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RED TREES review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on September 15, 2017 at 8:10 AM

Directed by: Marina Willer

Running time: 87 mins.

Release date: September 15, 2017

Genre: Documentary in English and Portuguese with English subtitles.

Distributor: Cohen Media Group

MPAA Rating: Not rated

In her directorial feature debut, filmmaker Marina Willer creates an addition to her short film by the same title to a feature length impressionistic cinematic essay of her father's journey as one of twelve Jewish families to survive the Nazi occupation of Prague during World War II.  It is a visual journal told through the voice of Willer's father Alfred (as narrated by Tim Piggot Smith, Quantum of Silence), who witnessed bureaucratic nightmares, transportations, and suicides - but survivedto build a successful post-war life as an architect in Brazil.

Elderly Alfred Willer's memiors narrated with vivid visuals to enhance the historical story of the Willer family , led by his father, is also an examination of this Jewish family's ordeal of redicule and anti-seminism in Czechoslovakia.  The film's main setting is shortly before World War II (1937,8, &9), Czechoslovacia ceased to exist, its territory was divided into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the newly declared Slovak State and the short lived Carpathian Ukranine.  While the considerable part of Czechoslovia was directly joined to te Third Reich.  As the Germany economy beame burdened by heavy militarism, they set up an economy in Czechoslovacia to manufacture weapons.  Factories sprung up everywhere, along with steel and chemical assemblies.  This is when and where Marina Willer's father's memories come alive, in a poetic documentary. Her father tells hwo his father was a master chemical engineer and one of the inventors of citric acid.  His ingenuity allowed the Willer family to remain alive despite their Jewish origins and embark on an epic journey to Brazil and begin a new life.

Marina Wliller states, "Red Trees is a reflection about growing up during the war, surviving and finding a home. It is a celebration of diversity and acceptance.  Its title refers to my father's realization that he was color blind when, as a child,  he drew trees covered with red leaves.  In a time when the world is turning its back on refugees, I felt this was an important moment to share this very personal story."

The film is a combination of her (filmmaker) journey to recreate her ancestry, the story of her father and grandfather's plight during World War II.  It also gives her a new look at her father and grandfather, which was never told.  As she wonders why their is a creative nature in her family's DNA, as she is also a creative designer and her brother is a successful architect - how can this be when her father is color blind?  It is an impressive awakening for Marina Willier as she undertakes her family's history.  

Archival footage enhances the narration as Alfred Willer recalls the Allies dropping bombs on German occupied Czechoslovacia and its collateral damages on cultural arts in Prague.  He tells of the resistance, as well as, Hitler's order to arrest and execute 10,000 randomly selected Czechs.  The apprehending of thousands of Jews to be transported to concentration camps was a threatening horror for the Willer family.

I find this historcal cinematic family portrait impacted with a driven  honesty in epic porportion.  It is a most important entry in feature film productions from a woman and also in her memorable storyline.


CROWN HEIGHTS review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on August 25, 2017 at 4:50 PM

Directed by: Matt Ruskin

Running time: 99 minutes

Release date: August 25, 2017

Genre: Drama and Biopic

Distributor: Amazon Studios and IFC Films

MPAA Rating: R

In this American biographical drama film written and directed by Matt Ruskin, and adapted from This American Life podcast, is the true story of Colin Warner who was wrongfully convicted of murder.  It is also, a story of Colin Warner's best friend Carl King who devoted his life to prove Colin's innocence.

LaKieth Stanfield portrays Colin Warner and Nnamdi Asomugha plays Carl King.  In the spring of 1980 during the Mayor Edward Koch administration of New York City, a 16 year old teenager Mario Hamilton is gunned down in the streets of Flatbush, Brooklyn.  The police illegally pressure a 14 year old child witness Thomas Charlemagne (Skylan Brooks) to falsely accuse Colin Warner and Norman Simmonds.  As a result, Colin Warner, an 18 year old is convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

The story takes on an intense journey of proving Colin's innocence by his childhood friend Carl 'KC' King.  He devoted his life to fighting for Colin's freedom.  He works on appeals, takes loans for lawyer fees and becomes a legal courier to learn the court system.  Meanwhile, Colin who is convicted of a crime he didn't commit, spends years in prison.  With support of the love his life Antionette (Natalie Paul), Colin never gives up declaring his innocence.

This is a serious, plot-driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction.  It depicts the lives of historical personage from past and present, while taking on pathos-filled tales of domestic situations to directly appeal to the audience.  The formidable naarative promotes intense excitemnt, suspense, and a high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, and uncertainty.

Crown Heights is a heartbreaking fact-based narrative giving a special performing platform for LaKieth Stanfield's remarkable portrayal of Colin Warner.  The film pushes the actual story past its powerful drama, and involves the viewer.  Using kinetic clarity and dramatic intensity, the well structured biopic follows the extensive journey of finding justice for a man who spends 21 years behind bars for a crime he never commited.

Fim Rating (A)

SHOT CALLER review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on August 19, 2017 at 12:50 AM

Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh

Running time: 2 hours 1 minute

Release date: August 18, 2017

Genre: Drama, Crime, and Thriller

Distributor: Saban Films, Lionsgate

MPAA Rating: R

Filmmaker Ric Roman Waugh who also scripts this crime drama, crafts a smartly structured thriller that takes its audience on a monolithic, enigmatic ride into the mind a sinister character.

This is a character study drama of Jacob Harlon/Money (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a financial strategist stock broker, and a wealthy family man married to Lake Harlon who are raising a young son.  When involved in a tragic car accident that kills his best friend Tom (Max Greenfield), Jacob/Money is sent to prison for manslaughter.  This alters his life drastically and lays out the premise of this story, as he adapts to prison life.

While inside prison, he joins a prison gang for protection and becomes more deeply involved in the "skin-head" criminal activity for institutional survival.  The plot is developed around sinister actions of criminals and mobsters.  The underworld figures and ruthless hoodlums are into drugs, sex trafficking, and weapon smuggling.  At this time Jacob/Money is taken under the guidance of the leader of the gang, Bottles (Jeffrey Donovan).  To prove his loyalty and for self protection, Jacob/Money goes to the extent of killing the current enforcer Bottles in jail to protect his family and takes a life sentence in prison in the process - thus becoming the new enforcer himself.

The supporting cast members are dangerous thugs, with names such as "Shotgun" (Jon Berntha), "Chopper" (Evan Jones), "The Beast" (Holt McCallamy), and "Ripper" (Keith Jardine) to name a few.  The setting is somewhat as film noir, while exerting realism and grit.  The performances excels in authenticity.

As a character study drama, it shows the transformation of a man who turns into a master criminal in the prison system.  An everyday regular guy turns his life into a hard-core mob boss.  The film is a serious plot-driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction.  The distinct film noir sets a mood style and tone of melacholy, alienation, bleakness, disillusionment,, disenchantment, pessimism, moral corruption, evil, guilt, and paranoia.

Shot Caller is an excellent film that will thrill with virtual intense excitement, suspense, high levels of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty, and nerve-wracking tension.  The central stuggle is between a criminal and society.  A cautionary tale, rooted in a main character who commits crimes, while morally debating his life or death situation as he struggle pits of innocence against a lethal enemy who is out to kill him and family.


DETROIT review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on August 4, 2017 at 2:25 AM

Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow

Running time: 2 hours 23 minutes

Release date: August 4, 2017

Genre: Drama, Thriller, and History

Distributor: Annapurna Pictures

MPAA Rating: R

Two-time Oscar winning filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow, whose work of, Zero Dark Thirty (2012), The Hurt Locker, and Point Break has brought a very credible historical dramatization of the 1967 Detroit Riots to the screen.

Director Bigelow gives a quick yet informative backdrop of race relations in the 1960s American, depicting the migration of southern African-Americans (then refered to as Colored People or Negroes) to Detroit and many other northern cities to avoid the horrid life of southern segregational poverty and "Jim Crow" laws to find employment.  Detroit, known as "Motor City", was the place where lucrative automobile employment was available for African-Americans.  The work was hard on the automobile assembly lines, but it was steady.  However, segregation was still apparent in the residential accommodations.  Black Americans found their places of entertainment regulated by licensing organization as the Motown sound of music gave birth.

In the sweltering summer of 1967, Detroit's predomiantly African-American neighborhood of Virginia Park was a simmering cauldron of racial tension.  About 60,000 low-income residents were crammed into the neighborhood's 460 acres, living mostly in small, sub-divided apartments.

The plot takes root as the characterization is established at the same time.  There is a scene in the film where legendary Motown musical "Martha and the Vandellas" are sing "Heat Wave".  Meanwhile, an aspiring R&B group (now legendary) known as, The Dramatics are waiting to take the stage.  Fred (Jacob Latimore) the manager of the group confronts riot police on the streets to get to the show.  Once he arrives, he must tell the lead singer of the group Larry Cleveland Reed, the show will be canceled due to the rioting.

The theme and tone is of intensity, as the Detroit Police Department, which had only 50 African-American officers at this time in history, was viewed as a white occupying army.  Accusations of racial profiling and police brutality were commonplace among Detroit's black residents.

July 23, 1967, the Detroit Riots began.  The entire city was in a state of economic and social strife:  As the Motor City's famed automoble industry shed jobs and moved out of the city center, freeways and suburban amenities beckoned middle-class residents (whites) away, which further gutted Detroit's viality and left behind vacant storefronts, widespread unemployment and impoverished despair.

At night, 12th Street in Detroit was a hotspot of inner-city nightlife, both legal and illegal.  A Detroit vice squad police raid was made on Scott's (illegal after-hour) Club.  The establishment was hosting a party for several military Vietnam War returning veterans.  On this humid night the patrons were reluctant to leave the air-conditioned club under rude and racial infused orders by the police.  Out on the street, a crowd began to gather as police waited for vehicles to take away the 85 patrons away.  An hour passes before the last of the patrons are taken away, but by that time a couple of hundred onlookers lined the street.  A bottle is thrown at the police and within an hour, thousands of angry black people had spilled out onto the street from nearby buildings.  Thus, the Detriot Riots began.

Director Bigelow focuses on how Detroit Mayor Cavanaugh asked Michigan Governor George Romney to send in the state police and the National Guard.  Soon after, Governor Romeny asked President Lyndon B. Johnson to send in U.S. troops.  Nearly 2,000 army paratroopers arrived and began patrolling the streets of Detroit in tanks and armored carriers.  Kathryn Bigelow now dives deeply in one particular historical incident when a telephoned report of sniping is reported, coming from the Algiers Motel.  The police respond and interrogate ten black men and two white women, none whom were armed.  By the time the interrogators (police, state troopers, National Guardsman, and a black security guard) left, three black men had been shot to death and the others, including the women, beaten.  This highly intensed, frighteneing, and racially tone extensively lingering scene is remarkably performed by John Boyega, Will Porter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Jason Mitchell, Hannah Murray, Jack Reynor, Kaitlyn Dever, Ben O'Toole, Anthony Mackie, Nathan Davis Jr., Peyton Alex Smith, Malcolm David Kelley, and Joseph David-Jones.  An epologue prior to the film credits detail the court case results of the Algiers Incident, as a result of the deaths of the black men and physical assaults of the other victims.

Detroit is a poignant film, under brilliant direction.  The impeccable performances enhanced the historical depictions, and the achival footage reflects the realism.  This is a gritty and raw film, that doesn't pull any punches in its delivery.  Using real facts from people who lived through this time and ordeal, newspapers, sworn documents, court transcripts, and filmage, Kathryn Bigelow has once again shown she doesn't have any fear in tackling issues that are relevant and meaningful.  Bravo!!


DUNKIRK in IMAX review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on July 21, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Running time: 106 minutes in English, French, and German

Release date: July 21, 2017

Genre: Drama, Action, and History

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13

The production development of this film is much of the hype as the release of the film.  Filmmaker Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises and Batman Begins - among many other big name movies) wrote the 76 page screenplay (his shortest to date).  This was written with a precise mathematical structure, requiring the basis of the characters to be fictionalized rather than taken from actual eyewitness accounts.  Nolan decided to make the film as a triptych, told from three perspectives; the air (planes), the land (on the beach), and the sea (the evacuation by the navy) cited by IMDB interviews.

Dunkirk's cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema shot the film on IMAX 65mm and 65mm large format film stock with the extensive use practical effects such as employing 6,00 extras, assembling boats that had participated in the real Dunkirk evacuation, and using geniune era-appropriate planes for aerial sequences containing little dialogue and creating soley supense through details. 

However, the storyline dismisses the prelude historical fact of the how and why The Battle of Dunkirk was a disasterous failure.  It focuses on the Dunkirk evacuation, code-named Operation Dynamo or the Miracle of Dunkirk.  This is the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbor of Dunkirk.  In the north of France, between May 26 and May 27, 1940, during World War II, the British, French, Belgian, and Canadians troops were cut off and surrounded by German troops during the Battle of France.  With 400,00 Allied troops retreated to the beach, they were prey for execution by the German land and air assaults.

As the film depicts the story of survival by the Allies, it also relies on the heroic rescue sequences by a hastily assembled fleet of boats that the troops were able to embark from the harbor's protective mole onto British destroyers of the Royal Navy and civilian merchant ships, while others had to wade out from the beaches, waiting for hours in the shoulder-deep water.  Some were ferried from the beaches to the larger ships by what came to be known as the little ships of Dunkirk, a flotilla of hundred of merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure crafts, yachts, and lifeboats.

The characters in the film are not given actual separate lead or supportive parts, but more as an ensemble.  Fionn Whitehead as Tommy, a British Army private is given more screen time than everyone else.  He is the focus of one man's plight to survive the chaotic military retreat.  Other known actors such as Tom Hardy, James D'Arcy, and Kenneth Branagh hit their marks to enhance the lackless character-driven narrative.  Yet, the aerial dogfigh sequences are engagingly and add a thrill to the film.

Dunkirk is a movie best experienced in a 70mm or an IMAX format.  Technically, this exceptional epic historical film is a period-piece movie that covers a large expanse of time set against a vast, panoramic backdrop.  It's extravagant setting and lavish costumes, accompanied by granduer and spectacle, dramatic scope, and high production values does not compensate for the lack of a good character and/or plot-driven narrative presentation.  The lack of this narrative diminishes the overall production.  This film could be a better production as a docu-drama, using authentic factual characters relating to their lives during this period in history.



WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on July 14, 2017 at 8:50 PM

Directed by: Matt Reeves

Running time: 139 minutes

Release date: July 14, 2017

Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Sequel, Reboot, and Suggestive Adaptation

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

MPAA Rating: PG-13

In this dystopian science fiction film directed by Matt Reeves and written by Mark Bomback and Reeves is the sequel to the 2014 film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  It is the third installment in the Planet of the Apes reboot series.

The film stars Andy Serkis as Caesar, a noble and intelligent common chimpanzee who is King to a tribe of genically enhanced apes; Woody Harrelson as Colonel McCullough, an iron-fisted human soldier obsessed with wiping out Caesar and his tribe to defend his people from destruction; Steve Zahn as Bad Ape, a common chimpanzee who lived formerly in a zoo before the simian Flu outbreak; Amiah Miller as Nova, a bold and kind non-speach young human female war orphan whom Maurice adopts as his daughter; Karin Konoval as Maurice, a wise and benevolent Bornean orangutan who is Caesar's advisor; Judy Greer as Cornelia, Caesar's wife and Queen; and Terry Notary as Rocket, a common chimpanzee who is Caesar's brother figure.

The picks up two years after the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar and his apes have been embroiled in a war against humans.  As the ape population decreases, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts in order to avenge his fallen companions.  The encounter with the apes and humans puts them into the ultimate confrontation, to determine the fate of the Earth.

In War for the Planet of the Apes, the third chapter of the critically acclaimed blockbuster franchise, Caesar (Serkis) and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel McCullough (Harrelson).  In a epic costume drama paired with a highly adventurous action film, this high energy big-budget movie pulls out all of the stops when it comes to physical stunts and chases with rescues, battles, fights, escapes, non-stop motion, spectacular rhytm and pacing, and often two-dimensional 'good guy' heroes battling 'bad guys' - all designed for pure audience escapism.  It's another great outing for Woody Harrelson.

With a great supporting cast consisting of Max Lloyd-Jones as Blues Eyes, Caesar and Cornelia's oldest son; Devyn Dalton as Cornelius, Caesar and Cornelia's youngest son; Ty Olsson as Rex, a Western lowland gorilla traitor who was once a follower of Koba and now serves Colonel McCollough to defeat Caesar; Michael Adamthwaite as Luca, a Western lowland gorilla in Caesar's tribe; Aleks Paunovic as Winter, an albino Western lowland gorilla in Caesar's tribe; Alessandro Juliani as Spear, a common chimpanzee in Caesar's tribe; and Gabriel Chavarria as Preacher, a human soldier - all hit their marks to make this a great addition to the franchise series.

While using action as its basis, this film uses philosophical sequences to shadow the well structured storyline, as Caesar and Colonel McCullough are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.  This is the best summer film of 2017 (so far).  *Spoiler alert* You'll enjoy the final exodus scenes.


FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL 2017 review coverage by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on July 13, 2017 at 5:20 PM

                                                      FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL 2017

                                        (Montreal, Canada from July 13 - August 2, 2017)

To quote Mitch Davis, Co-Director of the Fantasia International Film Festival, "Our Axis showcase of cutting edge animation and genre narratives return with a lineup that includes a number of widely talented newcomers, several talked about films of the oment and not one but two newcomers from the gifted Masaaki Yuasa.  And that is just a small fraction of what thenext weeks hold for you.  Get set for over 150 features and roughly 250 shorts, many showing for the first time on this continent, some screening for their first time in the world.

Fantasia Film Festival turns 21 years old and it is flickering "Lights and Filmic Ecstacy".

                                                 HIGHLIGHTED FILMS AND REVIEWS

VALERIAN and the City of a Thousands Planets in 3D

Directed by: Luc Besson

Running time: 137 minutes

Release date: July 21, 2017

Genre: Action/Adventure, Science Fiction, and Adaptation

Distributor: STX

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is the visually spectacular adventure film from Luc Besson, the legendary director of The Professional, The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita, and Lucy.  Based on the 1967 groundbreaking French graphic novel and science fiction comic book series Valerian and Laureline written by Pierre Christin and ilustrated by Jean-Claude Mezieres comes at futuristic space adventure.

This film stars; Dane DeHaan as Valerian, a space and time traveling agent and Laureline's partner/love interest. Cara Delevingne as Laureline, a space and time traveling agent and Valerian's partner/love interest.  With Clive Owen as Arun Filitt, Valerian and Laureline's commander; Rihanna as Bubble (pop singer's debut fantasy film), a shapeshifting female entertainer; Ethan Hawke as Jolly the Pimp; Herbie Hancock as Defense Minister; Kris Wu as Sergeant Neza; and Rutger Hauer as President of the World State Federation.

The adaptation is set in the 28th century, Valerian and Laureline are special operatives charge with keeping order throughout the human territories.  On assignement from the Minister of Defense, the two undertake a mission to Alpha, an ever-expanding metropolis wher species from across the universe have converged over centuries. to share knowledge, intelligence, and culture.  At the center of Alpha is a mysterious dark force which threatens thepeaceful existence of the City of a Tousand Planets, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

Starring alongside DeHaan and Delevingne s is an acomplished troupe of performers and newcomers to the big screen, such as, John Goodman.

The spectacular 3D production is set in a universe beyond imagination.  The main events of this film begin in the year 2740.  Classic and familiar, yet wildly exotic and exciting, this epic adventure follows Mafjor Valerian, a rougish government operative and a rising star in the human army.  He is an extraordinary warrior with a sixth sense for tactics, and is widely known for his bravery.  While his partner Sergeant Laureline, whose innate intelligence is matched only by her steely determination, fierce independeance and impressive displays of strength.  As driven and focused as she is in her career, she is old-fashined and simplistic in her personal life - she wants tofall inlove, get married and have a family.

While enduring wild skimishes and epic battles, the two antagonists add non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, to a great summer film.



Directed by: Dave McCary

Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Relase date: July 28, 2017

Genre: Drama, and Comedy

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classic

MPAA Rating: PG-13

In an extraordinarily dark, yet sometimes humorous dramatic fable James Pope (played by co-writer Kyle Mooney) has been living with his parents Ted and April Pope (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams) in a desert bunker his entire 25 years of life, totally isolated from the outside world.  It is under the assumption that they are avoiding contamination from a dystophian atmosphere.  As this time is being lived, James is the star of the children's science fiction fantasy TV show "Brigsby Bear Adventures".  This has been James' lifelong project, unfortunately this show is produced and shown to an audience of one - him alone.  *Spoiler Alert*  James has been a victim of abduction from childhood.  It's been a lifelong scam!

This well structured dramedy interweaves a disturbing case of a child abduction case investigated and prosecuted by local police detective Vogel (Greg Kinnear), who takes a friendly admiration to James and his TV project.  As James is reunited with his birth parents played by Claire Danes and Matt Walsh, along with his newly acquainted younger sister Aubrey (Ryan Simpkins), he finds himself attempting to fit into a world he has never known.  The basis of his existence is his fixation with the Brigsby Bear science fiction story he created (on obsolete VHS).  He finds that the TV and film industry has a place for this project, thus gives James a platform to exist in this newfound world of reality.

It is a bitter/sweet plot and character driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction.  The light-hearted comedy is consistently and deliberately designed to amuse and provoke laughter by sometimes exaggerating the situation, the language, action, relationships, and characters.  Yet, there is a coming-of-age scenario imposed where the story's central struggle is about the antagonist finding his place in the world.

Supporting cast members Andy Samburg as Eric, Christopher Sullivan as an FBI Agent, Jorge Lendegorg Jr. as Spencer, Ashlyn Brooke Anderson as Wizzle Prince, and Beck Bennett as Detective Bander, along with Yvonne D. Bennett, Kami Christiansen, and Michaela Watkins deliver fine performances to a smart plot.

Brigsby Bear is a deeply felt work that keeps regenerating and unfolding in surprising ways.  It is metaphoric in nature, and resulting in a captivating weird moral.



Directed by: David Leitch

Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes

Release date: July 28, 2017

Genre: Drama, Action, Mystery, Thriller, and Adaptation

Distributor: Focus Features/Universal Pictures

MPAA Rating: R

Adapted for screen from Anthony Johnston's graphic novel series (1989) comes a Cold War period piece action spy tale, in the setting as the Berlin Wall was torn down, starring Charlize Theron and James McAvoy, along with Sophia Boutella, John Goodman, and Toby Jones.

What makes a good spy movie?  The elements that go into the making of a great spy movie contains intrigue, elegance, mystery, and allure into an action packed tale of plot twists and double crosses.  The definitive basis would be espionage, which be inherently clandestine, as it is taken for granted that it is unwelcome and many cases illegal and punishable by law.  It is intelligence gathering.  These activities of government agents share the risk of being discovered by their enemies.

Atomic Blonde is the story of MI6 spy Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) who was sent to Berlin to investigate the death of another agent, and the disappearance of a list revealing every spy working there.  She finds a powder keg of mistrust, assassinations and bad defections that ended with the murder of MI6's top officer, as the toppling of the Berlin Wall. 

Now Lorraine has returned from the Cold War's coldest city, to tell her story to MI6 investigator Mr. Gray (Toby Jones) and CIA inestigator (John Goodman).  The film takes off in a backstory of flashbacks as the crown jewel of Her Majesty's Secret Service Intelligence Service, Agent Lorraine Broughton is equal parts apycraft, sensuality and savagery, willing to disploy any of her skills to stay alive on her impossible mission.

Charlize Theron's performance is impeccable in her choreographed action fight scenes.  Her characterization in the action sequences thrust her into a series of challenges that typically include physical feats, extended fights scenes, violence, and frantic chases.  She is a resourceful lead character struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatening situations, and a villain David Percival (James McAvoy).

With the tone of woman empowerment, this femme fatale Lorraine Broughton character portrayed by Theron, is a confident persona.  She is especially confident in controlling her life and her authority.  Much like a James Bond character or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, she is designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination as a spy.  As the central character, she pursues the missing list of agents, and deters it getting in the wrong hands by any means possible.

The great thing about adapting this graphic novel to screen - is that it works very well.  Lorraine is an interesting, a tough as nails woman, very much like the spies that tend to show up in a British Ian Fleming drama - but she is a woman.  Of course, the fight scenes are over the top in its delivery, but it adds to the power of the action plot and reinforces the theme of the graphic novel it represents.  Great chemistry between Theron and McAvoy.

Supporting cast members give this film a good basis and solidifies the theme of this formidable movie.  A must see film!



Directed by: David Lowery

Running time: 92 minutes

Release date: July 7, 2017

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, and Romance

Distributor: A24

MPAA Rating: R

In this supernatural drama written and directed by David Lowery, the audience is taken down the road of spirituality, romance, and thought-provoking mysticism.

The storyline is of a young married man and woman, C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara), is living in a small suburban house.  C is a struggling musician and M is a loving stay at home wife.   One night, they hear a heavy bang on their piano, but unable to find the cause for the noise.  Some time later, C is killed in a car accident outside his home.  At the morgue, he awakens as a ghost covered in a white sheet with two black holes for eyes.  As he wanders through the hospital, no  one else is able to see him, he comes to the end of a hallway and sees a doorway of bright flashing light open in front of him.  After staring at it, the doorway eventually closes.

C's ghost leaves the hospital and returns to his house, watching his wife grieve over her loss.  He continues watching over her for days and weeks on end that appear like seconds to him.  Eventually, he meets another ghost inside the house next door.  This female ghost tells him that she has been waiting for someone, but cannot remember who.

One night, C's ghost sees M returning home with a new boyfriend.  Angered, he makes all the lights in the house flicker and throws several books off the bookshelf, opening one to a passage that seems to upset M.  Some time later, M listens to a song that C had written for her when he was alive.  Finally, M decides to move from the house, but not before leaving on a small peice of paper tucked inside a crack in the wall.  C's ghost attempts to dig the note out of the wedge wall, but can't retrieve it.

As a haunting theme is established in the plot, it carries on as other families move in and are frightened from the house.  When the house is demolished, C's ghost must wander.  C's ghost finds himself thrust back into the 19th century on the same site.  However, he witnesses Native Americans slaughtering a family of settlers.  The corpes of the settlers decompose and a stage of evolution appears.  Thus, allowing C's ghost to travel through time and get to the place and time of C writing the note he needs to read.  Once he reads this note, his spirit vanishes and leaves the sheet he had carried discarded.

This is a methodical and philosophical story of life after death in an eerie and imaginable means.  The structure is not a usual three act production, but gives the audience a mysterious ride of spiritualism.  Perhaps, the plot may feel disjointed at times, along with limited dialogue, the moral is that ghosts that wander in the afterlife, must find resolvement and closure to their once human existence.

Ghost Story is not a film everyone will enjoy.  However, it is uniquely made movie that relies on the imagination of its viewer.


OKJA review and interview by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on June 28, 2017 at 9:25 PM

Directed by: Bong Joon Ho

Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes

Release date: June 28, 2017

Genre: Drama, Action/Adventure, Science Fiction, and Comedy

Distributor: NETFLIX

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

This is a film that stars an ensemble cast headed by South Korean child actress Ahn Seo-hyun alongside Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Giancarlo Esposito, and Jake Gyllenhaal.  It 's a story about a young girl named Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun) who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company, Mirando Corporation, headed by a power hungry insecure Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) looking to make a profit off of a biologically enhanced pig called Okja.

Okja, is a multi-layered dark comedy narrative that offers a primary plot of Mija the young farmgirl who takes care of Okja from a little piglet to a massive animal.  Her story is a coming of age scenario centered around her young life on the verege of some maturation processing.  Her decisioning brings the outcome of which will have a significant shaping impact on her and Okja's lives.  

On the other hand, another story is implemented about Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton), whose Mirando Corporation internationally markets the biological enhancement of pigs.  With assistance from a zany egotistical Dr. Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal), a zealous zoologist, along with a deceitful Frank Dawson (Giancarlo Esposito) to guide Lucy into cornering the pork market.

For ten idyllic years, young Mija has been caretaker and constant companion to Okja the massive animal and an even bigger friend at her home in the mountains of South Korea.  But that changes when a family-owned multinational conglomerate Mirando takes Okja for themselves and transports her to New York, where images obsessed and self-promoting CEO Lucy Mirando has plans for Mija's dearest friend and pet.

However, Paul Dano plays Jay, the leader of an animal-rights activist gang, consisting of "K" (Steven Yeun), Red (Lily Collins) and others to bring down Mirando Corporation.  With no particular plan but single-minded in intent, Mija sets out on a rescue mission, but her already daunting journey quickly becomes more complicated when she crosses paths with disparate groups of capitalists, demonstrations and consumers, each battling to control the fate of Okja...while all Mija wants to do is bring her friend home.

The black comedy performances by the ensemble employs a form of humor that is to make light of serious and often taboo subject matter thus provoking discomfort and serious thought as well as as amusement in the audience.  The narrative retains its serious tone and balances satire.

In a press conference with the cast, I was able to get questions answered about the production. Tilda Swinton spoke of how it is to work with filmmmaker Bong Joon-ho by saying, "it is a very relax business working with Bong.  He is a very good leader and invites me to bring something creative.  We decided to find villains in capitalism and food exploration.  When I saw the story, Bong and I knew we could build on the character and other characters."  Bong contributed with his comments, "my young lead actress Ahn was very experienced and has a lot of energy.  She is amazing and hilarious because she would comment about the catering and snacks on set."  He also said, "I am drawn to creature films and it seems to interact with social issues.  The fact that this large pig is a pet, it is also a food to be exploited.  My characters are to contradict protangonists and antogonists, but to have them as foolish people making villains are not pure villains.  I was so happy with the creature (Okja) on screen.  It was not cartoonish, but real.  I was impressed with the fresh product on screen."  Child actress Ahn simply replied to Bong's comment by saying, "Bong helped me maximize my performance."  While Giancarlo added, "we are in a situation with society where absurdity is relevent...but the point is to be rational.  As for my part, it is unknown his true purpose.  This was a return to a sweet story.  It was a loss of innocence tale."

Deftly blending genres, humor, poignancy, and drama, Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercing, The Host) begins with the gentlest of premises - and then bond between man and animal - and ultimately creates a distinct and layered vision of the world that addresses the animal inside us all by use of a great leading cast and supporting members Byun Heebong, Yoon Je Moon, Shirley Henderson, Daniel Henshall, DevonBostick, and Woo Shik Choi.



THE BIG SICK review & interview by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on June 23, 2017 at 7:20 PM

Directed by: Michael Showalter

Running time: 119 minutes

Release date: June 23, 2017 (limited) & July 14, 2017 (wide)

Genre: Drama, Romance, and Comedy

Distributor: Lionsgate/Amazon Sudios

MPAA Rating: R

Based on the real-life courtship between Pakistani-American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and co-podcast host Kumail Nanjiani, and American writer, producer and other co-podcast host Emily V. Gordon, comes the humorously romantic, yet often dramatic biopic they penned for the screen.

Kumail (plays himself) an aspring comedian connects with grad student Emily (Zoe Kazan) after one of his stand-up sets.  However, what they thought would be just a one-night stand blossoms into the real thing, which complicates the life that is expected of Kumail by his traditional Muslim parents Azmat (Anupam Kher) and Naveed (Adeel Akhtar) who are set on a fixed marriage for him, as single Muslim women are paraded in front of him at regular dinner occasions.  This does not help matters as Kumail hides this fact from Emily along with her parents Terry (Ray Romano) and Beth (Holly Hunter).

As a biopic it is certainly true in its basics, but does not prevent information to be told thoroughly truthfully, in order, or completely.  As this talented cast of actors and writers in their own right, they contribute an art in the production for marketing values.  The whole impetus of this romantic comedy is to create perspective on the world these two people (Kumail and Emily) live.  The cultural differences, yet bigotted and racist environment, the contemporary society dictates sets the tone of the film.  However, plot driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and individual stories involving intense character development and interaction, brings to life an affair of the heart that is centered on passion, emotion, honesty, and romance.

Although, Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan are the lead characters in this film, the supporting cast of Holly Hunter and Ray Romano portraying Emily's parents Terry and Beth, as well as Anupam Kher and Adeel Shroff as Kumail's parents Azmat and Naveed complete a superb script with brilliant performances.  They bring individual magnitude to the production when Emily (Zoe Kazan) is beset with a mystery illness, it forces Kumail to navigate the medical crisis with her parents, Beth and Terry whom he's never met, while deaing with the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart.

In a press conferences with the partial cast questions were ask about the production.  American film producer Barry Mendel who worked with Bill Murray on Rushmore, followed by The Sixth Sense and The Happening with M. Night Shyamalan.  Barry Mendel's producing credits are also along with famed directors Wes Anderson, Steven Spielberg, and Judd Apatow, as he mentioned that "at SWS Festival Kumail came to me and Judd Apatow with his story and we loved it.  It was a great challenge to take a real life situation and market it a success on screen.  Listening to Kumail tell it, we knew this along with his humor it would work."  I asked Barry Mendel, "what makes your collaboration with Judd Apatow so successful after working Spielberg and others?"  He replied, "working with Judd is great, he is like making jazz....he is lightning in a bottle....he touches every detail."  Zoe Kazan added, "they are (Judd Apatow and Barry Mendel) so detailed and knowledgable...every part of the film has their touch."  Zoe Kazan an American actress and playwright, granddaughter of Elia Kazan, was also asked about her playwright experience contributing to the production.  She replied, "I had a creative aspect of my character, but what drew me in was the script.  I was able to amke it my own, rather than the real Emily be a  monitor on the set."  Holly Hunter added, "we had ideas and it was an open arms process on the script.  Act 2 of the film excited me because it is another love story amongst the series of serious medical scenes."  Ray Romano mentioned, "I wrote a little on a backstory for my character."  Veteran Indian actor Anupam Kher, who made this his 500th film, stated "without reading the script I accepted because of the idea of working with Kumail."  Kumail and Emily exchangingly spoke about their working as a pair.  Their combined quotes as a couple is, "when everyone added things, we felt that we could separate from the characters, script, and reality.  On the writing parts we had conflicts but when we go on the set everything worked out."

The Big Sick, with the fabulous one-liners, excellent ensemble, is touching and emotionally enhancing.  This is a well structured life journey film and a must see.



CARS 3 accompanied with Lou (short) review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on June 16, 2017 at 3:40 PM

Directed by: Brian Fee

Running time: 109 minutes in 2D and 3D

Release date: June 16, 2017

Genre: Animation, Comedy, and Family

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: G

As PIXAR Animation Studios reigns as the leader in animation production, it brings a 2D and 3D animated comedy to the big screen.  It is the eighteenth PIXAR feature film and the third installment in the Cars film franchise, following Cars 2 (2011).  Director Brian Fee, who was once the storyboard artist on the original Cars (2006) and Cars 2, brings back the voices of Owen Wilson as  Lightning McQueen, Larry the Cable Guy as Mater, Bonnie Hunt as Sally Carrera, Chris Cooper as Smokey, Tony Shalhoub as Luigi, and Guido Quaroni as Guido.  This edition brings inArmie Hammer as Jackson Storm, McQueen's new racing rival, Cristela Alonzo as Cruz Ramires, McQueen's trainer and racing technician, and Kerry Washington as Natalie Certain the statistical analyst.  Additonally, several real life drivers and other racing related personalities from NASCAR have cameos, including Chae Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Darrell Waltrip, Shannon Spake, Humpy Wheeler, Jeff Gordon, Daniel Suarez, Kyle Petty, Mike Joy, Ray Everman and as well as the legendary Richard Petty's return as Strip "The King" Weathers, who now acts as Cal Weaathers' (his nephew) crew chief.

The story picks up after McQueen loses his racing title to Jackson Storm, the face of the new high tech and next generation racers.  With the new generation of high tech racers, many question if the famous Lightning McQueen, the legendary Piston Cup veteran, will retire after he endures a terrible crash.  McQueen's sponsor Rus-eze, bought by Sterling (Nathan Fillion), who wants to turn him into a racing brand for auto parts.  However, McQueen asks for a chance to race in the Florida 500 and begins to train with race technician Cruz Ramirez, who always had dreams of racing.  The clash of the new and the old (McQueen and Cruz) is the essence of most of this plot.  It is difficult for McQueen to accept that change is inevitable, and Cruz finds out certain things are fundamentally stable.

Interestingly, this film delves into the history of the car racing world.  It highlights the facts that Stock Car and Formula Car racing origins, from the years of the Prohibition Act (1919 - 1933) inacted after WWI, when moonshine (white lightning, mountain dew, and corn liquor) was illigally hauled by fast running cars.  The word "moonshine" is believed to be derived from the term "moonrakers" used in English smugglers and the clandestine nature of operations of the unlawful Applalachian distillers who produced and distributed whiskey by moonlight driving (without cars lights) to avoid the revenue agents.  The gave American stock car racing its birth by the likes of legendary Raymond Parks who won the inagural NASCAR championship in 1949.  It also, gave the origin to the single-seater series of car racing known as, Formula One (Grand Prix).

As an animated action adventure family film, it central plot is the struggle that plays out mainly through a clash of physical forces and encounters with new ideas.  The small amount of comedy delights and the essential aspect goes beyond the ordinary.  The whole range of comic tactics are from absurdity to mockery, to sarcasm to irony, each to disturb, disrupt, alter and change things from what is expected.  The film is mostly fast pace, but relies on sentimental sequences to raise emotions.  This edition may not be the best of the franchise, but the work of PIXAR is captivating.

LOU (Short film)

Directed by: Dave Mullins

Running time: 6 minutes in 2D and 3D

Release date: June 16, 2017

Genre: Animated, Family, Fantasy, and Short film

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: G

With the attitude of how to deal with bullies being relevant, Lou examines a red hoodie-covered fantasy creature with eyes and how it interrupts a young boy's mischievous behavior during school and recess.  The fantasy creature with eyes of baseballs and buttons grinning from inside a school's Lost & Found bin, reprimands a young boy who finds fun in rediculing and tormenting his class peers.  The moral is an honest and important message sent to the younger viewers.




Posted by Gerald Wright on June 9, 2017 at 10:40 PM

                         THE 2017 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH FILM FESTIVAL

                Co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and IFC Center

                                                        June 9- 18, 2017

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival will be presented with 21 films and discussions showcasing courageous activists exposing topical and provocative feature documentaries during challenging times.  In an era of global advances by far-right forces into the political mainstream, assaults on the free press, and the rise of "citizen journalism", festival organizers hope that the films in this year's program can serve as an inspiration and motivation for the audience, from seasoned activists to those searching for a role in local and global movements.

Now in its 28th edition, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival is co-presented by the Film Society O lincoln Center and IFC Center.  All screenings will be followed by indepth discussions with filmmakers, film subjects, Human Rights Watch researchers, and special guests.



Directed by: Zaradasht Ahmed

Running time: 86 minutes

Release date: June 23, 2017

Genre: Documentary in Arabic, Norwegian, Portugese, and Swedish with English subtitles.

Distributor: East Viilage Entertainment release in association with Ryan Bruce Levey Film Distribution.

Director and photographer Zaradasht Ahmed is a Kurdsih/Norwegian filmmaker. He was born and raised in Northern Iraq.  He states, "My ambition is to let the audience reflect on the human consequences of a brutal reality where all taboos are violated.  With Nowhere to Hide I want to show that we are all part of this reality - war, explosions, victims, terrorism, they affect us globally, and we are all responsible, despite our geographical whereabouts.  Meanwhile, I want to show the human resistance that is growing among these survivors; to show the hope of rebuilding after the breakdown of civilization.  In the end, as humans, the only thing that can help us survive is to believe that the will to build will always be stronger than the desire to destroy."

Nowhere to Hide follows male nurse Nori Sharif through five years of dramatic change, providing unique access into one of the world's most dangerous and inaccessible areas - the "triangle of death" in central Iraq.  Initially filming stories of survivors and the hope of a better future as American and Coalition troops retreat from Iraq in 2011, conflicts continue with Iraqi militias, and the population flees accompanied by most of the hospital staff. 

Nori, his wife, and four children find their lives of somewhat normality turned around during 2011.  As a member of a local medical emergency room, working regular hours, and returning home to help raise a family with his wife, now finds himself dealing with the collateral damage from the U.S. invasion against ISIS and suicide bombers.  As ISIS pushes into their region and take control of central Iraq, Nori steps his work to act as a doctor, as the real doctors flee from the hospital.  At home bullets fly randomly from ISIS snipers, and 2014 Nori and his family leave their home in Jalawla.  As Nori and his family travel the region in their vehicle seeking refuge, they witness the destruction.  The attitude of themselves and others to this carnage becomes numb, but his will to help others prevail.  He sets up temporary medical centers to care for the people he confronts and lives with.

What was Nori's original home project of filmming his hospital, family and communty over a five year period, drastically turns into a filmage of himself dealing with war.  It all comes full circle as he and a couple of others return to their hospital, only to find devastation.  This film touches on the refugee issue and the unsettle challenges of war's aftermath, in a first-person's account.


500 YEARS: Life in Resistance

Directed by:  Pamela Yates

Running time: 105 minutes

Release date: July 12, 2017

Genre: Documentary

Distributor: Paladin

Documentarian Pamela Yates has formed a Resistance Saga, cinematically designed to galvanize audiences to fight back when society is faced with authoritarianism and deagogues.  It is long term courageous and strategic film resistance against daunting odds, with a powerful example being focused on the Mayan people (Indigenous tribes of Guatemala). 

The Resistance Saga Trilogy began with When the Mountains Tremble (1982) which introduced indigenous rights leader Rigoberta Menchu as the storyteller in her role to expose repression during Guatemala's brutal armed conflict.  The in her sequel film, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator (2011), the poltical thriller detailing international efforts to build a genocide case against Guatemalan General Efrain Rios Montt, with actual filmed forensic case evidence in his prosecution.  In this third film 500 Years: Life in Resistance (2017), it picks right up from Granito, providing insight access to the first trial in the history of the Americas to prosecute the genocide of indigenous people.  It is an epic story that led Guatemala to a tipping point in their history, from the genocide trial of General Efrain Rios Montt to the popular movement that toppled sitting President Otto Perez Molina.

The Guatemalan genocide or "Silent Holocaust" refers to the massacre of Maya civilians during the Guatemalan military government's counterinsurgency operations.  Massacres, forced disappearances, torture, and summary executions of guerrillas and especially civilian collaborators at the hands of U.S. backed security forces.  The terror apparatus has benn in existence since the early Spaniard explorations, conquering, and settling colonial rule in South Americas.  However, the repression in the 20th century, specifically in the 1960s and 1970s under the Zacapa program and the Arana presidency, recorded the genocide stages of the Massacre at Panzos, genocide under Lucas Garcia, General Benedicto Lucas, and Rios Montt are the most acknowledged.  It is reported that the deaths are approximately 200,000 Maya peoples and 50,000 Ladino in this 50 to 60 year period.  

The film is strained by repitition of protest scenes, but the focus on universal themes of justice, racism, power, and corruption is very relevent.  Yet, the documentary tells the story from the perspective of the majority indigenous Mayan population in Guatemala, and explores their struggles in the country's growing fight against impunity.



WONDER WOMAN review/editorial by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on June 3, 2017 at 12:35 AM

Directed by: Patty Jenkins

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes in 2D, 3D, and IMAX

Release date: June 2, 2017

Genre: Drama, Action-Adventure, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Adaptation

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Taking statements from Sharon Gosling's 2017 book "Wonder Woman:  The Art and Making of the Film" she determines, Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman sees the hero brought to the big screen for the first time in her own movie, and fully realizes the breathtaking wonder, strength, and grace of such an historistic character.  Sharon Gosling expands that this groundbreaking film will take fans on a voyage of discovery through the world of Wonder Woman.

For the ones who are vague on the Wonder Woman character, (cited bio by wikipedia and public information) she is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics.  The character is a founding member of the Justice League, demigoddess, warrior princess, and Ambassador-at-Large of the female Amazonian people.  In her homeland, her official title is Diana the Princess of Themyscira (daughter of Hippolyta).  The Wonder Woman character was created by the American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston, and artist Harry G. Peter.  Marston and his wife Elizabeth's cohabitant, Olive Byrne, is credited as being his inspiration for the character's appearance.  Marston drew a great deal of inspiration from early feminists, and especially from birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger.  The character first appeared in All Star Comics # 8 in October 1941 and first cover-dated on Sensation Comics #1, January 1942.  The Wonder Woman title has been pblished by DC Comics almost continuously except for a brief hiatus in 1986.

This film is adapted from fictional drama, and based on the original idea.  It follows the original theme and does not neglect the cinematic opportunities of the story.  The film depicts young Wonder Woman's (age 8 - Lilly Aspell, and age 12 - Emily Carey) origins as it relates that she was scultured from clay by her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and given life by Aprodite, along with superhuman powers as gifts by the Greek Gods.  Her Amazonian training by her aunt General Antiope (Robin Wright) and instructor Philippus (Ann Ogbomo) helped to develop a wide range of extraordinary skills in tactics, hunting, and combat. 

Adult Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) takes the reigns as the protagonist.  But when an American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes off the shores of the Amazonian sheltered island located in the Bermuda Triangle and tells of a massive conflict of World War II in the outside world, and Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat.  The epic plot displays female empowerment with extraordinary powers and abilities, as she exerts a strong moral code with a secret identity.  The story sets the tone as a backstory with the flashback scenio as the basis of the narrative. It shows the contemporary Diana as employee of the Wayne Industries (as in Bruce Wayne aka Batman).  With non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, and adventurous high energy physical stunts and chases, Gal Gadot an Israeli actress, martial artist, and model is perfectly cast for the Wonder Woman character as she combats the German invasion and mystical villians.  Of course this will set up possible sequels and additions to the new franchise.

As an epic production, this film covers a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop.  The elements are elaborate and add an extravagant setting and lavish costumes, accompanied by grandeur and spectacle, dramatic scope, high production values, along with an overlap of science fiction and fantasy - all designed for pure audience escapism. 

It's a great, fun-filled, action packed summer movie.  Go 'woman power' !!


PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Dead Men Tell No Tales review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on May 26, 2017 at 2:25 PM

Directed by: Joanchim Ronning and Espen Sandberg

Running time: 129 mins. in Conventional, Disney Digital 3-D, RealD 3-D, and IMAX 3D formats

Release date: May 26, 2017

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Reboot, and Adaptation

Distributor: Walt Disney Motion Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13

In the fifth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, this film serves as a soft reboot of the franchise. The filmmakers cited the first installment, The Curse of the Black Pearl, as inspiration for the script and tone of the film. Johnny Depp, Kevin McNally, and Geoffrey Rush reprise their roles as Jack Sparrow, Joshamee Gibbs, and Hector Barbossa, respectively.  The film also stars Javier Bardem as Armando Salazar, Brenton Thwaites as Henry Turner, and Kaya Scodelario as Carina Smyth.  The film also features the returns of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly as Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann respectively, following their absence from the fourth installment, On Stranger Tides.

Swashbuckling movies have always been exciting going back to the silent era Douglas Fairbanks films of the early 20th century.  This contemporary film is no different when it comes to excitement as Captain Jack Sparrow is pursued by an old nemesis, Armando Salazar, who along with his Spanish Navy ghost crew who has escaped from the Devil's Triangle and is determined to kill every pirate at sea.  Jack, aided by a new ally Carina, must seek the Trident of Poseidon, a powerful, a powerful artifact that grants its possessor total control over the seas, in order to defeat Salazar.  At the same time, he comes across Henry Turner, the son of his former crew member Will Turner.  Henry wants to free his father from the curse of the Flying Dutchman so he can reunite his parents, Will and Elizabeth Swann.

As the film is structured in a prequel format, it also uses the present tense to incorporate the narrative.  It is a high energy big budget tale with non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, and adventurous, often two-dimensional 'good guy' heroes and heroines battling 'bad guys' in the traditional swashbucklers on searches and expeditions for lost lands, treasures, and the unknown.  

Johnny Depp plays the eccentric but noble pirate captain of the Black Pearl on the hunt for the Trident of Poseidon. Javier Bardem as Captain Armando Salazar, a powerful and maniacal undead pirate hunter of the Spanish Navy, who was trapped in the Devil's Triangle.  After escaping, he seeks the Trident of Posedon to wipe out all piracy and exact revenge on his old enemy, Captain Jack Sparrow.  Meanwhile, Brenton Thwaites as Hery Turner tries to reconnect with his father Will Turner, as he struggles to break a curse that is preventing him from doing so.  Kaya Scodelario portrays Carina Smyth, a feisty, altruistic astronomer who has a diary with clues that leads her own her journey looking for the Trident of Posedon.  There is also the reprising character Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), the one-legged pirate captain of the Queen Anne's Revenge, former captain of the Black Pearl, and Captain Jack Sparrow's former rival-turned-ally.

Perhaps, this film is more of an overdone romp, but it is mystical and causes great enthusiasm, while being thrilling and exhilarating.  It is excessive in its attitude of producing intensity because of the many elements involved.  It is an elaborate adventure fantasy film that covers a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop, and adds an extravagant setting and lavish costumes, accompanied by grandeur and spectacle, dramatic scope, lively comedy, and high production values of special effects.  Yet, the fantasy aspect takes the audience to another dimension and netherworld places with elements of magic, myth, wonder, and the extraordinary that transcends reality.  

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales will appeal to both childen and adults.


KING ARTHUR: Legend of the Sword review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on May 15, 2017 at 5:10 AM

Directed by: Guy Richie

Running time: 2 hours 6 minutes

Release date: May 12, 2017

Genre: Drama, Action, Adventure, and Fantasy

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13

In a very loosely based tale on King Arthur legends, the legendary British leader who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defense of Britain against Saxon invaders in the late 5th and early 6th centuries A.D. comes a dynamic style epic prequel only acclaimed filmmaker Guy Richie could imagine.  Starring Charlie Hunnam in the title role, the film is an iconoclassic take on the classic Excalibur myth, tracing Arthur's journey from his royalty birth, cast off to the streets, and back to the throne.

If by chance you don't know of King Arthur, his Knights of the Roundtable, Excalibur Sword, his wife Guineviere, or Wizard Merlin the Magician, the details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of British folklore and literary invention.  His historical existence is debated and disputed by modern historians, but the sparse historical background of Arthur is gleamed from various sources, including the Annales Cambriae, the Historia Brittonum, and the writings of Gildas.  Although the themes, events and characters of the Arthurian legend varied widely from text to text, and there is no one canonical version, Geoffrey's Historia (completed in 1138 A.D.), which was adapted from such earlier unknown sources, often served as the starting point for later stories of Camelot.

However, this epic costume drama filled with CGI and special effect medieval romps and fantasy monsters that include big-budget physical stunts and chases with rescues, battless, fights, escapes, destuctive crises (floods, explosions, (un)natural disasters, fires, etc., is a far-out take on the myth.  This film takes off when the 2 year old child Arthur's (Zac Barker) father Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) and mother is murdered, and Vortigern (Jude Law), Arthur's uncle, seizes the crown.  Young Arthur, escapes by being smuggled aboard a small sea vessel that winds up on the shores of the back alleys in the city of Londinium.  As Arthur (now Oliver Zac Barker) is forced to make his way as a thief and beggar on the hard streets, he is taken in by a prostitute in a brothel.  

Once a annual challenge to pulling the Excalibur Sword from the stone, that it is solidly secured in and only released by the rightful heir to the throne, young adult Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) does so.  Instantly confronted by the sword's influence, he is forced to make up his mind to either join the rebellion with a shadowy young woman named Geinevere (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) assisted by Sir Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) or remain a street hustler.  As the tyranny led by Vortigern becomes intolerable, agrees to join the resistance, but he must learn to master the sword, face down his demons, and unite the people to defeat the tyrant Vortigern along with his fantastical montrous demon army - who murdered his parents and stole his crown to become king.

The fantasy scenes takes the audience to netherworld places (another dimension) where events are ulikely to occur in real life - they transcend the bounds of human possibilities and physical laws.  It is a film that have an element of magic, myth, wonder, and extraordinary, appealing to both teenage children and adults.  

KING ARTHUR: Legend of the Sword is a period piece spectacular that includes high production values accompanied by granduer.


TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2017 reviews and coverage by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on April 21, 2017 at 10:50 PM

                                             TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2017

                                                                 April 19 - 30, 2017

The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff, in respnse to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the consequent loss of vitality in the lower Manhattan neighborhoods.

Over the 16 years, the Festival received over 10,000 film submissions and held 2000 plus screenings.  The Festival's program line-up includes a variety of independent films including documentaries, narrative features and shorts, as well as a program of family-friendly and student films.  The Festival also features panel discussions with personalities in the entertainment world.  

Recently, James Dolan's Madison Square Garden Company has entered the film festival business with its newly acquired stake in the film company founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff.  In 2014, Tribeca Film Festival has sold 50% stake to the Madison Square Garden Company.  Among the properties owned by the MSG Company are Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre.  This offering the opening night event screening of documentary to the public of, Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, and performances by legendary talents Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow and others to be held at Radio City Music Hall.  This year has been about dramatically increasing the programming breadth.  Focusing more on relevance and revenue with the closing night film dealing with retrospective, The Godfather & The Godfather Part 2.



Directed by: Chris Perkel

Running time: 123 minutes

Release date: April 19, 2017

Genre: Documentary

Chris Perkel's riveting profile of legendary music mogul Clive Davis spans a remarkable five-decade career, providing an incredible tour of the msot sensational music of the cultural revolution, from the 1960s to the rise of hip-hop.  Bruse Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Santana, Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Patti Smith, Alicia Keys, Sean "Puffy" Combs, and a great many more artists to Davis.  This amazing film is definitive, fascinating and ceaselessly entertaining proof.

This film examines the life of Clive Jay Davis, born in Brooklyn, New York.  It begins with his birth in 1932 and how he related to his young domestic life.  As a young adult he enters Harvard Law School on a full scholarship and graduated 1956.  Four years later, he arrives at Columbia Recors as an attorney.  In 1965, he was promoted to administrative vice president of the label without having any knowledge of popular music.  Soon after in 1967, he became vice president and general manager, then the label's president.  

In this capacity he pushed the company full speed into rock music, with artists such as Janis Joplin and Carlos Santana leading the pack.  He guided Columbia Records to tremendous success until 1973, when he was fired after being accused of tax evasion and misusing company funds (related to payola).  However, with a reputation as a maker of musical talent, in 1974 he took over the record division Columbia Pictures and launched his own music label, Arista, famous for such acts as Barry Manilow and Whitney Houston.

It brings the audience to Clive Davis' 2008 move to Chief Creative Officer at Sony BMG, after a government investigation of the record industry, where he was fired as president of CBS Records.  Yet, he was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1501 Vine Street in Hollywood, California.

Filmmaker Perkel structures his documentary in a bias biographical sense of an amiable man, but in the industry that is "cut-throat" in nature, the portrait is not totally true.  Interviews with various competitors of the music industry, paint a different picture of him.  While amused in their interview shots, these same people see him as a cunning and often ruthless man.  These cutaway scenes are more of story telling shots, whereas the actual "chill footage" with the musical artists give more honesty.  Perkel mixes Lean-in footage with Lean-back footage to help change the Modality of the Experience for the viewer.

The film highlights Davis' annual music bash where every musical talent is invited.  The documentary is a major tribute to an 80 year old man whose successful career spans over 50 years in the music industry.



Directed by: Philippe Falardeau

Running time: 98 minutes

Release date: May 5, 2017

Genre: Drama, Sports, and Biography

Distributor: IFC Films

MPAA Rating: R

The story behind the making of Chuck is a narrative on its own merit.  Screenwriters Mike Tollin and Jeff Feuerzieg acquired the rights to Charles "Chuck" Wepner's life story a decade ago and soon after, prolific film, stage, and television producer/actor Liev Achreiber was approached about the project.  Schreiber, a lifelong aficionado of the 'sweet science', realized his dream of playing Chuck Wepner (known to some as the Bayonne Bleeder), the New Jersey liquor salesman and heavyweight prize fighter who, at age 35, got a chance to fight Heavyweight Champion Mohammed Ali right after he shocked the world by regaining his title against a seemingly invincible George Forman in "The Rumble in the Jungle" bout in Zaire.

Chuck is as much about Wepner trying to deal with sudden fame as the ultimate underdog as it is about the epic fight 40 years ago when a journeyman brawler, against all odds, shocked the world by staying in the ring for almost the entire fight (15 rounds).  It is not just a boxing movie, but a true story of the rise, fall, and redemption story defying our expectations.

This biograpraphical character study plot-driven production portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction examines this American former professional heavyweight boxer's life, whose professional record of 51 fights was; 35 wins, 17 by winning knockouts, 14 losses, and 2 draws.

The film gives insight  as to Wepner's early life as he was born in 1939 in New York City, son of Delores and Charles William Wepner who relocated to Bayonne, New Jersey.  He learned to fight on the streets of Bayonne, known for the hardness of people who worked the civilian docks and U.S. Navy Yard.  As a youth he was always an avid player of sports.  With limited options for his future that included working as a longshoreman or joing the military, he opted for the latter, joing the U.S. Marines, where he became a member of the boxing team, developing a reputation for being able to withstand punches and becoming a military boxing champion at one of the airbases.

Played with flair and pathos, Liev Schreiber portrays Chuck Wepner, a married man with a young daughter who takes a job selling liquor to the local bars and stores in New Jersey.  Yet, he finds time to take local prize fighting bouts with the Northeast's Club Boxing circuit and earned the title of New Jersey State Heavyweight Boxing Champion during the period of 1974-75.  His epic life shows how his sudden celebrity status of fighting boxing greats such as Ali, Randy Neumann, and Ernie Terrell, gained him recognition by actor Sylvester Stallone (Morgan Spector) to write the script, Rocky.  Along with the newfound status, Wepner succumbs to a detrimental life of drugs, booze, and wild women, while struggling to maintain the only true relationship he's known with his no-nonsense wife Phyliss (Elisabeth Moss) and a straight-talking local bartender Linda (Naomi Watts) with whom he has an undeniable immediate spark (whom he later in life marries).

With a supporting cast of Ron Perlman as Al Braverman, Michael Rapaport as older brother Don Wepner, Pooch Hall as Mohammed Ali, and others, the performances secure a complete successful biopic.

Chuck is an entertaining chronicle of the rise and fall of this larger-than-life legend.



Directed by: Julian Rosefeldt

Running time: 95 mins.

Release date: May 10, 2017

Genre: Drama

Distributor: FilmRise

MPAA Rating: Not rated

From acclaimed visual artist Julian Rosefeldt, Manifesto features two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett in 13 distinct vignettes that incorporate timeless manifestos from 20th century art movements to futuristic genres. 

The narratives draws on writings of Futurists, Dadaists, Fluxux artists, Suprematists, Situationists, and other artist groups, as well as the musing of individual artists, architects, dancers and filmmakers.  Filmmaker Rosefeldt edits and reassembles these artists' manifestos into 13 brilliant collages, while merging the ideas of Claes Oldenburg, Yvonne Rainer, Kazimir Malevich, Andre Breton, Sturtevant, Sol LeWit, Jim Jarmusch, and many more.

The characters and settings are from an achorwoman to a hmeless man, from Pop Art to Dogma 95, as the chameleonic Blanchett gives a tour-de-force performance as she transforms herself like never before.  The settitngs weave together history's most impassionate artistic statements in this stunning and comtemporary call to action.

Cate Blanchett performs these "new" manifestos while inhabiting 13 personas, among them a school teacher, a puppeteer, and a factory worker.  Her performances pays homage to the moving image and tradition of artists' personalities while imbuing new dramatic life into these artists' words.  

These manifestos are not only text which were intended to turn art - and eventually the whole world - upside down and revolutionalize it; at the same time they are testimonials about the search for identity.  With a series of striking monologues, this arthouse drama ultimately turns lines of conventional story exploring to intentional artistic cinematic expression.

Manifesto is emerging in depts by the talent of Cate Blanchett's profound performance and twelve different accents in each of the characters along with the different physical milieus.



Directed by: Dome Karukoski

Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes

Release date: 2017

Genre: Drama and Biography

Distributor: Kino Lorber

MPAA Rating: Not rated

This biopic of Touko Valio Laaksonen, a Finnish (died 7 November 1991) artist known by his pseudonym Tom of Finland, is a detailed story of man who stylized highly masculized homoerotic fetish art.  His influence on the late 20th century gay culture garnered him the title of the"most influential creator of gay pornographic images".

The film takes off during Finland's Winter War of World War II with the USSR.  Lasaksonen (Pekka Strang) serves as a decorated anti-aircraft officer, holding the rank of second lieutenant.  While serving on his tour of military duty he engages in hidden gay relationships with other gay personnel, with the fear of being caught and the threat of being imprisoned or executed.  After the war, he returns home to study.  

However, in his early life, depicted in a short backstory, tells of his middle-class life, raised b scholl teacher parens.  Living in Helsinki, in his spare time secretly started drawing erotic images for his own pleasure. Later on in his life he created a unique style that lack of dramatic composition, self-assertive poses, muscular male bodies depicting Nazi, Biker, and Lumberjack style uniformed leather images.

Still living under the fear of his homosexuality in a post-war Finnish government that threatens his existence, he begins his career in 1956 when he submits his drawings to the influential American magazine Physique Pictorial, which premiered the images in the 1957 Spring issue under the pseudonym Tom, and having coined the credit Tom of Finland.  With the U.S. censorship codes of the 1950s and early 1960s Laaksonen was rendering private commissions, that focused the primary market of gay men with erotic comic books and making inroads to the mainstream art world.  

The film gives insight into the pressure during peace-time Helsinki rampant with persecution of the homosexual and the men around him even being pressured to marry women and have children.  But once he leaves Finland and relocates in California, among the gay community, he can openly be who he is.  

This historical drama is plot-driven and portrays realistic characters, settings, and life situations.  The performances are highly engaging with intense character development and interactions by supporting cast members Jakob Oftebro, Werner Daehn, Jessica Grabowsky, and Jan Bome, along with others, make this a sensitive, yet impactful narrative.



INTENT TO DESTROY: Death, Denial & Depiction

Directed by: Joe Berlinger

Running time: 115 minutes

Release date: November 10, 2017

Genre: Documentary

Distributor: Abramorama/ Survival Pictures

Academy Award-nominated director Joe Berlinger embeds himself on the epic film set of Terry George's The Promise, to take an unwavering look at the Armenian Genocide.  Historians, scholars, and high-profile filmmakers come together in Berlinger's cinematic exploration of the tangled web  of responsibility that has driven a century of enial by the Turkish government and its strategic allies.

Intent to Destroy is a timely reckoning with the large-scale suppression of a historical tragedy.  Berlinger confronts the fraught task of a shedding light on the Armenian Genocide - whose witnessesdescendants are still fighting to be officially acknowledged as as such by the international communtiry - how it was carried out during World War I, as the reign of the Ottoman Empire drew to a close, and how it laid the groundwork for the genocides that followed.

More than politics, this film explores the cultural suppression Turkey has supported to promote their version of history, recounting the shattering of the American films that have attempted to address the genocide due to governmental pressure to appease a strategic ally.  Throughout the film, Berlinger turns the camera on these efforts, exposing how Turkish officials have used diplomatic coercion to subvert international academia, forcefully muzzle advocates and the use of its geographic placement and geopolitical connections to strong-arm American and other key allies into accepting their version of history.

This is a film that covers a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop, detailing, examining, and exposing the final days of the Ottoman Empire, as they committed crimes against humanity.


*More reviews to be posted*