Movie Review


Raw Movie Review

  RAW   Directed by: Julia Ducournau Starring: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf and Rabah Nait Oufella   Rated: R Run Time: 1h 39min Genre: Drama, Horror 4 Frames out of 5 By: Shari K. Green Subtitled   In a word, Raw is… raw.  A movie about cannibalism might frighten you away but keep reading before […]


Car Dogs Movie Review   Recently updated !

Car Dogs   Directed by: Adam Collis Starring: Octavia Spencer, George Lopez, Patrick J. Adams, Nia Vardalos, Chris Mulkey, Alessandra Torresani, Josh Hopkins and Wendy Crawford   Rated: R Run Time: 1H, 44mins Genre: Comedy, Drama 3 Frames out of 5 By Shari K. Green   Most of us have been through buying a car, […]


Personal Shopper Movie Review

 

Personal Shopper

 

Directed by: Olivier Assayas

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz and Nora von Waldstätten

 

Rated: R

Run Time: 1h 45min

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

4 Frames out of 5

By: Shari K. Green

 

With the roles she’s choosing, Kristen Steward has been redefining herself, and this part was a wise decision made by both she and director Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria.)  Having worked with her in the past he knew that when he needed an actress to pull off the look of someone pained and tormented and to also be engaging that Stewart was the best choice.  She was his supporting character is Clouds but this time she carries the entire film as Maureen.  The film is a bit hard to follow at first but give it time.

You’re in the hands of a filmmaker who doesn’t want to reveal anything too soon.  Pacing and all things becoming revealed in due time are critically important.

At first, it’s hard to distinguish what exactly is going on with Maureen.  She’s dark and distant but at the twenty-eight-minute mark, you learn that her twin brother had died of the heart defect they both have.  Not only is she sad, she’s lonely and fears for her own health.  When this comes to light it explains the very beginning of the film where she quietly walks through a dark house looking to make contact with a spirit.

She’s a young American woman working in Paris as a personal shopper for a celebrity during the day but at night she’s a brooding sister waiting for her brother who, before he passed away, promised he’d make contact with her after his death.  They had a pact that whoever died first, the other would reach out from the other side and give them a sign.  She goes to the house she once shared with her brother and hopes to see a manifestation or feel something encouraging so that maybe she can move on with the rest of her life but it doesn’t happen so fast.

 

The audience is on a psychological journey with someone who may very well be better off in treatment but the way the film is rolled out; you don’t pick up on that too soon.  There’s a certain strain put on you to understand Maureen because she seems so fragile but at the same time you’re getting frustrated at some of the decisions she’s making.  Like when she receives text messages from a stranger and she begins to engage.  What so good about this, outside of the overall tone, is it keeps you wondering, is it her brother or is it no one?  Is this happening or is it in her head?  With precision, Assayas does an incredible job of leading you into the trap you don’t see coming.  He uses sound and music as he takes you on this trip where you’re on the edge of your seat for the entire ride, but he doesn’t really end up showing you much of anything.  It’s a refreshing take on the subject and it’s a beautiful piece of art.

Personal Shopper can be creepy at times and those moments are done with a special technique.  She becomes more upset, desperate and even frantic.  The more she does, the more engaged with her character you become.  Maureen, the personal shopper and the girl looking for a spirit, seem to be in two different movies.  Kristen Stewart is so good that these two different entities become one in the end.  She makes what Personal Shopper is, so special.  She keeps you vested with slight changes to her character and Assayas uses everything in his power to keep from exposing the tortured young soul too soon without losing you in the meantime.  Personal Shopper is gripping and intense and a movie I’d have to recommend you see as soon as you can.


Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

 

Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, John Ortiz, with Terry Notary, and John C. Reilly

Rated: PG-13

Run Time: 2h

Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy

3 Frames out of 5

By: Shari K. Green

It’s invigorating to see that Kong: Skull Island isn’t just a remake of King Kong.  It has a few similarities, such as beast still digs beauty, but that’s about all.  It stands alone on its own giving director Vogt-Roberts something to be very proud of having a part in. Speaking of beauty, however, I did like the more substantive presence of the ape in the 1970 movie King Kong, where you could see Jessica Lange pull at Kong as she begs him to not let her go.  This gives you the chance to feel for him much more.  That realism isn’t in this version where Kong is CGI.  However, if you have a heart, you’ll still hope the best for the guy.  Why he keeps falling, literally, for these woman is beyond me, though!  You’d think he’d learn by now!  I digress.

Far be it for me to suggest you can learn something from a monster movie but I’m going to.  You can learn something from this monster movie.  You can learn, if you haven’t already, that sometimes with nature things are better left alone.  Though we don’t always pay attention to it, there is a natural order of things and if you interrupt or disturb that order, in the name of helping mankind, you could be doing just the opposite.  Such is the case here.

Kong is set in the early 70’s in the time of Watergate.  Research scientist Bill Randa (Goodman) is in Washington and looking for some money and a military escort to an uncharted island he’d like to explore for the possible medicinal cures it holds.  Insert political statement here as Randa stands outside and proclaims that there’ll never be a more screwed-up time in Washington.  The Nixon bobblehead is a nice touch, as well.

Randa gets his grant, a photographer (Larson), a rather large escort and his own tracker (Hiddleston); they set off to explore Skull Island which is shrouded by vicious storms.  Going only so far by water, the teams, which are led by Colonel Packard (Jackson), take to the air the rest of the way.  However, once they clear the dangerous weather another danger appears; Kong.  He immediately senses danger and begins to protect his turf which looks more like swatting at flies, to be honest.  This scene was well placed as it’s not too far into the film, wasting no time getting you into some heavy action.  Packard takes the attack personally.  Losing many of his men in the battle he’s now hell-bent on killing the creature.  He must prove to Kong that man is King.  Jackson’s look is fiery and savage as his Packard stares Kong down for a moment before being whisked away at the last minute.  Getting stomped on like a cockroach might have ruined his already horrible day.

Helicopters are scattered and the teams separated.  One group meets an indigenous tribe and Hank Marlow (Reilly), also known as the comic relief, a paratrooper who has been stranded on the island since WWII; twenty-eight years to be exact.  Through Marlow, the team hears all they need to know of who Kong really is… he’s King.  To the people of the island, he’s God.  Without him, the Skullcrawlers would dominate and kill every living thing on the island.  Kong keeps the skeletal creatures in low numbers and below ground.  If not for him, all would perish and not only would they take over the island but they’d begin to take over the planet.

During their lesson, other teams are meeting and in some cases, wiped out, by other inhabitants of the island.  If spiders aren’t your thing… this might not be the movie for you but the thought of taking the mother of all spiders down in a wicked way would be spectacular then remember this is a Kong movie, not a spider movie, and get your butt to the theatre.   What’s left of the team meet and make their way to the destination point so they can leave the island and you can leave the theatre but don’t do that too soon!  There is an after credit scene so make sure you stay all the way until lights up.  What they will be assuring you of here is that the MonsterVerse will continue and who could be coming up next.  If you like monster movies, you’ll like Kong: Skull Island.  You might not like the way Hiddleston over plays his role as Larson’s love interest but the CGI is great and the motion capture performance really pulls you in.  Those reasons alone are worth spending the extra money on seeing this at an IMAX theatre if you can.  ENOY!


Table 19 – Movie Review

“Table 19”

 

Directed by: Jeffrey Blitz

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, June Squibb, Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant, Tony Revolori, Wyatt Russell and Amanda Crew

2 Frames out of 5

By: Shari K. Green

 

 

If you’ve ever found yourself as the party guest who has been invited to the party but can’t be super involved due to the placement of your table, then you’ll understand why this movie was made.  It was made for all the odd men out who have watched all of the festivities from afar.  So far away in some cases that you can barely even say you were there!  You were practically scuttled off into another room or the hallway, at least this is how you begin to feel.  If you have ever sat and scanned the table in which you’re seated and noticed you’re at a table full of strangers rather than with those who invited you, and your tablemates seem not to fit in with the other guests, you need to do one thing… examine why you’re at that table, too.  Consider this movie a wake-up call if you’ve ignored this happening to you, especially if it has happened more than once.

 

Writers Mark and Jay Duplass have either been there or have put people there; waaay back there at Table 19 because they certainly hit the nail on the head as to how a guest would feel when realizing they’ve been relegated to the outskirts of a given gala or celebration.  They did a good job writing a script that empowers anyone who has felt shunned in this manner.  At a lost, distant table, one can find hope, friendship and maybe love, if they just open their minds to it.  I liked how it championed for those who should have checked no on their RSVP, but the movie goes out of its way to make a few characters likable that just aren’t.

 

It starts off well, revealing Eloise’s’ (Kendrick) reason for being at the bad table.  She’s the ex-girlfriend of the bride’s brother, Teddy (Russell), and now ex-maid of honor.  One by one, explanations for the other characters at the table are established.  They’re even accompanied by flashbacks.  We have some witty banter which at times, especially when dispatched by Walter (Stephen Merchant), have you laughing and at other times has you feeling sorry for this group of misfits, which isn’t good when you made your way to the theatre, promised a comedy, and are having a hard time finding a reason to chuckle.  It is labeled on IMDB as a comedy, drama but who are we kidding?!  Duplass writing for this cast?!  I’ll not highlight that too soon.  Back to the characters.

Jo (Squibb) is a sweet old woman who all but raised the bride and is being treated horribly by her today.  Rezno (Revolori) is an incredibly obnoxious and extremely unfunny virgin who figures, along with his mother, this is where he can land a drunken, foolish young woman to be his first.  Drunk and foolish is what she’d have to be because no one in their right mind would be into this awkward nightmare of a character.  Rezno was simply too far out to be believable and I thought the film would have been so much better had he not been a part of the story.  Kudrow and Robinson are Bina and Jerry, a couple who has been married for years and are falling out of love.  Though at a wedding, they don’t find it an issue at all to air their differences in front of everyone.

 

I liked some of what was going on.  I can’t say that if you enjoy a character driven story that you shouldn’t watch this one but there is a lot wrong with Table 19.  It, at times, shows real promise.  The characters grow and you’re genuinely happy about that.  I was having fun watching these flakes get to know each other and also wanting to help one another through the vexing situation they realize they’re all in but at times I actually found myself looking around the theatre to make sure I knew the location of the emergency exit.  It was all over the place with what kind of movie it wanted to be.

 

I think had the writers focused on one genre, director Jeffrey Blitz (The Office and Parks and Recreation) would have had a much better script to work with.  Choosing drama over comedy then switching back and… my head is spinning!!  It got a little frustrating.  Sure there’s comedy in misery but it was anguishing watching how miserable some of these poor things are.  For Squibb, Robinson and Merchant, I’d say watch this when it hits cable.  It isn’t a terrible waste of your time.  But be sure you’re in the mood for a comedy, I mean, be sure you’re in the mood for a drama… well, you get the drift.  When you don’t know what you want to see, seat yourself at Table 19.  Sometimes that’s where you just find yourself being put but maybe you won’t mind being there.


Before I Fall – Movie Review

“Before I Fall”

 

Directed by: Ry Russo-Young

Starring: Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Kian Lawley, Elena Kampouris, Cynthy Wu, Medalion Rahimi, Diego Boneta and Jennifer Beals

 

Rated: PG-13

Run Time: 1h 39min

Genre: Drama, Mystery

3 Frames out of 5

By: Shari K. Green

 

 

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was the king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth).  He was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it come back to hit him, repeating this action for eternity.  Through the classical influence on modern culture, tasks that are both laborious and futile are therefore described as Sisyphean.  Why is this English lesson pertinent to this review?  It’s not but it’ll help you better understand why it’s used in the movie and will help you grasp the intent behind the yarn.

 

Before I Fall starts with a voice of a young woman, Sam (Deutch), explaining that, ‘people may have a lifetime of days to waste but…’ and then throws some wisdom out that anyone only truly has today and warns that wasting time isn’t how one should see any moment they’re in.  I try not watching the trailers of, or read too much about, movies before I screen them for review so that I don’t have any preconceived notions of what I’m about to see but it was obvious very quickly that I was in for the teenage dramatic version of Ground Hogs Day with this one.  That being the case and not minding the idea, I got comfy and watched the story unfold.

 

Alarm clock belonging to Sam goes off and we meet Sam.  Sam loves her friends Lindsay (Sage), Ally (Wu) and Elody (Rahimi).  She is always with them and them her.  They’re rich, spoiled and have no respect for anyone, including one another, but outside of sleeping, they’re pretty inseparable.  Like any group, there is a pecking order and though rather high in position, Sam isn’t at the top.  That honor goes to Lindsay who is anything but a likable person.  She’s mean-spirited, loves to watch people squirm as she puts them in their place and enjoys gossiping behind their backs the moment they turn around.  Unaware it happens to them, the pack ignores yet allows Lindsay to say and do as she pleases, as long as she’s nice to them.  As she does every morning, Lindsay picks Sam and the others up one by one and off to school they go.  However, this day is special; it’s different.  It’s Cupid’s Day and they can’t wait to see who receives the most roses throughout the day as this determines who is the most popular.

 

They go through their day as they usually do, being petty to parents and being mean to students.  Sam gets an invite to a party being thrown by her old friend, and the films nice guy, Kent (Miller) and the girls decide to attend.  At the party, Sam plans to lose her virginity to her boyfriend, Rob.  While there, however, she watches Rob get horribly drunk and act like a fool and decides not to go through with it.  Before leaving, the foursome drinks, do their usual teasing of a favorite victim named Juliet (Kampouris) and get in the car and go home.  An accident occurs and then; cut to alarm clock… and the day starts over.  Knowing the things that had happened throughout the day, you see where this is leading.  Sam isn’t Lindsay.  She isn’t mean at her core.  She’s more of an obliging witness where she may play a hand on occasion but would rather not.  If she isn’t dreaming, can she change things about her life?

 

The movie continues in this fashion for the rest of it.  Sam learns a little each time she wakes up to the same ugly day that awaits her.  Is she in hell?  Can she do the right thing and be redeemed?  Eventually, you notice one situation that she hasn’t necessarily made a big effort at correcting.  A slight attempt at a stand but not the true attack it needs.  Why?  Could be because she’d see where she was at fault for having created it in the first place.  Well, why is she on this day to begin with?  By the end of the film, she gets it but is it too late?  Are the answers in the actions she herself has made or in those of other people?  Will she now pay a price for not being a virtuous soul?  Will she have to sacrifice something herself to correct the course she’s now on?

 

I like that you don’t know these answers and that’s why I enjoyed the movie.  I would hate to categorize it as a chick flick but I think I have to.  The length of time spent with the teenage girls in the car, listening to music, hating on people and talking about boys makes it abundantly clear that the film wasn’t made for adult males.  The audience it was made for, the teenagers will absolutely love it.  Zoey Deutch is a good choice to play the sweet-faced martyr and Halston Sage does a good job of reminding us what we hated about high school more than even the homework.  If you’re a fan of dramas packed with mystery and wouldn’t mind the Mean Girls vibe, check out Before I Fall and look for all of the answers to the questions above.  Is she dead?  You tell me.

 


The Great Wall – Movie Review

 

Ever wonder why The Great Wall of China was built?  Well, wonder no more!  Matt Damon and director Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers) present to you the reason.  Well, they offer one of the legends, actually, and I’m pleased to announce, it’s entertaining at the very least.  The Tag Line for the movie is “1700 years to build.  5,500 miles long.  What were they trying to keep out?”  Okay.  I’m fascinated.  What do you have in store for us?

What they have is something that’s a visual sensation.  What they achieve is hard to look away from so make sure you’re not going to have to have a potty break.  There’s a large army, complete with drums, which has protected China from attack for centuries, known as “Nameless Order.”  They’re dressed brightly and vividly which is odd for battle but they’re pretty all the same.  Another ocular wonder is what they’re fighting to save China from; a vicious horde known as the Tao Tei.  They’re huge and have massive limbs and hungry mouths with sharp teeth… the better to eat their multi-hued prey.  The enormous army has used arrows, spears, “black powder” (gunpowder) and acrobatics to defend themselves for ages and then… along comes a couple of European mercenaries to show them how it’s done.  They are William (Damon) and Tovar (Pascal).  Even though helping fight mythical creatures wasn’t exactly what they had in mind, it’s what is now on their plate.  Why they’re there is they heard of this mysterious black powder and figure they can fetch themselves a few bucks if they get their hands on some.  Their plan has just “hit a wall”, so to speak.

When they get to the wall, they’re seen as outsiders, of course, and are jailed immediately.  Then comes the horde that the army wasn’t expecting so soon, and who can shoot better than anyone?!  Guess!  I’ll wait.  You got it!  William.  So, he helps and they’re now trusted to roam free and offer their sage wisdom on how to defeat the terrible brood.  There’s also a woman William notices and she, him.  She’s Commander Lin Mae (Jing) who might not fully trust William but likes what she sees.  This is a good thing because after they show their charges the black powder and its uses, they cannot let their secret escape the barriers.  As a matter of fact, a white man by the name of Ballard (Dafoe) wandered up to find out about the powder and that was twenty-five years ago.  Well, at least he learned a second language and now he has some pals who might help him escape.

The 3D during the battle scenes is spectacular; worth the ticket price if you’re interested in dodging spears being thrown at your face.  However, when there’s downtime, it sort of pulls you out of the story and instead reminds you that you’re watching people on a movie set.  You can visualize the green screen behind them.  For the most part, it was eye-catching and made the film come alive during the epic fight scenes when people were diving off the wall, twirling through the air on bungee cords before bouncing back and when balloons were being used to get to the city to warn them of a probable attack.  What made this work is that outside of a hint of romance, Ballard wanting to escape and a power struggle between Tovar and William, the movie was all action.  It calls itself an action, thriller and it is one.  It’s a little slow to start but once it gets going, you’ll enjoy yourself for its beauty and style.  My guess is if you’re enthusiastic about anime and have a good time holding a controller in front of a screen, you’ll especially relish in the performance of Tian Jing who runs around looking like a character straight out of a Japanese line of games and toys.  If this sounds like you, check it out at a theatre but I’d make it to the matinee.  But be mindful of the fact that The Great Wall isn’t going to be great for all audiences.  It’ll be most admired by the younger generation so, mom and dad, drop off the kids and maybe run into something else… this one just might not be for you.


Fist Fight – Movie Review

 

Directed by: Richie Keen

Starring: Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Dean Norris, Christina Hendricks, Dennis Haysbert and Kumail Nanjiani

Rated: R

Run Time: 1H 31min

Genre: Comedy

2 Frames out of 5

By: Shari K. Green

On the last day of the school year, all hell is breaking loose on school grounds.  Students, especially those in the senior class, are playing pranks on all the members of the staff.  They’re hiding things from their teachers, gluing items to their desks and getting down and dirty in an attempt to no doubt make their final high school day memorable… and possibly one-up the class that came before them.  They’re especially cruel to Principal Tyler, Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris, even going so far as to disassembling his car and putting it back together again inside the school.  There’s a lot going on in the background so don’t forget to pay close attention to what these wild youngsters have committed themselves to doing.  Director Richie Keen, (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) spent the time looking up ways to make this realistic by researching pranks done by real students in the past.  You’ll appreciate this attention to detail.

If you’re a fan of silly comedies, a fan of Charlie Day especially, you’ll want to check this out.  He does an exceptional job portraying the kind and fair English teacher, Andy Campbell.  When he rats on another teacher who loses his cool during class, Ron Strickland (Ice Cube), he is challenged to a fist fight and is now a man on the edge of a meltdown.  This is a comedy, right?  Well, the anger that comes from Strickland is so intense that you end up more or less feeling extremely sorry for Campbell which makes it hard to laugh to a large degree.  Some may think this doesn’t work well for a comedy.  Also, as far as character development goes, we never see any redeeming qualities coming from Strickland which may have helped you not dislike his character so much but unfortunately, as hard as you dig to find out where this anger is coming from, there’s simply nothing there.

Most eggs in Keen’s comedy basket relied on Day’s comedic abilities to hatch, both in a physical sense and how he conducts himself when he’s under pressure.  His strained voice is always worth a chuckle and it’s a blast observing him try to save his butt.  It’s also heartbreaking watching him; knowing the reason why the poor thing is running all over the place.  He goes to teacher after teacher and even calls 911, looking for a helping hand.  Some teachers he approaches are comedy gold.  Allow me to first mention one character that shouldn’t have existed at all and that’s Christina Hendricks’, Ms. Monet.  She comes out of nowhere and should have stayed there.  She really only served one purpose and not very well at that.  Keen did bring on Tracy Morgan (30 Rock) to be the stereotypical, simpleminded coach whose work here you’ll dig.  He also cast the witty Jillian Bell (Brides Maids) as Holly, the guidance counselor who can’t wait until certain students she’s been ogling from afar become legal and Kumail Nanjiani as a security guard who’s afraid of his own shadow.  These faculty members may have special talents in their own right but are of no use when it comes to advising someone on how to take a butt-whoopin’ or especially how to avoid it from happening.  Campbell must solve this mystery on his own.

A charming piece of the story is by way of the lesson Campbell learns.  I’m not speaking only of Andy but also of his daughter Ally (Alexa Nisenson).  In the same way that he is dealing with a bully at work, we are introduced to this character who is discovering life to be miserable at her own school.  When she finds the willpower to face her demons, by using a mic and the song I Don’t Give a F*ck by Big Sean, in a way you won’t soon forget, the movie finds the reason to be and is far better for it.  When Campbell finally musters the strength to confront Strickland, Keen presents a fist fight that will allow you to forgive most of the jokes you saw coming and some of the unnecessary gags that didn’t work.  When you see this, you’ll have fun picking out the obvious nods to films Keen must have liked, as well as his use of certain shots from them you may recognize.  All of this notwithstanding I can’t promote you pay to see this opening weekend at the theatre unless you make it a matinee.  Ultimately, the film has a good message regarding Campbells’ predicament.  He was always walked on and treated as though his opinion didn’t matter but standing up to this challenge makes him a better man and, at long last, a better teacher.

Subsequently, whether he wins the fight or he loses doesn’t matter… it’s all about the journey that he takes.  By the way, stay for the outtakes at the end.


A Cure For Wellness

Director: Gore Verbinski

Starring:  Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth and Harry Groener

Rated: R

Run Time: 2h 26mins

Genre: Suspense, Thriller

3 1/2 Frames out of 5

By Shari K. Green

This movie is abnormally intriguing.  It has a lot going on, much more than what is playing out visually.  If you put some time into the movie mentally, after the flicker is done dancing on the screen, the examination will be well worth it.  Your first impression will depend on what sort of audience member you are.  If you assess your films by what you immediately see on the surface, you’ll see this cryptic yarn as a promised thriller that doesn’t quite get you where you were hoping it would.  It provides the creepy elements that one would expect to see but doesn’t follow through with its promise to be a good intense, if I may, grabber.

The term psychological thriller does apply, however, and in the style of something you’d see straight from a legendary 70’s film.  A list to compare its vibe to could be Chinatown, The Conversation, Play Misty for Me and Magic; all superbly shot, well thought out and their impact on cinema… ever lasting.

In A Cure for Wellness, Gore Verbinski, who helped write the story with screenwriter Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road, The Clearing) digs deep into the essential nature of a person to live, care, love and to aid.  His protagonist, Lockhart (DeHaan), is sent by the financial institution he works for to bring back the CEO, Pembroke (Groener) who is nestled in the Swiss Alps at a mysterious wellness center.  He goes to retrieve Pembroke, knowing full well that the true desire of the board members is to pin its problems on him and use him as a fall guy.  On his way to the center, which uses hydrotherapy from an aquifer with unique purities, he learns of the center’s history and of the castle its inside.  As he speaks to the chauffeur who is taking him to the castle, they’re in an accident and Lockhart ends up a patient himself, waking three days after a crash that had sent the car tumbling.  Continually being urged to drink the water to better heal his broken leg, he finally grabs some crutches and wanders around the place, not only looking for Pembroke but looking around this odd establishment.  From what he recalls the chauffeur saying, his suddenly odd and dark dreams and the behavior of the people around him he begins to feel more like an inmate in an insane asylum than as a willing patient.

When Lockhart meets someone by the name of Hannah (Goth), a special patient who has been there all her life, the story of the institution unravels more and more and Lockhart’s questions get larger and larger.  Becoming suspicious that all is not well and obsessed with finding out more he suggests it’s bad for business for people to get well.  This does not go well with Volmer (Isaacs) who insists Lockhart needs to be submerged in water and the toxins in his body be removed.  This is a macabre scene as memories of Lockhart’s childhood and eels, yes eels, assault him.

So, my final take is there are a few disturbing scenes that play out and some I may never purge but for crazy good, alluring cinema, see A Cure for Wellness.  It may not be Oscar worthy, but cinematographer Bojan Bazelli (King of New York, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Ring), couldn’t have shot this film more methodically and used his lens more perfectly to concentrate on the beauty of the set and the locations and also to create the feeling of anxiety and stress.  It’s a masterpiece cinematically.  What might have otherwise been seen as a clichéd tale by the end is made infinitely more interesting by camera angles, shots sizes and expressions he creates as well as the overall tone he designs.  Again, by the time you finish watching it, you could be somewhat disappointed but don’t be.  Yes, Verbinski could have decided on an ending before two hours had expired but enjoy the fact that there is a much deeper theme going on than first thought and you’ll get there, too.  You’ll contemplate whether this person is alive, is this a dream, it that person in a coma?  Decide for yourself and let me know what YOU thought!


A United Kingdom – Movie Review

A United Kingdom the true story of the forbidden love of King Seretse Khama of Botswana (David Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white woman from London, which caused an international uproar when they decided to marry in the late 1940s just as apartheid was being introduced into South Africa.  It was a decision that altered the course of African history.

Directed by: Amma Asante

Starring: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Jack Davenport, Terry Pheto, Abena Ayivor and Tom Felton

Rated: PG-13

Run Time: 1h 51min

Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance

3 Frames out of 5

By: Shari K. Green

Your first thought upon walking out of A United Kingdom very well may be one of bewilderment at the story itself.  Not that it could happen, of course, (look at today’s headlines, this type of forbidden love is still happening) but that a King was questioned and almost denied his wish.  Anyway, you might next have the inclination to Google this to learn more about these individuals.  It could also be, as it was mine, to gather all of the performances of David Oyelowo to date and, find out what he’s up to next so that you can see all of this man’s work.

Not to disparage the other performances in the production but he delivered the story of a man choosing love over country beautifully.  He never waivered in his ability to sell us on the saga that deep within him, he believed the people of his county would, in due time, not require him to make that sacrifice and did so with the strength and compassion you rarely see with such balance.

It would be impossible not to be impressed with this entire cast and it would be nearly pointless to try and look beyond director Amma Asante’s (Belle) achievements with the film.  She does an exceptional job with this labored piece and with only five directing credits under her belt, quite a feat, she handles the very difficult true life events like a master.

A United Kingdom was a hefty project to take on.  It’s about Seretse Khama (Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Pike) and the political climate of their countries at the time they met in the 1940’s.  He’s heir to the kingdom of Botswana and she’s a white woman from London and despite what their families feel about their union, they insist on being together and will be, even though they’ll be under great scrutiny.  Her father has disowned her for being with a black man and his people, especially members of his own family, would prefer their leader be with his own kind.  Not considering others feelings and only listening to their hearts, they marry and move to South Africa where, unfortunately for all, apartheid is starting to grow.  Their union becomes widely known and a topic of great discussion.  Ruth is a likable person and does her best to be friendly, learn the language and fit in as his family members do their best to make her want to leave.  Oyelowo is outstanding when he addresses his tribe with a moving speech and speaks of Ruth with tears in his eyes, asking to see who would truly deny him his love.  It’s a stirring confrontation and a memorable scene.

What ultimately doesn’t really work, but may have been better with a seasoned director, is the setup.  This story is a pure and true love so strong that this couple defies all rules, family and country to be with one another should have had you cheering their achievements.  However, as it’s told, you don’t really care.  The reason for this is that we meet Ruth and Khama when they first meet and almost immediately they’re in love and getting married.  There isn’t time for you to feel for these people or for the plight in which they find themselves.  Asante does a wonderful job of keeping the rest of the story flowing, especially the focus on the British government wanting the diamonds and minerals on his land, but sadly, missing this crucial step of giving the audience time to identifying with what the couple is going through or to feel compassion for them, hurts her very efforts.  It’s the single most important goal before telling the rest of the narrative for it to have worked as a well-structured and cohesive piece.  It is a good drama about pressures put on them both and his overcoming his uncle asking him to renounce his birthright to the throne for marrying a white woman, but it isn’t as romantic as it claims to be.  Keep in mind it is a true story… life doesn’t always come out as we plan.

I do recommend A United Kingdom but I’d say wait for VOD or DVD instead of paying to see this at the theatre.


John Wick: Chapter 2 – Movie Review

Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise

 

John Wick: Chapter 2

Directed by: Chad Stahelski

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Lance Reddick, Bridget Moynahan, Franco Nero, with John Leguizamo and Ian McShane

Rated: R

Run Time: 2H 2 mins

Genre:  Action, Crime, Thriller

4 out of 5 Frames

By: Shari K. Green

If you like muscle cars, chase scenes, incredible fight sequences and beautiful sets and locations, this movie is going to sizzle your cerebral cortex.  It has everything I mentioned and has them in spades.  All that you liked about the first film is here so you won’t be disappointed.  As you most assuredly know, John Wick was as high octane as they come… what will be your delight is, Chapter 2 is just as powerful and as potent as the first.  John Wick (Reeves), the ghostly and stealthy killer you met in Chapter 1, is the same bad ass, with the same reputation of reigning terror without breaking a sweat but he wants out!  He wants to retire and live out his life in peace.  Well, he may want out but someone comes knocking to remind him that he’s duty bound to do something first and that is to fulfill a blood marker.  A marker is a blood oath.  Once it’s given to a member of the criminal conclave Wick belongs to, one with strict rules for the professional help and perks they receive, it must be honored.

He’s forced to be true to his pledge which is to assassinate Santino D’Antonio’s (Scamarcio) sister so that he could have her seat at the high table, a highly coveted place within the criminal federation.  Stahelski adds an ingenious scene of Wick shopping for his accessories and it’s priceless.  After he gears up he gets to work.  When he completes his task or she does for him, rather, not only are members of her security team after for him, (especially Cassian, played by Common, whose role adds a special element of regalement to the film), but so is Santino.  He decides to close loose ends.  The choreographed action sequences such as rolling down steps mid fight, running on stage and through a concert’s audience while shooting at one another and all the death and destruction delivered by clever cinematography more than makes up for the few times that Reeves, unfortunately, has speaking lines.  I know that’s hard to swallow but it’s more than accurate.

Centrally, this is an astonishingly action packed film with a good narrative.  It’s the story of a character you can’t help root for, even though he’s a ruthless, emotionless and heartless killer.  You want him to win, despite his willingness to murder because, after all, they’re the bad guys, right?  Again, luckily for us, it’s more action driven with focus on the deadly encounters rather than on his dialogue.  Every performance outside of Reeves was adequate, McShane and Common’s especially, but the only delivery Reeves seems to be capable of giving is dry and detached and that’s a shame.  It’s true acting class isn’t necessary with this sort of role but had he been able to give some passion to the lines that he did have, it would have been that much better.  I have to suggest you go see it if you’re an action fan.  I’ll go on record now and say you’re going to absolutely love it.  It starts with a punch and never stops going; it’s solid all around.  Also, it ends with a clear set up for Chapter 3.  After all hes been through and has done, he decides to break a rule anyway, for which you cannot do as long as you’re in the league.  Now that he has, he is banished and… well, I’ll let you discover that on your own.

 

 

 


Loving – BLU-RAY/ DVD – Movie Review

Loving Starring: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Marton Csokas, Nick Kroll, Alano Miller, Bill Camp, Michael Shannon Written & Directed by: Jeff Nichols   Rated: PG-13 Run Time: 123 mins Genre: Drama, Romance, Biography 4 out of 5 Frames     By Lisa Minzey With a rather lackluster cinema awards season, can an indie love story […]


Split – Movie Review

“Split”

Directed/Written by: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson and Betty Buckley

Rated: PG-13

Run Time: 1h 57mins

Genre: Horror, Thriller

4 Frames out of 5

By: Shari K. Green

I didn’t know what to expect from “Split”.  I was very nervous about it and I’m very pleased to announce it was very good.  I can’t say enough about it, in fact.  More to the point, I can’t say enough about James McAvoy’s performance.  If his talents were ever in doubt, they certainly will not be now.  His work has to have been extremely difficult, yet he made it seem completely effortless.  I’ll explain.  The trailer for this film doesn’t actually show, a nice change might I add, the fact that the main character McAvoy plays someone in such deep mental distress that he has literally shattered.  It reveals a touch of the fact that this person has split personality disorder but doesn’t give away how bad it is and to the extent that the original personality, Kevin, is controlled.  The reason for the the personality splitting is revealed but I don’t want to give away too many details.

In the film, Dennis, who is often “in the light” or the one in charge at the moment, decides to kidnap two girls he had been following.  A third is a victim of circumstance and is grabbed, as well.  She, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), has a past to her that is divulged in flashbacks and when Casey addresses the situation she’s in with shock but not with terror, you understand why.  You wonder what’s inside her as well and Taylor-Joy, with her large eyes that penetrate you through the screen, does a fantastic job of keeping you guessing.

That’s the true premise and brilliance of the film.  This is an excellent vehicle for Shyamalan to prove he’s an actor’s director.  Is it the perfect film?  Not by a long shot but you cannot miss these performances.  If you are into acting or performance art in any fashion, you have to study what Shyamalan has achieved, especially with McAvoy.  They work beautifully together, actor trusting director, and McAvoy gives everything he has to not only be more than one person on screen but twenty-three different personalities.  He shows, continually, that he is a magnificent actor when at one point the camera is on him and he’s one person, then it pans to a mirror and he’s another, it pans back again and he’s another and back again.  It’s fascinating.  Several times he turns these people on and off.  It’s riveting.  He is, frankly, amazing in this juicy role.

  Shyamalan couldn’t have picked better.  And that goes for the rest of the cast as well.  Everyone was quite good… except Shyamalan himself, who always likes to find a part in his movies somewhere where he can tinker with his love of the profession.  However, he makes a bad choice for himself.  He has ten acting credits to his name and has fourteen director credits.  He obviously likes to act.  In the scene he has injected himself into in “Split”, he’s not bad, per se, he’s just not at all necessary.  The scene does nothing for the film and in fact, distracts his audience from what’s exciting them up to this point.

There are a few convenient set-ups but they in no way take away from the film.  Buckley, as the therapist, is sweet and caring and shows intelligence but when she wanders where she shouldn’t have, you wish Shyamalan hadn’t gone there but that’s okay.  You’ll be on the edge of your seat, consumed by what you’re seeing.  And as I already do, you’ll be setting up a time to go and watch this movie again.


Trespass Against Us – Movie Review

“Trespass Against Us”

Directed by: Adam Smith

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Lyndsey Marshal, Rory Kinnear, Sean Harris and Georgie Smith

Rated: R

Run Time: 1h 39mins

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

3 Frames out of 5

By: Shari K. Green

Set in the countryside of Britain, we are introduced to the Cutler crime family which is run by Colby played by a coarse Brendan Gleeson; who, interestingly enough just played Fassbender’s son in “Assassin’s Creed.”  Colby’s reputation precedes him for a reason as he’s not a very charming fellow and not many challenge him.  The Cutler’s look like a band of misfits or perhaps something you would have spotted in a scene from the movie “Deliverance.”  Even though they have been somewhat successful criminals up to this point, they live in trailers and practically in poverty which finally hits Colby’s son Chad, (Fassbender).  Not that Colby minds what he does for a living.  He has fun when cops chase him through the streets but he’s starting to realize the impact his actions are having on his children and his wife and is struggling with a decision.  He has to break away.  His son Tyson (Smith) is starting to rebel and verbally spar with his dad, spouting exactly what Chad usually hears coming from his father Colby and this doesn’t sit well with him.  Being uneducated, Chad has allowed his father to lead him through his life.  He has always done as ordered but he sees the writing on the wall and waking up to what his and Colby’s limitations truly are, he decides he doesn’t want that for Tyson.  The police are onto his every move but when he wants to try and leave his father’s shadow, he is, too.

Director Adam Smith, who’s more known for his work on “Doctor Who”, has had mixed reviews on the film festival circuit but having assembled an excellent cast and creating a unique blend of chaos and calm in a crazy world, I think he has a hit on his hands not matter the venue.  There’s something fascinating about Chad and his family that, as the film goes on, you almost catch… like a cold.  At first you’re not sure you have it but when you do, it really ensnares you.  Perhaps it’s the fact that Smith didn’t try to play to the American audience.  It’s authentic in that he doesn’t drop the local, incredibly thick accent, nor does he remove the British jargon that’s in use.  We are in their world.  Luckily for us, we view this world from the extremely gifted lens of Eduard Grau, (“Suffragette”, “The Awakening”, “Buried” and “A Single Man.”  He takes you incredibly deep into the story, bringing you into it by using intimate shots that make you feel like you’re peeking around a corner… hiding where you shouldn’t be; surveying where you have no business.  The scenery is beautiful so there’s no chance you’re looking away.

Shining are the performances.  Lyndsey Marshal is magnificent as Kelly, Chad’s wife, who, through it all, pulls a Tammy Wynette and stands by her man.  Fassbender, though his Chad is raging with testosterone and as tough as nails, is almost sweet at times.  The moments where he’s not fulfilling an illegal act or behaving like a hoodlum, he shows how at peace his character is with the final decision he has made.  A quite difficult one but, as Christ did, he must sacrifice himself for the sake of all of his children.  If you can get through the accents, I’d have to suggest you see this in the theatre if it’s near you but if not it’s a must watch as soon as you can, in whatever form possible.


Paterson – Movie Review

“Paterson”

Directed by: Jim Jarmusch

Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani and “Nellie”

Rated: R
Run Time: 1h 58mins

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Romance

4 ½ out of 5 Frames

By: Shari K. Green

“Paterson” is an absolute pleasure to witness.  One feels honored to be on this… ride.  I say this because it is about a bus driver whose story is delicate, even delectable.  It’s fascinating.  Jim Jarmusch turns a seemingly banal and simple life into a complex, contemplative introspective.  Paterson (Driver) drives a bus for the city of Paterson, N.J. but he’s also a poet.  His hero is William Carlos Williams and deep within he holds a dream to be as good as Williams yet never calls himself a poet, therefore stopping any disappointment that may come from negative criticism.

Paterson sees poetry in all things and one of the factors that has you treasure experiencing this life that Jarmusch has displayed for you is how you absorb Paterson’s poetry.  It’s not only spoken by him, whether in his thoughts as he cruises through traffic, or as he walks his dog Marvin (played charmingly by Nellie), but we also see it scrolling across the screen as he speaks in a composed and knowing tone.  It becomes visually embedded in our minds and we crave more.  His poems are perceptive, analytical at times, logical and illogical.  They’re both abstract and they’re ordinary but they’re sublime.  He writes these poems in a notebook, one he keeps to himself, careful they can never be seen.

We are with Paterson for a week of his life.  He has a girlfriend, has a dog and is methodized, unlike girlfriend Laura (Farahani), who is all over the place.  A painter obsessed with the color black one minute, a baker the next; him a structured poet, her a musician… this week, anyway.  The relationship is sound as they balance each other, or so it would seem… perhaps not?  Do they love each other or are they just putting up with one another for convenience sake?  Upon reflection, you realize there’s much more going on than you first thought.  It can be slow in moments but the movie consumes you, more or less.  It is, simply put, poetic.  Once you’ve seen “Paterson” it will stick with you for quite some time.  The alpha male battle he has with Marvin, also the conflict within himself over what or who he is, is gripping to observe.  Driver does such a remarkable job of bringing levels to this character without nearly uttering a word that he seduces you.  I highly recommend you see this film.  You’ll never see Driver as Kylo Ren again.


Live By Night – Movie Review

 

“Live By Night”

Directed by: Ben Affleck

Starring: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Robert Glenister and Chris Cooper

Rated: R

Genre: Crime, Drama

Run Time: 2h 9mins

2 Frames out of 5

By: Shari K. Green

I love a lot of Affleck’s work.  In fact, it’s safe to say I like most of his work.  This one… not so much.  This confounds me because it’s Affleck!  He’s responsible in one way or another for “Good Will Hunting”, “Gone Baby Gone”, “Argo” and “The Town”.  Great films.  He usually has a firm grasp of story but that’s not the case here.  “Live By Night” is more or less all over the place.  To be completely honest, it doesn’t feel like his voice at all.  It can’t sit still so neither can you.  So I wonder… just went wrong?  I can indicate to you a few culprits.  It’s too slow and there are too many plot lines and both are working in concert to single handedly ruin this film.  It feels as if you’re watching a series of different films in one yet starring the same characters.  It’s a mobster/gangster picture but not.  There are moments when it is but, well, not to confuse you, these moments are few and far between.  It’s hard to even categorize this film.

I’ll try and explain the premise.  To start, in voice over, Affleck introduces his character, Joe Coughlin.  He’s a soldier.  He was miserable as a soldier.  The spoiled boy, yes it feels that way, was being told to do terrible things on the battle field and decides that being told what to do wasn’t for him.  He will forever be his own boss so he gathers two friends and they become bank robbers.  We learn that when it comes to Boston, there are two gangs it’s run by; the Irish and the Italians.  Not wanting to become involved with either, for some reason he doesn’t consider himself gangster material but is a criminal… okay, Coughlin, thinks it a good idea to become involved with the girlfriend of the head of the Irish gang, Albert White.  They even appear in public together.  Immediately, you can see that Affleck didn’t think this through.  You know what’s going to happen and it does.  Along with a butt kicking, he gets set up and spends a few years in prison.  Now hating White, we have a revenge film where he’ll do anything to work against Albert White.  The man who said he’d never work for anyone again is working for the Italians to take over White’s rum distribution… in Florida.  We change again.  Coughlin enlists the help of the Cubans who were once stealing and instead turns them into assets, who now are happy working with him instead of against.

There are several people trying to take him down but obstacles are easily overcome and Coughlin is the king of Tampa.  He also has a new woman, Graciela (Saldana), for whom he has absolutely no chemistry.

It becomes, eventually, a gangster picture again when a double-cross or two are shed and the movie gets exciting.  This is what the film had promised to be and it’s nice that it gets back to its roots but it’s not enough and it’s too little too late.  However, what’s also good about “Live By Night”, and I’d say what makes it a worthwhile watch for anyone who wants to study good character actors are some of the performances.  Matthew Maher as a member of the KKK is outstanding.  Elle Fanning is memorable as a victim of circumstance.  Also worth mentioning is Robert Glenister as Albert White and Remo Girone as Italian leader Maso Pescatore.  When they’re on screen, you are lost in their performances.  They evoke “The Godfather” when they’re present and are quite impressive.  More of them would have improved the movie but for some reason we’re spread thinly over a few storylines and you become disinterested in everyone entirely.  So, check this out on DVD or wait for VOD, however you get your entertainment these days, but going to the theatre, my preferred outlet, is not my recommendation.