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CHRISTOPHER ROBIN review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on August 3, 2018 at 5:35 PM

Directed by: Marc Forster

Running time: 104 minutes

Release date: August 3, 2018

Genre: Drama, Comedy, and Fantasy

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG


Inspired by A.A. Miline and E.H. Shepard's book Winnie-the-Pooh, comes a live-action/CGI extension of the Disney franchise.  The film stars Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin (Milne), Hayley Atwell as his wife Evelyn, Bronte Carmichael as his daughter Madeline, Mark Gatess as Christopher's boss Giles Winslow, and Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Ralph Butterworth.


This is a heartwarming live-action adventure about the young Christopher who shared countless adventures with his stuffed animal friends; Pooh and Tigger (voice by Jim Cunningham), Eeyore (voice by Brad Garrett), Owl (voice by Toby Jones), Piglet (voice by Nick Mohammed), Rabbit (voice by Peter Capaldi), Kanga (voice by Sophie Okonedo), and Roo (voice by Sara Sheen) in the Hundred Acre Woods, is now grown up living in midcentury London and dealing with the stresses of adulthood.  Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into our world and help Christopher rediscover the joys of family life, the value of friendship and to appreciate the simple pleasure in life once again as he inadvertly introduces the fantasy to his daughter Madeline.


However, this non-fiction film resonates as a fictional recount of the life of Christopher Robin Milne who was the son of author of Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne.  As a child he was the basis of the character Christopher Robin in his father's Winnie-the-Pooh stories and in two books of poems.  The fantasy toy characters of the Hundred Acre Woods in the stories is, Winnie-the-Pooh, also called Pooh Bear, is a honey-loving bear; Tigger is a tiger who loves to bounce on his tail like a spring; Eeyore a donkey who always loses his tail and talks with a deep depressing voice and tone; Owl the wise bird; Piglet a diminutive pig who is always afraid of everything but has a big heart; Rabbit who is a neat freak and a vegetable farmer; Kanga is a angaroo who is the mother of Roo; Roo is the child of Kanga.  


The elements is this story of adult Christopher Robin returning to the Hundred Acre Wood to spend time with Pooh and the gang is magical realism as it tells an emotional journey with an  encouraging and uplifting adventure.  


In real life, in the year of 1925 Christopher's father bought Cotchford Farm in East Sussex.  This place in a wooded area is where young only child Christopher explored the environment and it became the inspiration for fiction.  His stuff toys became his playmates, to the point where his father could write the now legendary stories about them.


Christopher Robin is a wonderful family-friendly film that will touch the hearts and emotions of all ages.


FILM RATING (B+) 


FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL remote coverage & reviews by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on July 12, 2018 at 12:25 AM

                                              FANTASIA INTERNATIONALFILM FESTIVAL 2018


From July 12, 2018 to August 1, 2018, the Fantasia International Film Festival will celebrate its 22nd edition. Located in the heart of beautiful Montreal, Canada, this genre film festival is a cultural and pofessional destination point, and since its first edition, the festival's ever-growing popularity has attracted the attention of the international film industry alongside with a legend of attendees from across the world.  Every facet of the filmmaking chain is increasingly represented with in-person delegates at the festival: directors, actors, producers, studio representatives, distributors and festival programmers, who get to experience the experience the legendarily enthusiastic, taste-making audience of Fantasia.


The festival's full lineup consist of over 130 feature films (international and world premieres along with talent interviews ); opening with Daniel Roby's Just a Breat Away, with centerpiece Bleach from filmmaker Shinsuke Sato, and closing with director's Mandy starring Nicolas Cage and Andrea Riseborough (as Mandy).


For the forthcoming 22nd edition, Fantasia will host the 10th edition of the Frontieres International Co-Production Market. For this event alone, more than 400 members of the film industry will be making their way to Montreal. Overall, the 2018 edition of Fantasia will welcome close to 500 guest from all facets of the film industry.


*** Film reviews to come ***



THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER and THEN THE BIGFOOT

Directed by: Robert D. Krzykowski

Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes

Release date: July 20, 2018 (debut Fantasia Int'l. Film Festival, Canada)

Genre: Drama, Adventure, and Thriller

Distributor: Eagle Films


Sam Elliot plays Calvin Barr, an enigmatic loner living in his older years of life with his dog Ralph.  He has recurring dreams of his earlier life as a military operative during WWII when he was assigned to assassinate Adolph Hitler. 


The film takes the structure of falling into a backstory of Sam's infiltrating the German secret introstructure, and frequently reassigning the story to a contemporary setting of Sam's life of seclusion.  The flashback scenes indicate he is a man of many identities who resolves many issues.  The intense scenes of the Holacaust and the presence if Nazis is haunting.  Perhaps this is a sign of PTSD that only his younger brother Ed (Larry Miller) can attest to as Sam drifts back and forth in his memories.


Strangely, this film takes on another theme, when FBI and Canadian operatives ask Sam to take on another assignment.  Sam ventures into the Canadian wilds to hunt down a virus carrying Bigfoot that attacks humans and animals.  As Sam hunts down Bigfoot, the past constantly takes control of him, but he must find peace from his past.


This is a Sam Elliot vehicle, whereas he delivers a solid character study drama with a peculiar finale twist.



Buffalo Boys

Directed by: Mike Wiluan

Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes

Release date: July 14, 2018 (Montreal, Canada)

Genre: Western, Drama, Action, and Fantasy

Distributor: Screenplay Infinite/XYZ Films


The period piece setting is 19th century Dutch ruled Java, and two brothers named Jamar (Ario Bayu) and Suwo (Yoshi Sudarso) come back to teir homeland to avenge their father death.


Once they arrive they see how the government has terrorized locals into submitting to Dutch rule, which includes cultivating lucrative opium rather than life-sustaining rice.  The habitants are hot iron-branded and female citizens are placed into sexual situations by the soldiers.  Among the hostaged colonialized are daughters of a village leader, expert archer Kiona (Pevita Pearce) and the defenseless Sri (Mikha Tambayong) thoroughly degraded as the sadistic Van Trach's (Reinout Bussemaker) mistress.


The high energy, big-budget physical stunts and chases, wth rescues, martial arts and sword wheeling battles, fights, escapes, destructive crises, non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, and adventurous cowboy shoot-out tones makes this movie exciting.  Yet, it incorporates a mixture of Hollywood and Spagetti Western disciplines, while offering artful choreographic martial arts scenes and themes. 


This is a unique Indonesian Western.


******WHAT A FUN FILM FESTIVAL*******



 

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP in 3D review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on July 6, 2018 at 4:25 PM

Directed by: Peyton Reed

Running time: 118 mins.

Release date: July 6, 2018

Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Adaptation, and Sequel

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13


Normally, superheroes use their powers to police day-to-day crime while also combating threats against humanity by supervillains, criminals of uprecedented powers in same way as superheroes.  One of these supervillains is often the superhero's archenemy, although sometimes the superhero has a rogue gallery of archenemies. Additionally, superheroes sometimes will combat such threats as aliens, and supernatural or mythological entities. The common traits of the superheroes are to have extraordinary powers and abilities, relevant skills and advanced equipment.  A strong moral code, including a willingness to risk one's own safety in the service of good without expectation of reward.  A motivation, such as a sense of responsibility, a personal vendetta against criminals or a strong belief in justice and humanitarian service.  A secret identity that protects the superhero's friend and family from becoming targets or his or her enemies.  Independent wealth along with a headquarter or base, usually hidden from the general public.  All the above is associated with this film based on the Marvel Comics characters Scott Long/ Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Hope van Dyne/ Wasp (Evangeline Lilly).


Intended to be the sequel to 2015's Ant-Man, and the twentieth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this addition to the series is in IMAX and 3D.  The premise is set two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War, and before the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Scott Lang/Ant-Man, now under house arrest after the events of Civl War, tries to balance his home life as a father to Cassie (Abby Ryder) with his responsibilities as Ant-Man.  When Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pyn (Michael Douglas), a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, entomologist, and physicist who became the original Ant-Man in 1963 after discovering the suatomic particles that makes the transformation possible present him with a new mission to bring to light secrets from the past by locating his wife - and Hope's mother, Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) in a space prism, Scott  Lang/ Ant-Man teams up with Hope as the new Wasp.


Using a mult-layered plot structure with cast members Michael Pena as Luis, Lang's former cellmate and comedic member of his crew; Walton Goggins as Sonny Burch, a low-level criminal type; Bobby Cannavale as Paxton, a San Francisco Police Department officer who is engaged to Lang's ex-wife Maggie; Judy Greer as Maggie, Lang's ex-wife and mother of Cassie; Tip "T.I." Harris as Dave, a member of Lang's crew; David Dastmalchian as Kurt, another member of Lang's crew; Randall Park as Jimmy Woo, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent; Laurence Fishburne as Bill Foster, an old friend of Hank Pyn who was once his assistant on Project Goliath; and Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost, a criminal who gains the ability to phase through objects after stealing Pyn technology, the storyline is a combination of action, adventure , and science fiction.


The action genre is a showing in which one and more heroes are thrust into a series of challenges that typically include physical feats, extended fight scenes, violence, and frantic chases.  It also features a duo of resourceful characters struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatenting situations, villains, and a pursuit which concludes in victory for the heroic team.  Advancements in CGI have made it cheaper and easier to create action sequences and other visual effects that required the efforts of professional stunt crews in the past. However, reactions to action films contaning significant amount of CGI have been mixed as films that use computer animations to create unrealistic, highly unbelievable events are often met with criticism.  Yet, these same scenes that are closely associated with the thriller and adventure aspects, add to the intended excitement.


The science fiction elements in this movie cleverly deals with imaginative content such as futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes and extrsterrestrial life. It eschews the supernatural, and unlike the related genre of fantasy, its imaginary elements are largely plausible within the scientifically established context of the story.  The sci-fi plot explores the potential consequences of scientific and other innovations, and is considered "cinematic literature of ideas".  In addition, the time travel aspect of this film, is part of the central theme of the plot, and is used as a plot device to set the story in motion.


Ant-Man and The Wasp is a family friendly summer film that is epic in nature.and often covers a large expanse of time set against a vast, panoramic backdrop.  It's elaborate and adds an extravagant setting, accompanied by grandeur and spectacle, dramatic scope, high production values, but does not supply a sensational overview of the comic characters.  The film replaces the necessary substance with layers of storylines to engage the audience.  


FILM RATING (B)



BOUNDARIES review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on June 22, 2018 at 2:25 PM

Directed by: Shana Feste

Running time: 104 minutes

Release date: June 22, 2018

Genre: Drama and Comedy

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classic

MPAA Rating: R


In a road trip dramedy film written and directed by Shana Feste stars Vera Farmiga, reknowned Christopher Plummer, Lewis MacDougall, Bobby Cannavale, Kristen Schaal, Christopher Lloyd, and legendary Peter Fonda.


This is a serious and often comedic plot-driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, and peculiar life situations focusing on the estranged relationship of a daughter and father.  Laura Jaconi, brilliantly portrayed Vera Farmiga, along with her rebellious teenaged son Henry, in a breakout performance by Lewis MacDougal, is forced to drive her pot-dealing father Jack, in an equally brilliant performance as Farmiga by Christopher performance, from Portland to her sister JoJo's (Kristen Schaal) house in Los Angeles after he is kicked out of a retirement home.


Laura, is an animal lover, which appears to be an inherited family trait.  She is a single mother of a troubled teenager son Henry who is expelled from his school.  Vera Farmiga's excellent performance as a single mom looking for love in all the wrong places, is a challenging role that comes across very well for setting the early tone in the film.  The premise of her complexed insecured personality concerning the love of her rebellious son and her unreliable pot dealing/trafficking father is the story involving intense character development and interaction on their multi-level road trip story.  


With intertwining humorous light-hearted subplots consistently and deliberately designed to amuse and provoke laughter by exaggerating the road trip pot peddling situations by Jack, with the assistance of impressionable and eager grandson Henry, without Laura's knowledge, the comedic drama brings on an odd-ball domestic tale. The meeting of anti-social characters, such as Bobby Cannavale as Leonard the middle-age slacker ex-husband of Laura, whose inability to reunite with his son Henry, along with Jack's old-time pot dealing buddies Stanley (Christopher Lloyd) and Joey (Peter Fonda), and lastly Laura's quirky disarranged sister JoJo makes the lively narrative a crisp pace wild and hilarious ride of absurdity.  


The sparkling chemistry between the main characters Laura and Jack, portrayed by Vera Farmiga and Christopher Plummer is emotionally impacting.  The witty dialogue, action, and relationships of the characters is formidably engaging. This is a film that observes the difficulties and frustrations of life, providing merriment and a momentary escape from day-to-day life.  With believable characters to follow, the actors are appropriately cast, and the settings/locales are effective to enhance the theme and mood.  


Boundaries is an odd domestic coming together social movie, where the family characters struggle to find their place between themselves and in the world.  It is a movie that surprises, startles, shock, delights its audience beyond the ordinary, the dull and the familiar.  The manner of this humorous dramatic movie uses a whole range of tactics from absurdity to mockery, to sarcasm to irony, which is the whole impetus of comedy as it is the way to create a distance and a perspective on the world.  Each tactic on the production's structure by the filmmaker Shana Feste is to disturb, disrupt, alter,and change things from what is expected.  While disaster is likely to happen and wreaks havoc, the laughter coincidentally begins.  The clever witticism is a social observation, and is seen as apt and acute.  Yet, irony is often displayed, as the characters say exactly the opposite of what you are actually implying, makes it clear exactly what they mean - it is an attack with a humorous distance.  


This is a great outing for movie-goers!


FILM RATING (B)     

SUPERFLY review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on June 15, 2018 at 3:45 PM

Directed by: Director X

Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes

Release date: June 15, 2018

Genre: Drama, Action, Crime, and Remake

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

MPAA Rating: R


A remake of the director Gordon Parks' 1972 blaxploitation crime drama Super Fly, adapted from Phillip Fenty screenplay, comes a 21st century adaptation.


To make this subgenre understandable, the attitude and premise should be made.  Blaxploitation or Blacksploitation, a morphing of the words "black" and "exploitation", is an ethnic subgenre of the exploitation film that emerged in the United States during the early 1970s.  The films, though receiving backlash for stereotypical characters all the while, were one of the first instances in which black characters and communities were the heroes and subjects of film and television, rather than being porrtrayed as sidekicks or as victims of brutality.  The genre allowed the rethinking of race relations in the 1970s.


Blaxploitation films were originally made specifically for an urban black audience, but the genre's audience appeal soon broadened across racial and ethnic lines once Hollywood realized the potential profit of expanding the audiences of blaxploitation films across those racial lines. 


In this production,  Trevor Jackson brilliantly portrays Youngblood Priest (Super Fly), a young man from the Atlanta, Georgia underworld who operates outside of the law.  He is a suave antagonist, whose criminal actions is justified by the sinister fuel plot.  The tone of the story is determined by the drug dealing and trafficking he categorizes as a way of life.  He is shown in the light as a kingpin among underworld figures and ruthless hoodlums.  He is a spin-off of his mentor Scatter (Michael Kenneth Williams), as he governs his crew consisting of Fat Freddie (Jacob Ming-Trent), Eddie (Jason Mitchell) and Litty (Allen Maldonado).  However, there is a crosstown rival gang that has greed for Priest territory.  With tension building on threats, Priest decides he needs a big supply of drugs to make a big score and retire.


The performances are genuinely good and adds homage to the original 1972 version.  For example, Ron O'Neal who portrayed the original character, was a role of a highly successful drug kingpin.  He was a cool, sophisticated, stylish man who was popular with women, lived in plush comfort, drove the latest-model car, and used cocaine.  This is an insidious film which portrays the black community at its worst.  It glorifies the use of cocaine and casts blacks in roles which glorify dope-pushers, pimps, and raunchy black women, all designed to exploit the igorance of black people, much like films made by Tyler Perry and Spike Lee.


Superfly can be controversially appreciated by all audiences, as it remains true to its inception of this genre that began with Sweetback's Baadassss Song and the less radical Hollywood-finaced film Shaft (both released in 1971 with the inention of the blaxploitation genre).  By partially using the original soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield, the fast pace crime drama is focused on intense character development and interaction by the supporting cast which includesLex Scott Davis, Andrea Londo, Omar Chaparro, Terayle Hill, Rick Rose, and Big Boi.  These actors solidify as stimulating plot.  This emerging narrative is not fitting for all audiences, however I find it to be a verifiable remake of the 1972 classic film.


FILM RATING (B)

INCREDIBLES 2 and BAO short film review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on June 15, 2018 at 3:45 PM

                                                                           INCREDIBLES 2


Directed by: Brad Bird

Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes

Release date: June 15, 2018

Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure, and Sequel

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG



Cited to media following the success of its predecessor, filmmaker Brad Bird expressed interest in making a sequel to the Incredibles, while he contributed to the production of other Pixar films in subsequent years.  While it was confirmed in March 2014 that a sequel was in the works, Brad Bird faced challenges making the script. One notable challenge involved finding a way to distinquish the superhero genre since the first film's release.


In this 3D and IMAX computer-animated superhero film produced by PIXAR Animation Studios is the sequel to 2004's The Incredibles.  The plot follows the Parr family as they attempt to put superheroes back in the spotlight while dealing with normal life, only to combat a new foe who seeks to turn the general public against all who possess super powers.  Several roles are reprised, including characters voiced by Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell and Samuel L. Jackson.  The sequel also includes new characters voiced by Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, and Sophia Bush among others, as well as a number of characters that returned featuring new voice actors - Jonathan Banks replaced Bud Luckery in the role of Rick Dicker, after the latter's retirement in 2014.


Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), who possesses super strength and limited invulnerability, is left at home to care for the Parr family - Violet (Sarah Vowell), the family's first child daughter who can become invisible and project force fields - Dash (Huck Milner), the family's troublemaker first son who has superhuman speed - and baby Jack Jack who is learning his uncontrollable multipowers.  Meanwhile, wife Helen/Elastigirl who has the ability to stretch her body into many shapes and forms is out saving the world.  As part of the plan, Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), a superhero fan who leads a telecommunications company DEVTECH with his tech genius sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) provides the family with a new home.


Lucius Best/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), Bob's best friend who has the ability to form ice from humidity, is called in to help defend humanity from the evil brainwashing Screenslaver, along with many other super power beings.  


Using high energy and non-stop motion to do battles and rescues, the spectacular rhythm and pacing is adventurous.  It is all the struggle that plays out mainly through a clash of physical forces and encounters with new "worlds"  This is also a social fantasy drama story whose central struggle is between a champion(s) and a problem or injustice in this fantasy society.  Yet the multi-plot offers a small coming-of-age scenario, stories whose central struggle is about the young heroes finding his and her place in the world.


All and all, Incredibles 2 is a family fun-filled action adventure film!


FILM RATING (B)



                                                                                     BAO


Directed by: Domee Shi

Release date: June 15, 2018

Running time: 8 minutes

Genre: Animation, Short, Fantasy, and Family

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures/PIXAR

MPAA Rating: G


This terrific computer-animated film is about an aging and lonely Chinese mother, suffering from empty nest syndrome, who receives an unexpected second chance at motherhood when her homemade bao comes to life.


A mother whose children have moved out to university finds a dumpling that comes alive.  She has fun with it as if it were a child.  She realizes how fastt the dumpling ages and realizes nothing stays young forever.  It is a modern Chinese retelling of fairytale, The Gingerbread Man.  Only the PIXAR team can illuminate this story!


FILM RATING (A)

BERNARD and HUEY review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on June 9, 2018 at 12:05 AM

Directed by: Dan Mirvish

Running time: 91 minutes

Release date: June 8, 2018

Genre: Comedy, Drama, and Romance

Distributor: Freestyle Digital Media

MPAA Rating: Not rated


Directed by Slamdance Film Festival co-founder Dan Mirvish and scripted by a long-lost script by Oscar/Pulitzer-winning cartoonist/screenwriter Jules Feiffer is a tale based on two male characters from New York City dating back to the late 1950s.  This story originally appeared in the Village Voice comic strip, written by Jules Feiffer. 


As the "odd couple" of college buddies, Bernard (Jim Rash) the academic geek and the unaccepted acquaintance to the opposite sex, is just the opposite of his friend Huey (David Koechner) the womanizing bad-boy rogue, who always appealed to young women.  This was the late 1950s/1960s era of the new Hippie Movement, and sexual exploration was becoming the norm.  But as in all things in life, change is evitable, and people change their attitudes.


Such is the matter of sequences 20 years later in 1980s New York City, when single Huey, now balding and over-weight, arrives at Bernard's upscale bachelor door looking for a place to crash.  Times have changed, because the nerdy publisher Bernard is what women find attractive, and Huey is considered a throwback because of his male chauvinism and attitude of superiority toward members of the opposite sex.  It baffles Huey that Bernard has a beautiful girlfriend psychiatrist  Roz (Sasha Alexander), but Huey is locked-in to his own way of life.


Dramatically this is a serious plot-driven narrative, portraying realistic characters, settings, and life situations. However, the light-hearted plots, consistently and delberately in the dialogue delivery are designed to amuse and provoke laughter in the relationships of the characters.  This is displayed by the interweaving storylines, such as, when Bernard and Huey reconnect, and Bernard falls in love with Huey's estranged daughter Zelda (Mae Whitman), an aspiring millenial writer.  As she casually embarks into this relationship with older Bernard, she also has eyes for Conrad (Eka Darville), a seductive aspiring graphic novelist.  Meanwhile, Huey tries to put his life back in order and makes an attempt to seduce the various women in Bernard's life, including Roz.  But soon reconnects with his ex-wife, Zelda's mother, Mona (Nancy Travis).


One can consider this film as an edgy romantic tale, but it takes a perculiar journey of these two men's episodic affectionate involvement with the women in their life.  What sparks the film, is the strong character development and interaction offering the audience a complexed relationship of deception, desertion, and indifference.  The supporting cast members are the glue to the formidable chemistry displayed by all on screen.  The great transitional structure of the plot is very creative as it weaves back and forth from the 1980s to the 1950s displaying the similarities and differences of the two main characters.


This is a crisp paced film that delivers on all points.


FILM RATING (B+)


 

OCEAN'S 8 review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on June 8, 2018 at 1:25 PM

Directed by: Gary Ross

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Release date: June 8, 2018

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Crime, and Action

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13


This is a spin-off from Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's trilogy, based on the original 1960 film Ocean's 11.  This is an ensemble cast featuring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, and Helena Bonham Carter.  The plot follows a group of women, led by Debbie Ocean, the estranged sister of danny Ocean, who plan on robbing the New York Met Gala.


Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), a professional thief and younger sister of late master thief Danny Ocean, spends five years and eight months in prison.  Once released from jail she convinces her partner-in-crime and best friend/former lover Lou (Cate Blanchett) to take part in her heist.  Debbie proceeds to recruit jewelry maker Amita (Mindy Kaling), profiteer/suburban mom Tammy (Sarah Paulson), street hustler/pick-pocketer/theif Constance (Awkwafina), computer tech hacker Leslie aka Nine Ball (Rihanna), and fashion Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter).  In a flashback scene, it is revealed that Debbie's ex-lover, Claude Becker (Richard Armtage), an art dealer, had involved her in a fraud scheme and then testified against her, sending her to prison.  Debbie chooses him to be the scapegoat for her heist.


The heist film uses an archetypical structure, containing a three-act plot.  The first consisting of the preparations for the heist: gathering conspirators, learning the layout of the locations to be robbed; learning about the alarm systems; revealing innovative technologies to be used; and most importantly, setting the plot twists in the final act.


The second act is the heist itself, with some number of unexpected events to occur.


The third act is the unraveling of the plot.  The characters involved in the heist will make arrangements with some outside party, who will interfere.  


It all comes down to; organizing a Ragtag Crew, the Big Score, The Planning Scene, The Target, The Life of Crime (crew members discuss choosing a life of crime oppossing to going straight), The Heist, The Escape, The Betraying, The Swtch (the leader knew the unreliable person would alter the caper), and the going of Separate Ways.


The production of Ocean's 8 is typical in the manner of making this heist film.  Even so, by adding James Corden as John Frazier as the insurance fraud investigator who looks into the theft, with cameos from Dakota Fanning, Marlo Thomas, Dana Ivey, Louise Wilson, Elizabeth Ashley, Anna Wintour, Zayn Malik, Katie Holmes, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian, Adriana Lima, Kulie Jenner, Alexander Wang, Nino Cuso, Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Lily Aldrige, Olivia Munn, Zac Posen, Hailey Baldwin, Derek Blasberg, and Lauren Santo Domingo.  


The heist sequence is very impressive with the non-stop motion, spectacular rthym and pacing, and adventurous often two-dimensional good against bad.  But in this case, the main good-person characters are antagonists operating outside of the law.  Exploiting the tone of female inpowerment, and using a diverse cast, this is an enjoyable movie.  However, my problem is with the chemistry between Debbie and Lou characters.  Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett did not convince me in their performances of having a very close relationship as the story dictates.  Their performances did not gel or blend as it should.  Yet, the overall film itself makes up for that one flaw.


Ocean's 8 is well worth the hype it mustered in its marketing.  It is a fun-filled ride for movie-goers.


FILM RATING (B)  

SOLO: A Star Wars Story review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on May 25, 2018 at 3:15 AM

Directed by: Ron Howard

Running time: 136 minutes

Release date: May 25, 2018

Genre: Space Western, Action, Adventure, and Fantasy

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13


In a character-driven action/adventure space film centered on Han Solo, a character from the Star Wars franchise, is the second of the Star Wars anthology films following 2016's Rogue One.  A stand-alone installment set prior to the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, it explores the early adventures of a young Han Solo and Chewbacca, including meeting the sinister Lando Calrissian.


This is a story about the young main characters lives as they evolve and are involved in a heist within the criminal world.  The galaxy is in a state of disorder, with criminal syndicates competing for valuable resources such as hyperfuel.  On the shipbuilding of Corellia, orphaned children are made to steal in order to survive, and young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and his lover Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) long to escape the clutches of a local criminal gang. They successfully bribe an Imperila officer who grants them passage on  an outgoing transport, but Qi'ra is apprehended by their pursuers before she can board.  Han vows to return for her, and with no means of income, joins the Imperial Navy as a flight cadet, with the Imperial recruiting officer dubbing "han Solo" in absence of a surname.


The plot jumps three years later, where Han has been expelled from the Imperila Flight Academy for insubordeination, and is serving as an infantryman during a battle on the planet Mimban.  He encounters a gang of criminals posing as Imperila soldiers led by Tobias Becket (Woody Harrelson) and his crew that consist of his wife Val (Thandie Newton) along with a four armed alien named Rio Daurant.  Through a series of schemes, Han convinces Tobias to allowing him to join the gang by showing that he can speek to Wookiees, specifically to one Wookiee named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo).  This union becomes a special lifelong friendship between Han Solo and Chewbacca.


Owing to Han's ability to speak Shyriiwook,  Tobias rescues Han and Chewbacca from captors, recruits him into his gang for a heist to steal hyperfuel coaxium on the planet Vander.  With a marauder Enfys Nest and her crew are killed in the mayhem of crime, another scheme is launched to steal from another criminal syndicate led by Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover).  This is where Han is reunited with his long-lost love from his past Qi'ra, who is now closely connected with the sinister Lando and his Crimson Dawn crime syndicate.


Of course the film has layers of different storylines, and to delve into each would perhaps give away too much. So not to be s spoiler, I can say that it is an edge of your seat ride.  I found this to be more of a colaborative performance by a very good cast, although Alden Ehrenreich as Han, is the selective protagonist.  Yet, every character is a sense of interest from its original being and creation. 


To solidify a solid plot, the supporting cast members Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos, the ruthless crime lord who has a history with Becket, along with Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37 as Lando's droid companion, the space western take form into a special Star Wars adventure.  Rounding up the cast is Jon Favreau and Linda Hunt who add their voices respectively as Rio Daurant and Lady Proxima.


Before selling Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012, George Lucas had already started development on a film about a young Han Solo, and he had hired Star Wars veteran script writer Lawrence Kasden to write the screeenplay. However, when Kasden left to help finish the script for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he left his son Jonathan Kasden to finish the project.  With acclaimed and award winning director Ron Howard at the helm, this franchise production is a good family-friendly film to enjoy.


FILM RATING (B)  


 

DEADPOOL 2 review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on May 18, 2018 at 4:05 AM

Directed by: David Leitch

Running time: 119 minutes

Release date: May 18, 2018

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Adaptation, and Sequel

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

MPAA Rating: R


A superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Deadpool, the eleventh installment in the X-Men series, and a sequel to the 2016 film Deadpool is the follow-up whereas after surviving a near fatal bovine attack, a disfigured cafeteria chef Wade Wilson aka Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) aspiring to become Miami's hottest bartender while learning to cope with his lost sense of taste, and his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) decide to form a family.  Immediately prior to this major life decision, Wade/Deadpool must fight ninjas, the yakuza, and a pack of sexually aggressive canines, as he journeys aroung the world to discover the importance of family, friendship, and flavor.


Using a mixture of melodramatics, slapstick, super-hero action sequences, and satire, this amazing sequel takes form after 2 years as Deadpool/Wade Wilson works as a mercenary.  However, he fails to kill one of his targets, and on his anniversary with girlfriend Vanessa whom he plans to start a family with, the target tracks Wade down and kills Vanessa.  Wade kills the man in revenge, but blames himself for her death, and attempts to commit suicide six weeks later by blowing himself up.  The pieces of his body remain alive and put back together by Colossus (Stefan Kapicic).


Recovering at the X-Mansion, Wade agrees to join the X-Men as a form of healing.  He, Colossus, and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) respond to a standoff between authorities and the unstable young mutant Firefist/Russell Collins (Julian Dennison) at the orphanage, labeled a "Mutant Reeducation Center".  Wade realizes that Russell is being bullied and has been abused by the orphange staff, and kills one on the staff members.  The always responsible Colossus stops Russell from killing anyone else, and both Wade and Russell are arrested.  Restrained with collars that negate their powers, they are taken to the "Icebox", an isolated prison for mutant criminals.  Meanwhile, the cybernetic soldier Cable/Nathan Summers (Josh Brolin) of the X-Force finds his family murdered by Russell in the future, and travels back in time to kill the boy before he never becomes a murderer.


Cable breaks into the Icebox and attacks Russell.  Wade attempts to defend Russell, but is defeated by Cable. Meanwhile, Wade is having visions of Vanessa which guides him to a straight and narrow existence, which convinces him to assist Cable.  At this time, Wade organizes a team of mutants to break Russell out of a prison convoy by parachuting from a plane, but all of the team's members except for Wade and the lucky X-Force Domino (Zazie Beetz) die in the landing.  While the pair fight Cable, Russell frees fellow inmate Juggernaut (also played by Ryan Reynolds) who repays Russell by agreeing to help him kill the abusive orphange headmaster (Eddie Marsan).


The various dimensions and levels of this film offers a cliche' of of satire deliberately designed to amuse and provoke laughter with one-liners and insider comic-lover jokes, by exxaggerating these situations, language, action, relationships, and characters.  The humor varies from slapstick, screwball, spoofs and paradies, romantic comedy, and black comedy (dark satrical comedy).  All the while, rooting its format in the high energy action genre of big-budget physical stunts and chases, with rescues, battles, fights, escapes, destructive crises (floods, explosions, natural disasters, fires, etc.), non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, and adventurous. often two-dimensional 'good-guy/gals battling bad-guy/gals' - all designed for pure audience escapism.


With returning and supporting cast members; T.J. Miller as Weasel - Wade's bar owner best friend, Jack Kesy as Black Cassidy - the main antagonist acting as a devil on Firefist's shoulder, Leslie Uggams as Deadpool's blind roommate, and imagery cameo sequences of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine make this comic book action/adventure farce an enjoyable cinematic outing to watch.  Try it - you'll like it!!


FILM RATING (A)




TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2018 coverage/review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on April 18, 2018 at 9:55 PM

                                               TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2018

                                                                               APRIL 18-29


The 17th annual Tribeca Film Festival, revealed its feature lineup championing the discovery of emerging voices and celebrating new work from established filmmaking talent with an emphasis, special importance, and prominence to women in the film industry.  Love, Gida kicks off the festival as Opening Night Film - nearly 40 years after pioneering female comedian Gilda Radner won an Emmy as part of the original  Saturday Night Live cast. Comedic icon Tina Fey, who became SNL's first female head writer nearly twenty years after Radner blazed the trail for women in comedy, will introduce the documentary film.


The Centerpiece Gala will be the World Premiere of Drake Doremus' sci-fi romance Zoe starring Ewan McGregor, Lea Seydoux, Rashida Jones, Christina Aguilera, and Theo James.  This is a feature narrative where as future cutting-edge technologies can simulate the high of true love.  Two colleagues at a revolutionary research lab yearn for a connection that is real.


To close the festival, TFF will World Premiere, The Fourth Estate, from Oscar-nominated director Liz Garbus, which follows The New York Times coverage of the Trump administration's first year.  This is a documentary, from the journalists at The New York Times, depicting the election of Donald Trump presented a once in a generation challenge in how the press would cover a president who has declared the majority of the nation's major news outlets "the enemy of the people."


The 2018 feature film program includes 96 films from 103 filmmakers.  Of the 96 films, 46% of them are directed by women, the highest percentage in the festival's history.  The lineup includees 75 World Premieres, 5 International Premieres, 9 North American Premieres, 3 U.S. Premieres, and 4 New York Premieres from 30 countries.  This year's program includes 46 first time filmmakers, with 18 directors returning to the TFF with their latest feature film projects.


                                                              SELECTIVE FILM REVIEWS



LOVE GILDA

Directed by: Lisa D'Apolito

Running time: 88 minutes

Release date: April 18, 2018 

Genre: Documentary

Distributor: CNN Films


Born Gilda Susan Radner (June 28, 1946 - May 20, 1989) was an American female comedian, writer, actress, and one of seven original cast members of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL) - actually she was the first character casted for the show.  Using Radner's own words, alongside interviews with friends and those she inspired - including fellow SNL vetterans like Chevy Chase, Laraine Newman, and Lorne Michaels and latter-day SNL members Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Cecily Strong - director Lisa D'Apolito weaves together this feature length documentary that tells the story of an indomitable spirit who understood the healing power of laughter.


Structured in an autobiography frame, the cinematic examination of Radner begins with her childhood Detroit, Michigan home footage, to Jewish parents, Henrietta (mother), a legal secretary, and Herman Radner (father), a successful businessman.  Gilda grew up with a nanny, Elizabeth Gilles, whom she called "Dibby", and older brother, Michael.  Gilda was close to her father, who operated Detroit's Seville Hotel, where many nightclub performers and actors stayed while performing in the city.  He took her on trips to New York to see Broadway shows.  As Radner wrote in It's Always Something, when she was 12, her father developed a brain tumor, and the symptoms began so suddenly that he told people his eyeglasses were too tight.  Within days, he was bedridden and unable to communicate, and remained in this condition until his death two years later.


Gilda, herself had early health problems.  After graduating from Liggett School, she enrolledat the Unversity of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1964.  While at the university, she made a lifelong platonic friend of fellow student David Saltman, who wrote a biography of her after her death.  Saltman and his girlfriend took Radner along on a trip to Paris in the summer of 1966.  According to Saltman, he noticed how Gilda was nervous and upset about gaining weight from the French cuisine.  Very little was known at that time that this was an early childhood problem exploited by Gilda's mother, told by Gilda in her memoirs.  


The film explores the career of Radner, when she drops out of college in her senior year to follow her boyfriend, Canadian sculptor Jeffrey Rubinoff to Toronto, where she made her professional acting debut in the 1972 production of Godspell with futurestars Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Victor Garber, (another boyfriend) Martin Short, and musician Paul Shaffer.  Soon after the run of this historic musical stage production, she join The Second City comedy troupe in Toronto, and later in 1974 a feature player on the National Lampoon Radio Hour. Fellow cast members included John Belushi, (another boyfriend) Chevy Chase, Richard Belzer, (another boyfriend) Bill Murry, Brian Doyle-Murray, and Rhonda Coullet.


Her playfully successful career was earnest and aggressive, which landed her to her one-woman Broadway show, Gilda Radner - Live From New York.  This opened the door to NBC's Saturday Night Live, where was able to play the characters she created and played in the original "Not Ready for Prime Time Players", the freshman group of the show.  All the time, Gilda was suffering from and battling bulimia, while dealing with mood swings, as she and others conducted non-stop work of writing scripts and acting weekly with fellow actors, such as Jane Curtain tells us.


The film gives accollades to a great woman of showbusiness, who lost her life to stage IV ovarian cancer in 1989.  Those friends and family members mentioned in this review, give insightful and honest interviews that portray Gilda Radner in a new light.


FILM RATING (A+)




TULLY

Directed by: Jason Reitman

Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Release date: May 4, 2018

Genre: Comedy and Drama

Distributor: Focus Features

MPAA Rating: R


Tully is a highly creative narrative that maintains a standard of excellence.  Brilliant cast performances. 

***Full review on www.FilmShowcase.Blogspot.com***


FILM RATING (A)



Mary Shelley

Directed by: Haifaa Al Mansour

Running time: 121 minutes

Release date: May 25, 2018

Genre: Drama, Biography, and Romance

Distributor: IFC Films

MPAA Rating: PG-13


This period piece costume drama presentation historically tells  the story of writer Mary Shelley's first love and romantic relationship with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, which inspired Mary to write Frankenstein.  It is a torrid true-life tale of how a passionate love affair fueled the creation of the works trailblazer Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Godwin).  The film stars Elle Fanning, Maisie Williams, Douglas Booth, Bel Powley, and Ben Hardy.


In a powerful performance by Elle Fanning portraying Mary Shelley, the film picks up with a short yet meaningful backstory of Mary Shelley, as she was the daughter of her political philosopher William Godwin, and her feminist philosopher mother Mary Wollstonecraft.  After Mary Wollstonecraft's death less than a month after her daughter Mary was born, infant Mary was raised by Willaim Godwin.  He was able to provide his daughter with a rich informal education while encouraging her to adhere to his own liberal polical theories.  When Mary was four, her father married a neighbor Mary Jane Clairmont (Joanne Froggatt), with whom, as her stepmother came a troubled relationship.  However, she came to keep a very close relationship with her stepsister Claire Clairemont (Bel Powley).


In 1814, Mary began a romance with one of her father's political followers, Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was already married.  Together with Mary's stepsister Claire, Mary and Shelley left for France and travelled through Europe.  The life situations in this production portrays intense character interactions and development as it covers a large expanse of time set against a vast, panoramic backdrop. 


This is an epic historical drama that uses crisp pacing to structure this biopic.  The stimulating plot takes on a plot-driven presentation portraying realistic characters and legendary figures, while adding an extravagant setting and lavish costumes, accompanied by grandeur and spectacle, dramatic scope, and high production values.


Historical facts are lightly dwelled on, as Mary constantly wrote and put on spooky home stage plays with her siblings (stepsister/youngerbrother) as characters.  Yet, using memoirs, the secret romantic meetings of 17 year old Mary and married 22 year old Percy at Mary Wollstonecraft's grave in St. Pancras Chuurchyard was scenic cinematic setting.  More dark and chilling scenes are used in later sequences in their European travels, as Mary becomes pregnant and the trio (Mary, Percy, and stepsister Claire) find themselves penniless, and, to Mary's genuine surprise, her father refuses to have anything to so with her.  The couple with Claire move into lodging at Somer Town, and later, Nelson Square.  They maintain their intense program of reading and writing, and entertain Percy's bohemian friends.  At times, Percy left home for short periods to avoid creditors.  Pregnant and often ill, Mary had to cope with Percy's joy with his son by his legal wife Harriet Shelley in late 1814, and his certain outings with stepsister Claire Clairemont.  Percy Shelley and Claire Clairemont were almost certainly lovers, which caused much jealously on Mary's part.  But this was a liberal way of life encouraging free love.


The supporting cast members Ben Hard as John William Polidori, Maisie Williams as Isabel Baxter, Stephen Dilane as William Goldwin, and Tom Sturridge as Lord Byron solidifies this biopic of this English novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer who also edited and promoted the works of her husband, we know as the writer of the gothic masterwork Frankenstein, Mary Shelley.


FILM Rating (A+)


**MORE REVIEWS TO COME**


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, with 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 be 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-) 


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