Monday, November 11, 2019

Review: Better Days

Release date: October 25, 2019
Running time: 135 minutes
Starring: Dongyu Zhou, Jackson Yee, Fang Yin

Better Days is a powerful Chinese film dealing with bullying, childhood pressures, trying to rise above your station, and the intense need to succeed that some youth experience.  The film focuses on a young Chinese student about to take the Gaokao, a national Chinese college entrance exam that determines what university someone will go to, and by extension what kind of life they can have.  In it, young Chen Nien (Zhou) struggles to study and prepare for the Gaokao, while also dealing with a host of problems that shouldn't be on her plate, such as being bullied, having to take care of the household alone, and dealing with the mistakes of her mom.  However, she is soon helped along this journey by a chance encounter with an unexpected street thug Xiao Bei (Yee).  

Better Days biggest strength is the powerful performances by its young stars.  Zhou and Yee propel this emotional story forward with their strong acting.  Zhou starts off rigid, but towards the end she really shows her strength as an actor; she is refreshing and I can't wait to see what else she does.  Yee is also challenged as a street thug with a much deeper understanding of life than he lets on.  They are a treat to watch and really the driving force behind this emotional story.  And the chemistry that they exhibit really drives the story forward.  The rest of the characters are perfectly cast and they really contribute to the emotional effect that the story has on you. 

And the story of Better Days is an important one.  The bullying and ordeals that some of these kids endure is hard to watch at time, but important to show.  As more and more pressure is being placed on children to succeed, the story of Better Days and the bullying that Zhou faced is even more crucial to showcase.  The film is an emotional roller coaster with many lows and a very few highs.  The story progresses slowly, but it gives you a chance to really dig into the characters and their emotional journey.  I was never bored with this film, I simply wanted to see what happened next. 

Better Days is a powerful film that tackles intense, emotional subjects.  It has strong performances, a heart wrenching story, and shows some of the darker aspects of human nature and our society.  

Watch it

Friday, November 8, 2019

What to Watch This Weekend: November 8, 2019

In Theaters: Doctor Sleep
Doctor Sleep pairs a stellar cast, with a big score, and enough nostalgia from the original movie to keep you entertained.  For more information, check out our review!

At Redbox: Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark brings the classic horror short stories to life on the big screen.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Amazon): Overlord
The alternate universe war movie tells a different side of Nazi Germany.  It has a lot of good action and what I loved most about it is that despite its clearly unrealistic antagonists, the movie is presented in a way that makes it fit into a plausible WW2 alternate history. 

Streaming (HBO): Glass
if you have the patience for Shyamalan's vision of a super hero universe, it presents an interesting premise and a chance to revisit some fantastic characters.  For more information, check out our review!

Review: Playing With Fire

Release date: November 8, 2019
Running time: 96 minutes
Starring: Judy Greer, Keegan-Michael Key, John Cena

In Playing With Fire, four daredevil "smoke jumpers" (firemen who use a helicopter to jump right into a dangerous fire) have to put out a new kind of disaster when they are forced to take care of three children in their isolated fire station.  The kids have a blast playing with dangerous equipment and disrupting these men's lives, while the smoke jumpers (Cena, Key, Leguizamo, and Mane) must adapt quickly if they are going to survive this latest challenge.  

The premise of this movie is ridiculous, but luckily the cast makes this film a fun little adventure.  Cena is very entertaining as the gruff, straight edge commander of the smoke jumpers, who only wants to pursue his career and has no interest in insubordinate children.  The rest of his crew (Key, Leguizamo, and Mane) provide lots of additional comic relief as they relate to and run away from their new rambunctious roommates.  Greer provides a love interest and a much needed strong female character.  And the kids do a great job in their natural roles, as troublemaking kids.  

The movie puts the smoke jumpers in a number of ridiculous situations that are highly dangerous, but also highly entertaining for a kids movie.  These kids destroy LOTS of equipment and cause lots of trouble, and it is up to the smoke jumpers to fix their messes and keep them in line.  Sure, the film is pretty far-fetched and the situation is silly, but it is also enjoyable to see.  And although there isn't a lot of fire after the first two scenes, that is probably better as my children enjoyed the silly antics more than the serious fire scenes.  And speaking of children, my kids couldn't stop raving about the movie after we left, which is a pretty good indicator for a children's movie. 

Playing With Fire takes a very funny cast, ridiculous situations, and lots of funny moments and tells a silly but heartwarming story that the whole family will love!

Watch it (with your kids)

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Review: Doctor Sleep

Release date: Novermber 8, 2019
Running time: 151 minutes
Starring: Rebecca Ferguson, Ewan McGregor, Jacob Tremblay

Forty years after the events in The Shining, Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor)--struggling with his sobriety and frankly loosing his grasp on life--finds a new purpose in life.  He settles into a new home, joins AA, and picks up a job the local nursing home where he utilizes his shining ability to become "Doctor Sleep."  While his journey to stay sober and suppress his childhood trauma seem promising at the start, soon this is derailed when he meets Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran).  Abra is a young and fearless teenager who Danny can relate to due to her own abilities similar to his own.  However, soon Abra is put in danger as a clan of people try to hunt her for her abilities.  

Director Mike Flanagan's mission with Doctor Sleep was to ensure that the source material from Stephen King's novel was in fact a direct adaptation while still acknowledging Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.  After watching this movie I have to say: job well done. About 90 percent of this movie is on par with the novel, with the final act of this movie heavily referencing The Shining events and also including plenty of call backs to Kubrick's vision throughout the film. Along with a stellar performance by Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson, making her major film debut was Kyliegh Curran.  Kyliegh was absolutely phenomenal and has a promising career ahead of her. 

On top of the acting, as is evident from the trailers, the score is a major bonus as well.  Let it be known that this soundtrack and score are legit!  The score really provided the old school horror and chilling feeling to complement some booming sound effects.  These all come together to provide an authentically modern score that still pays homage to 80s era films.  While the first hour of this movie felt a little slow, it quickly picks up after that with plenty of action and horror elements. 

Doctor Sleep pairs a stellar cast, with a big score, and enough nostalgia from the original movie to keep you entertained.  Whether you are a fan of the novel or have seen Kubrick's original masterpiece, you will thoroughly enjoy Doctor Sleep.  I promise, this movie will not put you to sleep!

Watch it

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Screening: The Report

In DC Theaters November 15, 2019; nationwide on November 22nd
Rated R with a running time of 118 mins

SYNOPSIS:  THE REPORT is a riveting thriller based on actual events. Idealistic staffer Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver) is tasked by his boss Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Benning) to lead an investigation of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, which was created in the aftermath of 9/11. Jones’ relentless pursuit of the truth leads to explosive findings that uncover the lengths to which the nation’s top intelligence agency went to destroy evidence, subvert the law, and hide a brutal secret from the American public.

THE REPORT is written and directed by Scott Z. Burns and features outstanding performances by a powerful cast led by Adam Driver, Annette Bening, and Jon Hamm. Sarah Goldberg, Michael C. Hall, Douglas Hodge, Fajer Kaisi, Ted Levine, Jennifer Morrison, Tim Blake Nelson, Linda Powell, Matthew Rhys, T. Ryder Smith, Corey Stoll, and Maura Tierney complete the powerful ensemble that brings this essential story to life.

Screening Details:

Wednesday, November 13
Landmark Bethesda Row
7235 Woodmont Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814

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As always, screenings are first-come, first-served so please arrive early to ensure you get a seat.

Review: Last Christmas

Release date: November 8, 2019
Running time: 102 minutes
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson 

It's just turned to November and we already have our first holiday movie, Last Christmas.  Although it feels early, it's never too early to get into the holiday spirit!  Last Christmas follows Kate (Emilia Clarke), a perpetual screw up that is seemingly at the bottom of her luck. We meet her as she is unintentionally burning bridges with old and new friends while dealing with trouble at work and with her family.  However, a chance encounter with Tom (Henry Golding) causes her to begin to change her perspective.  

What you will come to Last Christmas for--other than holiday cheer--is the strong cast including Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, and Emma Thompson.  Clarke is very enjoyable as the constant screw up Kate, with her trademark charm and some pretty funny lines.  Golding is almost too good to be true, and he continues his Crazy Rich Asian role with a character who is almost perfect while still being likable.  Thompson is fine as an overbearing mother, but her ridiculous accent makes it seem like she is playing a parody of a Yugoslavian immigrant.  The writing is enjoyable at times, but too cliched at other times with Golding managing to say the perfect one liner at the appropriate time. 

However, the story of Last Christmas, while being just different enough from other Christmas films is fairly predictable for the genre.  There are little differences in the film, and a major plot twist towards the end, but overall the story was a Christmas cookie-cutter story for a holiday film.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, I just wish that it hadn't wrapped up so conveniently and dwelled more after the major plot twist.  This movie is also a strange love letter to George Michael, with his music prominently displayed throughout.  It is a great soundtrack and his prominence in the film might seem odd until you realize that Emma Thompson (actor and writer of the film) got George Michael's blessing to use the songs before he died.  His songs are woven throughout the film, and there is enough in his catalog to help with pretty much any scene.

Last Christmas has a warm, enjoyable cast, great music, and an overall good message, but the predictable story and cliched lines do not do enough to differentiate it from the other Christmas movies.  

Rent it

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Review: Housefull 4

Release date: October 25, 2019
Running time: 145 minutes
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Riteish Deshmukh, Bobby Deol 

Housefull 4 tells the story of a group of friends who are marrying three sisters.  However, one of the group discovers right before the wedding that in a past life, they were all friends and marrying the same group of sisters—but each was betrothed to a different member of the group.  That friend, Henry / Prince Bala (Kumar) must try to teach his friends about their past lives in order to make sure that they all end up with who they were destined to.  

After really loving Kumar in Mission Mangal, I was excited to see what he would bring to this comedy.  And although Kumar does an admirable job as Henry / Bala, his character is just not likable to me.  For the most part, the other men in the cast are funny and somewhat relatable, but they all are beholden to Henry / Bala, who has some weird quirks and less than progressive ideas.  And although the story has an interesting fate mechanic, I didn't love how the characters focused more on fate than on their present life.  This might have just been a cultural issue, i.e., I just didn't understand and have the same experiences growing up to focus more on past lives vs. present day.  But it felt odd that Henry was essentially trying to destroy his current life to fulfill his past life. 

Housefull 4 is a film full of contradictions.  It has some hilarious moments and some humor that just feels juvenile.  It has strong female characters that sometimes end up being pawns in the plan of the male friends.  And it focuses on keeping the past the same when the friends had already made new lives in the present.  It has some very amazing set pieces with some of the most vibrant and active dance sequences I have seen, with some very questionable CGI.  

Housefull 4 is a ridiculous comedy that has a lovable cast and hilarious moments that will keep you guessing what happens next!

Rent it

Screening: HONEY BOY

 followed by a reception

From a screenplay by Shia LaBeouf, based on his own experiences, award-winning filmmaker Alma Har’el brings to life a young actor’s stormy childhood and early adult years as he struggles to reconcile with his father through cinema and dreams. Fictionalizing his childhood ascent to stardom, and subsequent adult crash-landing into rehab and recovery, Har’el casts Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges as Otis Lort, navigating different stages in a frenetic career. LaBeouf takes on the daring and therapeutic challenge of playing a version of his own father, an ex-rodeo clown and a felon. Artist and musician FKA twigs makes her feature acting debut, playing neighbor and kindred spirit to the younger Otis in their garden-court motel home. Har’el’s feature narrative debut is a one-of-a- kind collaboration between filmmaker and subject, exploring art as therapy and imagination as hope.
Facebook - @honeyboymovie
Twitter - @honeyboymovie
Instagram - @honeyboymovie
DIRECTED BY: Alma Har’el
WRITTEN BY: Shia LaBeouf
CAST: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe, Byron Bowers, Laura San Giacomo, FKA Twigs, Clifton Collins Jr., Martin Starr 

Screening Details:

Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market

550 Penn St. NE

Washington, DC 20002

November 07, 2019

Thursday 7:00pm

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As always, screenings are first-come, first-served so please arrive early to ensure you get a seat.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Screening: Good Liar


In theaters on November 15
(Warner Bros. Pictures)
Rated R
Run time: 109 mins

Cast: Helen Mirren, Ian McKellan, Russell Tovey, Jim Carter
Director: Bill Condon

Drama. Career con man Roy (Ian McKellen) sets his sights on his latest mark: recently widowed Betty (Helen Mirren), worth millions. And he means to take it all. But as the two draw closer, what should have been another simple swindle takes on the ultimate stakes. Legendary actors Mirren and McKellen star together on screen for the first time in this suspenseful drama about the secrets people keep and the lies they live.
Screening Details:
Monday, November 11
AMC Mazza
5300 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, DC
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As always, screenings are first-come, first-served so please arrive early to ensure you get a seat. 

Review: Jojo Rabbit

Release date: November 8, 2019
Running time: 108 minutes
Starring:  Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson

What happens when you take one part coming of age tale, one part irreverant comedy, and one part political commentary and blend it all together into a strange, but beautiful film?  You get one of the most entertaining movies of the year!  Young Jojo (Davis) is a 10 year old boy growing up in wartime Nazi Germany.  He is trying his hardest to find his place in life, trying to be a good Nazi while helping his family during this difficult time.  Luckily, he has the help of his imaginary friend, a hilarious Adolf Hitler (Waititi).

Given the premise of the film--a young boy growing up in Nazi Germany and trying to become a Nazi--there was a risk that the content and comedy of this film would just fall flat.  But luckily, this film handles Nazi Germany with the right irreverent attitude to offset some of the serious issues that the film addresses.  Although Jojo is trying to impress his Nazi peers, he also has enough innocence of youth to keep the film lighthearted.  Some of his attempts at helping the cause are really funny to watch, and his childish views on some of the heavier Nazi issues add some levity to the film.  His imaginary Hitler friend comes and goes as needed and provides plenty of comic relief with his ridiculous antics.  

The writing is what sets this apart, with enough sharp comedy and childlike innocence to keep the film sharp and clever.  There is plenty of heavy, uncomfortable content in the movie--from racism to the ravages of war to the witch hunt that occurred towards the end of Nazi Germany--that the film had to take a ridiculous tone to make this succeed, and succeed it does.  On top of the perfect tone, the film has a stellar cast to play key roles in this strangely humorous Nazi Germany.  Sam Rockwell is particularly enjoyable as a mid level Nazi officer and Scarlett Johansson is wonderful as Jojo's mother.  It really is a lovable cast with plenty of great cameos throughout the film. 

Jojo Rabbit is a ridiculous, irreverent, lighthearted film that tackles some difficult issues with humor and a childlike innocence.  It is a film that is so unique and entertaining that it has to be seen to be believed.

Watch it

Friday, November 1, 2019

What to Watch This Weekend: November 1, 2019

In Theaters: Motherless Brooklyn
Motherless Brooklyn is an experience, with a fantastic setting that captures the lights, sounds, and soul of 1950’s New York and fills it with a cast of interesting characters to meet along the way.  For more information, check out our review!

In Theaters: Saand Ki Aankh
Saand Ki Ankh is an inspirational movie about women finding their passion regardless of their age.  It has a great cast and an amazing story, and teaches lessons that are on target!  For more information, check out our review!

At Redbox: The Lion King
The Lion King didn't feel like it needed to be made, but for fans of the original or those that have never seen it, it provides a faithful remake with some modern twists.  The CG is amazing to behold and the story is still as good as ever. 

Streaming (HBO): Greta
Keep that Halloween spirit going with Greta, a cautionary tale about a caring young lady and a needy, but demented grandmother.  It is a suspenseful take that will have you on the edge of your seat throughout.  

Streaming (Amazon): The Witch
Another Halloween offering to enjoy before we move into Pumpkin Spice and Holiday season, the witch is an atmospheric film that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It is creepy, mystical, and builds the suspense throughout.



Free Live-Stream Event Exclusively in Theaters

Quentin Tarantino, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Brad Pitt will bring moviegoers across the country a rare insight into the making of their worldwide hit Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood when the three rejoin for a free, live, moderated panel discussion to be livestreamed exclusively to theaters across the country this Saturday, November 2. 

At 3:30 p.m. Eastern time and 12:30 p.m. Pacific time across the country (at most locations; see below), moviegoers will gather for a screening of the film – then, following the screening, the Q&A will be streamed live from Tarantino’s New Beverly Cinema in Hollywood.  Tarantino, DiCaprio and Pitt will discuss the production, their reasons for wanting to make the film, and the challenges and triumphs of bringing 1969-era Hollywood to glorious life on the screen.
Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age. Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Produced by David Heyman, Shannon McIntosh and Quentin Tarantino. Georgia Kacandes, YU Dong and Jeffrey Chan serve as executive producers. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Al Pacino.

Screening Details:
Saturday, November 2nd, 2019
Arclight Bethesda 16

The event will be free for all moviegoers but will require tickets.  Tickets will be distributed only at the theaters showing the event on a first-come, first-served basis.  Moviegoers interested in attending the event should arrive early as tickets will be limited.  The event will be streamed exclusively to theaters and will not be streamed over the internet.

Be sure to Like and Follow Watch or Pass on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and share with your friends!

As always, screenings are first-come, first-served so please arrive early to ensure you get a seat. 


In theaters November 15
Sony Pictures
Rated: PG-13

Cast: Kristen Stewart; Naomi Scott; Ella Balinska; Elizabeth Banks; Djimon Hounsou; Sam Claflin; Noah Centineo and Patrick Stewart

Directed by: Elizabeth Banks

Director Elizabeth Banks takes the helm as the next generation of fearless Charlie’s Angels take flight. In Banks’ bold vision, Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska are working for the mysterious Charles Townsend, whose security and investigative agency has expanded internationally. With the world’s smartest, bravest, and most highly trained women all over the globe, there are now teams of Angels guided by multiple Bosleys taking on the toughest jobs everywhere. The screenplay is by Elizabeth Banks from a story by Evan Spiliotopoulos and David Auburn.

Screening Details:
Tuesday, November 12
AMC Mazza

Be sure to Like and Follow Watch or Pass on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and share with your friends!

As always, screenings are first-come, first-served so please arrive early to ensure you get a seat. 

Review: Terminator: Dark Fate

Release date: November 1, 2019
Running time: 128 minutes
Starring: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis

Over 20 years ago, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) saved humanity by stopping Judgement Day and the rise of Skynet. But even with the events of 1997 never happening, Sarah was not able to prevent the killing of her son John.  This has driven her to take on her ultimate mission: to hunt and kill all terminators.  Meanwhile, in Mexico City, Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) thought the day would be just like any normal day of working at an automotive plant with her brother.  However, she soon realizes that nothing will ever be normal when she finds out she is being hunted by a new deadly Terminator, the Rev 9 (Gabriel Luna).  However, she is not alone in her fight as she meets Grace (Mackenzie Davis) an augmented enhanced super soldier from the future.

Terminator: Dark Fate is the 6th movie of the franchise, which many consider to have stopped being good after Terminator 2.  However this movie truly give its fans what they want. With instantaneous and constant action, complimented by amazing visuals, this movie entertains entirely.  The opening act as well as the closing act were jaw dropping and some of the best effects I have seen. 

Additionally, if you are a fan of the franchise you are going to be happy; the nostalgia is on overdrive. Tons of references, Easter eggs from previous movies, and Arnold mocking Arnold make this film a fan's dream come true. Lastly iconic Linda Hamilton's return was huge news and she was totally bad ass!  I truly enjoyed the dynamic between her and Schwarzenegger and you can tell they had tons of fun filming this.  Director Tim Miller surely lets his stars be stars and it makes them shine bright in every moment.

Terminator: Dark Fate is a fun return to form for the Terminator franchise, with jaw dropping special effects, tons of nostalgia, and cameos by everyone you would want to see! 

Watch it