Thursday, April 30, 2020

Deal: Spies in Disguise for $9.99

Need something to entertain the kids during quarantine?  For a limited time Spies in Disguise is $9.99 on digital.  This is a fun kids movie that we called "a beautifully animated adventure featuring two leads with great chemistry . . . and a fantastic soundtrack to entertain both young and old."

It is available in 4K or HD depending on which retailer you go with.  But it is also Movies Anywhere, so it will port to your linked iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, FandangoNOW, and Vudu accounts.

Links for Spies in Disguise:

Note: It is also available at FandangoNOW but is currently $19.99.  We will update if that changes.

This site contains affiliate links. //Commerce or this site may be compensated when you click through links on our site.

Review: Dangerous Lies

Release date: April 30, 2020
Running time: 96 minutes
Starring: Camila Mendes, Jessie T. Usher, Jamie Chung 

Dangerous Lies is the story of a struggling young couple Adam (Usher) and Katie (Mendes) who are just trying to just make ends meet.  After unfortunately losing her waitressing job, Katie now takes a job as a caretaker for Lenard Wellsley--a wealthy elderly man--in his giant Chicago manor.  Katie and Lenard really take a liking to each other but after his unexpected passing, he chooses Katie as the beneficiary of his estate. This now takes the young couples lives into a completely different direction, filled with deception, lies, and murder.  In this mystery thriller film, everyone's motives are brought into question and Katie will have to suspect even those closest to her if she hopes to survive.

Camila Mendes--whose name is highlighted on the official poster and rightfully so--does a tremendous job as the lead and really shines throughout the film.  A film like this requires her to display a lot of emotions and mannerisms and Mendes rises to this challenge.  Jesse T Usher is truly becoming more of a household name, however, although he has had success on other projects, I felt that his initial performance in this film was awkward.  But despite this initial awkwardness, the performances evolve into a very interesting dynamic between the two leads.  And although the film is mostly about these two characters, they are helped along by some substantial, if limited, performances by the supporting characters including the very talented Jamie Chung.

Dangerous Lies is a film unlike anything Netflix has recently released.  This thriller mystery film truly makes its viewers put on their investigator hats to unravel a plot that pulls you in every direction as you attempt to solve this crime.  Additionally, some very interesting cinematography techniques help to elevate the mystique in numerous scenes.  The story of Dangerous Lies was fulfilling as it kept making the viewer guess.  The plot wasn't predictable; every time one could make assumptions about the ultimate resolution, the chair was pulled right out from under you and causing the viewers to stay invested the entire time.  The deeper into the story you get the more suspicious you become of each and every character, causing you to constantly revisit your mental chalk board to reevaluate the case and all the players.  None the less, as entertaining as this film was to watch, the conclusion fell flat with an unfulfilling resolution.  This did feel like the culmination of a lot of unrealistic elements in the film that do give the overall film an unserious tone.  Because of this, it Dangeorus Lies is overall an entertaining, but average film.  

If you are looking for your next True Crime or ID Channel fix, this movie is right up your alley.  But for others this may not be the weekend blockbuster you have been dying to see.  Dangerous Lies has a stellar performance by Camila Mendes, and a story with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.

Rent it.

Review: Dennis and Lois

Release date: April 28, 2020
Running time: 85 minutes
Starring: Dennis Anderson, Lois Kahlert, Liam Gallagher

Dennis and Lois is a documentary film about the ultimate rock and roll groupies.  Dennis Anderson and Lois Kahlert started going to Ramones shows in the 70s, and their great attitude and desire to help quickly caused them to become unofficial merch sellers for the band.  They followed the band through tours and developed close friendships with them.  And through this--and their love of all things rock and roll--they became a mainstay of the New York rock scene and beyond.

Dennis and Lois is such an interesting documentary because the main subjects are so quirky and have lived such an interesting life.  They know a ton of rockers and are legends in the scene.  But they also are very down to earth and just doing what they love.  The pair clearly love music and going to shows, and genuinely want to help the bands that they have become close to.  They are very clear in what their priority in life is: they want to continue to see live music and tour with bands when they can.  And they have fully embraced this lifestyle, despite their age and health.  It is a really wonderful story; two people doing what they love and building a life and reputation around it.

But the documentary doesn't just feature Dennis and Lois.  One thing I love is that it gets a ton of perspectives on Dennis and Lois.  The filmmakers not only included interviews and footage of the pair, but also included commentary from a ton of different rock and punk bands.  They all share stories and opinions about Dennis and Lois, and it really helps to show the impact these two have had.  The old footage of shows is a joy to watch, as are current performances that are shown where Dennis and Lois get call outs.  And some of the more intimate footage of the bands on tour with the pair really helps to showcase how special a relationship this is.  And with a documentary about two rock groupies, there is bound to be a ton of good music.  This film introduces so many bands and artists that I have never heard of, and has a fantastic soundtrack on top of it.  I found a few bands that I am hoping to check out, and I'm sure you will too.  And finally, this film shows that there is no right or wrong way to live your life.  Dennis and Lois are living their best life; enjoying what they love to do and being helpful to the scene that they have become mainstays in.

Dennis and Lois highlights two mainstays of the rock scene doing what they love.  It has fantastic clips from a variety of bands, interesting stories from the legendary pair, and a wonderful soundtrack.

Watch it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

News: Regal Entertainment Joins AMC in Refusing To Play Universal Movies After Trolls World Tour Statement

Cineworld, the owner of Regal Entertainment, the second largest theater chain in the United States, has joined AMC's previous statement, refusing to play Universal Pictures films in the wake of NBC Universal CEO Jeff Shell's statement alluding to future releases being both theatrical and day and date home rental.  Cineworld said that "Universal's move is completely inappropriate and has nothign to do with good faith business practice, partnership, and transparency."

Amid theatrical closures and a global pandemic, Trolls World Tour released direct to video rental with a $19.99 fee for a 48-hour rental.  Earlier this week, NBC Universal announced that Trolls World Tour earned $95 million in three weeks of premium video on demand (PVOD).  Cineworld made clear that its ban is not for all Universal movies, simply those that do not respect the 90 day window between theatrical and digital releases.  "Today we make it clear again that we will not be showing movies that fail to respect the windows as it does not make any economic sense for us," Cineworld said.

As we said earlier today, it will already be difficult to convince consumers to come back to the theaters when they do open.  Having new entertainment options exclusively in cinema is one way to entice moviegoers back to the physical theaters.  It is not surprising that both AMC and Cineworld would be protecting their business model.  We will just have to see what happens between them, and with other studios that are experimenting with direct to home rental models, such as Disney's Artemis Fowl and Warner Bros. Scoob!  

Review: The Wretched

Release date: May 1, 2020
Running time: 95 minutes
Starring: John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones, Zarah Mahler

Ben (Howard) recently moved in with his dad (Jones) for the summer.  However, when Ben's neighbor begins to act odd and her children disappear, he takes it upon himself to investigate what is happening.  This leads to a whole lot of old school horror suspense and suspicion as Ben tries to find out what is happening while making sure to keep himself, his friends, and his family safe.

The Wretched feels like an old school horror movie. It is all suspense, good camera work, and a slowly progressing story that just keeps the sense of dread going.  It has a limited cast of characters in a relatively small number of settings, but this just means that things aren't constantly moving.  The film takes a long time to get going and even when things happen, they usually occur off camera, which contributes to this sense of dread with the film.  The sound design really helps this as when the creature is hinted to be in the area, the movie plays clicks and hisses similar to how the Predator sounded.  It's a nice touch that helps keep you on edge.  And another thing I really appreciated about this film is the lack of CG.  The Wretched has old school effects, just good make up, acting, and blood with very little noticeable CG.  It's a nice departure from a lot of modern movies and one that I definitely appreciate whenever I see it.  

However, although I really liked the cast some of the acting by the cast was less believable and felt forced; especially that of the social antagonists.  The main characters were good, but because the overall cast of the film was small, anyone being off is noticeable.  And the story does definitely progress slowly, which I liked, but I could see that being a negative.  Much of the slowdown could be attributed to the focus on suspense, and not on action, in this film, but it is something to keep in mind.  And the story ends with a twist that seems to come out of nowhere without hints to see it coming.  I actually thought the twist was interesting, but I would have liked it to have been hinted at rather than seeming like a convenient way to end the film.  These minor criticisms aside, The Wretched is a good, old school horror movie. 

The Wretched feels like an old school horror movie with an enjoyable cast, a ton of suspense, and a refreshing lack of computer graphics.

Rent it.

News: Irrfan Khan, Bollywood Legend, Dead at 53

Bollywood star Irrfan Khan, who is best known for his roles in "Life Of Pi" and "Slumdog Millionaire," died Wednesday at the age of 53, his representatives confirmed.

"It's saddening that this day, we have to bring forward the news of him passing away," read a statement from Khan's PR agency, Hardly Anonymous Communications. "Irrfan was a strong soul, someone who fought till the very end and always inspired everyone who came close to him."
In March 2018, Khan--one of India's best-known and most beloved actors--revealed that he had been diagnosed with a rare neuroendocrine tumor.  Khan was known internationally for his roles in "Life of Pi" and "Slumdog Millionaire," but his body of work was so broad. 

He recently starred in Angrezi Medium (English Medium) where we attributed a lot of the success of the film on Khan's ability.  We said "A lot of [the success balancing humor and family drama] is fueled by Irrfan Khan's wonderful performance; he has the dramatic chops to really sell scenes when needed, but also has the a reserved acting style that works when it calls for something more humorous."  Khan was also fantastic in the 2013 film, the Lunchbox, where he plays a quiet older man who accidentally begins a unique, pen pal relationship with an unhappy married woman.  On top of Bollywood movies, he also starred in many internationally successful movies including Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire, and Jurassic World.

He was a legend in Bollywood and also successfully made the jump to Hollywood.  Khan's loss will be missed by movie fans across the globe.

News: AMC and Universal in War of Words Over Theatrical and Home Releases

Earlier this week, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Shell made statements in the Wall Street Journal regarding the success of Trolls World Tour's direct to home theater rental experiment.  The statements said that the movie earned $95 million and that NBC Universal: “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats,” which alludes to the idea that it would be releasing new movies in home streaming format day and date with the theatrical release.

In response to this, Adam Aron, head of AMC, sent a letter to Universal Studios Chairman Donna Langley with some firm language.  In the letter, Aron recognizes that Trolls World Tour's release was a situational occurrence due to the worldwide pandemic and closing of theaters.  However, he drew a line in the sand with respect to future direct to home theatrical releases once theaters reopen.  He stated that: “Going forward, AMC will not license any Universal movies in any of our 1,000 theatres globally on these terms.” That includes AMC sites in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.  Aron's statements were directed at Universal, but he made sure to note that it would be extended to any movie maker that abandons the theatrical first model.

With upcoming direct to home releases like Disney's Artemis Fowl and Warner Bros. Scoob! testing the direct to home waters, there might be more and more of these types of statements released.  Aron's comments are not surprising, given that it will already be difficult to get consumers back into theaters once life returns to normal.  AMC will need new movies to drive consumers back to cinema.  With social distancing measure likely to reduce the number of seats in theaters and add costs for cleaning, AMC is looking to protect its business model.  Only time will tell what happens in this feud, and if other movie studios join in, but it will be interesting to watch!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Deal: Digital Movie Deals for April 28, 2020

Here is a collection of digital movie deals to help keep you entertained while you quarantine.  There are some great choices here.  The kids movie bundle has 3 good movies to keep your young (and young at heart) family entertained.  Jojo Rabbit and Uncut Gems were some of the best movies of  last year and the Gentlemen is one of our favorites this year.  The movies listed as Movies Anywhere will port to your linked iTunes, Amazon, Microsoft, Google Play, and VUDU accounts.

Movies Anywhere Movies:
NOT Movies Anywhere Movies:
This site contains affiliate links. //Commerce or this site may be compensated when you click through links on our site.

Review: Murder to Mercy

Release date: April 29, 2020
Running time: 96 minutes

In 2004, 16-year-old Cyntoia Denise Brown was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee, for murdering a 43-year-old man who picked her up for sex. She was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison, which effectively ended her life.  In Tennessee, the sentence for an adult in this instance was either natural life or parole eligible after 51 years.  However, Cyntoia did all she could to better herself in prison and her legal team did all they could to challenge the verdict.  This film showcases those efforts, both the legal fight to get Cyntoia an opportunity to plead her case as well as the personal development that she went through.

Murder to Mercy is an interesting take on a redemption story documentary.  Most of the ones I have seen focus on someone who was wrongly accused or falsely convicted. However, in this case Cyntoia did the crime; she admits that she murdered the 43-year-old man.  So this case is more about whether or not she should have been tried as an adult and whether there were other factors that should cause her sentence to be mitigated. It is an interesting angle and one that is an important one to show.  Cyntoia made a horrible choice that day, but there might have been other factors that contributed to that choice.  This film explores those and shows that even if you make a mistake, you might still be deserving of a second chance.

However, the film focuses a lot on Cyntoia's initial trial--an important piece of this story--but then doesn't seem to spend enough time on the remaining parts of her story.  There are definitely many actions that take place, but it seems like roughly 66% of the film is on the setup and initial trial.  Also, the story of Cyntoia is pretty much told through the trial information, which is fine for an accurate representation, but did leave me with precious little information in the opening parts of the film.  A recreation or quick story at the start might have helped to mitigate some of this.  And I still feel like this film left some lingering questions about the case in my head.

Murder to Mercy shows that one terrible choice does not have to define your life through a story of redemption and personal growth.

Rent it.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Review: Vanilla

Release date: April 27, 2020
Running time: 87 minutes
Starring: Will Dennis, Kelsea Bauman, Eddie Alfano 

Vanilla is a comedy about an mismatched pair: one a freewheeling aspiring comedian named Kimmie (Bauman) and the other an uptight entrepreneur named Elliot (Dennis) trying to develop an app.  After just meeting, these two embark on a road trip to sell a van and save the comedian's family business.  However, the van is ultimately being sold to Elliot's ex-girlfriend who he clearly still has feelings for.  This and other issues will pop up on this three day road trip.   

Vanilla is definitely an indie film and it feels like one.  That's not necessarily a bad thing as indie film is a great avenue to see new ideas and hear new voices.  And Vanilla has a lot to like. I really liked Will Dennis as Elliot.  He is likable, awkward, and generally fun to see.  And his interactions with Kimmie are enjoyable to watch.  The two have good chemistry during their trip and make a fun pair, despite there being some awkward dialogue and situations.  And speaking of characters, Kimmie's uncle Sal (Alfano) is another highlight.  It is unfortunate that he isn't in the movie more as he is very funny and always draws your attention when he is on screen.  And since this is a comedy road trip, there are definitely some funny jokes along the way.  And the ending provides something different that you might not expect.  All these add some extra flavor to this indie comedy.  Vanilla is far from a plain indie comedy.

However, Vanilla does have some flavors that left a mixed taste in my mouth.  For one, the Kimmie character is interesting, but a little too out there.  And although some of her jokes definitely made me chuckle, there were also a lot that just fell flat. And despite the chemistry between the two main stars, there were situations that just felt awkward.  Maybe I'm out of touch with how these interactions go, but there were definite scenes where sharp criticisms would happen that would be brushed off.  And finally, some of the shots and dialog felt a little forced.  However, Vanilla still has plenty going for it to make it worth a rental.

Vanilla has some added flavors to keep you entertained, such as the chemistry between the two leads, some funny and introspective dialog, and a refreshingly different ending.

Rent it.

Review: The Incoherents

Release date: April 28, 2020
Running time: 103 minutes
Starring:  Jeff Auer, Alex Emanuel, Kate Arrington

The Incoherents tells the story of a promising rock / punk band that, after releasing its first album, abruptly disbanded when lead singer Bruce (Auer) opted for a more stable life rather than the life of a rocker.  Years later, he decides he wants to give it one more go and get the band back together.  However, these now forty somethings have to navigate a changed world in order to make it in the modern rock scene.

As a movie about a fictitious band, the first thing that strikes you is the music.  The Incoherents has a great soundtrack with really entertaining music from the namesake band.  The band itself has a fun punk rock style that has a classic quality to it.  It will pick you up during the shows / rehearsals and keep you rocking out throughout this charming film.  But the movie doesn't just feature music from the namesake band; there are good songs and a variety of styles in this movie.  Each band that the Incoherents plays with or runs into has a different feel to it and those are represented perfectly in the songs that they sing.  Although it skews more towards classic and punk rock, there is enough here to please most music fans.

The main band in the film consists of four members; and those members are a great mismatched bunch of individuals.  Each member has their own quirks and regrets from the time after the band disbanded and those issues come to life on the screen.  All the band members are fun in their own right, but the main interactions are between Bruce and lead guitarist Jimmy (Emanuel).  These two have a great chemistry and a very different style; Bruce is hard nosed, energetic, but also inexperienced; Jimmy is still in the rock lifestyle but also much wiser after being in several bands after the Incoherents.  Much of their interactions are riffing on their current predicament or trying to figure out how to get the Incoherents back to what they used to be.  
But, as band members with history, there are also some more emotional scenes where they work through old beefs or reminisce about the past.  Their interactions are a joy to see and really form a lot of the fun in the film.  

The Incoherents is a quirky movie, but one that spoke to me.  It is silly and cheesy at times, but it also strikes a nice balance between your normal responsibilities and your desire to follow your dreams.  But it is also a realistic film that shows that sometimes pursuing your dreams can force you to make tough choices and have very real consequences on your current life.  Life isn't always how you pictured it, and your current predicament might not be what you thought you wanted; this film captures that perfectly.  It is a good reminder to all that you are never too old to pursue your dreams, and also that sometimes you need to take risks for your own well being.  

The Incoherents will get you to follow your dreams with its strong cast, fantastic music, and plenty of heart.

Watch it.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Deal: Little Women (4K) for $9.99 and other FandangoNOW deals

Right now, you can get the wonderful Little Women for $9.99 in 4K at FandangNOW.  This Greta Gerwig remake was snubbed at the Oscars but is a fantastic retelling of the classic tale.  Additionally, FandangoNOW has several $5 movie deals to keep you entertained during this quarantine time.  Many of them (including Little Women) are Movies Anywhere and will port to your linked iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, Microsoft, and Google Play accounts.

Movies Anywhere Movies

NOT Movies Anywhere Movies

Link to all $5 movie deals.

This site contains affiliate links. //Commerce or this site may be compensated when you click through links on our site.

Friday, April 24, 2020

What to Watch This Weekend: April 24, 2020

Redbox: Bad Boys for Life
Bad Boys For Life brings the iconic duo back for another ride with enough nostalgia to please fans of the first films and enough humor, action, and new characters to start a new franchise. For more information, check out our review!

Redbox: The Gentlemen
The Gentlemen is classic Guy Ritchie: a fantastic cast acting in a complicated crime caper fueled by Ritchie's amazing style and sharp, clever writing.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Netflix): Extraction
Extraction is an adrenaline rush from start to finish, with amazing action, brutal fighting, and intense vehicle scenes that are complemented by some superb cinematography and characters.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Apple TV+): Beastie Boys Story: A Spike Jonze Live Documentary
Beastie Boys Story is simply a treat; an unfiltered emotional journey through the iconic band's history while offering insight and experiences from the Beastie Boys themselves.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Apple TV+): Defending Jacob
Defending Jacob is a powerful character drama with an all star cast, great production values, and a compelling story that will hook you from the start.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (HBO): Stuber
STUBER is a wild ride from start to finish that has plenty of laughs, ridiculous situations, and interesting commentary on societal norms.  For more information, check out our review!  

Streaming (Amazon): I Am Legend
Will Smith's post-apocalyptic movie features plenty of the main man himself as the last surviving human of an enemy that hunts in the darkness.  

Streaming (Amazon): Zombieland
The original cult classic is on Amazon for streaming.  If you want to check out the apocalypse that could have been, then sit back and take a ride with our favorite state-named survivor misfits.  Just remember Rule #77, watch this movie!

Streaming (Vudu Free With Ads): St. Vincent
St. Vincent receives high marks for putting Bill Murray back in a lead comedic role, alongside Melissa McCarthy and Naomi Watts. The main draw is Murray and the director Melfi's perfect script that provides a great vehicle for Murray's comedy. 

Review: Braking For Whales

Release date: April 24, 2020
Running time: 106 minutes
Starring:  Tom Felton, Tammin Sursok, Wendi McLendon-Covey, David Koechner

Braking For Whales follows a dysfunctional brother and sister who are forced to come to terms with each other and themselves over their recently deceased mother's final wish.  Their mother has a ridiculous request in her will for the two to carry out, forcing them to take a cross country trip to honor this odd last wish.  And this road trip will allow / force the two to see the country, spend time with each other, and confront deep issues in their past and present. 

Braking For Whales has a lot going for it.  Brandon Walker is played by Tom Felton, who does a great job as the older, more put together brother.  He is enjoyable in this role and I liked his performance and many aspects of his character.  And despite me not loving Star Walker's jokes, Tammin Sursok does a spirited job as Star and really puts her all into the film.  The two have good chemistry in the film, and their interactions are fun to watch.  And although these two are the main characters in the film, there are a couple really entertaining cameos that will bring a smile to your face.  Braking For Whales's story has plenty of ups and downs and visits a variety of locales.  And these locales are beautifully shot with some really wonderful scenery of the American heartland paired with some stellar music.  From emotional music that set the scene perfectly to great country songs that play during the road trip, the music is definitely a highlight of this film. 

However, and this is a big caveat, the main problem with Braking For Whales is with the humor.  It just didn't hit like I was hoping it would.  Star's jokes are outlandish, but I just didn't find a lot of them to be that funny.  And some of the character's outlandish antics, although designed to be funny, just didn't make me laugh like I expected I would.  The main character's have neuroses that could have been interesting, but they are often handled in a ridiculous manner, which later lead to quick turns to their characters during the film.  The characters both experience growth throughout this road trip, but it seems to be handled in a too convenient way.  And although it doesn't happen often, there are a couple scenes with some really bad CG.  But that being said, Braking For Whales has a lot going for it and includes some good messages and a satisfying ending.

Braking For Whales has good chemistry between the two leads, beautiful cinematography, and wonderful music in a road trip that despite having a few bumps has a satisfying conclusion.  

Rent it.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Review: Man Camp

Release date: October 24, 2019
Running time: 94 minutes
Starring:  Pete Gardner, Daniel Cummings, Scott Kruse 

Man Camp is the story of 3 brothers: Adam, Tim, and Kevin Mann looking to keep their father's legacy and tradition alive.  They used to take an annual trip to the family cabin that they would call "Man Camp." These 3 very distinctly different personalities, looking for a little weekend mischief and relaxation, are surprised to find that their widowed mother has also taken the same week to escape with her hapless secret fiancee Alan. Driven by their undying loyalty to their deceased father, the brothers put Alan to the test to see if he is Mann enough to be a part of the family.  

Man Camp was absolutely silly.  It has slapstick comedy and a simple story that lets you enjoy the characters.  There isn't any depth or development for the characters here; the plot focused heavy on the comedic antics and skits driven by the man children roles each of the 3 sons had.  But the main character's performances and vibrant personalities are just enough to get the job done.  They truly were cohesive on screen. And while the 3 of them did a great jobs, Pete Gardner really was the standout. Much like his other performances, he continues to show why comedic roles are natural for him. His performances brighten up every scene with energy and poise. 

Outside of the acting and comedy, the movie just falls flat as a complete body of work. I felt that there were noticeable editing blunders, and even some sound mixing issues where it was tough to hear certain character dialog.  I also felt that many of the jokes just didn't stick.  Sure there were lots of silly and entertaining moments, but this part again speaks to potential editing issues.  Lastly while the main plot has resolution, the other subplots they introduced don't. It leaves you wondering why they left some of these hanging with a relatively simple story.  In any event, it left a sour taste in my mouth after an enjoyable, but silly story.

Man Camp has enjoyable performances, a light-heated story, and a feel good comedy ending, but other issues with the film make prevent this from being a must-take trip.  

Rent it.

Review: Defending Jacob

Release date: April 24, 2020 (First 3 episodes)
Running time: 45 minutes each
Starring:  Chris Evans, Michelle Dockery, Jaeden Martell

Defending Jacob is a character-driven thriller based on a 2012 New York Times best-seller.  The eight episode limited series starts with a shocking crime that rocks a small Massachusetts town.  Andy Barber (Evans), the assistant district attorney who begins investigating this crime, soon finds out that it involves a student at his son's school.  As the case unfolds, Andy is forced to choose between his sworn duty to uphold justice and his unconditional love for his son.

Defending Jacob's main draw is the characters portrayed by some top notch actors.  All of the cast are fantastic, but the three headliners in particular do an amazing job.  Evans is a cocky, driven attorney who also gets to display a wide emotional range in this drama.  It's really wonderful to see him in this role as you notice pieces of Captain America and Ransom from Knives Out in this character.  But it also lets him play a much more vulnerable, emotional character, which was a treat to see.  Dockery, who plays Andy's wife Laurie, likewise shows a lot of emotion as she grapples with her love for her son, mother's instincts, and what is unfolding in the case.  And Martell, who plays Jacob, is stellar.  We've known that he can act and he has showcased his talent in his many roles, but this one lets him show a lot of vulnerability and conflicting emotions.  Really, the acting is simply fantastic and it will hook you from the very first scene.

The story itself starts off at a grand jury investigation and then backtracks to earlier times.  It lets you know that something bad will eventually happen, but doesn't hint at how it gets there.  As the episodes reveal more information, more of the present day scene plays out as well.  It is a good vehicle and one that will hook you from the start.  And on top of the good acting and story, the production values are top notch.  The sets are well designed, the shots are intelligently taken, and everything has a high level of polish that will really let you get enveloped in this story.  And on a related note, the atmosphere is perfect.  The sleepy Masschusetts setting is perfect for this story.  This atmosphere is also helped by some perfectly appropriate music that comes in occasionally to really help set the scene.  Defending Jacob just does a lot right; the pieces come together to tell a compelling story.  This is definitely a series you should check out and will likely binge all three episodes when they are released.

Defending Jacob is a powerful character drama with an all star cast, great production values, and a compelling story that will hook you from the start.

Watch it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Review: Earth and Blood

Release date: April 17, 2020
Running time: 80 minutes
Starring:  Sami Bouajila, Eriq Ebouaney, Samy Seghir

Earth and Blood follows Said (Bouajila), an aging saw mill owner in France, who is dealing with his own health and trying to take care of his mill and his daughter Sarah (Sofia Lesaffre).  However, when Yanis (Seghir) brings something to the sawmill that he shouldn't have, Said gets a visit from drug lord Adama (Ebouaney) that will put his own life, the life of his family, and the fate of his saw mill in jeopardy.  

Earth and Blood is a relatively compact story.  It takes place over the course of a day and most of it occurs on the saw mill or the surrounding area.  This is not necessarily a bad thing as the story revolves around a main conflict, but it does make it feel like you don't get much backstory for any of the people involved.  It feels like you are grazing into their lives and then as quickly as you enter, you are done.  I think part of this was for budget reasons as there are several scenes that seem like they could have been longer or more involved but cut quickly when things heated up.  And the movie also leaves you hanging by ending abruptly.  The movie itself has a muted, dark look that I believe is by design.  It did lead to a certain sameness to the look and feel of the film, which also might be attributed to the fact that it all takes place in a day.  But given that it takes place in a saw mill on a grey day, perhaps this was the intended look for the film.  The dark tone does fit with the overall feel of the movie.

The film itself has some decent, suspenseful action.  It is more of a thriller than an action movie as most of it involves Said trying to outsmart his saw mill invaders.  There are some interesting uses of the surroundings and quick thinking by Said.  And he does a lot of fighting, sneaking, and shooting, which is surprising considering that most of these characters are supposed to be experienced gangsters and thugs.  For this reason, it would have been nice to have some more backstory on Said as well.  Was he ex military?  Was he a hunter?  Did he have experience in this area?  Earth and Blood has some interesting characters, but again we didn't have a chance to really meet them.  I would have loved to know more about Yanis's backstory and family, but it is only hinted at during the film.  Said is an interesting, reserved character but you only get the most basic parts of his story.  And you learn even less about his daughter.  

Earth and Blood has a suspenseful, compact story that feels a little too brief to really get attached to the story or characters. 

Rent it.

Review: Extraction

Release date: April 24, 2020
Running time: 116 minutes
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Golshifteh Farahani, David Harbour, Rudhraksh Jaiswal

Extraction is so insanely good.  Just stop reading this and watch it now.  Seriously, just go watch it.  Extraction is a new action movie starring Chris Hemsworth (looking much more trim from his fat Thor days) as an ex military man with deadly skills and no will to live after losing his family.  He is sent into Dhaka to rescue a kidnapped boy from a drug kingpin, and as you would expect, extreme violence ensues.  

Extraction is just pure action.  Accomplished stunt coordinator turned first time director Sam Hargrave nails this film.  From the gunfights, to the hand to hand combat, to the car chase scenes, and everything in between, this movie will get your pulse going and keep it pumping throughout.  You can really see the stunt coordinator pedigree in the amazing action.  The gunfights are loud and precise.  The hand to hand combat is visceral and brutal; what you would expect from a fight to the death with nothing flashy.  The first fight scene will have you gritting your teeth and trying to cover your eyes.  And the car chase scenes are simply superb.  Really, this film's action is amazing to see and part of that is the insane choreography.  This is 1917 levels of amazing choreography, with shots that make you wonder how the camera was able to even follow it.  It is smart in its angles and really lets you feel and experience the action.  And at some points, the camera follows the action so well that you would swear you are playing an insanely good video game.  Honestly, if you are looking for action Extraction has you covered.

Hemsworth is a convincing, reluctant mercenary.  He really gets to flex his action chops and his biceps.  But on top of that, he also displays a good range of emotion during this film, with plenty of personal scenes on top of his normal, serious and supremely confident persona.  Jaiswal as the kidnapped boy is also very convincing, and although he mostly follows Hemsworth, he also displays a wide range of emotions throughout the film.  
The plot itself also has enough to keep you interested.  The story will take you to a variety of locales within Bangladesh, and although it mostly takes place in one city, there is enough variety in the locations and action that occurs to keep you entertained.  Whether it is a multi-story apartment complex, a crowded market, or a congested bridge, the action conforms around whatever it needs.  This film will get your pulse pounding, but also has enough variety and emotion to keep you engaged.  Seriously, just see this movie now. 

Extraction is an adrenaline rush from start to finish, with amazing action, brutal fighting, and intense vehicle scenes that are complemented by some superb cinematography and characters.

Watch it.