Showing posts with label film. Show all posts
Showing posts with label film. Show all posts

Thursday, October 1, 2020

A Call To Spy (2019) Celebrates Women-Led Resistance

Inspired by true stories Vera Atkins (Stana Katic) helps lead Winston Churchill’s new secret army of spies known as the Special Operations Executive. Two of her newest recruits – Virginia Hall (Sarah Megan Thomas) and Noor Inayat Khan (Radhika Apte) become the first “lady spies” of a resistance network in German-occupied France as Hitler poises to cross the English channel. 

History has a way of repeating itself in Hollywood. When the same old stories are told, we’re stuck believing that the same people save or revolutionize the world over and over again. As female filmmakers look more between the lines of the past and its forgotten trailblazers, we begin to see just how much entertainment has scratched the surface. In a recent bout of solid female-driven World War II films, A Call To Spy continues to turn the tide of how cinema defines the “the greatest generation.”

Monday, August 3, 2020

Summerland (2020) Infuses the Wartime Genre with Magic and Love

summerland movie review
Hollywood too often tells a familiar history of World War II. War stories are mostly reserved for heroic tales of the men behind some of the world’s greatest combat missions to defeat Adolf Hitler and establish support for the Allies. Rarely exploring the expansive experiences of women and minorities at the time, a few films are turning the tide of how cinema recollects history. In the similar vein of Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest or Mike Newell’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Summerland makes for a refreshing escape of self-discovery and fantasy during one of the world’s darkest periods.

Set in the English coastal countryside of Kent, academic researcher Alice Lamb (Gemma Arterton) becomes the guardian of a refuge child Frank (Lucas Bond) whose parents are fighting in the war. Despite the nearby town treating her as the “beast on the beach” for her unladylike behavior, Lamb and Frank develop an unlikely connection that helps unveil a lost romance with a former lover (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). As research about a fantastical island in the sky brings her closer to Frank, their time together draws more parallels between them than they ever could’ve imagined.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Relic (2020) Adds A New Twist to 'Haunted House' Classics

Relic Movie Review

Age creeps up on us steadily. One second we're young and free, and the next we're burdened with too many responsibilities or we don't want to be a burden to our loved ones. What becomes of us when we age and those around us is at the heart of Relic - a horror film that makes us come face-to-face with the shock, confusion, and (hopefully) understanding aging inevitably causes.


After their grandmother Edna (Robyn Nevin) is reported missing, her daughter and granddaughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and Sam (Bella Heathcote) journeys to her house to find out what happened and discover signs of disarray that makes them realize how severely she's been struggling on her own. When Edna mysteriously re-appears as if nothing happened, her erratic behavior forces them to realize there might be more to her dementia than meets the eye.


Monday, July 13, 2020

Hamilton (2020) Rises To The Hype

Hamilton Musical Film
Hamilton has been more than just a moment since it took the theatre world by storm in 2015. Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical premiered off and on Broadway, mainly stationed in New York City and then a subsequent tour abroad. For almost five years, fans have clamored to get premiere tickets to the groundbreaking show that won 11 of its 16 Tony Award nominations. Looking to the future, the musical-powers-that-be director Thomas Kail and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda decided to capture the magic of the initial Broadway cast. Their film, originally slated for theatrical release in October 2020, premiered on Disney+ early to entertain fans and subscribers at home during the pandemic. The result is a continued example of Hamilton as an inspiring and unforgettable movement.


Thursday, May 7, 2020

Driveways (2019) Influence Lies In Its Slice of Life Simplicity

Summer has become the season in cinema for the industry’s biggest and loudest movies – blockbusters, comic book movies, and long-awaited adaptations. Simmering down with a slice-of-life drama, independent movies remain a reliable source for humanity connection. While some movies inevitably hit us like a freight train, others are so subtle that their unassuming nature leads an indelible impact over time. Director Andrew Ahn's Driveways refreshingly follows in to the latter.

A single mother Kathy (Hong Chau) and her shy son Cody (Lucas Jaye) make a roadtrip to visit her late sister's house, unaware that she was a reclusive hoarder. Their plans to sort and sell gradually expand over the course of a summer, allowing Cody to develop a friendship with a Korean war veteran Del (Brian Dennehy) next door.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

New Rescheduling Dates for 2020 Movies

Due to the corona-virus, our regular summer of movie-going has been postponed. With cineplexes closing temporarily (or forever) and theatrical releases moving to streaming services, there's been a massive shift in the dates of movies going forward this year. From Marvel and Disney to DCEU and beyond, I've compiled a list of dates for films that will have a new opening weekend either later this year or further down the road. Mark your calendars (with a pencil - just in case!).

If you see a film missing from this list that you think I should add, feel free to share below. Which movies are you looking forward to seeing?


Friday, April 3, 2020

The Other Lamb (2020) Gives Rage A New Visceral Lease on Life

Since Martha Marcy May Marlene followed the traumatic aftermath of a young woman's escape from a cult, similar films have reinvented women's power in cinema over the past several years. By confronting and rejecting a regime designed to keep their followers' autonomy at bay, films like The Witch (2016) to Suspiria (2018) have laid the groundwork in exploring the 'chosen' one who decides to break free. In a similar vein, The Other Lamb takes a hypnotic dive into a young girl questioning her narrative and helping her sisters do the same.

Deep in the wilderness away from civilization, The Shepherd (Michel Huisman) tends to his flock of wives and daughters who worship his every word. On the cusp of teenage-hood, Selah (Raffey Cassidy) begins experiencing strange visions about the only community and family she's ever known. When the group seeks to find a new Eden, everything Selah thought she knew about The Shepherd might lead to the freedom she's secretly seeking.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Clover (2020) Entertains the Dubious Nature of Luck in the Mob Genre

clover movie review 2020
In the gritty world of mobsters, there’s the hunter and the prey. A hierarchy of crime bosses rule the roost while their henchmen or women, loaners, and sharks must obey pecking order to survive. Step one toe out of line and the whole business descends into chaos. This is something two hapless brothers in Clover learn the hard way.

Mickey (Jon Abrahams) and Jackie (Mark Webber) Callaghan are about to lose the pub that's been in the family for generations. The night before they’re supposed to payback a sizable loan, Jackie loses it all while gambling. When local mobster Tony Davolio (Chazz Palminteri) offers one last opportunity to wipe the slate clean, the siblings must go on the run with a young girl Clover (Nicole Elizabeth Berger) after she accidentally kills Davolio’s son.

Friday, March 13, 2020

(M.O.M.) Mothers of Monsters (2020) Compels Us To Question A Mother's Love

One of the scariest crossroads a parent can imagine is their children heading towards a destructive path where they want to cause themselves or others harm. What’s worse is when their child exhibits violent tendencies, but they aren't able to seek proper help and are left to their own devices. Tapping into the dysfunctional relationship between a mother and son, as well as the violence springing from young adults today, M.O.M. (Mothers of Monsters) tackles mother’s intuition and societal paranoia.

Concerned mother Abbey (Melinda Page Hamilton) has recognized a pattern of mental health issues with her son Jacob (Bailey Edwards) since he was a young boy. Having grown up as a teenager with an obsession for video games and Nazi paraphernalia, Abbey now questions whether her son is planning an attack on his school. Left to take matters into her own hands, Abbey rigs their house with an elaborate surveillance system in the hope of helping other mothers recognize the warning signs.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Miss Americana (2020) Shines A Light On the Swift Narrative

Miss Americana (2020) documentary review netflix
Everyone has an opinion on Taylor Swift. Millions of fans around the world have grown up with her music and followed her through the highs and lows. Outside of her loyal Swiftie community, the world over either loathes, ignores or maintains a bitter impression about Swift. Netflix's latest documentary Miss Americana (2020) strives to challenge what both fans and haters alike believe about the beloved yet divisive celebrity.

In 2016, after the massive success of her fifth studio album 1989, Swift reached a new height of media overexposure and a public feud with Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian. When #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty trended worldwide for 24 hours, Swift was effectively canceled. The musician thought the world wanted her to disappear, and so she did – for a year. The question on so many fans’ minds will center on where Swift went during that time she disappeared, and this is where the documentary steps in.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020) Recaptures The Rom-Com Magic

To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You / Netflix
From Set It Up to Always Be My Maybe, Netflix has become the new home for romantic comedies. Adapting the best-selling novel by Jenny Han into a three-film franchise, To All the Boys I've Loved Before captured the hearts of bookworms and movie lovers in 2018. And the streaming platform's plans to keep the series's heartfelt success going for its next two features continue strong.

Lara Jean Song Covey's (Lana Condor) secret love letters that were never supposed to see the light of day end up in the mailboxes of her old school crushes. To save face from embarrassment and coming in-between her sister and an ex (to whom one of the letters is sent), Lara and one of her crushes Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) start a fake relationship. Their attempts at keeping up with appearances while getting to know each other personally gives way to real feelings.

We last left the couple on the lacrosse field optimistically declaring their feelings for each other, but going back to Adler High School behind is tougher than they think. After risking it all and willing to take a chance on love, Lara Jean and Peter are no longer pretending to be a couple - they're the real deal. As Lara struggles to navigate her first real relationship, a fellow love letter recipient John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher) springs back into her life, leaving Lara to question what being in love truly means.

Where To All the Boys I've Loved Before brought us along on the journey of Lara Jean's struggle to trust giving her heart over to a real relationship instead of a fantasy, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You brings into view the expectations Lara places on herself as she falls in genuine love for the first time. Both Lara Jean and Peter have to confront insecurities from past relationships (namely with Peter's ex Genevieve played by Emilija Baranac) - they must learn to shed the restrictions of their fake-ship and invest in each other wholeheartedly.

As perfect as love stories might read on the page, it's an entirely different challenge to experience them in real life. Offering a perfect mix of rom-rom chemistry and grounded, relateable performances, Lana Condor and Noah Centineo pick up where they left off, vibing off of each other as the characters gradually grow up. As the beating heart of the series, Lana Condor once again brings humor, heartbreak, and self-awareness to her role as Lana. She perfectly fulfills the role of the conflicted and personable heroine we don't often see in romantic comedies anymore. Next to Centineo's Peter whose energy is as contagious as over, Jordan Fisher's John steps into the role of the sensitive and artistic dreamboat who might steal Lara's heart with ease.

Despite the first film's release two years ago, it doesn't feel as if time has passed at all between the two films. The sequel makes a few major switches behind the scenes - the director's chair passes from Susan Johnson to Micha Fimognari, while Sofia Alvarez adds J. Mills Goodloe as her screenplay partner. From her splendidly bold and colorful costumes to cinematography by, Lara Jean's world takes us back to the nostalgic sphere of rom-coms that sweep us off our feet. Also serving as cinematographer, Fimognari keeps the visual palette from the first film, giving the trilogy a consistent atmosphere and look that you can't get enough of.

For the most part, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You recaptures the same charm as its set-up, revitalizing the nostalgia for rom-coms of the past. It has more adorable characters, gorgeous costumes, and tender mishaps between the letter-writing love triangle that'll make you swoon as rom-coms should do. At times, it also expands its missteps, namely failing to let Lara Jean explore life outside of the confines of her view about and by Peter or John Ambrose. While the first film explored the similarities between Lara and Peter but balanced out the hiccups of their unorthodox arrangement, the consistent string of miscommunication and mix-ups limits the foundation of who they are individually. Some issues throughout their relationship, particularly Peter's inability to look past Genevieve, never exactly feels resolved or that the main relationship grows as much as it could. Subsequently, the cast's chemistry makes the story work even in its strongest and weakest moments where you can't help but feel like rooting for them.

Ringing in the old days of John Hughes's movies, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is a rare gem, continuing the magic of the first flick and becoming a solid follow-up for a trilogy. Led by effervescent star Lana Condor, the film offers an enthusiastic and heartwarming diversity to a round of complex and endearing characters. The story reminds us of what it's like to fall in love and the journey of learning to communicate and be vulnerable in a relationship. As a romantic-comedy series for a new generation, the charm and joy from the mini-franchise leaves us wanting more for its final and third installment.

Rating: ★1/2☆
Have you seen To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You? What did you think?

Please Note: I was provided with a screener in order to watch this film. To All The Boys I've Loved Before and To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is currently available to watch on Netflix.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) Sparks New Life in the Comic Book Genre

birds-of-prey-movie-review
Since director Patty Jenkins's Wonder Woman successful run in 2017, the DCEU has been steadily rebuilding its reputation. With follow-up films like Shazam (2019) and Aquaman (2018), fans love or hate the direction of the studio’s franchises. Shouldered with keeping their winning streak alive and kicking off a stream of female-led films in 2020, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) raises a little hell in the comic book genre and breaks a few glass ceilings of her own.

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) has broken ties with The Joker, but the immunity her relationship brought has now expired. Formerly under the protection of her ex's power, Quinn’s gotta fend off Gotham City’s worst nightmares when they come to collect. As her emancipation invites more obstacles than she bargained for, Quinn’s sets off a rebellious chain-reaction with teen thief Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), marginalized cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), vigilante Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead against a diabolical club owner Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor).

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Gentlemen (2020) Is A Typical Guy Ritchie Movie

Guy Ritchie The Gentlemen movie review
STXfilms (United States)
With the exclusion of a few titles under his cap, director Guy Ritchie has mostly replicated his plots for the past twenty-five years. Having his universe of copy+paste indie-mob flicks, based solely on the cast and how many times they can find new entertaining ways to curse, isn't the worst career to possess in film these days. But it's not necessarily the most exciting either.

Sleazy private investigator Fletcher (Hugh Grant) tracks down the dirty business arrangements between cannabis tycoon Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) and an American millionaire Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong). With the intel he discovers, he attempts to bribe Mickey’s right-hand man Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), and that's just not going to sit well with at all.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Quick Movie Reviews

From stealing the Declaration of Independence to escaping your psychotic in-laws, these are my quick movie reviews for National Treasure, Tremors, and Ready or Not. They're great picks for a fun night at home, and if you're looking for some action/adventure over the weekend. Have you seen these films? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Little Women (2019) Revitalizes A Classic for A New Generation

Sony Pictures Releasing
Every generation of bookworms experience a new adaptation of Little Women. As Hollywood brings author Louisa May Alcott's tale to the big screen for the seventh time, it's easy to believe the beloved story fulfills another quota for the reboot machine. Unlike most recent flailing remakes that fail to step out of the box or honor the original, director Greta Gerwig instills enough changes to revitalize the classic as well as stick to its roots.

Set during the Civil War, the March sisters face trials and tribulations with their place in the world. While Jo (Saoirse Ronan) aspires to be an independent writer, she struggles alongside her sisters Amy (Florence Pugh), Beth (Eliza Scanlen), and Meg (Emma Watson) to follow their passions or find economic stability through marriage.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (2019) Is Not The Finale You're Looking For

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker movie review
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Since legendary filmmaker George Lucas changed movie history with a little space opera called Star Wars (1977), generations of fans have been obsessed with the imaginative sci-fi universe he created.  Slated to tell the story of the Skywalker clan over the course of nine movies, it’s been written in the stars that the epic saga would eventually close this chapter forever. Expected to stick the franchise’s landing with the latest trilogy The Force Awakens (2015) and The Last Jedi (2017), its final film The Rise of Skywalker is not the finale many of us were looking for.

In 2015, the Star Wars legacy was reignited with director and writer JJ Abrams’s The Force Awakens. A ragtag group of heroes fighting against the Empire 2.0 hit too close to home with A New Hope, but offered a chance to connect with a younger generation of characters and explore new plots. Namely, why did Luke Skywalker disappear? How did Ben Solo’s relationship with his uncle turn him to the dark side of the Force? Who was Rey from nowhere? The film was filled with endless possibilities that unraveled in the divisive follow-up The Last Jedi. Trying to answer as many questions as possible while also subverting expectations, director and writer Rian Johnson planted fresh ideas about failure in the Star Wars mythos. It gave us the chance to imagine Star Wars if it didn’t act like a formulaic blockbuster Star Wars film. Given full reigns to reinsert his own character development and plot, Abrams returned to throw everything at the wall and give fans the climatic finale they wanted. But it’s also one that we never imagined and might not have realistically needed.

After The Resistance led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) escapes The First Order, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is tasked with completing her Jedi training to take down Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). When the prince of darkness makes an unexpected reunion with the invincible Sith Lord Emperor Palpatine, both Rey and Kylo's connection to The Force will drive them to confront their biggest fears and darkest secrets.

This review contains spoilers from the film - read at your own risk.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Joker (2019) Makes Clowns Of Us All

Joker movie review
Warner Bros. Pictures
Box office dominance, Academy Award victories, and a stream of superhero movies slated for the next five years. All signs point to comic book movies not going away any time soon. As traditional filmmakers call out the formulaic scope of CGI thrills, it seems like the genre is still due for a timely swing in a different direction - a grim character study, subtle comic mythology, and a thought-provoking message about the state of the world. Joker is the first to step up to the plate, and then misses the mark on such an impressive scale, I was left laughing until it hurt.

Living in the slums of Gotham City with his troubled mother, social outcast, party clown, and aspiring comedian Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) struggles with his mental illness. As ruthless street punks, his boss, a late night talk show host, and society seemingly have out for him, Fleck wrestles to fulfill his aspirations of putting on a happy face and making the world smile. Subsequently, the ostracization he endures drives him closer to becoming the nihilistic criminal he abhors.


Friday, November 29, 2019

(Spoiler Free) Knives Out (2019) Resurrects The Who Dun It Genre

Knives Out movie review
Knives Out / Lionsgate
Every once in a while, a movie comes along that manages to hit all the right spots - funny, suspenseful, detailed production design, fantastic cast, a real entertaining thrill ride. As the film industry is in the throes of artful cinema versus blockbuster cinema, sometimes you need a director who can kind of do both. Enter Rian Johnson.

On his 85th birthday, acclaimed mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) dies unexpectedly and leaves his entire family grasping at straws over his passing. Renown detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) comes in to investigate and teams up with local Thrombey fanboy Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan) and Detective Lieutenant Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield) to find out the truth. With a massive estate on the line, what is initially ruled as a suicide unravels into a much deeper mystery where everyone - Thrombey's goodhearted nurse Marta (Ana De Armas) and his whole family Ransom Drysdale (Chris Evans), Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis), Walter Thrombey (Michael Shannon), Richard Drysdale (Don Johnson), Joni Thrombey (Toni Collette), Meg Thrombey (Katharine Langford), Jacob Thrombey (Jaeden Martell) - are a suspect for Harlan's murder.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Maiden (2018) Shows Courage Against All The Odds

Maiden documentary review
Sony Pictures Classics
Rarely does history feel like its shifting when the status quo remains the same. Yet when we look on the past as a kaleidoscope of groundbreaking events in politics, entertainment, and sports, culture is transformed because a few ordinary people were called to forge their own path. A small moment creates a ripple effect that lasts for generations. Maiden tells the inspiring true story of Tracey Edwards and her bid to race the 1989–1990 Whitbread Round the World Race with an all-female crew for the first time.

Much more than a documentary, Maiden captures Edwards’s journey before she changed the competitive nature of sailing forever. As the crew’s cook Jo Gooding says, “If you believe in everything people tell you, you can't do, what would humankind have achieved?”. With captivating footage exploring the chapters of Edwards's life from childhood to adulthood, Maiden dives deep into the courage of the women who dared to do something different: not only be a woman stepping into a man’s world but compete the best that they could.


Thursday, November 21, 2019

Film Spotlight: The Fare (interview with Brinna Kelly)

In the middle of nowhere, a charming woman Penny (Brinna Kelly) hails a taxi from a world-weary driver Harris (Gino Anthony Pesi). Though their initial encounter is only fleeting, their chemistry is suspiciously electric - almost as if they’ve met before. Soon, the duo come to an unsettling realization that they are trapped reliving the same moment over and over. The search for truth about what’s happened will undoubtedly change their lives forever.

Directed by D.C. Hamilton, The Fare immediately grabs your attention with its nostalgic atmosphere. A lone cab out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but two passengers, a mysterious radio show, and an electrical storm blocking their trip makes you feel like you’ve been transported into The Twilight Zone. There’s the natural sense, like with any sci-fi flick, that something else is brewing underneath the surface of what’s occurring on-screen. The use of special effects between the stretch of road Harris’s cab cruises over and over again as well as the black and white cinematography gives The Fare a production value of a much larger studio. Yet, as Penny and Harris’s relationship unfolds, the film also holds onto the intimate character experience of an indie, and lets the film unfold more than the initial sci-fi impression. Despite the seemingly simple premise, there’s a lot at play with the production between the characters and story, and Hamilton manages it with ease.

Similarly, some films falter when its cast can’t live up to the story, or the story engulfs the characters. But as a two-person show (three including the voice-over of Jason Stuart), it’s hard to believe how much the film relies and thrives on the deft performances of Brinna Kelly and Gino Anthony Pesi.

For Penny and Harris to work as individual characters reliving the same moment, as well as a partnership that evolves and flows with the story, their chemistry has to shine from the start. Even though the characters have been trapped together for an inordinate amount of time, their connection must be strong enough to sense that something else is going on between them – it’s not too fresh or too worn down to ruin the allusion of how long they’ve running into each other. They have a real interest in each other as well as a light-hearted banter and connection that makes you root for them. Both Kelly and Pesi exude that balance as their characters grapple with the routine of what they’ve experienced before as well as the startling discoveries that come along. It’d be difficult to believe that Kelly and Pesi don’t break out into the wider span of what Hollywood has to offer at some point, and hopefully The Fare will give them a bigger launching pad.

While this film works seamlessly together with the actors and production, The Fare’s greatest strength is its script. The direction and look of the film will grab your visual attention, and the performances will hook you emotionally, but the set-up of mystery and drama unfolds throughout Kelly’s plot with an impressive amount of pacing. The story rarely lags or feels overdone as the sci-fi element of a time loop gradually explores the loneliness of Harris’s lifestyle, the loss and yearning for connection, and contemplating the unknown. Kelly offers enough questions to keep you guessing about why and how the characters are trapped together, but doesn’t limit the characters’ own story. As the movie moves towards the ending, it’s surprisingly fitting how the film doesn’t throw in a twist just to be shocking as many sci-fi films manage to do. By all means, there is a twist - it’s not necessarily ground-breaking, but you also can’t say for sure you saw it coming. It fits well into the story that Kelly lays out, and depending on your guesses, should still leave you feeling satisfied.

Hamilton’s work on the production offers a visual appeal for longtime fans of The Twilight Zone, while Kelly’s script digs just as deep as Rod Serling’s character studies. Being forced to relive a moment or being trapped by the limitations of time has been done before throughout film and various genres – Memento, Groundhog’s Day, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and About Time, to name a few – yet none of them can quite compare to The Fare.

As always, I provide an honest critique for every film that I screen, and hope that you will check out the review and interview below. The Fare is currently available on YouTubeGoogle Play, and Amazon.


Rating for The Fare: ★★★