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SHAFT review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on June 13, 2019 at 2:15 PM

Directed by: Tim Story

Running time: 1 hour 51 minutes

Release date: June 13, 2019

Genre: Drama, Crime, Action, Comedy, and Sequel

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

MPAA Rating: R


Shaft is the franchise based on the famous police character created by Ernest Tidyman.  In this, the fifth film in the series and sequel to the 2000 film with same title, it is a generational comedic crime story bringing back the Blaxploitation genre in a comptemporary form.


The formidable plot is co-starred by Jessie Usher as John "JJ" Shaft Jr., an FBI anylist agent, and Samuel L. Jackson as John Shaft II, a private investigator and father of JJ.  To bring in the family tie-ins, John Shaft II is the nephew/son of John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) the legendary retired private investigator of the 1970s.  Not to forget the female influence in the casting brings in Regina Hall as Mrs. John Shaft II, the ex-wife and JJ's mother.


In the subgenre of exploitation films that emerged in the 1970s that stereotyped African-American characters and communities and merging a 21st century atmosphere of cyber technology, the plot has JJ a cybersecurity FBI agent stationed in New York City investigating the questionable and suspicious death of his best Karem (Avan Jogia), an American war veteran whose post-war problems were plagued by PTSD and drug addiction.  In this layered plot, JJ turns to his estranged father the legendary John Shaft II to uncover the truth.  It is a father and son team who must navigate the Harlem underworld to solve the crime, and along the way team up with the first generation John Shaft John Shaft (Richard Roundtree).  Though, young JJ is somewhat of a nerd and doesn't have the ghetto street smarts, he soon learns his way under the guidance of his father.  Along the way, he finds a way to inform his love interest and childhood friend Sasha (Alexandra Shipp) how he feels towards her.


In an ensemble of colorful and engaging characters, the story evolves into a very creative comedic crime narrative.  It's a predictable crime story developed around the sinister actions of criminals and mobsters, particularly underworld figures and ruthless hoodlums who operate in the illegal drug trafficking business.  The comedic aspect of the film is consistently and deliberately designed to amuse and provoke laughter by exaggerating the situation, language, action, relationships, and characters by the talents of a terrific Samual L. Jackson, Regina Hall, and Jessie Usher.  Their chemistry on screen explodes with situation comedy and spoof-type scenarios.  Though, the scenes are heavily stereotyped in ethnic humor, often enlarged and altered beyond normal proportions, the storyline can be inappropriately heightened to the African American society.  Yet, the balance of a humorous genre and focusing of the spoof of this subgenre, gives the film merit in its delivery.


However, the dramatic source is a plot-driven presentation portraying characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction.  It also, offers a distinct branch of the crime/gangster sagas from the film noir genre.  The primary moods are cynical, melancholy, and bleakness, with an off-balance emerging composition of hilarious humor that only Samuel L. Jackson can deliver.  The lower layer of romance features great chemistry by Jessie Usher and Alexandra Shipp on screen, which enhances the structure of the film.


Shaft, is a throughback to the Blaxploitation film era with its action and dialogue.  It delivers an enjoyable comedic crime narrative to target particular audiences for a full understanding and appreciation. 


FILM RATING (B)


 

ALADDIN review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on May 24, 2019 at 12:45 AM

Directed by: Guy Richie

Running time: 128 minutes

Release date: May 24, 2019

Genre: Fantasy, Musical, Adventure, Remake, and Adaptation

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG


In a classic folklore tale based on Disney's works of Aladdin, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp from One Thousand and One Nights, is a live action remake of Disney's 1992 animated film of the same title.  It is a speculative fiction set in a fictional universe trimmed with a romantic theme, along with supernatural elements as the main plot.


The film stars Mena Massoud as Aladdin an Agrabah thief and street rat who is smitten with the Sultan's daughter Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott).  Mena Massaud portrays a young man who sees a fuure for himself that's greater than what's been set out for him in the streets.  He doesn't know exactly what it is or how he's going to get there, but he knows it is out there for him to obtain.  Aladdin relies on his only friend Abu, a kleptomaniac pet monkey (voice of reprising role by Frank Walker) to survive on the harsh streets.  Along the way, Aladdin falls in love with Princess Jasmine who is feisty and wants to have a say in how she lives her life.  She has the courage to speak out for her people and wants to know what is going on with her kingdom, as well as reconcile the distance that has been created.


The plot becomes engaging when Aladdin and Abu find a magic lamp containing a Genie (Will Smith), a comedically eccentric and kindly spirit who has the nigh omnipotent power to grant three wishes to whoever possesses his magic lamp.  Will Smith's character is both a trickster and a mentor type who tries to guide Aladdin to the truth of the greatness that's already within him.  


As in all fairytales there is a villain.  Marwan Kenzari is the nefarious and deceptive sorcerer Jafar, the Grand vizier of Agrabah, and the wise and noble Sultan's (Navid Negahban) chief advisor who is frustrated with the Sultan's ways of ruling and devises a plot to overthrow the Sultan by acquiring the Genie's lamp.  However, Aladdin must safeguard the lamp, as he uses a wish to find his way to Jasmine's heart through a courtship.


The filming process of development and casting is highly creative with the diversity of the cast in the use of Middle-Eastern and North African heritage people.  The CGI work is amazing and is maintained in high standards to project 3D, Dolby and IMAX.  Yet, the performances lack impactful impressions, such as, the less than mild romantic chemistry of Aladdin and Jasmine.  Will Smith's comic relief as the Genie offers the audience a contented cheerful atmosphere with jovial and joking sentiment.  But this isn't enough to give merit to a classic tale.  The bright and vivid scenic song and dance scenes set in a Bollywood-style setting gives off an aire of upbeat tempo, which enhances the "boy meets girl" romance.


The overall tagline is to be careful for what you wish for, because you might get it.  In this remake, you will find that this film is less than satisfying for its expectations.  It is penalized for poor execution.


FILM RATING (C+)



JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3- PARABELLUM review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on May 16, 2019 at 9:50 PM

Directed by: Chad Stahelski

Running time: 131 minutes

Release date: May 17, 2019

Genre: Drama, Action/Adventure, Thriller, and Adaptation

Distributor: Lionsgate

MPAA Rating: R


This is the third installment of the titular character-driven franchise, in this neor-noir action thriller.  It is based on the story by Derek Kolstad, and is following John Wick (2014) and John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) following the legendary hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves).


From the propulsive start of this film, the tone is set as the clock ticks relentlessly against the formerly retired super-assassin.  The movie picks up directly from Chapter 2 as John Wick finds himself on the brink of being declared excommunico and stripped of the protective services of The High Table, the secretive global association of crime organizations that enforces the assassination code.  However, a $14 million bounty is on his head and many enemies along with rougue assassins want to collect.


The first setting is New York City, and with a high energy, big-budget physical stunts and chases, with rescues, battles, fights, and escapes, non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, and adventurous two-dimension good guy versus bad guy.  While using exotic locales such as Montreal and Morocco, the setting expands to exert new experiences, yet it opens the plot to cover a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop.  Being declared as excommunicado after killing D'Antonio on Continental grounds, John Wick's chances of survival have never been thinner.


In this hardboiled world of killers-for-hire, audiences experience the rush of dazzling pure battle sequences, which are brilliantly choreographed to a frenzled ballet, pushing practical filmmaking to its limit.  This gives room for more layers to the story by offering returning Keanu Reeves as Wick, and Laurence Fishburne as the powerful underground crime lord of the Bowery Kings, Ian McShane as the New York Continental Hotel's imperious manager Winston, Lance Reddick as Charon the concierge of the Continental, and Tobias Segal as Earl the Bowery informant.


Joing the growing character roster is Academy Award winner Halle Berry as Sofia, an assassin and close friend of John Wick; Anjelica Huston as the Director, a member of the High Table and protector of John Wick; Asia Kate Dillon as the Adjudicator, a member of the High Table; Mark Dacascos as Zero the main assassin with a vendetta; Jason Mantzoukas as assassin Tick Tock Man, along with a host of many other players evolving in the "Wickian" universe.


Although, this is mainly a character-driven presentation, the ensemble adds many layers to the unrelenting action-packed and engaging movie.  The structure of this film is pacing and movement, while penetrating and saturating the audience with aggresive excitement.  While stimulating the story with non-stop action, the multi-layered plot keeps the narrative energized.  The film does not allow any exceptionally stand-ot performances, because this is a "pure action film", that does not pull anything away from being only that.  This has to be the biggest "Hollywood" base action film this year that can compare with the Asian martial arts film industry.


In this chapter, John Wick is battling himself as much as the entire world.  He seems to becoming more conscious of life - a guy who wants to be left alone.  Yet, this epic wild ride is all designed for audience escapism!


FILM RATING (A) 

AVENGERS: Endgame - review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on April 21, 2019 at 1:20 AM

Directed by: Anthony & Joe Russo

Running time: 181 minutes

Release date: April 22, 2019 L.A. - April 26, 2019 Wide

Genre: Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Sequel

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13


This superhero film based on the Marvel Comics superhero team the Avengers brings a conclusion to its running series with all the determination of an epic finale.  It is the direct sequel to the 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, a sequel to 2012's Marvel's The Avengers and 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultran, and the 22nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  This film features an ensemble cast including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Helmsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Raul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Guira, Bradley Cooper, and Josh Brolin in a mission to ally themselves to reverse the damage caused by Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Infinity War.


In an apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic scenario, the tone and theme of this film is concerned with the end of civilation due to a potentential existential catastrophe such as a nuclear warfare, pandemic, extraterrestrial attack, Technological Singularity, Dysgenics, and supernatural phenomena.  This sets off a post-apocalyptic setting in a world and civilization afer the disaster, a time fram focusing on the travails and psychology of survivors.  This enacts a many level setting blurring betweeen sience fiction and that what deals with dystopias. The timing is after half of all lifein the universe was killed ue to the actions of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, when he remaining Avengers, and their allies must reassemble to revert those actions in one last stand.


Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/ Iron Man, the leader and benefactor of the Avengers, who is a self-described genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist with electromechanical suits of armor of his own making summons the team.  This team consist of: Steve Rogers/ Captain America (Chris Evans), a fugitive superhero and leader of a faction of Avengers, who is a WWII veteran enhanced to peak of human physicality by an experimental serum and frozen in suspended animation (awakening in the modern world); Bruce Banner/ Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), an Avenger and genuis scientist who because of exposure to gamma radiation transforms into a monster when enraged; Thor (Chris Helmsworth), an Avenger and king of Asgard based on the Norse mythological deity of the same name who wields a mystical Stormbreaker hammer; Natasha Romanoff/ Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), a highly trained spy, a special member of Steve Roger's faction of the Avengers, and a former agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.; and Clint Barton/ Hawkeye/ Ronin another former agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Avengerknown for his archery.  Also included is Don Cheadle as James "Rhodney" Rhodes / War Machine the former officer in the USAF and Avenger theat operates the War Machine armor; Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant Man a man who can shrink or grow in scale and increase in strength; and Brie Larson as Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel along with all the other Marvel Comics superheroes including the enemy at large, Thanos (Josh Brolin).


This multi-layered epic film is elaborately adventurous and often cover a large expanse of time set against a vast, panoramic backdrop.  It takes on imaginal and  heroic events, and add an extravagant setting, lavish costumes, and accompany everything with grandeur and spectacle, dramatic scope, and high production values including magical CGI scenes, that will "wow" your eyes. The fantasy aspect takes the audience to dark dimensions, where events are unlikely to occur in real life - they transcend the bounds of human possiblity (only the comic book world of the late Stan Lee could take you).


With the extensive running time, every cast member is given screen time.  However, act one is quite engaging, but leaves act two as somewhat flat with too much dialogue to set up the highly motivating and exciting act three that will captivate the viewer. 


In this major Marvel production, announced to be a two-part sequel to the 2014 Age of Ultron, is a great marketing ploy to expand the gross ticket purchases, but even better is a brilliant Disney campaign in distributing a blockbuster movie that will reign tops in the film industry and audience approval.


FILM RATING (A-)





LITTLE review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on April 11, 2019 at 9:55 AM

Directed by: Tina Gordon

Running time: 109 minutes

Release date: April 12, 2019

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, and Romance

Distributor: Universal Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13


Appropriately giving credit to director Tina Gordon, this fantasy comedy is co-written by her and Tracy Oliver.  It is a film that stars Regina Hall, Issa Rae, and Marsai Martin, and follows an overbearing female employer who is transformed into the child version of herself.


Regina Hall portrays the overbearing employer Jordan Sanders, a ruthless tech mogul.  She is an independent from anyone and thrives on aggressiveness.  However, she must rely on her deligent and overworked assistant April (Issa Rae), who endures her abusive behavior.  


The film offers an immediate backstory of young Jordan (Marsai Martin), who is a very intelligent child, but plague by peer pressure while attending school.  Director Tina Gordon gives her audience a  dual level character development structure, to make it simple to identify and understand our lead protaganists (the young and older Jordan).  As the plot evolves, adult Jordan is shown in the light of a spirited woman whose sex and love life with Trevor (Luke James) is uncommitted on her part.  Her career is her priority in life and everything else is secondary or non-existent, especially when her major client Coonor (Mikey Day) wants more from Jordan's company.  The pressure to produce or lose the Connor's contract is vital.  This pressure and Jordan's negative personality towards everyone she comes in contact with causes a young girl named Stevie (Marley Taylor) to cast a spell on her and reverting adult Jordan to child Jordan.


Now, the physically altered Jordan must get on with life with the adult mentality she is accustomed. This is when the film exerts a light-hearted storyline consistently and deliberately designed to amuse and provoke laughter by exaggerating the situations, language, action, and character performances.  It is a wild and hilarious ride of absurdity.  Yet, absurdity does not replace comedy.


This brings to mind on how to interpret the film's humor appreciation as a function of sexual, aggressive and sexist content.  Examining the relationship between the sexual content, aggression, and sexism values of the movie with their rated funniness values when child actors and characters are involved is a very delicate and challenging manuever.  It seems that women actors regress only sexism values correlated with this movie's funniness in a positive manner.  However, the sexual tone is projected more in an adult theme and not applicable for teenage situations.  This is evident in various scenes, when little Jordan (Marsai Martin) controversially and sexually approaches her school teacher Mr. Marshall (Justin Hartley) and her adult love interest Trevor (Luke James). 


The fantasy aspect of this movie transcends the audience to another dimension where events are not humanly possible, but humorously enticing.  And the time travel in this fiction is a great structure device, providing a necessary distancing effect which allows the plot to address comtemporary issues in metaphoric ways, and is valuable for providing a view of Jordan's history where every person is significant.


Spotlighting the supporting child actor members in their performances and choreography scenes; JD McCrary, Tucker Meek, Thalia Tran, Eva Carlton, and Jack Breen, is terrific.  It is an euphoric moment in the film.


Little gives Regina Hall the reigns to take on the stock character of a seductive woman whose charms and aggressiveness is to enare her antagonists.  Yet, the simplest way of looking at this comedic fantasy is to say that is surprises, startles, shock and delights as it goes beyond the ordinary, the dull and the familiar.  It runs from absurdity to mockery, to sarcasm to irony.


FILM RATING (C+)  



DUMBO review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on March 26, 2019 at 4:25 PM

Directed by: Tim Burton

Running time: 115 minutes

Release date: March 29, 2019

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Live Action, and Adaptation

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG


In this inspired version of the 1941 Walt Disney animated film of the same title, based on the novel by by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl, is a live-action production.  It is a tale of an elephant who is born with extremely large ears that gives him the ability to take flight.  It is also, a layered story of how he is separated from his mother while a circus, owned by Max Medici (Danny DeVito), falls into financial difficulties.  In this layered structured period piece plot, it sets up a familia situation of how a disabled (one arm) WWI war veteran Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and former circus horse performer returns to his motherless children Milly and Joe (respectively Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins).  Milly and Joe care and love the little elephant Dumbo, and soon find out that he can fly.  On many levels the tone of family ties and reunion is stressed as the focus of Tim Burton's eye in this adaptation and production.


Tim Burton is known for his dark, gothic, and eccentric horror and fantasy films such as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Dark Shadows, and Frankenweenie.  This is not to omit his fantasy films, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alice in Wonderland.  He weaves his talented assets deviating from the recognized or customary character(s) and practice, to project irregular, erratic, peculiar and odd.  His set of filmmaking beliefs and patterns engages a formidable sphere.


The plot hovers around the newborn elephant Dumbo being the laughing stock in an already struggling circus.  But when the Holt children, Lilly and Joe, discover tha Dumbo can fly, persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), a ruthless and enigmatic P.T. Barnum type and a French aerial trapeze artist named Colette Merchant (Eva Green) swoop in to make the peculiar pachyderm a star.  However, *(spoiler alert)* Dumbo wants to be reunuited with his long lost mother, and disabled Holt Farrier (Farrell) wants to re-establish himself as a worthy circus entertainer.  


Spotlighting veteran actor Alan Arkin in a supporting part of the cast is impressive.  His performance is terrific. However, the multi-layered structured plot gives more on screen than is necessary to enhance the movie.  Rather than stimulating a simplistic narrative, the various scenarios saturate it.  It gives merit to why Danny DeVito's character Max Medici, must partially narrate the story and epilogue.  I personally became excited when Dumbo flew around the big screen., but otherwise I found the production frustrating.


I don't consider Tim Burton's unusual concept a good fit for a Disney-family film.


FILM RATING (C+)     

WONDER PARK review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on March 15, 2019 at 4:25 AM

Directed by: David Feiss, Claire Kilner, and Robert Iscove

Running time: 93 minutes in 3D

Release date: March 15, 2019

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Adventure, and Fantasy

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG



In this computer animated adventure teen comedy film, which is also a television series based on the film scheduled to debut (same year as theatrical release) on the Nickelodeon Channel, is the third animated film from Nickelodeon Movies (after Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and Barnyard) to spawn an animated series on the network.


With the use of a 'multi-tensil-town' celebrity voice talent cast, the plot is about a young imaginative and optimistic 12 year old girl named June Baily (Brianna Denski - and Sofia Mali as younger June) who spends her childhood days constructing an amusement park filled with fantastical rides and inhabited by talking stuffed animals called Wonderland with her loving and enabling parents (mother - Jennifer Garner, and father - Matthew Broderick) along with neighborhood friends - specifically her young admirer Banky (Oev Michael Urbas) - within her home and backyard.  As a couple of years pass, she suffers the lost of her mother to illness and looses her sense of imagination as depression sets in causing problems in school, reclusiveness, lack of personal care and interest, and a desperate need to find serenity.  Although her father, relatives, and friends console her, June can't overcome the death of her mother.


While using the realm of fantasy in this narrative, one magical day June is running home through the woods when she discovers on old rollercoastercar and climbs in - and suddenly she finds herself in Wonderland, an amusement park she had once created in her mind as a younger child.  The film takes its audience into another dimension of dark netherworlds, along with mystical creatures such as: Boomer (Ken Hudson Campbell), the narcoleptic blue bear who welcomes the visitors to Wonderland; Gus (Kenan Thompson), a beaver who is the brother of Cooper (Ken Jeong); Steve (John Oliver), a potcupine who is a safety officer of Wonderland; Greta (Mila Kunis), a warthog who is Steve's love interest; and Peanut (Norbert Leo Butz), a chimpanzee who acts as Wonderland's mascot and ride creator.  It is an adventureous journey that heels June emotionally and rehabilitates her from her heartbreaking loss.  This tale takes form of a fairytale transcending the bounds of human possibility, while rendering an enlightening moral attitude.   It shapes up into the tone of magic, myth, and wonder.  The message delivered is extraordinarily appealing to both children and adults.


This is a marvelous CGI animated coming of age film set in a contemporary Alice in Wonderland theme.  By the use of a variety of vivid colors structured in a creative domestic emotional setting, the characters led by June (Brianna Denski) are humorous and lively.  The fast pace adventure draws its audience into the world of fantasy and the moral dilemma of a child finding a place in growing up.  This film is the female version of Jimmy Neutron, and it adds a new look to the great Nickelodeon franchise.  Wonder Park is a wonderful family-friendly popcorn movie for all ages.


FILM RATING (B) 

TRIPLE FRONTIER review & interview by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on March 8, 2019 at 6:50 PM

Directed by: J.C. Chandler

Running time: 125 minutes

Release date: March 6, 2019 & March 13, 2019 Netflix launch

Genre: Drama, Crime, Action/Adventure, and Thriller (in some Spanish and Portugese with English subtitles)

Distributor: Netflix

MPAA Rating: R



In a co-scripted narrative crediting J.C. Chandler and Mark Boal, a story originally by Mark Boal, is a film about loyalties that are tested when five friends, all military veterans, reunite to rob a South American drug lord, unleashing a chain of unintended consequences.


This film stars Ben Affleck as Tom "Redfly" Davis, Oscar Isaac as Santiago "Pope" Garcia, , Charlie Hunnam as William "Ironhead" Miller, Garrett Hedlund as Ben Miller, and Padro Pascal as Francisco "Catfish" Morales.  In a strong supporting performance is Adria Arjona as Yovanna. It is story of a group of former Special Forces operatives who reunite with the plan a heist in a sparsely populated mult-border zone of South America.  For the first time in their prstgious careers the unsung heroes undertake this dangerous mission for self instead of country.  But when events take an unexpected turn and threaten to spiral out of control, their skills, their loyalties, and their morals are pushed to a breaking point in an epic battle for survival.


It is an epic action/adventure film that displays high energy, 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 two-dimensional 'good guys' battling 'bad guys' - all designed for pure audience escapism.  It is a plot and character driven production that covers a large expance of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop, accompanied with life situations and stories involving intense character development and interaction.  Yet, the crime elements of ruthless stealing and murder leaves another layer to the narrative's structure of romance in Adria Arjona's character as Yovanna, Pope's love interest.  Her character challenges Pope to help her to escape from the violent drug cartel occupied territory.


This exceptionally gifted ensemble presentation portraying emotionally impacting situations in exotic locales is great.  Thus, giving praise to brilliant cinematography and capturing fearless surrealism in desolate, gritty, and harsh environments.  The tone is set to acknowledge the horror heartlessness of criminal operations.  The theme is shocking yet mesmerizing....you won't be able to take your eyes away,  However, an emotional message is concrete in the plot development, as the unit strong veterans are challenged in their mission.


In a roundtable interview with the cast, many questions were asked and many statements were made concerning the production o this film.  Filmmaker Chandler commented on the casting process, "I became attached to the projectt during the summer of 2015.  The casting was an amazing and bumpy process.  But I believe that the right people are in the film.  He also stated, "So before I became locked into one way of making a movie, I wanted to try something else.  When I read this story, what was neat about it was that I'm a huge fan of Kathryn Bigelow (original director).  The story isn't something tha I would have ever come up by myself, which is what I was looking for, so that I could stretch myself,  But the thematic element is something that I have looked for before, and will continue to do in my future projects."


Ben Affeck commented on the bonding process as men on a mission between fellow actors:  "We did training, we worked together, we worked with people who trained us and tried to learn as much as we could. Also, we heard a lot about how people don't die for a flag; they die for the guy next to them.  We understood, that level of bonding and commitment to one another was gonna really drive the story, drive the plot, drive the character stuff, so it was kind of essential to it.  You know, we just put in the time and genuinely like each other.


Oscar Isaac added: "And trust, too.  I think, often, what you see in these kinds of movies is a lot of forced chemistry and force stuff.  I think the fact that we kind of let it be its own thing....A lot of other people bring themselves to it, as opposed to,you know, too many back pats and things like that."


Another topic the actors and directors discussed was the procss of working with military advisors on creating authentic physical recreations.  Charlie Hunnam stated; "The Navy SEALS anda Delta Force operator worked with us.  The one Delta Force guy blew my mind, particularly in his proficiency across the board."  Ben Affleck added, "We shot live weapons, and tried to learn how to emulate them the best way we could."


Garrett Hedlund followed up about the bonding: "All of us have known each other in different facets throughout the years.  This was Oscar and my third film together, and we have known each other for 10 years.  Charlie and I have been pals for 15 hears, and always wanted to do something together."


Pedro Pascal about the competitveness of the actors in the physical scenes: "I think wew were all a little concerned that was going to be the case.  You see a movie like this...But the fact is, this is ultimately a brotherhood.  We are on a mission together and we function as a unit....I think, individually, our characters lean a little more towards generousity than competitiveness....excluding the incredible Adria Arjona."


As for Adria Arjona, she stated; "Working with these guys was challenging...they pushed me.  The script attracted me because of the veterans who are sent to save our lives, but unfortunately they forgotten their mission once they made their return, because of the heist.  We shot in Bogata in a violent and unsafe are, but I felt safe because of heritage.  I put muself in my character's shoes and found it personal for a woman in finsing her way."


This is an amazing film and I concur with J.C. Chandler's director' statement in saying;  "The film touches on ideas of masculinity and what makes you valuble to yourself, your family and your society."


FILM RATING (A)






   



CAPTAIN MARVEL review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on March 6, 2019 at 8:25 PM

Directed by: Anna Boden

Running time: 125 minutes in IMAX and 3D

Release date: March 8, 2019

Genre: Drama, Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi, and Adaptation

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13


This superhero film is based on the Marvel Comics ccharacter Carol Danvers.  It is the twenty-first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The story borrows elements from Roy Thomas's 1971 "Kree-Skull War" comic book storyline, starring Brie Larson as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, alongside Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Clark Gregg, Annette Bening, and Jude Law.


Set in 1995, the story follows Carol Danvers as she becomes Captain Marvel after the Earth is caught in the center of a galactic conflist between two alien worlds.  A backstory is immediately introduced as Carol Danvers, a free-spirited girl who challenges male dominated sports and endeavers, grows into a woman who enters the U.S. Air Force and becomes a fighter pilot.  During her flight drill, she turns into one of the galaxy's conflicts and crashes her aircraft.  After a bit of unconsciousness, she finds herself without a memory and recruited in Starforce as one of the galaxy's mightiest heroes.  She is known as part of an elite Kree military team.  However, bits and pieces of her past haunt her.  This part of the plot sets the tone for her curiosity throughout the entire film.


With the use of crisp pacing and non-stop motion CGI the theme of a femme fatale is engaged on screen, as Brie Larson is a stock character of a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensure her male characters, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations.  Her ability to enchant and hypotise her victim(s) is demonizing and alluring.  However, the many characters involved should be examined and explained.


The supporting cast consist of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, who at this time is a low level bureaucrat.  He appears without his signature eye patch as the film is set before he loses his eye.  It is explained that Carol Danvers is the first superhero that Fury has come across., which sets him on a path to where the character is in the modern MCU films.  Ben Mendelsohn as Talos is the shape-shifting leader of the Skrull invasion of Earth, who is working undercover within S.H.I.E.L.D. as Fury's boss.  Djimon Hounsou portrays Korath a Kree mercenary and second-in-common of Starforce.  Lee Pace plays Ronan the Accuser a high ranking Kree official.  It is his role in the Kree military intersecting with Starforce in an interesting way.  Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau is a  special character, who is one of Carol Danvers' oldest friends and a fellow female Air Force pilot who goes by the call aign "Photon".  She is a single mother to highly inquisitive and free spirited daughter Monica (Akira Akbar)  Gemma Chan plays Minn-Erva, a Kree sniper and member of Starforce.  She finds Carol Danvers as her compitition as the most talented since she joined the team.  Annette Bening shines in her role as the Supreme Intelligence, an artificial intelligence that is the collective enbodiment of the greatest minds of the Kree people, and the ruler of the Kree Empire.  Jude Law also captures screen imagery as Yon-Rogg, the commander of Starforce and Carol Danvers' mentor, who trains her to use her new powers.  He has a special mentee relationship with Carol Danvers, which becomes a source of tenson in the film with other members of Starforce.  Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson is a rookie agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who works closely with Fury.


Additionally, Algenis Perez Soto and Rune Temte portray Att-Lass and Bron-Char, respectively, both members of Starforce; Att-Lass is the marksma of the team, while Bron-Char is the bigger, stronger guy who fights with his fists.  Carol Danvers' comic book cat character is Chewie (named for the Star Wars character Chewbacca) appears in this film, renamed Gosse for the Top Gun (1986) character Nick "Goose" Bradshaw and is portrayed by four different cats, Reggie, Archie, Rizzo, and Gonzo.  Each cat was chosen based on their actions and personalities.  Also, Kelly Sue DeConnick, the Captain Marvel comic book writer has a cameo in the film, and Stan Lee, co-creator of the first Captain Marvel, appears posthumously.


Showcasing a female protagonist is a great lesson in inclusiveness and enpowerment.  Brie Larson's performance displaying extraordiinary powers and abilities, relevent skills with advanced equipment is exciting. She exerts a moral code, including a willingness to risk one's safety in the service of good without expectation of reward.  In the sci-fi theme is an imaginative content such as futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes and extrterrestrial life.  As for the time travel motif, it provides a necesary distancing effect which allows the film to address the contemporary plot andissues in metaphoric ways, and valuble for providing a view of the historical plot where every person is significant.


Captain Marvel, gives it's audience an exciting and euphoric story to follow.  It is mesmerizing...you won't be able to take your eyes away.  With impeccable performances, it is emotionally impacting.  Yet, it is a 'down-right' cool movie!


FILM RATING (A) 


 

ALITA: Battle Angel review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on February 14, 2019 at 3:40 PM

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez

Running time: 122 minutes in RealD 3D and IMAX 3D

Release date: February 14, 2019

Genre: Action, Adventure, Romance, Animation and Adaptation

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

MPAA Rating: PG-13


From visionary filmmakers James Cameron (AVATAR) and Robert Rodriguez (SIN CITY), comes the American cyberpunk super-hero action film  ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL, an epic adventure of hope and empowerment.  The production development stems from Yukito Kishiro's Battle Angel Alita manga, which was brought to James Cameron's attention by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro.  Cameron immediately became enamored with the concept and bought the product.


As for the story, this a tale of the titular cyborg Alita (Rosa Salaza), a lead role portrayed by way of motion capture animation who is a disembodied "core" who awakens with no memory in a post-apocalyptic world destroyed by a technical fall.  Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), a scientist who is Alita's caretaker finds her in the ruins and gives her a new body.  They later discover Alita is more than what she seems and has an extraordinary past that gives her super powers.  As she navigates her new life, she battles other machines who are empowered with various skills.  During her new life venture, she encounters a young man named Hugo (Keenan Johnson) who becomes her love interest.  He teaches her to play a gladiator-style game called Motorball.  As she masters the game, it catches the eye of villainous Vector (Mahershala Ali), the man who rigs Motorball combat matches.


While Alita is categorized as the femme fatale, she is not really a maneater.  She is a stock character of a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare men, often leading them in compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations.  The action sequences are high energy with big-budget physical stuntd and chases,along with rescues, battles, fights,escapes, destructive crises, non-stop motion, spectacular rhthym and pacing.  Yet, the romantic aspect focuses on the basic insecurities people feel when they fall in love.


Supporting cast members add layers to the story, as Jennifer Connelly plays Dr. Chiren, the ex-girlfriend of Dr. Ido, who escaped with him from the false utopia of Zalem?Tiphanes, but became disenchanted with real freedom.  Meanwhile, Ed Skrein portrays Zapan and Elza Gonzalez as Nyssiana, cyborgs whose task is to track down and kill Alita.  However, Michelle Rodriguez plays Gelda, a cyborg warrior from Mars who trained Alita.  


Epic in nature, this film impacts its audience with the life journey of Alita as she ventures the streets of Iron City, and finds young love with Hugo.  Yet, the deadly and corrupt forces she encounters, and her chances of regaining her memory give this movie a collossal impact on its execution and dellivery.


FILM RATING (B+)


 

WHAT MEN WANT review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on February 8, 2019 at 4:55 PM

Directed by: Adam Shankman

Running time: 1 hour 57 minutes

Release date: February 8, 2019

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Romance, Fantasy, Remake, and Adapatation

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

MPAA Rating: R


In a spin-off remake of the 2000 film What Women Want, the plot follows a woman who, after getting passed over for a promotiom in the managing and promoting celebrity sports personalities, gains the ability to hear men's inner thoughts.

Ali Davis (Taraji P. Henson) is a successful sports agent who's constantly boxed out by her male colleagues. When Ali is passed up for a well-deserved promotion,she questions what more she needs to do to succeed in a man's world, until she gains the ability to hear men's thoughts.  With her newfound power, she looks to outsmart her colleaues as she races to sign the next basketball superstar.  Her aggressiveness fostered by her father played by Richard Roundtree, is out of control, but it is soon leveled when she meets her love interest played by Aldis Hidge.


With sports celebrity cameos such as Shaquille O'Neal, and music emporess Erica Badu as a fly-by-night vudu witch, the film is amusing.  But as a movie one would want to enjoy, it has too many flaws to acknowledge as something meaningful. Ethnic humor and ghetto dialogue is exaggerated and is substituted for solid comedy. The subplot of a romantic theme as woman meets man, and the journey of the two with its ups and downs, is banal.  Overall, their isn't an emotional message delivered. If one was looking for a female empowerment statement to be made, there really isn't.


The use of a cast that includes Tracy Morgan, Tamala Jones, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Max Greenfield, and Brian Bosworth gives their all in a storyline that is weak and whimsical.  The comic relief is troublesome and depends heavily on the celebrity talent's exposure on screen.  This presence on screen of celebrities is light in tone, and causes the overall theme to be troublesome.  The use of ethnic puffery (exaggerated statements) in the dialogue frustrated the sructure of the plot. It is not a provocative form of comedy, but disjointed.

 

A romantic comedy message in a film narrative must express, regardless of whether they are dramatic or comedic, espress the message that anyone can find true love.  It may be happy, sad, good or bad, but the film must affirm that there is a true love out there for every person.  Another message the film must express is that everyone feels general insecurities when they fall in love.  It has to display that vulnerability and fear is common when it comes to romantic relationships.  The purpose of this humor is to make light of serious and often taboo subject matter, and some actors (comedians) use it as a tool for exploring vulgar issues, thus provoking discomfort, and serious thought as well as amusement in their audience.  What Men Want, fails to execute its delivery in these messures aand leaves the audience uninspired.


FILM RATING (C)


 


 


  

GLASS review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on January 13, 2019 at 9:45 AM

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan

Running time: 128 minutes

Release date: January 18, 2019

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Sequel

Distributor: Universal Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13


In the relm of superhero thriller films, this sequel to Shyamalan's previous films Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2016), in the Eastrail 177 Trilogy, reprises Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Spencer Treat Clark, and Charlayne Woodard in their Unbreakable roles, while James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy return from their Split characters. Sarah Paulson, Adam David Thompson, and Luke Kirby join the cast.


In a series of escalating encounters, security guard David Dunn used his supernaturalabilities to track Kevin Wendel Crumb, a disturbed amn who has 24 personalities.  Meanwhile, the shadowy presence of Elijah Price emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men. 


However, the characters should be explained.  Bruce Willis plays David Dunn/The Overseer.  He's a former college football prodigy turned security guard who possesses superhuman strength, stamina, and invulnerable as well as an extrasensory ability to see the crimes people have committed by touching them.


Samuel L. Jackson portrays Elijah Price/Mr. Glass.  A mass murderer and comic book theorist with Type 1 osteogenesis inperfecta and super intelligence who was turned into the authorities after Dunn discovered the extent of his crimes.


James McAvoy is Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Horde.  He's a former Philadelphia Zoo employee with 24 different personalities whose body chemsitry changes with each personality.  The 24th personality is known as "The Beast".  


Supporting characters consist of Sarah Paulson as Dr. Ellie Staple, the shrink specializing in delusions of grandeur who treats patients convinced they are superhuman beings.  Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, a young girl who was kidnapped  by one of Kevin's personalities as a potential sacrifice to "The Beast" and survived.  Spencer Treat Clark as Joseph Cooke, David's son who has beleived in his father's abilities since he was a child, and sees him as a real-life superhero.  Charlayne Woodard as Mrs. Price, Elijah's mother who took great care of her son and always told him he was special no matter whar others said.  Adam David Thompson as Daryl, and Luke Kirby as Pierce.


The superohero thriller which is structured in layers, attempts to merge the various narratives in an action adventure drama with quasi-scientific, visionary and imaginative stories.  With the use of dark and shadowy villains, futuristic technology, unknown and unknowable forces, and extraordianry monsters the film displays constant havoc.  As the script is designed to terrify and shock, while entertain its audience at the same time, it really is mostly annoying.  Using CGI monsters and deranged humans as a special alternative for real entertainment, this film falls flat on its face.  


This is not a film the noted filmmaker should be proud of.  I was unimpressed!


FILM RATING (C-)

THE UPSIDE review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on January 9, 2019 at 8:35 AM

THE UPSIDE

Directed by: Neil Burger

Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes

Release date: January 11, 2019

Genre: Drama, Comedy, and Remake

Distributor: STXfilms

MPAA Rating: PG:13


Inspired by a true story written by John Hartman, based on the hit 2011 French film The Intouchables, and books You Changed My Life by Abdel Sellou by Abdel Sellou, A Second Wind: A Memoir by Phillippe Pozzo di Borgo, and The Upside: A Memoir by Abdel Sellou, is a heartfelt dramedy about a recently paroled ex-convict (Kevin Hart) who strikes up an unusual and unlikely friendship with a paralyzed billionaire (Bryan Cranston).


In A Second Wind: A Memoir  one of the books, it tells the true story of how (he) Phillippe, descendant of a wealthy aristocratic French family is totally isolated as his paralysis renders him unable to take care of himself until he hires an  unemployed and untrained African immigrant caregiver Abel.  In You Changed My Life by Abdel Sellou and The Upside: A Memoir, tells Abdel's (nickname Driss) version of the unorthodox relationship between the two.


The 2011 French film The Intouchables, is the biopic of this unusual relationship where as friendship saved two people.    In this updated Hollywood version,also starring Nicole Kidman, Julianna Margulies, and Aja Naomi King, gives powerful supporting performances for lead characters  Kevin Hart as ex-convict Dell and Bryan Cranston as wealthy Phillip.  The on-screen chemistry of the co-leads is excellent, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction.  While using great pacing and delivering fine dialogue, the film's narrative is often poignant, as well as funny.  


The tone and theme is clever in its structure of a romantic comedy to frame the platonic friendship between two very different men.  Their interaction is defined by feeling of brotherly love and amity.  As a buddy movie where the friendship doesn't play second fiddle to overblown action and rauchy humor.  It's like smoking weed versus sipping fine wine.  It is the classic odd-couple setup, only it pulls at your heartstrings.  It takes you on an emotional rollercoaster ride.


I always find fault in Hollywood remakes of good foreign films.  Mainly for the fact that the western world versions are wrapped in a formulaic structure.  In most cases, these adaptations showcase celebrity actors giving credit to their status oppose to the credibility of the story.  In this case, the narrative of humanism and an odd couple relationship scenario is well displayed in an atmosphere that can be shown on any global platform.  While maintaining a high standard of storytelling, along with good performances by a talented cast, the balance of executing and delivering this movie to its audience is successful.  


Perhaps, it is wrong to compare this version to the original French 2011 film, but this movie is solid and worth the time.


FILM RATING (B) 

TOUCH ME NOT review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on January 4, 2019 at 5:50 PM

Directed by: Adina Pintilie

Running time: 125 minutes

Release date: January 11, 2019

Genre: Drama

Distributor: Kino Lorber

MPAA Rating:  Not rated


Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Adina Pintile stretches her work into an avant garde character study narrative examining sexuality among three personalities.  It is an indept deep, personal soul searching venture into how to achieve real human intimacy bordering between reality and fiction following the journeys of three main characters; Laura (Laura Benson), Tomas (Tomas Lemarquis), and Christian (ChristianBayerlein).


Fimmaker Adina Pintilie is a Romanian whose work includes her as a visual artist.  Her work borders between fiction, documentary, and visual arts, andstands ourt through a highly personal visual style, with courage to experiment in cinematic language and an un compromising exploration of human psyche.  In her statement concerning this film, she wanted to have intimacy ploy to play a central role in human experience, having its roots in the initial physical, emotional and psychological bonds of people.


The film focuses on their craving for intimacy, yet also exploring their fear of it as they work to overcome old patterns, along with examining defense mechanisms and taboos in finding sexual freedom.  The astonishing format and structure is unique as it studies the edgy social drama of sexual struggles.  The personal stake of these personalities weighs heavily of the pacing and tone filmmaker Adina Pintilie places to this viewer.  


The attention of the narrative delivers an attitude of inspiration as an impressive visonary film.  Carefully, the rationale is to bring sexual norishment and conscienous to the viewer.   Yet, it resonates with exploitation as its base desire for a lurid subject matter.  Some scenes are similar to softcore pornography, in that the film severs largely as a vehicle for showing nudity and vivid sex scenes.  While delivering messages into the psychology of sexual exploration, it doesn't engage a theme of legitimatacy as it attempts to be a 'docu-drama'.


Touch Me Not, in my critical assessment is a failure because of its ineffectiveness supported by the story telling shots.  By using a documentary style format and structure, it lacks impacted attitude chill footaging that would force the viewer to 'lean-in' to see what is happening to the story.  The emotional cutaway shots are pretentious and lacks intensity.  


Overall, the film is penalized for poor execution and delivery as it attempts to project a serious tragedy.  It does not arouse pity as a magnitude action.  It does not reinforce the sexual tragedy of the protagonists and leaves an absence of viewer emotional reaction, such as, tension and intensity.


FILM RATING (C) 

MOWGLI: Legend of the Jungle review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on November 29, 2018 at 6:30 AM

Directed by: Andy Serkis

Running time: 104 minutes

Release date: November 29, 2018 (theatrically limited) & December 7, 2018 (wide on Netflix)

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

Distributor: Netflix

MPAA Rating: PG-13


In a screenplay written by Callie Kloves with the mindset of rebooting Rudyard Kipling's 1894 legendary and classic story The Jungle Book, a story of abandonement of a male child named Mowgli, followed by fostering of wolves and other animals in an Indian jungle during the British occupation.  This contemparary reinvention brings to life the masterpiece tale with an international cast starring Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, Matthew Rhys, and Naomie Harris along with newcomer Rohan Chand as Mowgli.


Echoing Kipling's works of fiction which include The Jungle Book (1894), Kim (1901), and many short stories including The Man Wo Would Be King  in 1888, his poems Mandalay (1890), and Gunga Din (1890), this live-action and motion-caption animated film illuminates the wide screen with innovated genius the Kipling would welcome.  


The story is quite the same as the original, whereas a boy torn between two worlds accept his destiny and becomes a legend.  Mowgli (Rohan Chand) has never truly belonged in either the wilds of the jungle or the civilized world of man.  The adventurous plot is laced with intrigue and action which includes thrilling and intense chases, rescues, battles, and escapes.  It all begins as Mowgli learns the often rules of the jungle under the tutelage of a bear named Baloo (Andy Serkis) and a black panther named Bagheera (Christian Bale).  Mowgli is accepted by the jungle animals as one of their own except for the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch).  With non-stop action, spectacular rhythm and pacing the epic presentation is elaborate and mythic, while adding an extravagant exotic setting the plot features resilience in motion.


Supporting cast members Cate Blancett as Kaa the Indian rock pathon, Naomie Harris as Nisha the Indian wolf, Peter Mullan as Akela the Indian wolf, Jack Reynor as Brother Wolf, Eddie Marsan as Vhaan the Indian wolf, Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Haithi the Indian elephant, and Tom Hollander as Tabaqui the striped hyena are the voice and motion-caption unit of the production.  While Matthew Rhys as John Lockwood and Freida Pinto as Messua portray actual human characters.  These performances are very rich in classic narrative structure.


The approach of the visual effects is brilliant, which only enhances the emotionally moving adventure.  Staying true to the 1907 Nobel Prize of Literature winner Rudyard Kipling's passionate narrative, Andy Serkis's film shares his extraordinary gifts in storytelling - all for audience escapism, amazement, and wonderment.  


Mowgli: Lengend of the Jungle is an award consideration film worthy of exceptional acknowledgement.


FILM RATING (A+) 


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