Saturday, February 27, 2021

What to Watch This Weekend: The Vigil, Night of the Kings, The Little Things, Croods A New Age, Billie Eilish, Greenland, Finding Ohana, Tom and Jerry

For The True Crime Buffs: The Little Things (HBO Max and Theaters)
The Little Things takes an all star cast and piles on some unsettling scenes, great writing, and some amazing characters in this creepy police procedural.  For more information, check out the review!

For The Kids: Tom and Jerry (HBO Max and Theaters)
Tom and Jerry translates the classic cartoon for the big screen, with all the craziness, slapstick humor, and lovable fighting from this cat and mouse duo that you would expect.  For more information, check out the review!

For A Slow Burning Night of Storytelling: Night of the Kings (Theaters)
Night of the Kings highlights the power and magic of storytelling, with a palatable energy and excitement accompanying this compelling, imaginative story.  For more information, check out the review!

For An Unsettling Night of Horror: The Vigil (Theaters and Digital)
The Vigil takes a wonderful, old school horror style and steeps it in Jewish tradition, with a masterful use of light, shadows, sound, and suspense.  For more information, check out the review!

For An Imaginative Kids Adventure: The Croods: A New Age (Digital and Redbox)
The Croods: A New Age adds some great new characters and plenty of silliness in this prehistoric family animated adventure.  And this film has quickly become my kids favorite movie!  For more information, check out the review!

For An Action Packed Disaster Film: Greenland (Digital and Redbox)
Greenland is the summer blockbuster you need for the wintertime, with exciting special effects, a great cast, wonderful sound, and some interesting moral choices.  For more information, check out the review!

For An Enlightening Documentary: Billie Eilish: The World's A Little Blurry (Apple TV+)
Billie Eilish: The World's A Little Blurry offers an enlightening and sometimes uncomfortable close look at the rise of this teen phenom.  

For A Needed Dose of Feel Good Film: Finding 'Ohana (Netflix)
Finding 'Ohana has a mix of comedy, drama, and family in this film that stays true to the Hawaiian culture.  It is a heartwarming adventure that might give you a much needed dose of the feels. 

The Little Things Review: An All Star Cast of Strong Personalities Propel This Police Procedural

Denzel Washington	...	Joe 'Deke' Deacon Rami Malek	Rami Malek	...	Jim Baxter Jared Leto	Jared Leto	...	Albert Sparma Chris Bauer	Chris Bauer	...	Detective Sal Rizoli Michael Hyatt	Michael Hyatt	...	Flo Dunigan Terry Kinney	Terry Kinney	...	LASD Captain Carl Farris Natalie Morales	Natalie Morales	...	Detective Jamie Estrada Isabel Arraiza	Isabel Arraiza	...	Ana Baxter Joris Jarsky	Joris Jarsky	...	Detective Sergeant Rogers Glenn Morshower	Glenn Morshower	...	Captain Henry Davis Sofia Vassilieva	Sofia Vassilieva	...	Tina Salvatore Jason James Richter	Jason James Richter	...	Detective Williams John Harlan Kim	John Harlan Kim	...	Officer Henderson Frederick Koehler	Frederick Koehler	...	Stan Peters Judith Scott	Judith Scott	...	Marsha

Release date: January 29, 2021
Running time: 129 minutes
Starring: Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto
Written and Directed By: John Lee Hancock

Kern County Deputy Sheriff Joe Deacon is sent to Los Angeles for what should have been a quick evidence-gathering assignment. Instead, he becomes embroiled in the search for a serial killer who is terrorizing the city.

Maya Kazan	...	Ronda Rathbun Tiffany Gonzalez	Tiffany Gonzalez	...	Julie Brock Anna McKitrick	Anna McKitrick	...	Mary Roberts Sheila Houlahan	Sheila Houlahan	...	Paige Callahan Ebony N Mayo	Ebony N Mayo	...	Tamara Ewing (as Ebony N. Mayo) Matt Morrison	Matt Morrison	...	Guy Jogger Olivia Washington	Olivia Washington	...	Amy Anders Kiff VandenHeuvel	Kiff VandenHeuvel	...	Tow Truck Driver J. Downing	J. Downing	...	Flanders Sean Spann	Sean Spann	...	Ghoul Squad Sophia Castro	Sophia Castro	...	Jennifer Baxter Calliah Sophie Estrada	Calliah Sophie Estrada	...	Chloe Baxter Thomas Crawford	Thomas Crawford	...	Burns Eric Satterberg	Eric Satterberg	...	LASD Tech Ian Gary	Ian Gary	...	LASD Tech Linara Washington	Linara Washington	...	Waitress Jeff Corbett	Jeff Corbett	...	Bill Rathbun Stephanie Erb	Stephanie Erb	...	Phyllis Rathbun Samantha Cormier	Samantha Cormier	...	Teenage Girl
The first thing you'll notice about The Little Things is the all star cast.  When you get Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto into a film, you know you're going to have some star power behind it.  Denzel is pure Denzel; a confident, cocky, but also thoughtful and tortured policeman who gets too involved in his cases and sometimes skirts the rules for justice.  Malek plays a different type of character than I am used to with him; I liked him overall but he is an overly cocky investigator with an unusual delivery that is off putting, but is at least consistent throughout the film.  And Leto just completely transforms for this movie, changing his physical appearance, mannerisms, gait, and pretty much everything about him.  He is unrecognizable at times and shows why he is such a good actor.  But I do think he could have gone further; his character was a complete transformation but I also think he could have been more unsettling.  

The film starts with such a good opening, heart pounding opening but after that the movie becomes more of a detective, police procedural.  And don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the police and justice aspects of it. I liked seeing the jurisdictional wranglings of the various organizations and the clashing of personalities.  And I also enjoyed the slow pace, letting you take in the characters and learn more about them.  But I also thought that the film would have been more tense after the amazing opening.  The story definitely has an arc, and you learn more about Denzel's character's backstory throughout.  It is drip fed to you in a masterful manner, with some reveals not happening until very late in the film.  It will keep you wondering about him and his previous life, and it really puts a lot of the film in context.  This is helped by some really great writing that ties a lot of little details (the little things) together.  Some lines have double meaning based on events that have happened in the film, and it really constructs a complicated collage of characters and motivations. 

The Little Things has so much amazing build up, but it leads to an unsatisfying conclusion sequence.  I did really enjoy the actual ending, but some aspects of it felt like too easy of a conclusion and also out of character for a few individuals.  But there are additional revelations throughout and the ending is no exception.  You learn a few new tidbits at the end that really frame a lot of what happened and give you another "a ha" moment.  And the ending concludes an otherwise very engaging journey so I can forgive it for not being perfect.  

The Little Things takes an all star cast and piles on some unsettling scenes, great writing, and some amazing characters in this creepy police procedural.

Watch it.

Smalls	...	Truck Driver Lee Garlington	Lee Garlington	...	Landlady Dimiter D. Marinov	Dimiter D. Marinov	...	St. Agnes Hotel Manager Julia Vera	Julia Vera	...	ABC Appliance Owner Jack Topalian	Jack Topalian	...	AAA Appliance Owner Charlie Saxton	Charlie Saxton	...	Felix Justin Barnhill	Justin Barnhill	...	Grunge Kid Emil Beheshti	Emil Beheshti	...	Lab Coat Tech Bradley James	Bradley James	...	LAPD Ben Kliewer	Ben Kliewer	...	LAPD Hank Northrop	Hank Northrop	...	LAPD Bob Golub	Bob Golub	...	Bum Benjamin Daniel	Benjamin Daniel	...	Delinquent Kid (as Ben Sanders) Adam J. Harrington	Adam J. Harrington	...	Greg Alberts Neil Garcia	Neil Garcia	...	Pike's Bartender Rest of cast listed alphabetically: Erica Lynne Arden	Erica Lynne Arden	...	Lady of the Night (uncredited) Alice Chen	Alice Chen	...	Pedestrian (uncredited) Cyrus Deboo	Cyrus Deboo	...	Public Defender (uncredited) Jodi Carol Harrison	Jodi Carol Harrison	...	Hooker (uncredited) Richard Lawrence	Richard Lawrence	...	Lab Technician (uncredited) Darius Levanté	Darius Levanté	...	Head Gang Member (uncredited) Miles Quincy Martin	Miles Quincy Martin	...	Gang Member (uncredited) Patricia Mizen	Patricia Mizen	...	Reporter (uncredited) Peter Nikkos	Peter Nikkos	...	Criminalist Santo 'Tru' Trujillo (uncredited) Kerry O'Malley	Kerry O'Malley	...	Mrs. Roberts (uncredited)
If you liked this review and want to see more from Watch or Pass, please consider 
following us on our various social media platforms: FacebookTwitterInstagramYoutube.   The Little Things Premieres on HBO Max and in theaters on Friday, January 29, 2021.

Tom and Jerry Review: The Classic Cartoon Duo Translated To The Big Screen

Chloë Grace Moretz	...	Kayla Michael Peña	Michael Peña	...	Terence Tom	Tom	...	Tom Jerry	Jerry	...	Jerry Jordan Bolger	Jordan Bolger	...	Cameron Rob Delaney	Rob Delaney	...	Mr Dubros Patsy Ferran	Patsy Ferran	...	Joy the Bell Girl Pallavi Sharda	Pallavi Sharda	...	Preeta Colin Jost	Colin Jost	...	Ben Somi De Souza	Somi De Souza	...	Mrs Mehta Ajay Chhabra	Ajay Chhabra	...	Mr Mehta Patrick Poletti	Patrick Poletti	...	Mr Jacobson Snr Janis Ahern	Janis Ahern	...	Mrs Jacobson Ken Jeong	Ken Jeong	...	Chef Jackie Camilla Arfwedson	Camilla Arfwedson	...	Linda Perrybottom

Release date: February 26, 2021
Running time: 101 minutes
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Colin Jost, Pallavi Sharda
Directed By: Tim Story

Adaptation of the classic Hanna-Barbera property, which reveals how Tom and Jerry first meet and form their rivalry.

Directed by  Tim Story	...	(directed by)Writing Credits   William Hanna	...	(based on characters created by) and Joseph Barbera	...	(based on characters created by)   Kevin Costello	...	(written by)   	Joe Bone	...	Animal Control Officer Edward Judge	Edward Judge	...	Leo the Sous Chef Brian Bovell	Brian Bovell	...	Annoyed Vendor David Nolan	David Nolan	...	Passing Father Jude Coward Nicoll	Jude Coward Nicoll	...	Passing Child Christina Chong	Christina Chong	...	Lola Daniel Adegboyega	Daniel Adegboyega	...	Gavin the Doorman Craig Stein	Craig Stein	...	Job Hopper Supervisor Edward Dogliani	Edward Dogliani	...	Elephant Trainer Josselyn Ospina-Escobar	Josselyn Ospina-Escobar	...	Carriage Riding Kid (as Josselyn Ospina Escobar) Ozuna	Ozuna	...	Assistant Hotel Staff Paolo Bonolis	Paolo Bonolis	...	Wedding Guest Haley Bishop	Haley Bishop	...	Person in Park Norma Butikofer	Norma Butikofer	...	Commuter Marc Wesley DeHaney	Marc Wesley DeHaney	...	Commuter Kerri McLean	Kerri McLean	...	News Reporter Sophie Holland	Sophie Holland	...	TV Announcer Joseph Begley	Joseph Begley	...	Workman Scott Coker	Scott Coker	...	Limo Driver Joe Buck	Joe Buck	...	Joe Buck Bobby Cannavale	Bobby Cannavale	...	Spike (voice) Nicky Jam	Nicky Jam	...	Butch (voice) Joey Wells	Joey Wells	...	Lightning (voice) Harry Ratchford	Harry Ratchford	...	Topsy (voice) Will 'Spank' Horton	Will 'Spank' Horton	...	Ash (as Spank Horton) Na'im Lynn	Na'im Lynn	...	Meathead (voice) Lil Rel Howery	Lil Rel Howery	...	Angel / Devil Tom (voice) Utkarsh Ambudkar	Utkarsh Ambudkar	...	Real Estate Rat (voice) Tim Story	Tim Story	...	Pigeon Announcer (voice)
Tom and Jerry is a movie set in the "real" world with cartoon animals throughout.  It is a smart choice that lets you have recognizable actors interact with the recognizable pair.  And the movie does a good job of making them feel like part of the action.  The animated style smartly recreates the characters in a recognizable form but adjusted for 3D.  It is very impressive to see and hats off to the animators who managed to translate Tom and Jerry's mannerisms, expressions, and overall interactions in the real world.  And the real actors who accompany Tom and Jerry (and the other animated animals) feel natural.  There are no awkward interactions or uncanny valley breaking scenes, everything feels fluid and natural.  The animated animal's effects on the real world locations are also seamless, a testament to the effects team for having real world damage mirror the animated character's movements.

The story of Tom and Jerry is serviceable, providing an origin story for the pair and enough of a reason to have them fall into Kayla (Grace Moretz)'s world.  And the story also provides enough antics to keep the pair moving through the world, destroying as they go.  The film does an admirable job of trying to put a larger story on top of the episodic format of the TV show.  It allows for a more involved storyline and for some character development from this dynamic duo and some additional friends they make along the way.  And one of the most notable updates from the original cartoon is the entertaining soundtrack.  The movie has a lot of added hip hop to spice this all up and give the music a more modern flair.

But as fun as it was to see Tom and Jerry come to life in the real world, their format just didn't seem to translate well into a modern movie.  Their fighting, while fun to watch in a cartoon, one off format, seemed petty and vindictive in a longer form movie.  And it seemed to go way over the top when translated into a real world scenario.  I can't fault the movie that much because it was trying to keep the same format and style of the original cartoon, and it succeeded in that respect.  But it also felt like the overall conflict and ridiculousness of the fighting just didn't translate well into this format.  And the movie does wrap up a little too quickly and conveniently, but the movie is already relatively long for a kids movie.  But if the ultimate consumer is to be the judge, my kids really enjoyed this one.  

Tom and Jerry translates the classic cartoon for the big screen, with all the craziness, slapstick humor, and lovable fighting from this cat and mouse duo that you would expect. 

Rent it.

Gianni Calchetti	...	Photographer (uncredited) Mike Capozzola	Mike Capozzola	...	Wealthy Man (uncredited) Wong Charlie	Wong Charlie	...	Hotel Guest (uncredited) Darren Charman	Darren Charman	...	Wedding Guest (uncredited) Stuart Cooke	Stuart Cooke	...	Construction Worker (uncredited) Nesba Crenshaw	Nesba Crenshaw	...	Grateful Woman (uncredited) Grant Crookes	Grant Crookes	...	Driver (uncredited) Daniel Eghan	Daniel Eghan	...	New York Citizen (uncredited) Eleanor Fanyinka	Eleanor Fanyinka	...	Sadie (uncredited) Juliet Hartley	Juliet Hartley	...	Wedding Guest (uncredited) Ty Hurley	Ty Hurley	...	Hotel Guest (uncredited) Jeremy Ang Jones	Jeremy Ang Jones	...	Boyfriend (uncredited) Joelle Koissi	Joelle Koissi	...	New York Resident (uncredited) Mervi Koski	Mervi Koski	...	New York Resident (uncredited) Nina Kumar	Nina Kumar	...	Taxi Cab Driver / Hotel Guest (uncredited) Maya Larholm	Maya Larholm	...	Wedding Guest (uncredited) Chelsea Li	Chelsea Li	...	Hotel Bar Guest (uncredited) Keith Lomas	Keith Lomas	...	Hotel Guest (uncredited) Tyrone Love	Tyrone Love	...	Chef (uncredited) Prince Marfo	Prince Marfo	...	Hotel Guest (uncredited) Obie Matthew	Obie Matthew	...	Wedding Guest (uncredited) Doris McCarthy	Doris McCarthy	...	Park Goer (uncredited) Bradley Wj Miller	Bradley Wj Miller	...	Luggage Handler / Driver (uncredited) Sri Moorthy	Sri Moorthy	...	Wedding Guest (uncredited) Jamie Neagle	Jamie Neagle	...	Passerby (uncredited) Deonne Newby	Deonne Newby	...	Wedding Guest (uncredited) Shaun Newnham	Shaun Newnham	...	Wedding Guest (uncredited) Tina Louise Owens	Tina Louise Owens	...	New York Resident (uncredited) John Alan Roberts	John Alan Roberts	...	Double (Michael Pena) (uncredited) Camilla Rutherford	Camilla Rutherford	...	Wealthy Woman (uncredited) Leandra Ryan	Leandra Ryan	...	Yoga Instructor (uncredited) Bernardo Santos	Bernardo Santos	...	Aaron Merritt (uncredited) Joakim Skarli	Joakim Skarli	...	Chef (uncredited) Emily Stevenson	Emily Stevenson	...	Wedding Guest (uncredited) Mihai Tuca	Mihai Tuca	...	Guest (uncredited) Keira Whitwell	Keira Whitwell	...	Wedding Guest (uncredited) Chris Wilson	Chris Wilson	...	Spa Massage Customer (uncredited) Wayne Young	Wayne Young	...	Chef (uncredited)
If you liked this review and want to see more from Watch or Pass, please consider 
following us on our various social media platforms: FacebookTwitterInstagramYoutube.  Tom and Jerry Premieres in theaters and on HBO Max on Friday, February 26.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Take Me To Tarzana Review: An Office Space Style Craziness

Maria Conchita Alonso	...	Juanita Samantha Robinson	Samantha Robinson	...	Jane Avant Jonathan Bennett	Jonathan Bennett	...	Jameson Doheny Oliver Cooper	Oliver Cooper	...	Charles Kahyun Kim	Kahyun Kim	...	Vanessa Andrew Creer	Andrew Creer	...	Miles Jones Owen Harn	Owen Harn	...	Liev Giorgio Kent Shocknek	Kent Shocknek	...	Kent Shocknek Chris Coppola	Chris Coppola	...	Morgan Schmeltz Betsy Hume	Betsy Hume	...	Jenny O'Reilly Henry Brooke	Henry Brooke	...	Hank Bob Wiltfong	Bob Wiltfong	...	Gordy Kimberly Joy McBride	Kimberly Joy McBride	...	Teleplex Worker Desiree Staples	Desiree Staples	...	Eileen Johnson Emanuel Hernandez	Emanuel Hernandez	...	Javier

Release date: February 19, 2021
Running time: 106 minutes
Starring: Samantha Robinson, Jonathan Bennett, and Andrew Creer
Directed By: Maceo Greenberg

“Take Me To Tarzana” is a comedy that follows Miles (Creer) and Jane (Robinson) as they struggle to survive in the corporate jungle at Teleplex, a top data-mining company. After they learn their lecherous boss has been secretly recording the women in the office—they hatch a plan to take him down, enlisting the help of Jameson (Bennett), a trust fund party-boy and occasional friend of Miles. Their mundane 9-to-5 becomes much more than an HR headache as they come into possession of Teleplex's true nefarious business model and are forced into a climactic showdown with its maniacal, Tarzan-obsessed CEO. 

Produced by  Jake Bloom	...	associate producer Aaron Brenner	...	producer Maceo Greenberg	...	producer Reaya Investment Group	...	executive producer Cameron Hahn	...	co-producer Kevin Harding	...	producer Paris Herbert-Taylor	...	assistant producer Roberta Marie Munroe	...	co-producer Reiko Napier	...	producer John Neu	...	associate producer Denny Nolan	...	co-producer Laura Picklesimer	...	co-producer Desiree Staples	...	producer Clayton VanNortwick	...	producer (as Clayton Van Nortwick)Music by   Directed by  Maceo Greenberg	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Maceo Greenberg
Take Me To Tarzana has a definite Office Space vibe, but with more crude humor and some crazier characters.  The film has a horrible boss, some employees that are just beaten down at their jobs, and an ultimately crazy situation.  But the film goes much further than the classic comedy, with a scheme and situation that goes into far more ridiculous territory.  And although the film does try to take Office Space to the nth degree, a lot of the look and feel of the movie do feel similar.  You have the somewhat boring but hard working Miles, who is the most relatable of the crew.  Robinson does a good job as Jane, who has to deal with some pretty questionable situations.  And then you have Miles's friend Jameson (Bennett) who adds several layers of ridiculousness to the movie.  He is a little intense at first but definitely grows on you as the film progresses.

However, it feels like Take Me To Tarzana pushes the envelope in some ways, but the humor just didn't hit with me.  A slacker comedy relies on its craziness and characters to get you to laugh and although there was plenty of craziness and some over the top characters, I just did not find the jokes that funny.  Maybe it is because of the smaller cast of main characters, or that the crazy friend is mostly limited to one friend, but I just didn't laugh like I thought I would.  And the plot kind of goes off the deep end, as you would expect from this type of a film, but I didn't want to follow it along for that.  It might just be my sense of humor, so don't instantly write this off on my account.  There were many ridiculous situations and funny jokes, but overall I just didn't enjoy this movie as much as I expected to.  And I will say that the film became more enjoyable as I was watching it, and all the characters endeared themselves to me.  But overall I was expecting laugh out loud hilariousness.  

Take Me To Tarzana has an Office Space feel with the ridiculousness of the story and characters kicked up several notches. 

Rent it.

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Take Me To Tarzana is available digitally and on demand on February 19, 2021.

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Night of the Kings Review: Throwback Storytelling At Its Finest

Bakary Koné	...	Roman Steve Tientcheu	Steve Tientcheu	...	Barbe Noire (Blackbeard) Jean Cyrille Digbeu	Jean Cyrille Digbeu	...	Demi-Fou (Half-Mad) Rasmané Ouédraogo	Rasmané Ouédraogo	...	Soni Issaka Sawadogo	Issaka Sawadogo	...	Nivaquine Abdoul Karim Konaté	Abdoul Karim Konaté	...	Lass Macel Anzian	Macel Anzian	...	Lame de Rasoir (Razor Blade) Laetitia Ky	Laetitia Ky	...	The Queen Denis Lavant	Denis Lavant	...	Silence Zunon François Lopez	Zunon François Lopez	...	Police Officer Rest of cast listed alphabetically: Narcisse Aféli	Narcisse Aféli	...	Queen's Soldier Drabo Arouna	Drabo Arouna	...	Lascar Chief Jean Marcel Brou Daboiko	Jean Marcel Brou Daboiko	...	Lascar Chief Sandrine Digbeu	Sandrine Digbeu	...	Policewoman Lago Woroka Gilles	Lago Woroka Gilles	...	Cook (as Lago Woroka)

Release date: February 26, 2021
Running time: 93 minutes
Starring: Koné Bakary, Steve Tientcheu, Digbeu Jean Cyrille, Rasmané Ouédraogo, Issaka Sawadogo, Abdoul Karim Konaté, Anzian Marcel, Laetitia K
Written and Directed By: Philippe Lacôte

A young man is sent to “La Maca,” a prison in the middle of the Ivorian forest ruled by its inmates. As tradition goes with the rising of the red moon, he is designated by the Boss to be the new “Roman” and must tell a story to the other prisoners. Learning what fate awaits him, he begins to narrate the mystical life of the legendary outlaw named “Zama King” and has no choice but to make his story last until dawn.

Christopher Kaké	Christopher Kaké	...	Lascar Chief Gbazi Yves Landry	Gbazi Yves Landry	...	Sexy Umar Aïcha Lola	Umar Aïcha Lola	...	Albino Woman Ange Eric N'Guessan	Ange Eric N'Guessan	...	Guetteur Sozehoué Ninon	Sozehoué Ninon	...	Rocky Marie-Josée Néné	Marie-Josée Néné	...	Hélène Stéphane Sebime	Stéphane Sebime	...	Koby Ismail Traoré	Ismail Traoré	...	Lascar Chief Cissé Vadieneka	Cissé Vadieneka	...	Konan Produced by  Delphine Jaquet	...	producer Ernest Konan	...	producer Yanick Létourneau	...	producerMusic by    Directed by  Philippe Lacôte	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Philippe Lacôte
Night of the Kings is nothing like what I expected.  The film is set almost entirely in La Maca, and I expected a film that mostly took place inside prison walls would not be able to keep my interest.  But the movie does a great job of showcasing the brutal prison conditions right from the start.  And it also shows some of the anarchy that this inmate run prison has.  The film starts with a masterful use of sound to show the chaos, confusion, and brutality of a new fish coming into this strange place.  

But after the jarring initiation into La Maca, the movie takes a decidedly different tone.  When Roman begins to to tell his stories, the film really comes alive.  Roman is hesitant at first, but when he beings to find his voice, the movie becomes much more compelling.  Roman's stories are accompanied by an energy and excitement from the other inmates that is palatable.  They react to his every word, and a core group of inmates help to act out the events of his story in an imaginative, fluid style that makes them come alive.  And the story is accompanied by impromptu, beautiful, acapella songs from other inmates that again, help to sell the story and keep your imagination firing.  The reenactments, songs, and inmate energy add several layers and nuance to the storytelling, and helps to keep the audience engaged on this special night.  The film does have cuts to recreations of scenes in the story, which are enjoyable to really frame the events, but the real draw are the scenes within the prison.  These are similar to Scare Me, where a story is sold purely on the magnetism and abilities of the storytellers.  It is a classic throw back that I wouldn't expect in a modern movie, and a welcome change of pace that lets you sit back and enjoy the story.

The storytelling is also accompanied by internal drama within the prison that adds a layer of tension to Roman's night.  Much happens around him but the circumstances add pressure to this young story weaver, and force him to focus on the story telling despite everything happening around him.  And although the storytelling in the prison feels so special, the recreations themselves are also very well done.  They provide a pop of color and light that you don't get in the prison scenes.  It also adds vivid imagery and imagination to the overall story.  However, the recreations do suffer from a use of CG that is noticeable but not too distracting.  It just feels like it wouldn't have been needed, and the scene that it is used for could have been recreated with the other storytelling techniques.  But overall the use of CG is a minor complaint to this otherwise wonderful film.  Additionally, the ending of Night of the Kings does not feel like a complete conclusion to this overall experience.  But as with most storytelling, the journey to the end is more important than the actual ending.  

Night of the Kings highlights the power and magic of storytelling, with a palatable energy and excitement accompanying this compelling, imaginative story.

Watch it.

Ivory Coast Cote de Ivory Storytelling Stories Prison Prisoners Magic Arabian Nights
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Night of the Kings is available in theaters on February 26, 2021 and on Premium On Demand on March 5, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Donna : Stronger Than Pretty Review: An Inconsistent Drama Of Someone Finding Their Inner Strength

Release date: February 23, 2021
Running time: 100 minutes
Starring: Kate Amundsen, Anthony Ficco, Catherine Daddario, Sandy Bainum, Steve Barkman, Mikel Butler, Kiera Capitanio, Anthony Coppola, James Cribbins, and James Aronson.
Co-written by Donna Martino and Pat Branch

Donna; Stronger Than Pretty is a romantic tragedy, an unlove story, that spans three decades in the life of a gentle young woman, Donna, as she tries to live up to the traditions and expectations of her Italian roots and of the “American Dream”. That dream becomes a living nightmare and nearly breaks her until she finds the silent force of her inner voice and breaks free from a husband who refuses to be responsible to her, himself, their family, or even his own dreams.

Donna: Stronger Than Pretty has a classic opening and style that sets the timeline for this film perfectly.  It is set in the 70s or 80s and has an older setting that really gets you into this film.  But it is not just the setting, the overall film looks and feels like it's from an older time.  It is a nice touch that really gives makes the classic look of the movie pop.  And along those lines, the film also has a classic sound track that has songs that are either right out of the time period or would be at home there.  From the fashion, to the setting, to the cars, this movie feels ripped right out of another time.  And you are introduced to some of the main characters pretty quickly, as Donna (Amundsen) meets Nick (Ficco) early in the story.  Their budding romance and later issues form most of the conflict of this film and seeing Donna tackle life's challenges is daunting and empowering at the same time.  And I also really liked how Nick bucked your expectations at the start of the film, seeming like a very different person than I thought.  

However, Donna tells a story of a woman who is a victim of domestic physical and emotional violence, and the experiences she has to endure are difficult to see.  The film piles on the drama to good measure, but sometimes the dramatic delivery just doesn't hit quite right.  It feels like the characters are over exaggerating the drama, which makes the line delivery and situations not feel quite right.  It is a shame because the film definitely has emotional situations, and this distraction caused some of the emotion to be lost on me.  The drama is not bad, but it just does not feel earned; like the emotion that should be there just didn't get built up correctly.  Additionally, although the main conflict of the film is Nick's terrible treatment of Donna and their family, Nick turned a little too quickly in the film.  It feels like there was not enough groundwork laid before he did a complete 180 for his character.  I would have liked a little more build up to this, but it seems like they just didn't have the time.  Additionally, the film has large jumps in the timeline without much to tell the viewer what happened.  Occasionally the film would jump ahead and one of the kids would look much older (despite the parents looking the same) or an additional child would just be in the scene.  It made some of it confusing to follow and made me wonder what else happened in the interim.  

Donna: Stronger Than Pretty's message of strength and hard work is an important one that highlights this amazing woman's journey with an emotional story and great style. 

Rent it.

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Paranormal Prison is available in select theaters, digitally, and on demand on February 19, 2021.

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The Vigil Review: Old School Horror Steeped In Jewish Tradition

Release date: February 26, 2021
Running time: 90 minutes
Stars: Dave Davis, Menashe Lustig, Malky Goldman, and Lynn Cohen
Written and Directed by Keith Thomas

Steeped in ancient Jewish lore and demonology, THE VIGIL is supernatural horror film set over the course of a single evening in Brooklyn's Hasidic Borough Park neighborhood. Low on funds and having recently left his insular religious community, Yakov (Dave Davis) reluctantly accepts an offer from his former rabbi and confidante (Menashe Lustig) to take on the responsibility of an overnight "shomer," fulfilling the Jewish practice of watching over the body of a deceased community member. Shortly after arriving at the recently departed's dilapidated house to sit the vigil, Yakov begins to realize that something is very, very wrong.

The Vigil has an old school horror feel with a limited setting, good practical effects, and a text that evokes the 80s classics that influenced this film.  Much of the film takes place in the dilapidated house, and much of it is in a single room at night.  The house is an old style house with lighting that leaves plenty of unknown space and shadows.  The film masterfully uses these to keep you on edge, with little visions here and there and sometimes no visions.  It forces you to look at every nook and cranny to see what is and isn't there, keeping the viewer constantly on edge.  And this makes sense due to the subject matter of the film.  Having a corpse in the room at all times at night just makes for an unnerving experience, before all the tricks that the filmmakers used to heighten that.  

The Vigil is just a well constructed horror film.  I loved the smart use of paranoia, where you are not certain what exactly is going on and the film smartly introduces plenty of doubt throughout the night.  Was that voice that you just heard someone in the house, or something otherworldly?  And the Vigil is steeped in Jewish tradition, which makes for an interesting setting.  I really liked the lore that was introduced as well as the fact that the characters freely switched between Hebrew and English.  It made for a much more natural feeling film with bilingual characters speaking as they normally would.  On top of the great sound effects, the film also occasionally has some otherworldly music to accentuate what occurs on screen.  It is a nice touch and helps to bridge the gap between the older, classic setting, and the younger protagonist.  And the story of The Vigil just builds and builds towards a climactic conclusion.  The film is a wonderfully done, self contained throwback horror film.  

The Vigil takes a wonderful, old school horror style and steeps it in Jewish tradition, with a masterful use of light, shadows, sound, and suspense.

Watch it.

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The Vigil is in select theaters, on digital platforms, and VOD on February 26th.

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Friday, February 19, 2021

What to Watch This Weekend: Nomadland, Mafia Inc, The Violent Heart, The Swordsman, Carmilla, I Met A Girl, I Care A Lot, Gladiator

For Those Longing To Go Outside: Nomadland (Theaters)
Nomadland highlights a different, beautiful lifestyle with a very human performance by McDormand, amazing cinematography, and a wonderful sense of community.  For more information, check out the review!

For An Offer You Can't Refuse: Mafia Inc (Virtual Cinema)
Mafia Inc.'s strong mix of brutality, intrigue, business, and family—fueled by stellar performances from Catellito and Grondin—make this film an offer you can't refuse.  For more information, check out the review!

For A Slow Burning Love Story: The Violent Heart (Theaters and Digital)
The Violent Heart will capture your heart with its interesting characters, surprising revelations, and slow burning story.  For more information, check out the review!

For An Understated Action Movie: The Swordsman (Digital and Physical)
The Swordsman is an understated historical dramatization, with exciting but not over-the-top action sequences and a perfectly cast reluctant hero and charismatic villain.  For more information, check out the review!

For A Beautifully Shot Gothic Vampire Movie: Carmilla (Shudder)
Carmilla is a beautiful piece of cinema, with fantastic cinematography, a moving, weighty soundtrack, and interesting, conflicted characters.  For more information, check out the review!

For A Colorful Celebration Of Life And Love: I Met A Girl (Amazon)
I Met A Girl has a moving performance by its charismatic lead, a wonderful bright style, and plenty of highs and lows in this story about love and mental illness.  For more information, check out the review!

For A Dark Comedy About Capitalism: I Care A Lot (Netflix)
I Care A Lot gets high marks for its dark comedy and Rosamund Pike's amazing performance.  If you're looking for a stylish satire, then this is the one for you.

For A Classic Action Film: Gladiator (Amazon)
The classic action film about Marcus Aurelius and his quest for revenge is now streaming on Amazon Prime.  If you haven't seen this, you'll be blown away by the imaginative action scenes and the overall story.

The Violent Heart Review: A Slow Burning Story With Surprising Revelations

Jovan Adepo	...	Daniel Grace Van Patten	Grace Van Patten	...	Cassie Lukas Haas	Lukas Haas	...	Joseph Kimberly Williams-Paisley	Kimberly Williams-Paisley	...	Helen Jahi Di'Allo Winston	Jahi Di'Allo Winston	...	Aaron Jordan Preston Carter	Jordan Preston Carter	...	Young Daniel Cress Williams	Cress Williams	...	Lee Rayven Symone Ferrell	Rayven Symone Ferrell	...	Wendy Markus Silbiger	Markus Silbiger	...	Bradley Jeff Pearson	Jeff Pearson	...	Nathan Nick Cimorelli	Nick Cimorelli	...	Kent Carrie Tillis	Carrie Tillis	...	Senator Massey Mykie Fisher	Mykie Fisher	...	Lt. Col. Kane Rebecca Lines	Rebecca Lines	...	Abigail Laurie Pallotta	Laurie Pallotta	...	Srta. Ginsburg

Release date: February 19, 2021
Running time: 107 minutes
Starring:  Jovan Adepo, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Grace Van Patten, Mary J. Blige, Lukas Haas, Cress Williams, Jahi Di'Allo Winston
Written and Directed By: Kerem Sanga

Fifteen years after the murder of his older sister, Daniel finds himself falling for Cassie, a vivacious high school senior.

Directed by  Kerem Sanga	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Kerem Sanga	...	(written by)   Produced by  Max A. Butler	...	executive producer Dan Cohen	...	producer P. Jennifer Dana	...	producer David Hunter	...	executive producer Ross Jacobson	...	executive producer Shawn Levy	...	producer Tobey Maguire	...	producer Edward L. McDonnell	...	producer Padraic Murphy	...	co-producer Tony Pachella	...	co-producer Matthew Plouffe	...	producer Ross Putman	...	executive producer Richard Weinberg	...	executive producer
The Violent Heart has a really dramatic setup with a good combination of beautiful cinematography and music to let you know that this film is something special.  The music especially at the start is wonderful and helps to get you invested in the opening sequences.  It has a dramatic, dreamlike quality to it that goes perfectly with the softer, often idyllic camera work.  And then the film sets up the major event and that takes you down a whole different path.

The drama in The Violent Heart is brought to life by the complicated cast of characters.  Jovan Adepo is a revelation as a conflicted young man trying to make it but haunted by his past.  He has to be both reserved and vulnerable, careful because of people's perceptions of him based on his past actions and traumas.  Grace van Patten is an outspoken high schooler that has a lot of charm.  She can get a littler overbearing at times, but it is all in service of the story.  And the two of them have a wonderful chemistry that really shines through in this film.  The movie is about their cautious, star-crossed love and the pair are magnetic on screen.  Their relationship starts off innocently enough but they lean on each other as their bond--and the drama happening around them--grows stronger.  It is a sight to see that even when there is no dialog, you can feel the chemistry on screen.  And I also can't forget to mention the wonderful performances by Jahi Di'Allo Winston (who we saw in Charm City Kings) and Mary J. Blige, both of whom showcase their serious acting talents and add drama to this already dramatic story.

Nick Cimorelli	Nick Cimorelli	...	Kent Carrie Tillis	Carrie Tillis	...	Senator Massey Mykie Fisher	Mykie Fisher	...	Lt. Col. Kane Rebecca Lines	Rebecca Lines	...	Abigail Laurie Pallotta	Laurie Pallotta	...	Srta. Ginsburg Gary Willis	Gary Willis	...	Jeff Cory Scott Allen	Cory Scott Allen	...	Ross Kenneth Garner	Kenneth Garner	...	Rick Dean Shortland	Dean Shortland	...	Bartender William Ryan Watson	William Ryan Watson	...	Assistant to the Battalion Commander Josefina M Boneo	Josefina M Boneo	...	Young Woman (as Josefina Boneo) Ashley Shelton	Ashley Shelton	...	Nurse Rachel Pelletier Justin Goldsmith	Justin Goldsmith	...	Police Officer Allison Shrum	Allison Shrum	...	English Student Nevaeh Burns	Nevaeh Burns	...	Spanish Student Paulina Moon	Paulina Moon	...	Young Cassie Clayton Jones	Clayton Jones	...	Rider
And the story of The Violent Heart is mixed bag.  It has some really surprising revelations that occur in the movie, some that put the whole movie in context and some that appear to come out of left field.  But in service of this, the film does not do a great job of explaining some aspects of the story and family at the start.  I felt like I didn't really know what was going on until the very end, which allowed me to enjoy these great revelations, but also left me confused at the start.  It also does not do a great job of setting up the main conflict, as a character's attitude towards another changes fairly abruptly, in service of the story but still it didn't feel earned.  Perhaps there is a longer cut of this film where more of that is revealed, but as it stands, some thing just seem to happen without much setup.  But they do help to set up some truly shocking revelations that tied the whole story together.  

And through these characters and stories, The Violent Heart seeks to explore a variety of important and very human themes.  It tackles loss, love, family, and dreams very well.  I really loved Daniel's conflicted character, and the egg shells he has to walk on and the realistic view he takes of his life due to his past actions.  And I also loved the overall theme of the story, about the circle of violence and how somethings can affect you that are outside of your control.  And finally, this film is just a well made movie, an indie that was made with passion and love that comes through on the screen.

The Violent Heart will capture your heart with its interesting characters, surprising revelations, and slow burning story.

Watch it.

Drama Love Romeo and Juliet Fate Actions Violence Violent
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The Violent Heart is available digitally and on demand on February 19, 2021.

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Paranormal Prison Review: A Spirited Cast and Creepy Location

Todd Haberkorn	...	Matthew Paris Warner	Paris Warner	...	Sara Don Shanks	Don Shanks	...	Mannequin Corynn Treadwell	Corynn Treadwell	...	Ashley Sarah C. Patterson	Sarah C. Patterson	...	Self Brian Telestai	Brian Telestai	...	Jacob Django Laighleis	Django Laighleis	...	Man talking about 'cool kids' at prison Scott Beals	Scott Beals	...	Man confused about family Easton Lay	Easton Lay	...	Park Ranger Hoot the Owl	Hoot the Owl	...	Self Zion Gomez	Zion Gomez	...	Teen Marcia Warne	Marcia Warne	...	Woman who worked at prison Amanda Fitch	Amanda Fitch	...	Mary Beth Flake Audrey Gough	Audrey Gough		 Aaron Neel	Aaron Neel	...	Prison Admin

Release date: February 19, 2021
Running time: 71 minutes
Starring: Todd Haberkorn, Paris Warner, Don Shanks, Corynn Treadwell, Easton Lay, Brian Telestai
Directed By: Brian Jagger

The impending demolition of an abandoned prison has the paranormal investigation team “The Skeptic and the Scientist” rushed to spend a locked-in night within the prison’s walls before the wrecking balls start swinging turning the now state historical building to condos.  Knowing their channel needs views, team leader Matthew (Todd Haberkorn) funds one last-ditch effort in hopes the device science expert Sara (Paris Warner) has invented will be their ticket to fame and fortune. Along with their sound technician Ashley (Coryn Treadwell), cameraman Jacob (Brian Telestai) and guided by their assigned park ranger, the team recorded everything, hoping to capture elusive spirits. What they captured instead will change paranormal investigation forever, and may have even solved a long-standing mystery.

Produced by  Bryan Heath	...	co-executive producer Crit Killen	...	consulting producer Catrine McGregor	...	producer Arthur Moore	...	executive producer Kirk Uhler	...	co-executive producer Madalyn VanValkenburgh	...	associate producer    Directed by  Brian Jagger	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Brian Jagger	 Randall Reese
Paranormal Prison has a lot going for it.  It is an indie found footage style film that focuses on the paranormal investigation side of things.  The setup is clever, with a camera crew coming to investigate paranormal activity in an abandoned prison, which lends itself perfectly to the found footage style.  The film also uses filters and other effects to demake the footage to look like it was filmed on older camera equipment.  And the actors that come to the prison are fun to watch.  They give spirited performances and do the most with the limited resources in the film.  And I also liked the setup with a paranormal believer and a skeptic together.  It was a nice back and forth, especially at the beginning when the paranormal investigation is being setup.  And you can't beat this location for an atmospheric horror film.  An abandoned prison is a great place to film a found footage haunting film, so smart choice on their part.

But Paranormal Prison is let down by the effects, the short duration, and the overall story.  The effects were not scary, despite the good attempts by the actors to sell them.  They mostly consisted of spliced scenes, some strange happenings, and some digitized effects.  But they just did not look that authentic, more like something you would see at an amusement park.  And the film did not even get to this level of scaring quickly.  I appreciated the build up, but when the movie itself is just over an hour there needs to be more paranormal happening earlier on.  The story itself was nicely interconnected, with a good twist at the end, but again was too short in duration to really walk away feeling fulfilled.  You get some backstory for the characters that felt unnecessary for the overall movie, and I wish that had been used to more effectively include early scares or footage from past investigations.  If you want a similar style film, but one that has better effects and a more over the top experience, check out Followed or The Cleansing Hour.

Paranormal Prison's spirited performances and creepy setting make this found footage film entertaining, but be skeptical of some of the effects and the short duration.

Pass on it.

Ghosts Ghost Haunt Prison Prisoner Scary Tense Tension Haunting Haunted Paranormal Scary Spirits
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Paranormal Prison is available in select theaters, digitally, and on demand on February 19, 2021.

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Mafia Inc. Review: A Brutal Mix of Business and Family

Sergio Castellitto	...	Francesco 'Frank' Paternò Marc-André Grondin	Marc-André Grondin	...	Vincent 'Vince' Gamache Gilbert Sicotte	Gilbert Sicotte	...	Henri Gamache Mylène Mackay	Mylène Mackay	...	Sofie Gamache Donny Falsetti	Donny Falsetti	...	Giacomo Jr 'Giaco' Paternò Vittorio Rossi	Vittorio Rossi	...	Ricardo Galati Gerry Mendicino	Gerry Mendicino	...	Giacomo Paternò Mike Ricci	Mike Ricci	...	Patrizio Paternò (as Michael Ricci) Domenic Di Rosa	Domenic Di Rosa	...	Donato 'Toto' Russo Luigi Saracino	Luigi Saracino	...	Roberto 'Birdie' Russo Antonio Iammatteo	Antonio Iammatteo	...	Tommaso 'Tommy Yap-Yap' Volpi Benz Antoine	Benz Antoine	...	Sergent Brassens Paul Karl Farah	Karl Farah	...	Caporal Pierre Marois Roman Pagliaro	Roman Pagliaro	...	Caporal Mario Puglisi Toni Ellwand	Toni Ellwand	...	Anna Paternò

Release date: February 19, 2021
Running time: 134 minutes
Cast: Sergio Castellito, Cristina Rosato, Marc-Andre Grondin, Mylene Lackay,
Donny Falsetti, Vittorio Ossi, Gerry Mendicio, Mike Ricci
Directed by: Daniel Grou (Podz)
Written by: Sylvain Guy (Screenplay) Andre Cedilot, Andre Noel (Book)

Based on the non-fiction bestseller “Mafia Inc: The Long, Bloody Reign of Canada's Sicilian Clan” by André Cédilot and André Noël.  In 1994, Frank Paterno (Sergio Castellitto), a Montreal mafia boss, hopes to legitimize his criminal operations by investing $180 million in an ambitious bridge project that would connect Sicily with southern Italy. First, however, he has to recover the necessary funds from his Greek creditor. Frank entrusts this mission to his protégé Vincent (Marc-André Grondin), the son of tailor Henri Gamache (Gilbert Sicotte), who has been dressing the Paternos for three generations. But after Vincent executes a ruthless plan to smuggle millions in drugs out of Venezuela, his reprehensible tactics ignite a war between the two families.

Cristina Rosato	...	Vicky Di Renzi Guy Thauvette	Guy Thauvette	...	Juge Guido Grasso	Guido Grasso	...	Maître de cérémonie Randi Katz	Randi Katz	...	Chanteuse Ralph Santostefano	Ralph Santostefano	...	Lino Russo Nick Skokos	Nick Skokos	...	Salvatore 'Mad Sal' Scarpa Pina Di Blasi	Pina Di Blasi	...	Catarina Paternò   Produced by  Marleen Beaulieu	...	executive producer Antonello Cozzolino	...	producer Valérie d'Auteuil	...	producer Louise Lantagne	...	executive producer André Rouleau	...	producer Patrick Roy	...	executive producer Richard Speer	...	executive producer   Directed by  Daniel Grou	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   André Cédilot	...	(Based on the book ''Mafia Inc.'') Sylvain Guy	...	(screenplay) André Noël	...	(Based on the book ''Mafia Inc.'')
Mafia Inc. drops you right into the brutality of this world with a scene that shows the cunning and ruthlessness of Vincent (Grondin).  It is a stark reminder of just how cold this business is, and the lengths that the protégé would go to make sure his plan would succeed.  Grodin is energetic as Vincent, and his 90s style and business moves show just how far he will go to please the family.  But the film is not all brutality.  It mainly follows the charismatic leader Frank Paterno (Castellito).  And Castellito does a wonderful job as the mafia boss, balancing the charisma needed to keep everyone in line along with a cold ruthlessness to get what he wants.  I was often on edge watching him because I just didn't know if he would be beneficial or severe in his interactions.  But aside from these two powerful figures, the film is just well cast throughout.  The entire family and surrounding crews are believable and make this mafia world come to life.  The strong cast of character and true events behind it give this film an air of authenticity that can be missing in some Hollywood crime films.

The movie has a high energy style that belies the intrigue in the film; the strong performances really propel this forward.  From the setting, to the commitment to the time period (I really loved Grodin's large mustache and overall style), this movie really comes to life.  And don't worry, there is plenty of action and excitement in this film, but what I really loved seeing were the family interactions and business dealings.  It lets you see how this business operated and the mix of love and callousness that flowed from it.  And these slower parts really give you a chance to get to know everyone in this family drama, so when big events and decisions happen, it is more impactful and hits home.  Mafia Inc., like any good crime movie, has a solid mix of brutality, intrigue, business, and family. It feels at home with any of the other great crime family dramas, and should not be missed.  

Mafia Inc.'s strong mix of brutality, intrigue, business, and familyfueled by stellar performances from Catellito and Grondinmake this film an offer you can't refuse.

Watch it.

Mafia Crime Family Sicily Italian Mob Mobster Violence Drama Action Brutal Brutality

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Mafia Inc. is playing in virtual cinemas across the country.  For more information and for showtimes click here.