Friday, June 11, 2021

What to Watch This Weekend: In The Heights, Third Murder, Getting To Know You, Chasing Comets, The Racer, Wish Dragon, Alone, Amusement Park

For Bright Musical Celebration of Life: In The Heights (Theaters and HBO Max)
In The Heights is a celebration of life, love, family, community, and hard work with a bright, colorful style and catchy and impactful music.  For more information, check out the review!

For A Tense Legal Drama: The Third Murder (Film Movement Plus)
The Third Murder is a gripping legal drama with Oscar-worthy acting, a complex, realistic story, and a beautiful soundtrack.   For more information, check out the review!

For An Unearthed Unsettling Classic: The Amusement Park (Shudder)
The Amusement Park uses horror to tell an interesting story with a deeper message, one that is sadly still relevant even after half a century since the film's completion.  For more information, check out the review

For An Unconventional Sports Drama: Chasing Comets (Digital)
Chasing Comets has a positive overall message, good rugby camaraderie, and a measured faith-based message that feels genuine and never preachy.  For more information, check out the review!

For the Sports Enthusiast: The Racer (TubiTV)
The Racer tells an honest sports story, with inspirational moments, plenty of interesting insights into conflicted athletes, and a story that paces itself nicely before a photo finish.  For more information, check out our review!

For The Kids: Wish Dragon (Netflix)
An Asian Aladdin, Sony Pictures animated film hits Netflix with plenty of beautiful animation, heart, and an Asian flair!

For A More Adult, Realistic Romantic Comedy: Getting To Know You (Amazon Prime)
One of my favorite films of last year, Getting To Know You is a wonderful, understated drama / comedy featuring two fantastic leads with amazing chemistry and a realistic, decidedly more adult story about love and life.  For more information, check out our review!

For The Horror Fans: Alone (Hulu)
Alone is a tense survival horror film with great performances by Willcox and Menchaca, a slow burning story, and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing what will happen next.  For more information, check out the review!

Chasing Wonders Review: A Wine-Based Coming-of-Age That Takes A While To Age

Paz Vega		 Edward James Olmos	Edward James Olmos		 Jessica Marais	Jessica Marais		 Quim Gutiérrez	Quim Gutiérrez		 Carmen Maura	Carmen Maura		 Antonio de la Torre	Antonio de la Torre		 Francesc Orella	Francesc Orella	...	Cosme Jarin Towney	Jarin Towney		 Michael Crisafulli	Michael Crisafulli		 Eamon Pielow	Eamon Pielow	...	High School Teacher

Release date: June 4, 2021 (U.S. Digital)
Running time: 83 minutes
Director: Paul Meins
Writer: Judy Morris (screenplay)
Stars: Paz Vega, Edward James Olmos, Jessica Marais, Quim Gutiérrez, Carmen MauraAntonio de la Torre, Francesc Orella

A coming-of-age story set across the lush wine country of both Australia and Spain, a young man explores the nature of father-son relationships and the pathway toward understanding and forgiveness.

Angélica Huete	...	spanish service production Stewart Le Marechal	...	producer Anna Mohr-Pietsch	...	producer Hilton Nathanson	...	producer Louise Nathanson	...	producer Marta Perez-Porro	...	line producer: Spain Jonny Persey	...	executive producer Anna Vincent	...	producer Timothy White	...	executive producer
Chasing Wonders, like a fine wine, is a complex endeavor with many different flavors contributing to it.  The film has a great cast, with a lot of interesting characters living under this roof and contributing to the family.  Like many families, they are so very different but all contribute to the overall family unit.  I liked the wildly divergent personalities though some of them are much more abrasive than others.  And I liked the varied styles that each member of the family used to try and impart knowledge and growth into the young man.  It shows the many different influences that can help to raise a young man.  And the film has a really good cast, headlined by Paz Vega and Edward James Olmos, both of whom are relatable.  Olmos especially is fun to watch as the grandfather who is looking out for his young grandson and making sure he has some fun and wonder in his life.  And, as you would expect from a film titled Chasing Wonders, the movie does strike a nice balance between childhood wonder and cold reality.  

But Chasing Wonders, also like a fine wine, takes a while to age.  The movie has plenty of dramatic elements, but it doesn't lay the groundwork early enough.  The film tries to keep the story mysterious until the end, but in doing so really alienates a character for the audience.  By the time the reveal happened, I just did not care much for that character regardless of the explanation.  And the film is slow to develop in other respects, which is a mixed bag.  It has some fun scenes to highlight the family dynamics but overall it felt like the movie piled on the drama without progressing the story.  I'm fine with a measured pace if the destination is worth the journey, but this one just didn't seem to arrive there.  I will say that the end of the film is very well done.  It has some beautiful scenery and tugs at the right heartstrings, but the time and effort to get there made the film feel more like a slog and less like a journey.  

Chasing Wonders, like wine, has a mix of different elements and takes a while to age, but leads to a beautiful, complex end product.

Rent it.

Directed by  Paul Meins	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Judy Morris	...	(screenplay)
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Chasing Comets Review: For God and Rugby

Dan Ewing	...	Chase Isabel Lucas	Isabel Lucas	...	Brooke George Houvardas	George Houvardas	...	The Rev Kat Hoyos	Kat Hoyos	...	Dee Bjorn Stewart	Bjorn Stewart	...	Beefa Deborah Galanos	Deborah Galanos	...	Mary Laurence Brewer	Laurence Brewer	...	Randall Rest of cast listed alphabetically: Kirsty Lee Allan	Kirsty Lee Allan	...	Leona John Batchelor	John Batchelor	...	Coach Munsey Alistair Bates	Alistair Bates	...	Roy Lance Bonza	Lance Bonza	...	Rusty Tony Chu	Tony Chu	...	Kin Gary Eck	Gary Eck	...	Kev Mcosker Sarah Furnari	Sarah Furnari	...	Estelle

Release date: June 11, 2021 (U.S. Digital)
Running time: 100 minutes
Director: Jason Perini
Writer: Jason Stevens
Stars: Dan Ewing, Isabel Lucas, George Houvardas, Kat Hoyos, Bjorn Stewart, Deborah Galanos, Laurence Brewer

Wagga is a country town that loves its sport but is divided over its loyalty for the rival codes, AFL and NRL. It's in this setting that we find our hero Chase "daylight." Chase's dream to play in the NRL is falling by the wayside, just like his relationship to Brooke. At his lowest point, Chase takes a leap of faith to sort out his life. But living this out is a far greater challenge than he imagined, especially among team mates who won't let him give up his partying ways without a fight. Chase's leap of faith might possibly be the worst decision ever he has ever made.

Kate McNamara	...	Rachel Ash Meeraiya	Ash Meeraiya	...	Comet Justin Melvey	Justin Melvey	...	Sam Low Rhys Muldoon	Rhys Muldoon	...	Warren Low Dirk Nagel	Dirk Nagel	...	Supporter in the grandstand David Nash	David Nash	...	Extra Daniel Needs	Daniel Needs	...	Comets Player #2 Brenton Parkes	Brenton Parkes	...	Actor Courtney Powell	Courtney Powell	...	Supporter Katrina Risteska	Katrina Risteska	...	April Richard Somerton	Richard Somerton	...	Comets Player #3 David Thacker	David Thacker	...	Self - Host Stan Walker	Stan Walker	...	Rhys Stewart Florence Florens	Florence Florens	...	Tom's WAG (uncredited) Melanie Gail Stirling	Melanie Gail Stirling	...	Supporter (uncredited)
Chasing Comets is a combination of a lot of different types of films, all of which come together in a mixed bag.  It has sports drama and some light-hearted comedy.  It has debauchery from the rugby side of it but it also has a faith forward message.  It has a really bright style and an irreverent tone at times, but also serious subject matter other times.  And this tone leads to some interesting aspects of the film.  I initially didn't realize that faith would play a pretty prominent role in the movie, and even when it was introduced the movie didn't feel preachy or in your face.  The characters who shared their faith were more internalized than I am used to and not pushy.  And they were flawed, either presently or heavily in the past, which led to characters that felt more realistic and less like paradigms of virtue.  

And although the cast is mixed, there are some very good performances in this film.  I liked Dan Ewing as Chase, though I enjoyed his character much more in the second half of the film than the first.  But George Houvardas as the reverend was a welcome surprise.  His character was a good listener and offered advice, but never felt like he was being too forceful.  And this led to the development of a great relationship between him and Chase.  And Isabel Lucas as Brooke was quite good, though she had far too few scenes.  And what kind of sports drama would be complete without some good sports action.  Chasing Comets doesn't have as much in the way of actual gameplay as I would have liked, but there is plenty from practice and some good camaraderie between the teammates.  There is some fun ribbing, some boisterous personalities, and some genuine care.  And it also has some really good locker room pep talks that make sports movies so much fun.

However, Chasing Comets does have its flaws, and first is the hit or miss humor.  Maybe it was a cultural thing but some of the jokes just didn't land for me.  There were some funny moments and genuine laughs, but the humor sometimes was off .  Also, some of the characters were very toxic and seemed to make bad choices almost intentionally.  It was strange because later those character become ones you root for, but it led to an overdramatic, unrealistic start to this otherwise enjoyable drama.  And I also couldn't tell how much of the movie was a true story.  It had some hints that it was based on real experiences, but the movie was always coy when it was approaching this.  

Chasing Comets has a positive overall message, good rugby camaraderie, and a measured faith-based message that feels genuine and never preachy.  

Rent it.

Sarah Holmes	...	executive producer Jon Mak	...	executive producer Naomi Mitchell	...	line producer Murray Offord	...	executive producer Jason Perini	...	executive producer Paul Rudolph	...	executive producer Jason Stevens	...	producer Rebecca Stevens	...	executive producer David Thacker	...	executive producer
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Chasing Comets is available digitally on June 11, 2021.  

For additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out at the links below.

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

In The Heights Review: A Musical Celebration of Love, Life, and Community

Reyna Guerra	...	Dancer Anthony Ramos	Anthony Ramos	...	Usnavi Melissa Barrera	Melissa Barrera	...	Vanessa Leslie Grace	Leslie Grace	...	Nina Rosario Corey Hawkins	Corey Hawkins	...	Benny Olga Merediz	Olga Merediz	...	Abuela Claudia Jimmy Smits	Jimmy Smits	...	Kevin Rosario Gregory Diaz IV	Gregory Diaz IV	...	Sonny Daphne Rubin-Vega	Daphne Rubin-Vega	...	Daniela Stephanie Beatriz	Stephanie Beatriz	...	Carla Noah Catala	Noah Catala	...	Graffiti Pete Lin-Manuel Miranda	Lin-Manuel Miranda	...	Piragüero Mateo Gómez	Mateo Gómez	...	Alejandro Alexa Poller	Alexa Poller	...	Dancer Marc Anthony	Marc Anthony	...	Gapo Patrick Page	Patrick Page	...	Pike Phillips Olivia Perez	Olivia Perez	...	Iris Emiliano Cuesta	Emiliano Cuesta	...	Towel Guy

Release date: June 11, 2021
Running time: 143 minutes
Directed By: Jon M. Chu
Stars: Anthony RamosMelissa BarreraLeslie GraceCorey HawkinsOlga MeredizJimmy SmitsGregory Diaz IV, Lin-Manuel Miranda

A film version of the Broadway musical in which Usnavi, a sympathetic New York bodega owner, saves every penny every day as he imagines and sings about a better life.

Analia Gomez	...	Rosa Dean Scott Vazquez	Dean Scott Vazquez	...	Sedo (as Dean Vazquez) Mason Vazquez	Mason Vazquez	...	Miggy Delia Ramos	Delia Ramos	...	Crank Vieja James Leyva	James Leyva	...	Valentina (as Valentina) Chris Jackson	Chris Jackson	...	Mr. Softee Truck Driver Susan Pourfar	Susan Pourfar	...	Hannah Hathaway María Hinojosa	María Hinojosa	...	Protest Leader (as Maria L. Hinojosa) Ryan Woodle	Ryan Woodle	...	Mover Doreen Montalvo	Doreen Montalvo	...	Neighbor Lady Ilia Jessica Castro	Ilia Jessica Castro	...	Jessica from the Salon Yesy Garcia	Yesy Garcia	...	Woman in Lobby Jonathan Arana	Jonathan Arana	...	Salon Customer Jennifer Hernandez	Jennifer Hernandez	...	Bad-Ass Girl Amp Ngernrungruangroj	Amp Ngernrungruangroj	...	Hipster Bairam Rizai	Bairam Rizai	...	Young Professional Couple Lavinia Jones Wright	Lavinia Jones Wright	...	Young Professional Couple Alexandra Campos	Alexandra Campos	...	Cab Service Dispatcher Rhapsody James	Rhapsody James	...	Salon Customer 1
In The Heights keeps all of the aspects of the musical but transfers it to the big screen.  It really is an accomplishment to keep the high energy and songs from the Broadway show but translate it to a film format.  In The Heights uses a ton of extras and some great camera angles to reproduce the spectacle of a Broadway show from your living room.  Some of the dance numbers are truly impressive, songs that seem to use the entire neighborhood as extras.  It also helps to showcase the energy by having a bright, colorful style.  This leads to splashes of color from clothes, people, and the general set design.  There are also little colorful effects that are used for emphasis, just to add additional splashes during some scenes.  

But what will really strike you is the story of In The Heights.  It tells a relatable story about struggling with life and staying true to your dreams.  It looks at how hard life is but also looks to the positives of it: of love, of community, and of a shared experience even in struggle.  And the movie also highlights the beauty in everyday life.  I loved when the characters would stop and just listen to the sounds of the block, a reminder for everyone to occasionally stop and appreciate what you have (an urban stop and smell the roses).  It also feels just as relevant now as when the musical debuted a decade ago: it deals with the immigrant experience, discrimination, and how to assimilate into America while still staying true to your heritage.  

And although In The Heights is an impressive accomplishment, the movie does have a few relatively slow areas; probably where linking scenes were added to the Broadway show.  It's not bad, just not as high energy in those areas as I had hoped.  This also results in the songs being a little more spaced out than I expected them to be, but it just makes you anticipate the songs more.  But one aspect of the film that is fun to experience is the influence that In The Heights had on Hamilton.  Some of the song feelings, the expressions, and general musical style feel like a precursor to the later show, which is a fun experience for fans of Lin-Manuel Miranda.  

In The Heights is a celebration of life, love, family, community, and hard work with a bright, colorful style and catchy and impactful music.  

Watch it.

Ariana S. Gomez	...	Young Nina (as Ariana Saintclaire Gomez) Ariana Greenblatt	Ariana Greenblatt	...	Young Nina Hugh M Jones III	Hugh M Jones III	...	Man Washing Car    Directed by  Jon M. Chu	Writing Credits   Quiara Alegría Hudes	...	(screenplay by)   Quiara Alegría Hudes	...	(based on the musical stage play, book by)   Lin-Manuel Miranda	...	(based on the musical stage play, concept by)
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In The Heights is available in theaters and on HBO Max on June 11, 2021.  It will leave HBO Max after July 11, 2021.  For tickets to see it in theaters, click here

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Screening: See Summer of Soul Early And Free

Beat the summer heat and check out a documentary about the never before televised Harlem Culture Festival, a series that was filmed over six weeks in the summer of 1969.  The film is coming to theaters and Hulu on July 2, 2021 but you can see it early and free!  Details and entry form are below.

Synopsis:

In his acclaimed debut as a filmmaker, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson presents a powerful and transporting documentary—part music film, part historical record created around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion. Over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969, just one hundred miles south of Woodstock, The Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park).  The footage was never seen and largely forgotten–until now. SUMMER OF SOUL shines a light on the importance of history to our spiritual well-being and stands as a testament to the healing power of music during times of unrest, both past and present. The feature includes never-before-seen concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Ray Baretto, Abbey Lincoln & Max Roach and more. Summer of Soul premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award.

Summer of Soul:

Tuesday, June 29th

AMC Potomac Mills 

7:00pm 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Thursday, June 10, 2021

12 Mighty Orphans Review: An Inspirational Texas Football Story

Robert Duvall	...	Mason Hawk Vinessa Shaw	Vinessa Shaw	...	Juanita Russell Martin Sheen	Martin Sheen	...	Doc Hall Luke Wilson	Luke Wilson	...	Rusty Russell Wayne Knight	Wayne Knight	...	Frank Wynn Treat Williams	Treat Williams	...	Amon Carter Carlson Young	Carlson Young	...	Annie Kelly Frye	Kelly Frye	...	Mary Jane Zach Rose	Zach Rose	...	Pinkney Russell Lane Garrison	Lane Garrison	...	Luther Lucy Faust	Lucy Faust	...	Wanda Jacob Lofland	Jacob Lofland	...	Snoggs Scott Haze	Scott Haze	...	Rodney Kidd Natasha Bassett	Natasha Bassett	...	Opal Ron White	Ron White	...	Sheriff Red Wright Larry Pine	Larry Pine	...	President Roosevelt Heath Freeman	Heath Freeman	...	Coach Cox

Release date: June 18, 2021
Running time: 118 minutes
Starring: Luke Wilson, Vinessa Shaw, Martin Sheen, Wayne Knight, Jake Austin Walker, Robert Duvall
Director: Ty Roberts

12 MIGHTY ORPHANS tells the true story of the Mighty Mites, the football team of a Fort Worth orphanage who, during the Great Depression, went from playing without shoes—or even a football—to playing for the Texas state championships. Over the course of their winning season these underdogs and their resilient spirit became an inspiration to their city, state, and an entire nation in need of a rebound, even catching the attention of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The architect of their success was Rusty Russell, a legendary high school coach who shocked his colleagues by giving up a privileged position so he could teach and coach at an orphanage. Few knew Rusty's secret: that he himself was an orphan. Recognizing that his scrawny players couldn't beat the other teams with brawn, Rusty developed innovative strategies that would come to define modern football.

Jake Austin Walker	...	Hardy Brown Erica Muse	Erica Muse	...	PHS Cheerleader Christina Gonzalez	Christina Gonzalez	...	Football Fan Tyler Silva	Tyler Silva	...	A. P. Torres Michelle Rose Domb	Michelle Rose Domb	...	UIL Supporter Rooster McConaughey	Rooster McConaughey	...	Pop Boone Gavin Warren	Gavin Warren	...	Young Rusty Slade Monroe	Slade Monroe	...	Wheatie Carlton Caudle	Carlton Caudle	...	Referee (Championship Game) Bailey Roberts	Bailey Roberts	...	Miller Violeta Ortega	Violeta Ortega	...	Cheerleader Sampley Barinaga	Sampley Barinaga	...	Chicken Levi Dylan	Levi Dylan	...	Fairbanks Gregory Fountain	Gregory Fountain	...	Press Box Reporter Ben Hicks	Ben Hicks	...	UIL Supporter Braden Balazik	Braden Balazik	...	Orphan Brian Lafontaine	Brian Lafontaine	...	Referee 2 King Orba	King Orba	...	Mr. Remmert
I'm a sucker for inspirational sports movies and 12 Mighty Orphans has that in spades.  It probably caught my interest for the same reasons the original story caught the nation's interests, a team of underdogs fighting against all odds and giving it their all.  And 12 Mighty Orphans tells this story in an entertaining and relatable way.  The film uses a nice balance of comedy and drama to keep the tone light-hearted despite some serious subject matter.  The movie deals with dramatic subjects, but is always able to pivot and rely on the comedic aspects as well as a whimsical, Texas-inspired soundtrack.  Every time something terrible happens, the orphans can make a joke or the film will introduce some funny moment to lighten the mood.  And the music also ensures that the tone never stays too serious, maintaining the right balance for an inspirational drama.

The film has an impressive cast of characters, but Luke Wilson takes the cake for his portrayal of the legendary coach Rusty Russell.  Wilson changes completely, adopting different mannerisms, ticks, and speech to play this character.  Martin Sheen is another stand out, who as you would expect, does a great job as the orphanage's doctor and defensive coach.  He is a father figure to these boys and is a great addition to the coaching staff.  And Vinessa Shaw does a wonderful job as Juanita Russell, Rusty's wife and another influential teacher at the orphanage.  I wish she had more screen time but the movie was already almost two hours long so I understand focusing on the team and the coaches.  And despite Wayne Knight's character not being one I liked, he did a great job as the tough and corrupt orphanage headmaster.  But the true stars of the film are the boys in the orphanage, and they are a fun group to get to know.  They feel like they have a natural chemistry and are fun to follow, and get into the antics you would expect from boys this age.  Some of their acting was a little rough, but I couldn't tell if that was the actors or the characters they portrayed, but altogether they are a fun group.  

And although the tone of 12 Mighty Orphans is enjoyable, the film does feel a little over dramatic at times.  Now granted, the movie deals with some serious subject matter, but it also felt like the drama was not earned given the tone of the movie.  And this overdramatic aspect also means that some characters are essentially caricatures; they seem to be so obviously transparent in their motivations that it leaves nothing to surprise the viewer when they later turn out to be terrible people.  The corrupt characters are so obviously corrupt and the good characters are saints; there is very little nuance in this story.  And in that respect, this movie feels like it would be right at home in the Disney inspirational sports camp, yet it was made by Sony.  I can't tell if that is a complement or a negative, but overall the movie's generally positive tone and overly telegraphed characters feels like something that would be more child appropriate.  And the film should be fine for most young adults; there is very little objectionable material.  There is some blood at one point, some overly harsh discipline, and a few instances of young boys being rowdy, but nothing that should cause much concern.

But hey, despite these flaws, who doesn't love an inspirational sports drama.  The movie tells a true story with some Hollywood embellishments, but also seems to focus on a lot of the important aspects.  Nearly every character we meet has some sort of post mortem during the credits, showing their real life counterpart and letting the viewer know what happened to them.  These touches are the things I love because it really completes the journey you just took.  If you are looking for an inspirational feel good film, then you can't go wrong with 12 Mighty Orphans.

12 Mighty Orphans scores with its blend of comedy and drama, interesting characters, and truly inspirational story of sports and life. 

Watch it.

Rooster McConaughey	...	Pop Boone Gavin Warren	Gavin Warren	...	Young Rusty Slade Monroe	Slade Monroe	...	Wheatie Carlton Caudle	Carlton Caudle	...	Referee (Championship Game) Bailey Roberts	Bailey Roberts	...	Miller Violeta Ortega	Violeta Ortega	...	Cheerleader Sampley Barinaga	Sampley Barinaga	...	Chicken Levi Dylan	Levi Dylan	...	Fairbanks Gregory Fountain	Gregory Fountain	...	Press Box Reporter Ben Hicks	Ben Hicks	...	UIL Supporter Braden Balazik	Braden Balazik	...	Orphan Brian Lafontaine	Brian Lafontaine	...	Referee 2 King Orba	King Orba	...	Mr. Remmert Angieguinn	Angieguinn	...	Football fan Woodrow Luttrell	Woodrow Luttrell	...	Leon Pickett Jack Michael Doke	Jack Michael Doke	...	Young George Bryan Fernandez	Bryan Fernandez	...	orphan Gabby Clark	Gabby Clark	...	Orphan
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12 Mighty Orphans is in theaters on June 18, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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The Paper Tigers Interview: Bao Tran (Director) Ken Quitugua (Choreographer) Al’n Duong (Producer)

Bao Tran (Writer and Director), Ken Quitugua (Action Choreographer and Star), and Al’n Duong (Producer) discuss making this film, the inspiration, and what it as like to choreograph this unique martial arts movie. We also discuss how the great home movies in the film were made and who would win in a fight between them! So give it a watch and make sure to check out The Paper Tigers on demand now, or on DVD and Blu-Ray on June 22, 2021! Written and Directed by: Tran Quoc Bao Starring: Alain Uy (True Detective), Ron Yuan (Mulan), Mykel Shannon Jenkins (Undisputed III), Matthew Page ("Enter the Dojo" - Master Ken), Andy Le (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), Yuji Okumoto ("Cobra Kai" & Karate Kid II) Synopsis: As teenagers, kung fu disciples Danny (Alain Uy), Hing (Ron Yuan) and Jim (Mykel Shannon Jenkins) were inseparable. Fast forward 25 years, and each has grown into a washed-up middle-aged man seemingly one kick away from pulling a hamstring—and not at all preoccupied with thoughts of martial arts or childhood best friends. But when their old master is murdered, the trio reunites, soon learning that avenging their sifu will require conquering old grudges (and a dangerous hitman still armed with ample knee cartilage) if they are to honorably defend his legacy.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Road Head Review: A Classic-Style Horror Film That WIll Put A Smile On Your Face

Release date: June 4, 2021
Running time: 83 minutes
Directed By: David Del Rio
Written By: Chloe Skye
Starring: Elizabeth Grullon, Damian Joseph Quinn, Clayton Farris, Paul T. Taylor

Three friends (Elizabeth Grullon, Damian Joseph Quinn, Clayton Farris) take a road trip to the Mojave Desert where their complicated relationships are pushed to their breaking point as the group encounters a reclusive, murderous cult. 

Road Head's story fits its name.  The film title is a double entendre involving the film's actual automotive fellatio and the literal heads that are on the road during the film.  And the movie has a few instances of both types of road head.  It starts roughly but it does feel like a throwback to ridiculous classic horror movies.  The situation is corny, tense, and gory.  But after the rough start, the film introduces us to the three friends who are a lot of fun to see.  Grullon, Quinn, and Farris play off each other well and their group dynamic introduces a lot of humor and tension.  They are all fun to watch, but Quinn is definitely the standout.  His character has some fight but also has a lot of funny lines and heart.  

Road Head is all sorts of random and ridiculous.  If starts off like your normal horror film, but eventually turns corny with just a hint of sinister when the group stumbles onto the mysterious cult.  The cult is full of characters, and you can tell that Del Rio has fun filming them.  They are all quirky and just a little off, and their first reveal is a very funny one.  And it is this humor that makes this a more enjoyable, less serious horror experience.  The jokes don't all hit but there are enough that you will be chuckling while you watch.  

However, the movie is not a perfect one.  The fil has some rough cuts in it that make it seem like some shots weren't completed and the movie was edited around it.  And there are some instances of blood not showing up where it should be.  But the film also has plenty of blood in it so maybe that balances out.  And some of the decisions that the characters make are you typical horror movie questionable decisions; instances where they really should have gone around or run the other way.  Is it a good movie?  Well, yes and no.  Is it an entertaining movie with plenty of ridiculousness and levity?  Yes indeed.  The movie isn't very deep or complicated, but it does feel like a throwback to classic horror films with some more modern sensibilities.  

Road Head's core group of characters and over the top ridiculousness and gore makes it a film that will rise to the occasion and put a smile on your face.

Rent it.

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Road Head is available digitally and on demand on June 4, 2021.  

Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard Review: Double Trouble Meets Triple Threat

Release date: June 16, 2021
Running time: 99 minutes
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman, Frank Grillo, Caroline Goodall
Directed By: Patrick Hughes
Written By: Tom O'Connor, Phillip Murphy, Brandon Murphy

The world’s most lethal odd couple – bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) and hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) – are back on another life-threatening mission. Still unlicensed and under scrutiny, Bryce is forced into action by Darius’s even more volatile wife, the infamous international con artist Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek). As Bryce is driven over the edge by his two most dangerous protectees, the trio get in over their heads in a global plot and soon find that they are all that stand between Europe and a vengeful and powerful madman (Antonio Banderas). 

Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard is just pure ridiculous fun.  This starts with the wonderful cast that just seem to be perfectly situated to play the standard characters you know and love from them.  Ryan Reynolds is a nicer, straight edge guy who says whatever comes to his mind (and it's usually pretty funny).  Samuel L. Jackson is a badass who also says whatever comes to his mind (also quite funny).  Salma Hayek is a hot headed companion to Samuel L. who has made quite a niche for herself playing the fiery heroine with just a little bit of crazy.  And Antonio Banderas was enjoyable as an international supervillain who is trying to take the entire system down.  Morgan Freeman was peak Morgan Freeman, as the amazing person that everyone looks up to.  And special shout out to Frank Grillo, who also is perfectly cast as a gruff agent who doesn't mind breaking the rules to get things done.  

The film is laugh out loud funny with some random acts and some very funny set pieces.  The movie takes place across Europe with exotic locales and some very beautiful scenes.  This kind of globe trotting film is a welcome break from a year when many people didn't leave their homes.  The movie's locations are bright and colorful, and even the night scenes are full of neon lights.  But what really makes this film special is the camaraderie between the main three stars.  Reynolds, Jackson, and Hayek really feed off of each other for some very funny dialogue and crazy situations.  It really just feels like their characters play off of one another and keep upping the silliness factor.  And the film helps and encourages this with some truly random situations that are just fun to see unfold.  And after the year we have had, this is such a wonderfully ridiculous film to get people back into theaters and smiling. 

Sure, the story might be far fetched but that's the point of the film. It is a 99 minute fever dream of over the top action, insane situations, and random and raunchy comedy.  Everything about this films is over the top in a good way, and it really makes for an enjoyable experience.  Oh, and what really makes this film pop at times is the amazing soundtrack.  As with everything about this movie, it is exaggerated but it definitely adds to the feeling of the film.  You'll have soulful songs, raging rock, and everything in between depending on the situation.  

Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard's wonderful cast, random and ridiculous comedy, and amazing soundtrack make for the kind of laugh-out-loud movie we need right now.

Watch it.

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Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard is in theaters on June 16, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Undercover Punch & Gun Review: An 80s Movie Throwback With Kicking And Comedy

Philip Ng	...	Xiao Wu Vanness Wu	Vanness Wu	...	Hou Hu Andy On	Andy On	...	Xia Qiankun Nicholas Tse	Nicholas Tse	...	Officer He Wenjuan Feng	Wenjuan Feng	...	Eva (as Joyce Wenjuan Feng) Luxia Jiang	Luxia Jiang	...	Teach Aka Chio	Aka Chio	...	Xi Chen Shuai Chi	Shuai Chi	...	Mai Lin Jia Meng	Jia Meng	...	Phantom Aaron Aziz	Aaron Aziz	...	Top Carrie Ng	Carrie Ng	...	Miss Tong Susan Yam-Yam Shaw	Susan Yam-Yam Shaw	...	Master Suet Lam	Suet Lam	...	Brother Bao

Release date: June 8, 2021
Running time: 91 minutes
Directed By: Lui Koon Nam and Frankie Tam
Starring: Philip Ng, Van Ness Wu, Andy On, Chi Shuai, Feng Wenjuan, Aaron Mustapha Aziz (Aaron Aziz), Meng Jia, Aka Chio, Jiang Luxia

An undercover cop’s daring plan to infiltrate a notorious drug ring is severely compromised when a rival agency attacks mid-trade and kills the gang’s leader in the action-packed MMA thriller Undercover Punch & Gun.  Their cover blown, both teams are forced to unite and take to the high seas in an attempt to overthrow the ruthless smuggler behind it all. 

Produced by  Gordon Chan	...	producer Charlie Kai-chung Wong	...	producerFilm Editing by  Wai-Chiu Chung	Stunts  Cho-Kuen Chu	...	stunt coordinator Jason Li	...	stunt performer Philip Ng	...	stunt coordinatorAdditional Crew  Chin-Wai Lai	...	presenter
Undercover Punch & Gun has a martial arts pedigree that means it will have plenty of high flying action, and the film does not disappoint.  Coreographed by Philip Ng, this film has some high intensity, high energy fight sequences.  The characters use martial arts, MMA, and firearms to accomplish their task and these are all exciting to watch.  All three main characters show off their fighting skills with some imaginative fight sequences.  I especially liked Van Ness for his very unpredictable, free flowing style.  He played a sort of dilatant who also was quite skilled, and it was fun to see his humorous yet effective fighting.  But the film also is a comedy as well, thanks to some funny sequences by Van Ness Wu.  The movie has a slapstick style comedy that adds some levity to the overall film.  It is an enjoyable combination, and a throwback to some older Jackie Chan and other 80s Hong Kong films.  

But one thing that stood out that I wasn't expecting was the film's soundtrack.  It has a surprisingly good jazz soundtrack throughout that really fits the mood of this film.  It helps to give the scenes high energy but also to highlight the whimsical nature of some of it.  There are also dramatic pieces and other mood-setting sounds, but the Jazz really stood out.  However, like a lot of Chinese action films, the movie uses some CG for explosions and fire, which is noticeable.  I wish the film would have gone all out on these as the CG really takes away from what should have been exciting moments.  Additionally, the story is convoluted with sub plots and characters intertwining.  It made it tough to follow at first, but eventually I got to know everyone and it became an easier experience.  And finally, the film takes place in a few locales, but they often look similar, which means that you don't get much visual variety here.  

Undercover Punch & Gun's combination of action, humor, and strong soundtrack will entertain you while punching your funny bone.  

Rent it.

Directed by  Koon-Nam Lui	 Frankie Tam	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Chun-Yu Ham	 Huihui Huang	 Yinsheng Li	 Link Ling	 Koon-Nam Lui	 Frankie Tam	 Zhi Yang
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To learn more about the film, check out my interview with the stars of the movie: Philip Ng, Andy On, and Van Ness Wu!
Undercover Punch & Gun is available digitally and on demand on June 8, 2021.  

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The Amusement Park Review: George A. Romero's Park Nightmare Highlights Societal Issues

Lincoln Maazel		 Harry Albacker	Harry Albacker		 Phyllis Casterwiler	Phyllis Casterwiler		 Pete Chovan	Pete Chovan		 Marion Cook	Marion Cook		 Sally Erwin	Sally Erwin		 Michael Gornick	Michael Gornick		 Jack Gottlob	Jack Gottlob		 Halem Joseph	Halem Joseph		 Bob Koppler	Bob Koppler		 Sarah Kurtz	Sarah Kurtz		 Aleen Palmer	Aleen Palmer		 Georgia Palmer	Georgia Palmer		 Arthur Schwerin	Arthur Schwerin		 Bill Siebart	Bill Siebart		 Gabriel Verbick	Gabriel Verbick

Release date: June 8, 2021
Running time: 52 minutes
Written and Directed By: George A. Romero
Starring: Lincoln Maazel

Recently discovered and restored 46 years after its completion, The Amusement Park stars Martin’s Lincoln Maazel as an elderly man who finds himself disoriented and increasingly isolated as the pains, tragedies and humiliations of aging in America are manifested through roller coasters and chaotic crowds. Commissioned by the Lutheran Society, the film is perhaps George A. Romero’s wildest and most imaginative movie, an allegory about the nightmarish realities of growing older, and is an alluring snapshot of the filmmaker’s early artistic capacity and style and would go on to inform his ensuing filmography.

Produced by  Richard P. Rubinstein	...	associate producerCinematography by  S. William Hinzman	Film Editing by  George A. Romero	Art Department  Jerry Rosso	...	graphicsSound Department  Michael Gornick	...	soundCamera and Electrical Department  Michael Gornick	...	additional photography Simon Manses	...	grip Nicholas Mastandrea	...	gripEditorial Department  Anastasia Cipolla	...	restoration coloristThanks  Jack Hickey	...	special thanks
I've always loved when horror movies have more to them than simple scares.  Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to enjoy a very well done horror film, but I do love that the genre can also expose societal issues while entertaining.  And the Amusement Park has that in spades.  The entire point of the film is to highlight abuses of the elderly in a somewhat entertaining format.  The film takes a place that should be full of magic and fun, and turns it sinister.  The Amusement Park itself and those who work in it intentionally ignore the horrors that are happening to the man, much like how society often ignores the plight of the elderly.  And there were a lot of small touches that helped to show this, such as booths set up with scam products and pickpockets that take advantage when the elderly guest's eyes are turned.  The film has an involved park, with plenty of rides and "attractions" for this man to take advantage of and be taken advantage of.  And it goes in phases, as the man gets progressively more and more beaten down by the experience.  

However, this film is definitely an old one and feels old.  Not in terms of cultural references, but more so in terms of how the movie is to watch.  The effects are not great by today's standards but were probably top notch at the time.  It is a testament to the restoration effort that the film still looks decent enough to watch, but you can definitely feel its age while you are enjoying it.  And on top of that the acting itself is rough at times.  The film has an introduction that emphasizes that these elderly individuals enjoyed their time immensely, which makes it seem like the film used local talent rather than major actors for the supporting parts.  And this idea seems to fit the spirited, but not natural feeling performances by them.  And the movie itself has some strange cuts that make it feel slightly unfinished.  But all that being said, The Amusement Park is an interesting one that uses horror to tell a deeper story.  

The Amusement Park uses horror to tell an interesting story with a deeper message, one that is sadly still relevant even after half a century since the film's completion.

Rent it.

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The Amusement Park is available to stream on Shudder starting June 8, 2021. 

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Third Murder Review: A Gripping Legal Drama With Oscar-Worthy Performances

Masaharu Fukuyama	Masaharu Fukuyama	...	Shigemori Kôji Yakusho	Kôji Yakusho	...	Misumi Shinnosuke Mitsushima	Shinnosuke Mitsushima	...	Kawashima Akira Mikako Ichikawa	Mikako Ichikawa	...	Sasabara Itsuki Izumi Matsuoka	Izumi Matsuoka	...	Hattori Akiko Rest of cast listed alphabetically: Isao Hashizume	Isao Hashizume	...	Shigemori Akihisa Suzu Hirose	Suzu Hirose	...	Sakie Hajime Inoue	Hajime Inoue	...	Ono Minoru Aju Makita	Aju Makita	...	Shigemori Yuka Ichirô Ogura	Ichirô Ogura		 Yuki Saitô	Yuki Saitô	...	Yamanaka Mitsue Tôru Shinagawa	Tôru Shinagawa	...	Watanabe Kôtarô Yoshida	Kôtarô Yoshida	...	Settsu Daisuke

Release date: June 4, 2021 (Streaming Premiere)
Running time: 124 minutes
Written and Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda
Starring:  Masaharu Fukuyama, Kôji Yakusho, Shinnosuke Mitsushima

The Third Murder is a gripping, morally complex crime procedural, an intricate and surprising change of pace for the director.  The film follows one man’s struggles to find the truth while questioning his own faith in the law. An elite, though jaded, defense attorney Shigemori (Masaharu Fukuyama) takes on the defense of murder-robbery suspect Misumi (Koji Yakusho) who served jail time for another murder 30 years ago. Shigemori’s chances of winning the case seem low -- his client freely admits his guilt, despite facing the death penalty if he is convicted. But as he digs deeper into the case, and he hears the testimonies of the victim’s family and Misumi himself, the once confident Shigemori begins to doubt whether his client is the murderer after all in a taut drama.

The Third Murder is a surprisingly fresh change of pace from other legal dramas.  The film has a gravity and seriousness to it without the manufactured drama that you see in a lot of crime procedurals.  The film gets this from a number of attributes, but most notably the acting.  Both Fukuyama and Yakusho do an amazing job as the lawyer and client, with nuanced performances that portray the seriousness of the situation but also introduce plenty of doubt.  Their characters play a kind of cat and mouse game as Fukuyama tries to find the truth and Yakusho keeps moving the needle.  But they both do it so effortlessly that it almost doesn't appear like they are acting.  Some of the conversations are very natural and some of the more dramatic episodes have a natural weight to them.

But the film explores more than a criminal case.  It looks at the effect of perception and justice on our society.  There are aspects of judicial economy that are looked at, as well as the consequences of split second decisions to a legal battle.  And it does so with some superb camera work, with smart cuts during the legal discussions to help you see exactly what is going on.  It has some amazing scenes with the pair face to face despite the protective glass, which only amplifies the drama in the case.  And the film is constantly playing with your perspective, sometimes reenacting the events in question but subtly tweaking it for the new information that was just learned.  And although the film has some very good dramatic moments, these are heightened by a wonderful soundtrack that helps to add to the gravity of the courtroom drama.  

And The Third Murder also does a good job portraying the drama of a court case.  It looks at some of the issues that can arise in a courtroom as well as the inherent uncertainty involved in a profession seeking the truth. You have to trust your client, but can you always believe what the client is telling you?  And how much does the lawyer interject their own views into what the client says and does.  Are there other motives and influences involved in the case?    

The Third Murder is a gripping legal drama with Oscar-worthy acting, a complex, realistic story, and a beautiful soundtrack. 

Watch it.

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The Third Murder is available on June 4, 2021 via Film Movement Plus

Review: Introducing Jodea: A Charming Hollywood Drama / Comedy That Has More Heart Than Humor

Chloe Traicos	...	Jodea Maxwell Lou Pizarro	Lou Pizarro	...	Nathaniel Monique Yates Jr.	Monique Yates Jr.	...	Mother of fan Tiffany Toney	Tiffany Toney	...	Sandra Asger Folmann	Asger Folmann	...	Steve Frank Krueger	Frank Krueger	...	Director At Studio Nina Rancel	Nina Rancel	...	Natasha Romy Teperson	Romy Teperson	...	Marie Jeff Coppage	Jeff Coppage	...	Zac Kawalsky (as Jeff Thomas Coppage) Sammy Anderson	Sammy Anderson	...	Superman Wannabe Yadira Pascault Orozco	Yadira Pascault Orozco	...	Isabella Rashia Whitlock	Rashia Whitlock	...	Callie (Waitress) Whitney Bacon	Whitney Bacon	...	Marilyn, Make Up Artist Miles Faber	Miles Faber	...	Greg Ryan Pratton	Ryan Pratton	...	Harold Jameson Monaye Moyes	Monaye Moyes	...	Tina Shasta Bell	Shasta Bell	...	Lois

Release date: June 4, 2021
Running time: 101 minutes
Written By: Chloe Traicos
Directed By: JD Cohen
Starring: Chloe Traicos ("The Righteous Gemstones"), Jeff Coppage ("Ava"), Kent Hatch, and Ryan Pratton

Introducing Jodea explores how a struggling young actress's fortunes change when a world famous movie director drives into the back of her car. Desperate, the actress uses the opportunity to beg the star for a role in his latest movie.

Introducing Jodea definitely feels like a passion project from someone who has lived in the movie scene.  The film has plenty of satirical elements about Hollywood, including diva stars, scandals, the amount of work that is required to break into the industry, and the lengths that people will go to fulfill their dreams.  It has a host of characters that fit all your stereotypical Hollywood types and some enjoyable scenes both on and off the set.  The film is a mix of comedy and drama and tries to thread the line between the two.  And the story mostly focuses on Jodea (Traicos) but also has plenty of scenes with Coppage's character and his charmed Hollywood lifestyle that is anything but.  And as I mentioned, this film does feel like a passion project and I imagine Traicos has heard or seen most of the events in this film.  Some of the Hollywood aspects feel like they could be ripped from real life, and this film should be an entertaining watch for anyone who has tried to make it on the big screen.

However, although Introducing Jodea bills itself as a comedy / drama, I did not find the comedy to be that funny.  There are jokes in there and the actors do a fine job with their performances, but it felt like the film thought it was funnier and more biting than it was.  Notably, it starts with a satirical radio show that tries to make some commentary on Hollywood itself, but the jokes just didn't hit for me.  Maybe I just don't live in that world, but I didn't laugh nearly as much as I expected to from the premise.  The film is much better in its dramatic moments, thankfully, but the comedy is still a large part of the movie.  And despite the interesting premise, the movie does have a ridiculous aspect to it.  I know it is fiction, but the developing relationship in the movie just does not feel genuine and some of the other relationship aspects seem to have been written in for humor and not for dramatic weight.  Overall, this is an enjoyable film, but one that could have been so much better.  I loved the premise, but it seemed to fall flat on execution.

Introducing Jodea has a wonderful setup and an enjoyable cast, in this charming Hollywood drama / comedy about a literal crash into the industry.

Rent it.

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 Introducing Jodea is available in theaters on June 4, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.  

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