Review of JOJO RABBIT – Rated PG-13 – 1 hr. 48 mins. 

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This Review is brought to you by Kathy Kaiser

JOJO RABBIT – Rated PG-13 – 1 hr. 48 mins. 

DIRECTOR:  Taika Waititi 

WRITERS:  Christine Leunens (Novel), Taika Waititi (Screenplay) 

STARRING:  Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson,  Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant and Taika Waititi

Alas, we finally get to view a film that will literally strike at your funny bone, more than once, as we venture into Nazi Army training camp with young Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), as he, and his imaginary friend, none other than the Fuhrer himself, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), are attempting to turn him into a young man worthy of being a part of the German infantry…

Torn between his love for his friend Adolf, for his country, and for his single mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) too, Jojo becomes more and more concerned that his mother doesn’t seem quite as infatuated with the Fuhrer as he is, or with the war he is striving to be a part of…

When Jojo happens upon a young Jewish girl in their home, that his mother has chosen to keep from the outside world, Jojo doesn’t know which way to turn, as outing his mother isn’t really an option, nor is letting anyone find his new friend Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), as Jojo now struggles with his loyalty to his beloved Germany, and for that matter, his imaginary friend Adolf too, bringing nothing but anguish to him, and on which way to turn…

I give Jojo Rabbit a rating of MUST SEE ON THE BIG SCREEN! :  I have been  looking forward to viewing any movie this year that could actually make me laugh out loud, and shed a tear a few frames later too, and by golly, who would have thought that a movie with a ten year old boy, day dreaming of Hitler, while keeping a Jew hidden from view would be “just the ticket”, and  incredibly, its true!  Young Roman Griffin Davis is hilarious, playing the “Hyle Hitler” smitten young German Jojo.  His innocence, mixed with his ideology for his country, and Hitler for that matter is literally fabricated throughout every inch of this film, but in a way, that it all seems genuine, and oh so real.  Johansson is also fabulous this time around too, playing Jojo’s single Mom, who wants to go through this life, doing only what is best for her son. Rockwell’s performance as German Captain Klenzendorf is sheer perfection too, as his time on screen isn’t significant, but just as vital to the story at hand.  I was happy to see Rebel Wilson try to extend her acting chops too, with her small, and almost crucial role.  But the best part for me, was Director Taika Waititi playing the “imaginary” Adolf Hitler throughout the film, as his visions and advice for young Jojo, just keep the laughs coming throughout.  Of all the films that are popping this year ~ Jojo Rabbit was one of the few films that I just couldn’t wait to view, and I am happy to report that every bit of it, met with my expectations going in, and that very seldom rings true.  Is the premise rather quirky, why yes, of course it is, but this is one of those rare films that manages to touch your entire spectrum of emotions, without making you linger on any of them for far too long, making JoJo Rabbit, once of this year’s best films for me, from start to finish!

Review of HARRIET – Rated PG-13 – 2 hrs. 5 mins. 

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This Review is brought to you by Kathy Kaiser

HARRIET – Rated PG-13 – 2 hrs. 5 mins. 

DIRECTOR:  Kasi Lemmons

WRITERS:  Kasi Lemmons and Gregory Allen Howard

STARRING:  Cynthia Erivo, Joe Alwyn, Leslie Odom Jr., Clarke Peters, Omar Dorsey, Antonio J. Bell, CJ McBath,  Janelle Monae, Jennifer Nettles and Vondie Curtis-Hall

Based on the real-life story of Iconic American Freedom Fighter, Harriet Tubman, we meet Harriet (Cynthia Erivo), aka Minty, as she struggles to gain freedom for herself, and her family, from the viciousness of slavery.  Left with no other choice but to find a way to free herself, Harriett escapes the throws of slavery in the South, venturing to the North and the “land of the free”.  With her freedom now secured, but longing for her family and friends to join her, Harriett sets out to help free hundreds of Slaves from their bondage, thus changing the course of their lives, and our country’s history…

I give HARRIET a rating of MUST SEE ON THE BIG SCREEN!  Cynthia Erivo is Oscar nomination bound for her outstanding performance as Harriet Tubman, of that, I am certain.  From encompassing her days as a slave as Minty, to the courageousness she managed to portray throughout every inch of Harriet’s life, Cynthia personifies the life and times of this iconic figure, in our History, with such passion and glory, that everyone in this country needs to see.  I won’t be surprised if this film becomes a “must see” in every history class from 6th grade through College too, as Director Kasi Lemmon’s strategically places the emphasis of this film on Harriet’s life, without diminishing her struggles, but without focusing the intent of the situations that develop, solely on the cruelty and violence of slavery, thus making this historically significant tale a visual masterpiece that everyone over 12 can view.  Lemmon also surrounded her lead with some fabulous supporting actors throughout as well ~ including Janelle Mona’e, Joe Alwyn and Vondie Curtis-Hall ~ which managed to add significantly to the story that was being told too.  And along with Lemmon’s’ perfectly crafted storyline, came a visually stunning film as well, with perfect scene, after perfect scene, after perfect scene, transporting you to a time and place that you just have to experience for yourself.  Suffice to say that there was not one viewer that I spoke with after the screening that wasn’t profoundly moved by Erivo’s incredible performance, or the way that this film manages to draw you into Harriet’s struggles, and triumphs, with each passing frame…

Review of MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN – Rated R – 2 hrs. 24 mins.

 

Motherless Brooklyn poster

This Review is brought to you by Tony Mosello

Keep Pullin’ on that Thread

Taking place in the dreary 1950’s New York City, “Motherless Brooklyn” follows Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton), a young man suffering from Tourette’s syndrome.  Working for Frank Minna (Bruce Willis) as a private investigator, his World is turned upside-down when the man who’s been looking after him for so many years is murdered.  Caught-up in the case Frank was on, Lionel is determined to get to the bottom of why he was killed and what exactly he found.  His investigation leads him right to the Borough Authority and the unofficial King of New York, Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin).  As he continues untangling the web, he begins falling for a gorgeous woman named Laura Rose (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who finds herself right in the middle of the biggest case Lionel’s ever been on.  He battles his affliction, but proves that it may be just as much as a gift as it is a curse.  A story of deception, greed, and fraud; the rest of the film follows Lionel’s torrential pursuit for the truth and his demand for justice for his friend.

Period films usually find their way into cinemas a few times a year, but the decent, effective ones are few and far between.  “Motherless Brooklyn” revolves around a character who is dealing with Tourette’s.  Played by Norton, his affliction seems 100% authentic and by no means fake.  It also is used as a way to tell the story, not as just a meaningless plot point.  I found it to be extremely effective and as excellent portrayal for those who suffer from the syndrome in life.  While the main focus is on Norton, the film boasts an impressive cast including the likes of: Willis, Mbatha-Raw, Baldwin, Willem Dafoe, Bobby Cannavale, Leslie Mann, Ethan Suplee, Michael Kenneth Williams, Cherry Jones, Dallas Roberts, Josh Pais, and many more.  Mbatha-Raw continues to prove an elite talent, Dafoe is powerful and convincing (thought miscast due to age), and Baldwin is clearly-channeling his SNL Trump persona.  Edward Norton stars as the lead character Lionel, but he also wrote (from an earlier novel) and directed the film.  “Motherless Brooklyn” has been a passion project for the filmmaker and it clearly shows.

The film should also be applauded for its gorgeous set design.  “Motherless Brooklyn” beautifully-captures the look and feel of 1950 New York City expertly, giving the film an authentic feeling that serves to elevate the film.  However, the film has its fair share of struggles as well.  The central story does well enough to keep you guessing, but some of the twists are a bit too predictable.  A second issue I had with the film is its pacing.  At 144 minutes, the film could have greatly benefitted having various sequences cut and tightening up the overall finished product.  At the end of the day, “Motherless Brooklyn” ends up as an average film, elevated by its cinematic beauty and the performances of a few of its stars.  By no means a masterpiece, but there are far worse films at the box office currently; and none of them have the pleasure of calling themselves a daring work of art like “Motherless Brooklyn” certainly can boast.

3 out of 5

THE CURRENT WAR – Rated PG-13 – 1 hr. 47 mins.

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THE CURRENT WAR – Rated PG-13 – 1 hr. 47 mins. 

DIRECTOR:  Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

WRITER:  Michael Mitnick 

STARRING:  Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Tom Holland, Tuppence Middleton, Katherine Waterson, and Nicholas Hoult

Based on the true-life story of Electricity pioneers Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon), we venture into the past of our great American Society, where up until now, it has only been lit by candlelight…

With Edison (Cumberbatch) in constant inventor mode, every waking minute of his life, he devises a way to create electricity, and a distribution plan for his newly invented electricity too, with the aid of his assistant, Samuel Insull (Tom Holland).

But fellow inventor, and shrewd business tycoon George Westinghouse (Shannon) has a few tricks up his sleeve as well, having invented a more cost-effective electricity source, and a better-developed distribution system too, thus being able to reach significantly more businesses and homes, than Edison’s ever will…

Enter Nikola Tesla, and his own ideas on transforming our world from a world of darkness, into light, as the late 1800’s in America is never going to be the same, with all the genius that is unfolding to light up our world, thus leaving the burning question, who will be one to actually make it to the finish line??

I give THE CURRENT WAR a rating between MUST SEE ON THE BIG SCREEN and WAIT AND CATCH THIS FILM ON DVD!  If you are into inventing, or just enjoy watching history unfold, then this is that one film you are definitely going to want to catch this weekend, at a theater near you!  Watching the “Electricity war” unfold between Edison and Westinghouse is a history lesson like no other, as it goes to show that even if you have the smarts to invent, you must also have loads of business savvy too, if you are going to take over the world! Cumberbatch is excellent as totally engrossed inventor Thomas Edison, who tries to make time for his wife, and children too, but just can’t seem to find a way to reach am acceptable work/life balance.  Shannon is exceptional this time around too, playing business mogul George Westinghouse, who knows his way to generate and distribute electricity to the masses is better, as he faces his own internal struggles too with forcing Edison, and his inventions out, to make way for what our country needs, and wants.  Hoult is also very good to watch in his less significant, but pivotal role as Tesla, joining forces with both Edison and Westinghouse respectively, bringing his genius along for the ride too.   And besides the storyline, the incredible cinematography throughout each and every frame of this film, caught my eye as well, as I felt that it’s focus on exceptional imagery throughout was very apropos for this film, since Edison invented the first motion-picture camera too!  All-in-all, I thoroughly enjoyed THE CURRENT WAR, and its history lesson throughout, but if you aren’t into inventors, or history for that matter, then you might want to skip heading to a theater near you, and wait to catch this film on DVD in a few weeks from now, as it’s fascinating storyline should be experienced by all…I’m just not sure if you’ll agree with the dropping money at the box office to see it, if you aren’t as into history or cinematography as I am…

BLACK AND BLUE – Rated R – 1 hr. 48 mins.

“Gripping and powerful…” – Kathy Kaiser, matineechat.com

This review is brought to you by TONY MOSELLO

Black and Blue poster

BLACK AND BLUE – Rated R – 1 hr. 48 mins.

DIRECTOR:  Deon Taylor

WRITER: Peter A. Dowling

STARRING:  Naomie Harris, Tyrese Gibson, Frank Grillo, Reid Scott, Mike Colter and James Moses Black

The Truth Made Her a Target

Back in the hometown of her youth, Alicia West (Naomie Harris) is surviving as a rookie police officer in New Orleans.  “Black and Blue” follows her third week of duty, as she rides along through the 9th Ward with her partner Kevin (Reid Scott).  Taking one for the team, she picks-up her first night shift alongside Officer Deacon Brown (James Moses Black) as she sees a whole different side of her city.  Towards the end of the morning, a suspicious, impromptu meeting unknowingly puts her life in extreme danger.  West witnesses Brown and officers Terry Malone (Frank Grillo) and his partner (Beau Knapp) execute unarmed kids, both with her eyes and her body cam.  Things escalate quickly as they fire multiple shots into her vest, but she manages to escape.  Alone, on the run, and afraid to trust any cops, West must escape and survive so she can download her camera footage at the precinct.

In a World filled with news stories of corrupt cops and crime, “Black and Blue” is sure to not sit well with our law enforcement (especially New Orleans PD).  Our city unfortunately has had its fair share as well.  The film relies on Harris and she delivers wonderfully, both empowering and commanding from start to finish.  The film’s extended cast does well, but they’re most type casted at this point and their arcs were easy to spot from a mile away.  The film’s story is thrilling, but albeit incredibly predictable; especially some of the “twists”.  I was also left scratching my head with the film’s final lines of dialog, as they felt both cheesy and entirely unlikely.  In-between the obvious plot development, “Black and Blue” is filled with chase sequences showcased in an in-your-face style as it brings the harshness and brutality to life.  The film’s score added tenseness, but I couldn’t help but think about “Sicario” as it sounded identical.  Not to be too nitpicky, but some of the gunshots sounded more like grenades going off as their sound levels were greatly exaggerated.  At a brisk 108 minutes, the film flows and leaves you on the edge-pf-your-seat!

While the film as a whole isn’t all too impressive, the film’s subject matter is entirely its salvation.  “Black and Blue” explores the current state of our views on society and police; that society hates cops and cops hate minorities.  Rather than glorify these unfortunate times, the heart of the film involves changing our Nation as a whole.  “Be the Change”, as West says in the film.  Now, I can’t speak to this with even an ounce of personal experience, but I believe in the film’s message.  I truly hope that people on both sides can experience the film with an open mind and without the influence of their personal agenda and if “Black and Blue” can serve as a possible talking (and turning) point, then it certainly may find a life.

“Black and Blue” is thrilling and compelling but unfortunately too predictable, while telling a story that is difficult to deal with in today’s society; but its handling of sensitive subject matter is exactly what we need.

3 out of 5

PAIN AND GLORY (Dolor y Gloria)– Rated R – 1 HR. 53 mins.

“Best Foreign Film of the year” – Kathy Kaiser, Matineechat.com

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PAIN AND GLORY (Dolor y Gloria)– Rated R – 1 HR. 53 mins. – Spanish Foreign Film 

DIRECTOR/WRITER:  Pedro Almodovar 

STARRING:  Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, Asier Etxeandia, and Asier Flores

As we meet Film Director Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas), he is trying to come to terms with the fact that he is no longer engrossed in “his passion of life”, telling stories through film.  When Salvador is asked to present about his most famous film to date, he struggles with taking on such an event, with his failing health, and the fact that it seems he is going to have to reach out to the tempestuous actor that he cast within the film, Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia).

As Salvador struggles to make a new life for himself, both personally, and professionally, it seems that the circumstances that are evolving, are causing him to reflect heavily on his life as a boy, thus bringing much solace to his life, and the path that he must take…

I give PAIN AND GLORY a rating of MUST SEE ON THE BIG SCREEN!  Based on Director/Writer Pedro Almodovar’s own self-reflections, this one-minute poetic, and the next minute rather tragic tale of one man’s struggle to find peace and happiness in his “later years”, is one of masterful storytelling, and beautiful cinematography.  Banderas’s performance is truly spectacular, as he brings a tranquil and authentic quality to almost every frame of this film.  And this very-real storyline, focusing on the choices made – good or bad – throughout life, will cause you too, to stop and take account of your own choices in life too.  Cruz is also perfectly cast as the mother figure throughout this film, adding to its depth and sincerity throughout, as we experience her nurturing ways, and the exceptional beauty she brings to the screen this time around too.  And Etxeandia’s performance, opposite Banderas, and flying solo as well, is also masterful, and enjoyable to view.  Almodovar should be proud of his latest creation, because as Foreign Film’s go, this one is absolutely beautiful in every way, as it transports you more and more into the frailties of life, with each passing frame…

Check out the FINAL TRAILER for STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, along with the Poster and Images from the film. STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER hits in theaters December 20, 2019!

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Tickets to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker are now available everywhere tickets are sold!

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker releases in U.S. theaters on December 20.   

Download the poster and photos here: https://wdsprod.box.com/s/j4t9j3y0nl35yupf2qzvdi4vyukwt0mm

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

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Hashtag:  #TheRiseOfSkywalker

Lucasfilm and director J.J. Abrams join forces once again to take viewers on an epic journey to a galaxy far, far away with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the riveting conclusion of the seminal Skywalker saga, where new legends will be born and the final battle for freedom is yet to come. 

The film stars Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, with Ian McDiarmid and Billy Dee Williams

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Abrams and Michelle Rejwan. Callum Greene, Tommy Gormley and Jason McGatlin serve as executive producers. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was written by J.J. Abrams & Chris Terrio.

DOLOMITE IS MY NAME – Rated R

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DOLOMITE IS MY NAME – Rated R

By Mary Cox 

Raunchy is the only word I can think of when I think of “Dolomite is My Name.” The film is the real-life story of Rudy Ray Moore who was best known as “Dolomite.” Moore, (Eddie Murphy), was a failed musician in the 1970’s who became a sensation as a stand-up comedian. He was known for his rhymes.He is considered the father of Hip-Hop. Moore decides to make a movie using all of his own money and money he had to borrow because no one else will finance it in the movie industry.

“Dolomite is My Name” is the first movie that Eddie Murphy has made in three years. This Netflix movie has no shortage of financial support as witnessed by its star-studded cast: it is full of African-American movie stars. Murphy is supported by Wesley Snipes, Mike Epps, Chris Rock, Snoop Dogg and Keegan-Michael Key. Da Vine Joy Randolph is Lady Reed. Randolph and Murphy bring a very warm human touch to their roles. You really feel for them and it made the film for me. Moore was an over-the-top kind of guy and Murphy seems to love hamming it up. This role was made for Eddie Murphy. Craig Brewer directed and was able to bring out the best in his cast. The successful writing team of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who wrote “The People vs. Larry Flynt” and “Man on the Moon” and many more, penned “Dolomite is My Name.” I loved the costumes. Moore was known for his flamboyant outfits. His cronies all adopted garish clothes too. The costume designers must have had a ball trying to replicate the costumes. People who are turned off by the F-bomb and nudity will hate this film and need to stay far away. Moore seemed to call everyone a Mother-F bomb. If you can get through the risqué language and nudity, there is an interesting story underneath. But beware, there is more vulgarity in this film than usual. I left the theater happy for Moore and his cohorts and generally feeling good about the film.
“Dolomite is My Name” can be seen at the 24:1 cinema and Moolah Cinema on October 18 th . It will open on Netflix on October 25 th .

I give this film 4 stars.

Review of MALEFICENT:  MISTRESS OF EVIL – Rated PG – 1 hr. 58 mins.

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This review is brought to you by Kathy Kaiser

  

MALEFICENT:  MISTRESS OF EVIL – Rated PG – 1 hr. 58 mins.

This Review may contain Spoilers – Proceed at your own risk  

 

DIRECTOR:  Joachim Renning 

WRITERS:  Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Hapster & Linda Woolverton

STARRING:  Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Harris Dickinson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Robert Lindsay

As we venture back to the fantasy land that Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and her goddaughter Aurora (Elle Fanning) inhabit, it seems that Prince Phillip is bound and determined to make Aurora his wife, sending both Maleficent, and Phillip’s Mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) into a tizzy…

And as Aurora and Phillip make plans to wed, it seems that there are many dark forces throughout both of their kingdoms, at work against their union…leaving the Prince and Princess to wonder if they will ever be free to embark upon their very own “happy ending”…

I give MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL a rating between MUST SEE ON THE BIG SCREEN and WAIT AND CATCH THIS DISNEY FLICK ON DVD!  Don’t be fooled by the name of this film, as Maleficent’s EVIL, is nothing more than is to be expected from a Mother unsure of her daughter’s choice in men, or the divisive, and bitter to the core mother-in-law she is about to acquire. Jolie’s performance is as spectacular as she was in the original, and the storyline this time around is rather endearing too, as it literally keeps you guessing the whole way through.  Pfeiffer’s devious portrayal, beacons back to her very beautiful looking on the outside, but mean and nasty on the inside portrayal that she mustered up for 2007’s Hairspray.  And with Fanning all grown up this time around, she spreads her wings more within this film, showing that she can act just as well as her famous big sister.  And it seems that since Aurora is 5 years older, she gets to marry a much cuter Prince Phillip this time around too, as Harris Dickinson takes over this vital role.  Add in the additional storyline and characters brought to this film by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Ed Skrein as Maleficent’s “own kind”, plus the resurfacing of Maleficent’s favorite raven Diaval (Sam Riley) too, and you end up with one very entertaining, and very magical Disney creation, filled with superbly animated CGI throughout, and a feel good ending once it arrives too…

Kathy vs. Tony’s view of LUCY IN THE SKY – Rated R

This review is brought to you by Kathy Kaiser & Tony Mosello 

Lucy in the Sky

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LUCY IN THE SKY – Rated R – 2 hrs. 4 mins.

DIRECTOR:  Noah Hawley (Legion, Fargo,) 

WRITERS:  Noah Hawley, Brian C Brown, & Elliott DiGuiseppi 

STARRING:  Natalie Portman, Jon Hamm, Zazie Beetz, Dan Stevens and Ellen Burstyn

Loosely based on the real-life story of former Astronaut Lisa Nowak ~ Lucy in the Sky takes us on a journey into the life of Astronaut Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman), as she ventures into space and is mesmerized not only by its beauty, but by all of her out-of-this world experiences.  Now, back on earth, Lucy finds herself struggling with her mundane existence with husband Drew (Dan Stevens), and the unexpected landing of her niece Blue Iris (Pearl Amanda Dickson) on her doorstep, while she was away.  Longing to return to space, and to jumpstart her love life too, Lucy goes into hyper speed, preparing for her next launch, both mentally and physically, while starting an affair with fellow Astronaut Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamm).  As Lucy struggles, her always supportive Mother, Nana Holbrook (Ellen Burstyn), is once again rooting her on…Not seeing that Lucy is struggling at every turn, whether it is in raising her teenage niece, or brushing off all the realities of life, as she continues to spiral, out of control…

I give LUCY IN THE SKY a rating between MUST SEE ON THE BIG SCREEN and WAIT AND CATCH THIS FILM ON DVD OR NETFLIX!  If you love Natalie Portman, and her acting prowess, then you are going to want to head out to a theater near you to catch this performance on the big screen too.  But, keep in mind that even though her performance throughout this film is good, it’s not her best work to date.  I wish that Hawley would have let her scrap the Southern accent throughout this performance too, as for me, it just took away from seriousness of the mentally deranged aspects of her character throughout this film.  Hamm once again is typecast in the “bad boy role” of using, abusing and playing games with women, but I guess if your good at playing something, why not continue…and I was saddened too, by the total lack of chemistry between Portman and Stevens, as the only bonding experiences that played out on film, was the mere fact that they cohabitate together.  But, on the flip side of the equation, I think that LUCY IN THE SKY did have a few intellectually stimulating messages too, causing me to stop and think about all the different aspects of life that encompass any woman’s existence, and how hard it can be to navigate them all, both personally, and professionally.  Rounding out the cast throughout this film were good performances by veteran Ellen Burstyn and another small, but pivotal role again this time around for Zazie Beetz (you can catch her presently too in another small, but pivotal role in JOKER), and I can’t help but wonder, if the translation of this film onto the big screen may have been better handled by a woman Director?  I don’t mean for that to come across in a sexist way, I just felt that the second half of this film, which takes Portman’s character into the oblivion mentally, might have been better translated, adding to the film as a whole, from a women’s perspective, rather than the crushing frame after frame of abrash craziness, that makes it onto the screen.  All-in all, LUCY IN THE SKY definitely had all the perfect elements in place for this film to become something absolutely spectacular, it just sadly couldn’t find the centrical force it needed, to knock it into the stratosphere…

 

This Review brought to you by Tony Mosello ~

How Does it Feel to be Home?

In 2007, headlines were dominated by an interesting love triangle involving multiple NASA astronauts. “Lucy in the Sky” recounts the events that transpired in a brand new story, beginning as internally-motivated Lucy (Natalie Portman) arrives back on Earth following her trip to space. Suffering to find her footing back on the ground, she finds herself lost and searching for something; longing to return to space where things seemed much simpler. During her struggles, she sparks an affair with a fellow astronaut named Mark (Jon Hamm), feeling seemingly-indifferent to the hurt she may cause her husband (Dan Stevens).

As Lucy begins to spiral out-of-control, she is left searching for her true self;
falling for Mark and distancing herself from her husband. As she learns the feeling may not be mutual and Mark entangles with another astronaut (Zazie Beetz), Lucy can only think of one solution.

It’s always refreshing to see Natalie Portman on the screen and she finds herself back in space this time around. Her performance is crucial to the film, as she commands the screen as we watch her descend into nothing. The surrounding cast features Hamm, Beetz, Stevens (in one of the most bizarre and poorly-casted roles of his career), Pearl Amanda Dickson, Ellen Burstyn, Tig Notaro, and Jeffrey Donovan; given this group I thoroughly expected more from them but the script held them back immensely. While focusing around NASA, “Lucy in the Sky” is hardly a space movie, which isn’t a bad characteristic. Rather than focus on the mission and the dealings in space, the film follows an astronaut’s life after they come back; their mental state, their family life, and their adjustment. The film starts out promising, but quickly deteriorates as it becomes a run-of-the-mill after school special.

Distinctly different from the real-life story, “Lucy in the Sky” takes many artistic liberties to build its story; including that of female harassment. Lucy suffers multiple instances of belittling and her tragicdownfall is ultimately sparked by a man taking advantage of her mental state, but instead of subtlety proving a point, the director chooses to bash you in the face with this plot point. One can’t help but wonder how much better this film would have been if it was told by a woman (which is shocking as even Reese Witherspoon is listed as an executive producer). Meanwhile, as what I can only imagine is a link to her fragile mentality, the film’s editing features distracted filmmaking techniques with multiple image-breaks and whispering dialogue that only serve to irritate the viewer. The film also could have largely benefited from having 30 minutes or so cut from its 124 minute running time, as it would have led to a cleaner, less jumbled mess. Portman firmly gives it her all, but even that can’t save “Lucy in the Sky” from becoming one of the year’s most forgettable films.

 

JOKER- Rated R – 2 hours and 2 mins.

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This Review is brought to you by Kathy Kaiser

JOKER- Rated R – 2 hours and 2 mins.

DIRECTOR:  Todd Phillips (The Hangover, – 1, 2 & 3, Road Trip, Due Date, Old School…just to name a few) 

WRITERS:  Todd Phillips, Scott Silver 

STARRING:  Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz and Frances Conroy

Venturing into to the less-than-surreal existence of one Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), we find him trying to make his way in this cruel world, although it seems that whether its mean kids on the block, or some a-hole drunkards on the subway, Arthur just can’t seem to catch a break.  And to add to his sad day to day existence, Arthur must take care of his bed ridden mother Penny (Frances Conroy, who seems to be a little “off her rocker” too.  Now, attempting to escape from the tortures of real-life, Arthur finds some sense of relief, as he focuses on his obsession with talk-show host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro), and his attraction to the beautiful girl down the hall, Sophie Dumond (Zazie Beetz) too,  hoping and wishing that his infatuation with her, will someday be reciprocated.

Now, pushed to the limits by society as a whole, Arthur decides to take matters into his own hands, ridding Gotham City, and his own life, of those who seem to taunt him at every turn…Emerging from his clowning gigs, and stand-up dreams,  into a persona that even the streets of Gotham cannot deny, as JOKER my friends, has finally arrived…

I give JOKER a rating of MUST SEE ON THE BIG SCREEN:  Dark and demented from its first frame to its last, Todd Phillips has truly veered from his comedic genre of film making this time around, as JOKER is nothing like you have ever seen from him before.  Joaquin’s performance as the most notorious, face painted villain in Gotham is astounding too, as his take on this character can definitely go up against both Nicholson’s and Ledgers performances, that preceding him.  And just as brilliant as it was to cast Phoenix in this role, was the casting of Robert De Niro as Talk show host Murray Franklin, as he’s plays this role out about as Carsonesque as it gets, along with the perfect castings of Frances Conroy as the Joker’s mentally-ill mother, and Zazee Beetz as the love interest, making this one of the most perfectly constructed casts I have seen all year too.  And with all of the hype surrounding this film, and its graphic violence, that many feel is not needed at this particular time in our society, I must say that I was not so much affected by the violence of this film, as if you know anything about these comic book characters, you know that violence has been a part of the storyline since its inception, but  I personally was more affected by the  mental-illness storyline throughout this film ~ which is also a profound issue within our society that seems to get brushed under the rug, right along with stricter gun control laws,  I am not discounting the views that have been shared, I just think that it’s sad that many people will be scared off by all this negative press, and not allow themselves to experience the most exceptional male performance I have seen so far this year.  And sad too will be catching this film any other way than on the biggest movie screen you can find, as watching on television will take away from its imagery and intenseness as a whole, leaving you totally shortchanged from the whole experience…

Review of JUDY – Rated PG-13 – 1 hr. 58 mins. 

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This review is brought to you by Kathy Kaiser 

JUDY – Rated PG-13 – 1 hr. 58 mins. 

DIRECTOR:  Rupert Goold

WRITERS:  Tom Edge (Screenplay), Based on the stage play “End of the Rainbow” by Peter Quilter

STARRING:  Renee Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell and Bella Ramsey

Based on the final years of her life, amidst the turmoil of her personal life, and her declining career, Judy (Renee Zellweger) finds herself venturing across the big pond to perform for her fan’s in London, embarking on the last performances of her illustrious career…

I give JUDY a rating of MUST SEE ON THE BIG SCREEN!  Oscar buzz is abounding and rightfully so, as Zellweger not only channels the famed actress – Judy Garland – but also attempts to channel her sultry and unforgettable pipes throughout too, thus arriving at the best performance, by any actress I’ve seen, so far this year.

But, just as amazing as Zellweger’s performance is, JUDY also manages to take us down a few roads, that are far from shiny, or yellow-bricked, as it takes us deep into the ultimately cruel world of young Judy’s life as an actress (played to perfection by the fabulous Darci Shaw), at the manipulative and misguided hands of Studio magnate Louis B. Mayer, and her star-struck and uncompassionate mother, Ethel Gumm (Natasha Powell), who are both responsible for Garland’s struggles with drugs and alcohol, that ultimately plagued her entire life, and career.  Theatrical Director Rupert Gould manages to make a masterpiece of film work this time too, as he also channels exceptional performances from Finn Wittrock, playing Judy’s last husband, Micky Deans, and from the beautiful Jessie Buckley, who plays Judy’s London Assistant Rosalyn Wilder, who attempts to make sure that Judy gives memorable performances each and every night, but as fate would have it, the alcohol and drugs continue to affect her performances frequently throughout this engagement as well.  Once you add in the small, but meaningful performances by Bella Ramsey, playing Judy’s daughter Lorna Luft, and Rufus Sewell, playing her estranged ex-husband Sid Luft too, you have one beautifully tragic, yet amazingly entertaining masterpiece.  Please do yourself a favor and venture to a theater near you this weekend to catch JUDY, as the buzz will only be intensifying now that the film is hitting in theaters, and you don’t want to be the only one of your family, or friends, that hasn’t had the opportunity to experience this film, and the fabulously perfect performance that Zellweger ultimately shares with the world…