York Times in 1971.  A 1996 article in The New York Times said that The Pentagon Papers had demonstrated, among other things, that the President Johnson Administration "systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress".  More specifically, the papers revealed that the U.S. had secretly enlarged the scope of its actions in the Vietnam War with the bombings of nearby Cambodia and Laos, coastal raids on North Vietnam, and Marine Corps attacks, none of which were reported in the mainstream media.


This is a serious tone film categorizing journalism drama in a contemporary U.S. President Trump era of secrets with a feminist 1970's overtones.  The pacing is of a "tick tock" rythm exercizing suspense and a high level of anticipation as the historical story unfolds.  With supporting characters such as Bruce Greenwood as Robert McNamara who was found lying about the status of the Vietnam War, Carrie Coon as Meg Greenfield, Alison Brie as Lilly Graham, and Michael Stuhlbarg as Abe Roenthal the casr factually depicts the charged conspiracy, espionage, and theft of government property.  It also, displays the charges that were later dismissed after prosecutors investigating the Watergate Scandal which discovered that the staff members on the Nixon White House had ordered the so-called White House Plumbers to engage in unlawful efforts to discredit Ellsberg.


It is cited by Steven Spielberg after he read the screenplay and decided to direct the film was, "when I read the first draft of the script, this wasn't something that could wait three years - this was a story I felt we needed to tell today."  


This is a good solid narrative.  It is meaningful and relevant to contemporary issues pertaining to journalism and the rights of the press.  It is a well directed suspenseful thriller.



FILM RATING (B)


 

STAR WARS:The Last Jedi review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on December 13, 2017 at 11:25 PM

Directed by: Rian Johnson

Running time: 152 mins.

Release date: December 9, 2017 (L.A.) & December 15, 2017 (NY)

Genre: Science Fiction, Action/Adventure, and Sequel

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13


The Star Wars films include two complete trilogies: the original trilogy released between 1977 and 1983, and the prequel trilogy released between 1999 and 2005.  A third that follows the first two began in 2015.  Other films have taken or will take place between the trilogy films.  There have also been several Star Wars television series and films, with the first being released in 1978.  However, Star Wars: The Last Jedi (also known as Star Wars: Episode VIII-The Last Jedi) is the 2017 epic production.  It is the second film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, following Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).


As the characters are based on the original story by George Lucas, it stars Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (General Leia Organa), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe), Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), Lupita Nyong'o (Maz Kanata), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Anthony Daniels (C-P3O), and Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma) in returning roles.  Other cast members include Peter Mayhem and Joonas Suotamo (both returning to portray Chewbacca), Mike Quin as Nien Nunb, Timothy D. Rose as Admiral Ackbar, Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, and Benicio del Toro as DJ, along with cameos from Simon Pegg and Tom Hardy to join the cast in this big budget space opera film written and directed by Rian Johnson.


The story picks up from its prequel where Mark Hamil as Luke Skywalker the son of Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala, a powerful Jedi Master who has been in self-imposed exile on the planet Ahch-To, must confront his demons.  This is constantly reminded by Rey (Daisy Ridley), a highly Force-sensative scavenger from the desert planet Jakku, who joined the Resistance who finds Luke Sywalker for his reluctant assistance. This assistance is needed to combat Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Supreme Leader Snoke's (Andy Serkis) loyal servant who is strong with the dark side of the Force.


As this action sci-fi film expands its realm with more heroes thrust into the series of challenges that include physical feats, extended fight scenes, violence, and frantic chases, this feature relies on more and more resourceful characterization struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatening situations, villains, and pursuits.  This gives advancements in CGI to create action sequences and visual effects that enhances unrealistic and highly unbelievable events on screen.  It gives this film the "WOW" effect.


With the use of grandeur and spectacle, dramatic scope, and high production values, this extravagant setting special effects adventure, is filled with high energy chases, rescues, battles, and fights.  It is non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, accompanied by intense character development and interaction.  This episode is visionary and imaginative - complete with heroes, aliens, distant planets, impossible quests, great dark and shadowy villians, and extraordinary monsters. 


Filmmaker Rian Johnson creates an edgy suspenseful thriller that promotes a high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, and nerve-wracking tension.  I personally find this production in the series to be just as exciting as the original Star Wars (1977), but in a more contemporary atmosphere for the millenial audience.


For pure audience escapism, and pure family enjoyment and fun, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, is a sure bet for all movie-goers and die-hard Star War fans everywhere to see.


FILM RATING (A)



2017 NYFCO AWARDS by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on December 10, 2017 at 3:05 AM

                                        NEW YORK FILM CRITICS ONLINE 2017 FILM AWARDS


The New York Film Critics Online is an organization composed of 38 top online film critics in New York City.  It has a rich mix of film reviewers who have carved out original, innovated spaces on the internet for crucial illumination. The group meets once a year in December, and votes its film awards for the year.


PICTURE

The Florida Project (A24) and Mudbound (Netflix) - Tied Titles


DIRECTOR

Dee Rees for Mudbound (Netflix)


ACTOR

Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour (Focus Features)


ACTRESS

Margot Robbie for I, Tonya (Neon Releasing)


SUPPORTING ACTOR

Willem Dafoe for The Florida Project (A24)


SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Allson Janney for I, Tonya (Neon Releasing)


SCREENPLAY

Jordan Peele for Get Out (Universal Pictures)


BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMER

Timothee Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classic)


DEBUT DIRECTOR

Jordan Peele for Get Out (Universal Picture)


ENSEMBLE CAST

Mudbound (Netflix)


DOCUMENTARY

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (Zeitgeist)


FOREIGN LANGUAGE

In the Fade (Magnolia)


ANIMATION

COCO (Disney/Pixar)


Steven Price (music by) and Kristen Lane (music supervisor) for Baby Driver (TriStar)


                                                       TOP FILMS (Alphabetical Order)

Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics)

Dunkirk (Warner Bros.)

The Florida Project (A24)

Get Out (Universal Pictures)

I, Tonya (Neon)

Lady Bird (A24)

Mudbound (Netflix)

Phantom Thread (Focus Features)

The Post (20th Century Fox)

The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight)







DOC NYC coverage by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on November 29, 2017 at 4:45 PM

                                                                          DOC NYC 2017


                AMERICA'S LARGEST DOCUMENTARY FESTIVAL - NOVEMBER 9 -16, 2017


This being the 8th edition of the festival, it has assembled a thrilling and highly informative lineup.  The film programming includes various sections, such as,  SPECIAL EVENTS includes Opening Night, The Final Year, an unprecented look at the Obama admistration; Centerpiece, Far From the Tree, based on Andrew Solomon's bestseller; and Closing Night, Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars.


DOC NYC's competition sections - VIEWFINDERS, highlighting distinct directorial visions; METROPOLIS, for one-of-a-kind New York stories, and SHORTS - feature pioneer women, champion-making coaches, boxing hopefuls and Guardian Angels, among other fascinating subjects.


This year sees the launch of NEW WORLD ORDER, a section reflecting today's most urgent issues; and CENTERSTAGE, which focuses on the performing arts, from stand-up to ballet.  These join popular returning thematic sections on TRUE CRIME:SCIENCE NONFICTION, about sience and technology, with a special focus on energy; ART & DESIGN, profiles of artists and designers; animal-themed WILD LIFE; unconventional MODERN FAMILY portraits; cinephile celebrations BEHIND THE SCENES; activism-oriented FIGHT THE POWER and music doc strand SONIC CINEMA.


AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES presents stories from around the country, from forgotten history of an influential spiritual leader to a portrait of intergenerational learning.  INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES goes globetrotting, visiting India, Cuba, Pakistan. Lebanon, Australia, Canada, and Micronesia.


For more information go to: www.DOCNYC.net


SELECTIVE REVIEW COVERAGE:


MAYNARD

Directed by: Samuel D. Pollard/Sam Pollard

Running time: 99 minutes (USA)

Genre: Documentary and Biography


Academy Award nominee and Emmy winning diector Samuel D. Pollard/Sam Pollard whose body of work includes producing and editing has tackled a personality depicting a historical expance of time set against a vast, panoramic backdrop of Atlanta, Georgia. This memorable personality is Maynard Jackson Jr., Atlanta's first black mayor in 1973.  Sam Pollard's work is specifically documentary filmmaking known for 25th Hour (2007), 4 Little Girls (1997), and Clockers (1995). His directorial debut was his 2 episode TV Series documentary was Ain't Gonna Shuffle No More: 1964 - 1972 (1990) and Two Societies: 1965 - 1968 (1990).


Maynard Jackson, Jr., is examined in detail, from the son of pastors raised in the segregated South.  This highly intelligent and charismatic man was a protege who entered college at the age of 14 years old..  His siblings speak of him as a vibrant youngster who was always amiable, but had a serious side to his persona.  With personal and indepth converstions with personal/professional friends such as Vernan Jordan, Andrew Young, and Al Sharpton the audience will understand how and what drove this motivated civil rights activist to become a trailblazer as the three-term first African American mayor of Atlanta, in 1973.  


The film explores the turmoil of the traumatic child murders of the 1990s and his triumph of being the host of the 1996 Olympics.  As racial equality stayed relevant, Maynard Jackson brought some of the bigotted attitudes to a halt.


This is a highly impressive cinematic examination of a civil rights activist turned politician, who navigated a wave of social movements that profited Atlanta, Georgia, along with the nation and the world.


The structure and tone of the film depicts a familial and professional atmosphere focusing on home movies, archival footage, and oral histories that explore Maynard Jackson's life from multiple viewpoints.  This is a highly meaningful and informative film that will enlighten all.


FILM RATING (A) 


MORE COVERAGE TO BE POSTED SOON:


 

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on November 26, 2017 at 4:25 AM

Directed by: Martin McDonagh

Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes

Release date: November 10, 2017

Genre: Drama, Crime, and Comedy

Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

MPAA Rating: R


After months pass without a culprit in her teenage daughter Angela (Kathryn Newton) murder case, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) pays for three signs challenging the authority of William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), the town's revered chief of police.  When the second in command, Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), a 'mother's boy' adult with a penchant for violence and reknowned racial bigotry, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing's law inforcement threatens to engulf the town.


The tone is immediately set in the beginning of the film as a darkly comedic drama from Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh (In Bruges).  Academy Award winner Frances McDormand portrays a grieving mother, ex-wife of a domestically abusive ex-cop husband Charlie (John Hawkes), and mother of a high school senior (sibling of Angela) son Robbie Hayes (Lucas Hedges).  Mildred makes a bold move, painting three signs on billboards leading into her town with a controversial message directed at Police Chief William "Bill"  Wiiloughby's (Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson) cold case.  The tension is exacerbated as clues unviel to the identity of the murderer(s), and how the town's people resolve to being rediculed as being less involved to resolving the case of rape,murder, and burning of Angela.


Though, this is a serious minded 'who done it' crime drama, the dark humored dialogue sets the surrealistic stage in a populism mirror and forming a provocative form of comedy emphasizing the absurdity of the world and the omnipresence of human views.  Unlike populism, which preaches hope after death, the message of this dark comedy is that this story goes beyond a joke or anticomedy, because it fights the new law of laughter by keeping its audience on edge.  It is life like as a narrative, yet the dark comedy is disjointed.  It keeps the viewer off balance with shock effects that are visual, reminiscent to the protruding wood shredder in Fargo (1996).  


The supporting cast members of Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbie Cornish, and Samara Weaving, completes the character study and plot driven presentation.  It is an actual contemporary setting portraying realistic characters involving intense character development and interaction.  Yet, the film focuses on the unsolved crime and the central character Mildred, who finds challlenges in the cold and methodical pursuit of the criminal and the solution to the crirme.  All of these supporting characters promote intense excitement, suspense, a high level of anticipation, and uncertainty in this thrilling narrative.


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is raw, gritty, and inticingly darkly funny.  It is a must see film.


FILM RATING (A-)


     


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