Thursday, September 16, 2021

Blue Bayou Review: An Oscar-Worthy Drama About Family And Circumstances

Justin Chon	Justin Chon	...	Antonio Alicia Vikander	Alicia Vikander	...	Kathy Mark O'Brien	Mark O'Brien	...	Ace Rest of cast listed alphabetically: Randy Austin	Randy Austin	...	TSA Officer Brad Blanchard	Brad Blanchard	...	Randy Chris Bosarge	Chris Bosarge	...	Ice Agent Martin Bats Bradford	Martin Bats Bradford	...	Lajon Adam Brazy	Adam Brazy	...	Judge Tracy Brotherton	Tracy Brotherton	...	Flight Attendant Ron Centanni	Ron Centanni	...	Doctor Emory Cohen	Emory Cohen		 Sylvia Grace Crim	Sylvia Grace Crim	...	Sylvia / Police Clerk Vondie Curtis-Hall	Vondie Curtis-Hall		 Rhonda Johnson Dents	Rhonda Johnson Dents	...	Jackie Divine Prince Ty Emmecca	Divine Prince Ty Emmecca	...	Airport Traveler Alexander Garcia	Alexander Garcia	...	Gulag Renell Gibbs	Renell Gibbs	...	Reggie Jim Gleason	Jim Gleason	...	Doctor Keegan

Release date: September 17, 2021
Running time: 117 minutes
Director/Writer: Justin Chon
Cast: Justin Chon, Alicia Vikander, Mark O’Brien, Linh Dan Pham, Emory Cohen, Sydney Kowalske

An official selection of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival from award-winning writer/director Justin Chon, BLUE BAYOU is the moving and timely story of an uniquely American family fighting for their future. Antonio LeBlanc (Chon), a Korean adoptee raised in a small town in the Louisiana bayou, is married to the love of his life, Kathy (Alicia Vikander) and step-dad to their beloved daughter, Jessie (Sydney Kowalske). Struggling to make a better life for his family, he must confront the ghosts of the past when he discovers that he could be deported from the only country he has ever called home.

Sage Kim Gray	...	Girl / Antonio's Mother Sydney Kowalske	Sydney Kowalske	...	Jessie Suzette Lange	Suzette Lange	...	airport traveler Susan McPhail	Susan McPhail	...	Susanne Linh Dan Pham	Linh Dan Pham	...	Parker Sean Richmond	Sean Richmond	...	DHS Agent #2 Geraldine Singer	Geraldine Singer	...	Dawn Landry K. Steele	K. Steele	...	Nurse Toby Vitrano	Toby Vitrano	...	Merk Britton Webb	Britton Webb	...	Ice Supervisor Ned Yousef	Ned Yousef	...	Mexican Worker Gordon Dexheimer	Gordon Dexheimer	...	Airport Traveler (uncredited) Produced by  Justin Bursch	...	executive in charge of production Alex Chi	...	co-producer Ashley Contino	...	post supervisor Zev Foreman	...	executive producer Greta Fuentes	...	co-producer Poppy Hanks	...	producer Ali Jazayeri	...	co-producer Charles D. King	...	producer Alan Pao	...	co-producer Kim Roth	...	producer Eddie Rubin	...	executive producer Yira Vilaro	...	co-producer
Justin Chon took on a lot for this film, but I have to imagine this was a very personal story for him to tell.  I loved his character, despite being frustrated with some of his choices, Antonio felt so uniquely American.  This Asian man with a thick New Orleans accent, tatted up and trying to do right by his family was such an amalgamation of ideas and influences that you can't help but be intrigued.  And Vikander as Kathy was a similarly interesting and deep character, the rock in the family who deals with the family's financial troubles but also the inherent racism that follows her and Antonio's love.  But the real star of this film is Kowalske as Jessie, who shows a comfort that you rarely see in young actors.  She is so natural in this role and is responsible for one of the most powerful scenes I have seen in any film.  This cast of mismatched but perfectly fitting characters really forms the heart and soul of this film, and their troubles, triumphs, and love fuel this story on.  

And the story of Blue Bayou layers the themes on but leaves plenty of surprises for the viewer to experience.  You never feel like it is intentionally holding information back from you, but new revelations occur throughout the film.  And this helps to fuel the family's plight but also gives you greater insight into the complicated person that is Antonio.  And these also allow the characters around the film to grow as well, giving depth to all the people that we meet.  But on top of this story, the film is just a beautiful piece of cinema.  The movie is in a 4:3 format, which puts the characters front and center.  And there are clever little touches, like a blurred look to some of the shots, that give it almost a dreamlike state.  And through this all, there is an amazing soundtrack.  The film has deep string notes during the dramatic parts and light clarinet during the happier times; they add layers to this film especially because much of this movie is communicated nonverbally.  

Blue Bayou is a powerful drama that packs a lot of information into an understated, beautiful, and gut wrenching film.  The movie looks at America through a unique lens, focusing on the life you build but also on how others treat you.  Justin Chon has created an absolute masterpiece, with so many themes packed into this story.  I really loved how they never felt overwhelming; the circumstances that the family is confronted with do, but the overall messages themselves are layered on and communicated to the viewer without overloading you.  And there are so many messages in this film, from immigration, to inherent bias, to the impediments that are placed in people's way, and to race and identity.  This movie is something that will speak to so many right now, when it seems that as a country there is a trend to not value hardworking people who call America home.  

Blue Bayou is a powerful drama that looks at race, family, love, and life through understated cinematography, complicated characters, beautiful music, and a gut-wrenching, uniquely American story.

Watch it.

Directed by  Justin Chon	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Justin Chon
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Blue Bayou is in theaters on September 17, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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When I'm A Moth Review: Some Beautiful Cinematography But Not A Bright Enough Flame

Release date: August, 27, 2021
Running time: 91 minutes
Directed By: Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak
Starring: Addison Timlin, 

From acclaimed filmmakers Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak, and starring Addison Timlin as Hillary Clinton, WHEN I’M A MOTH’s “what if…” scenario sees a young Hillary working as a fish monger in Alaska.  Possibly an un-biopic of Hillary Rodham set in 1969 Alaska. Possibly a collective dream about a young woman with only the most abstract connection to the politician. Possibly both.

When I'm A Moth is a strange film, and one that seems only vaguely grounded in reality.  The film looks at an alternate scenario where Hillary Clinton lived in Alaska and befriended two quiet Japanese men while working at a fish mill.  The film does have some good cinematography as the Alaskan wilderness is beautifully shown and the isolated nature of the work and the geography are brought to life.  This what if scenario also has a dreamlike quality to it as the film often has aspects that seem dreamlike, from some strange camera tricks to make the lens unfocused at times to a haunting, dreamlike soundtrack.  The film also has some very good low light scenes and beautiful camera work as this strange situation is depicted.  And the film also shows some of the brutality of the job as it  shows seemingly realistic depictions of fish being gutted.  

However, the film does not seem to really have much drive or purpose.  The dialogue often seems like it is form a play, with deliberate lines that can sometimes seem random.  I understood where they were coming from sometimes, but other times it just seemed like random lines form some eclectic characters.  And like a play, the film is slow with long scenes that often involve this awkward, disjointed dialogue.  The movie does not seem to really get its central point across to the audience, or if it is in there it requires a lot of work to really dissect it.  Much like the fish that our unbio protagonist guts, the film requires the audience to do the work of finding out what it is going for.  And in the end we are left with more questions than answers.  At least Addison Timlin's performance as Hillary is good, with an awkward, confident character that fits the protagonist but seems strange given the scenario. 

When I'm A Moth tells a dreamlike, alternate reality story but the lack of drive and playlike dialogue does not make this film a bright enough flame to draw viewers to.

Pass on it.

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When I'm A Moth is available digitally and on demand on August 27, 2021.  

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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Crazy Fist Review: Action, Crocodiles, And Interesting Locales, Oh My!

Release date: September 14, 2021 (Blu-Ray, DVD, and Digital)
Running time: 102 minutes
Directed By: Guo Qing
Starring: Steve Yoo, Wang Wei, Collin Chou, Xiaoming Huang, Wei Zhao, and Kai Greene 

After an opponent dies mid-match, a prominent MMA champion swore never to fight again, instead retiring to run his family’s international business. However, when his best friend dies under suspicious circumstances during another tournament, he has no choice but to step back in the ring to help uncover the truth.

Crazy Fist is going to be judged mostly by its action and thankfully that is mostly positive.  I enjoyed the intense introduction and the craziness of a fighting ring surrounded by crocodiles which made every step that much more dangerous.  And for the most part the fights are intense and fast, but many don't' have the same gravity as the first showdown.  They are over pretty quickly and sometimes the character's hits don't connect to their opponents, especially when weapons are used.  It's not too distracting but can be noticeable at times.  But the film does also give you an excuse to visit several Chinese locales, which are bright and imaginative.  I liked seeing some of the more colorful locales in between the big bouts.  And the cast is full of interesting characters with many ulterior motives.  I especially liked one of the police officers who kept using crazy disguises to try and stay undercover.  It provided some levity to this often serious film, letting you crack a smile between intense combat.  

However, despite Crazy Fist's entertaining action and imaginative locales, the film also has a story that was just tough to follow.  It feels like too much is going on and it will frequently cut mid fight with little notice.  This is not always the smoothest transition, and it definitely interrupts the flow of the movie.  You'll be in the middle of a bout and all of the sudden it goes to some gangster's room.  And although the film does not use much CG, there is an unnecessary CG moment in the middle of it that just sticks out at you.  It is strange because the film is mostly free of noticeable CG until that point, and the scene itself is relatively minor so it just seemed like an odd choice.  

In the end, Crazy Fist has entertaining action and bright locations to visit that will keep you engaged despite the somewhat difficult to follow story.

Rent it.

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Crazy Fist is available on VOD, Digital, DVD and Blu-ray on September 14, 2021.  It is also available to stream on Hi-Yah! now!

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Prisoners of the Ghostland Review: A Japanese and Western Nic Cage Fever Dream

Nicolas Cage	Nicolas Cage	...	Hero Sofia Boutella	Sofia Boutella	...	Bernice Nick Cassavetes	Nick Cassavetes	...	Psycho Bill Moseley	Bill Moseley	...	The Governor Narisa Suzuki	Narisa Suzuki		 Tak Sakaguchi	Tak Sakaguchi	...	Yasujiro Grace Santos	Grace Santos	...	Angel Canon Nawata	Canon Nawata	...	Nancy Takato Yonemoto	Takato Yonemoto	...	Takato Jeffrey Rowe	Jeffrey Rowe	...	Gunman Jai West	Jai West	...	Jai Saki Ohwada	Saki Ohwada	...	banker Charles Glover	Charles Glover	...	Enoch Shin Shimizu	Shin Shimizu	...	Shin Yurino	Yurino	...	Geisha & Ghost of the Banker Matthew Chozick	Matthew Chozick	...	Matthew Lorena Kotô	Lorena Kotô	...	Stella Yuzuka Nakaya	Yuzuka Nakaya

Release date: September 17, 2021
Running time: 101 minutes
Director: Sion Sono (Why Don’t You Play in Hell)
Writers: Aaron Hendry and Rexa Sixo Safai (Western Wonderland)
Starring: Nicolas Cage (Hero), Sofia Boutella (Bernice), Nick Cassavetes (Psycho), Bill Moseley (The Governor), Tak Sakaguchi (Yasujiro) and Yuzuka Nakaya (Suzi)

Prisoners of the Ghostland is set in the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town where a ruthless bank robber (Cage) is sprung from jail by wealthy warlord The Governor (Moseley), whose adopted granddaughter Bernice (Boutella) has gone missing. The Governor offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within three days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman—and his own path to redemption.

Directed by  Sion Sono	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Aaron Hendry	...	(written by) Reza Sixo Safai	...	(screenplay)
Prisoners of the Ghostland is a strange film and you will either love it or hate it.  It has a mix of classic Japanese and Western tropes and film styles with an overarching an apocalyptic vibe.  It feels like a dreamlike wild west Japanese film; and yes that is exactly how I meant to describe it.  Everything is overexaggerated and overdelivered, from the serious scenes to the crazy scenes.  The colors, the locales, and the characters are all ramped up.  And when the film gets going, this is emphasized more.  Cage goes to several areas on his journey and they are all very different looking. You have the traditional Japanese / Wild West Samurai Town, a more apocalyptic town, and several stops along the way.  And it is not just the film's style that shows a blend of influences; the music also blends traditional Japanese music with spaghetti western music to form something unique.  This film is like if fallout and borderlands had a baby that was raised by an insane Japanese person.

And so with the good of this film's insanity also comes a convoluted story.  I think I need to watch this again as some of the concepts were tough to follow, and the film has a slightly out of order storytelling that is difficult at the start.  And some of the characters are weird to be weird.  The effects are generally fine except for the violence scenes, which are not distracting but do feel like an older film style.  Exploding packs of blood are common for gunshots and some characters are extremely bad shots until they land the killing blow, which is also overemphasized.  And the movie also has some strange cuts during the action scenes, possibly for budgetary reasons.  The most noticeable is during an odd car crash where the film cuts away during the actual crash.  This is a hallmark of budgetary constraints, yet the film itself does not have an overall budget feel.  

But despite all the strangeness, the difficult to follow story, and some of the over the top characters, what I kept coming back to was this film's unique style.  It just feels like a modern mashup of older films with a very unique spin on it; something that you don't see in other films.  I loved the craziness and the bright colors, the melding of Japanese and Western styles, and seeing Nic Cage back in a more insane role.  

Prisoners of the Ghostland is pure insanity, with a cinema blend of Japanese, spaghetti western, and apocalyptic influences into a Nic Cage fever dream of violence and style.

Watch it.

Teruaki Ogawa		 Chiho Fujii	Chiho Fujii	...	Chimera Servant Tatsuhiro Yamaoka	Tatsuhiro Yamaoka		 Christina Virzi	Christina Virzi	...	Crystal Produced by  Nate Bolotin	...	producer Brian David Cange	...	line producer: USA Lauren Craig	...	associate producer Michael Mendelsohn	...	producer Ko Mori	...	producer (as Kô Mori) Natalie Perrotta	...	executive producer Laura Rister	...	producer Yûji Sadai	...	executive producer Reza Sixo Safai	...	producer Nick Spicer	...	executive producer Aram Tertzakian	...	executive producer Toyoyuki Yokohama	...	executive producer
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Prisoners of the Ghostland is available in theaters, digitally, and on demand on September 17, 2021.  For showtimes, click here

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Screening: See Dear Evan Hansen Early And Free

We have partnered with Universal for an early screening of the Broadway hit made movie, Dear Evan Hansen!  The film is coming to theaters on Friday, September 24, 2021, but you can see it early and free!!  Details and entry form are below!

Dear Evan Hansen

Cast: Ben Platt, Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani, Danny Pino, Colton Ryan, DeMarius Copes

Directed by: Stephen Chbosky

Screenplay by: Steven Levenson

Music & Lyrics by: Benj Pasek & Justin Paul

Synopsis:

The breathtaking, generation-defining Broadway phenomenon becomes a soaring cinematic event as Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award winner Ben Platt reprises his role as an anxious, isolated high schooler aching for understanding and belonging amid the chaos and cruelty of the social-media age.   

 Screening Info:

DEAR EVAN HANSEN

Tuesday, September 21

7:00pm

AMC Tysons

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Last Matinee Review: A Throwback Movie Theater Horror Experience

Ricardo Islas	...	Asesino comeojos Luciana Grasso	Luciana Grasso	...	Ana Franco Duran	Franco Duran	...	Tomás Julieta Spinelli	Julieta Spinelli	...	Ángela Bruno Salvatti	Bruno Salvatti	...	Esteban (Tea) Vladimir Knazevs	Vladimir Knazevs	...	Goni Daiana Carigi	Daiana Carigi	...	Maite (Brooke Shields) Patricia Porzio	Patricia Porzio	...	Gabriela Emanuel Sobré	Emanuel Sobré	...	Horacio Pedro Duarte	Pedro Duarte	...	Mauricio Yuly Aramburu	Yuly Aramburu	...	María Julia Hugo Blandamuro	Hugo Blandamuro	...	Hugo Julio Troisi	Julio Troisi	...	Vilardebó Juan Carlos Lema	Juan Carlos Lema	...	Viejo Vicente Varela	Vicente Varela	...	Diego Valeria Martínez Eguizabal	Valeria Martínez Eguizabal	...	Mamá de Diego Lucas Fressero	Lucas Fressero	...	Niño jugando Fernán Moliv	Fernán Moliv	...	Policía

Release date: August 6, 2021
Running time: 88 minutes
Directed By: Maxi Contenti (Muñeco viviente V, Neptunia)
Written By: Maxi Contenti and Manuel Facal (High Five, Fiesta Nibiru) and Contenti,
Starring: Luciana Grasso (El Secreto de Julia), Ricardo Islas (El Que No Corre Vuela, Bailiwick), Julieta Spinelli, Franco Duran, 
Patricia Porzio, and Pedro Duarte.

The audience attending the last showing of a horror film in a small downtown cinema are terrorized by a murderer who begins to pick them off, one by one. The only person to notice that something strange is going on is the projectionist’s daughter.

Maximiliano Contenti	...	producer Alina Kaplan	...	producer Daniel Pensa	...	co-producer Fernanda Pifano	...	assistant producer Miguel Angel Rocca	...	co-producer Martin Rupenian	...	associate producer Lucía Gaviglio Salkind	...	producer Carlos Scheck	...	associate producer Valentina Titakis	...	assistant producer
The Last Matinee has a great old school horror feel that starts with the main attraction of this film, the wonderful classic theater that it is set in.  From the projector film, to the grandiose entryway, to the thick curtains at the auditorium entrance, to the classic movie posters hanging on the wall, the theaters is a great monument to a different time in cinema.  I loved seeing the light of the projector, the issues with the film, and just how spectacular the place was.  And through it all you had a classic horror film playing on the screen, a nice touch that gave this film a horror vibe right from the start.  And it was nice to see a grand auditorium given that many haven't been back to the theaters in a very long time.

But on top of the wonderful setting, The Last Matinee has a sense of dread that hits you from the start.  It is a rain soaked night, meaning that a large ominous man in a face-obscuring rain coat doesn't seem that strange.  And the dark movie theater, horror film, and general lack of people in this giant auditorium make for the perfect setting for them to be picked off one by one.  And to add to this dread the film has some old-style horror sounds and big notes to help amplify the feeling of unease.  And the emptiness of the theater means that you are always expecting the killer to jump out at just that moment, and sometimes he does!

And the auditorium itself is full of somewhat quirky characters, at least providing enough variety to keep the story interesting.  You don't learn much about them due to the movie nature (they can't talk much) but there is enough here to keep the story moving.  And when the story really picks up, you get some grisly special effects and deaths.  The movie has a throwback feel in the deaths too, with over the top violence, practical effects, and plenty of blood.  And in true slasher fashion, the villain is ruthless and pretty much crazed.  The film doesn't give you justification for why this is happening and you don't really care; you just know that this killer is taking people out and you are holding your breath to see who will survive.  

The Last Matinee has a throwback slasher feel with its wonderful classic theater setting, grisly effects and deaths, and quirky cast of theater patrons.

Watch it.

Directed by  Maximiliano Contenti	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Maximiliano Contenti	...	(original idea) Maximiliano Contenti	...	(screenplay collaboration) Manuel Facal
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The Last Matinee available digitally and on demand on August 24, 2021.  

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The Protege Assassinating Your Wallet With Digital on September 21 and Physical on October 19


Michael Keaton, Maggie Q, and Samuel L. Jackson Star in Pulse-Pounding Thriller Arriving on Digital September 21 And 4K Ultra HD™ Combo Pack, Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, and DVD October 19 from Lionsgate®


SANTA MONICA, CA (September 14, 2021) – A deadly assassin is out for vengeance in the “bold, brilliant and relentlessly bad-ass” (Mark S. Allen, ABC-TV) action thriller The Protégé, taking aim on Digital September 21, and 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and On Demand October 19 from Lionsgate. Headlined by OscarⓇ nominee Michael Keaton (2014, Actor in a Leading Role, Birdman; Spiderman: Homecoming,), Maggie Q (“Nikita,” Divergent) and OscarⓇ nominee Samuel L. Jackson (1994, Actor in a Supporting Role, Pulp Fiction; Avengers: Endgame), alongside Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgment Day), the “sharp and surprisingly intelligent” (Michael O’Sullivan, The Washington Post) film was written by Richard Wenk (The Equalizer franchise and The Expendables) and directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale and GoldenEye). 


Rescued as a child and raised by legendary assassin Moody (Jackson), Anna (Maggie Q) was trained to become the world’s most skilled contract killer. When Anna learns that Moody has been brutally killed, she vows revenge. On the murderer’s trail, Anna is entangled with an enigmatic hit man (Keaton) and, as their confrontation turns deadly, the loose ends of a life spent killing weave themselves ever tighter in this adrenaline-fueled action-thriller from the director of Casino Royale.


 The Protégé 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, and DVD will be available for the suggested retail prices of $42.99, $39.99, and $29.96, respectively. Additionally, the Digital release will be available for the suggested retail price of $14.99.


4K UHD / BLU-RAY / DVD / DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES


“Scars of the Past: Making The Protégé” Featurette

“Anna vs Rembrandt” Featurette

Deleted Scene

Theatrical Trailer

Saving Paradise Review: A Feel Good Coming Home Film

William Moseley	...	Michael Peterson Johanna Braddy	Johanna Braddy	...	Charlie Clark Mimi Kennedy	Mimi Kennedy	...	Barbara Peterson Shashawnee Hall	Shashawnee Hall	...	George O'Malley Mary Pat Gleason	Mary Pat Gleason	...	Mary Williams Paul Dooley	Paul Dooley	...	Gramps Bill Cobbs	Bill Cobbs	...	John Thompson Lawrence Pressman	Lawrence Pressman	...	Don Peterson Rest of cast listed alphabetically: Marc Avery	Marc Avery	...	Office Worker #1 Shaughn Buchholz	Shaughn Buchholz	...	Edward Worthington Alex Campbell Stein	Alex Campbell Stein	...	Wall Street Executive Esteban Dager	Esteban Dager	...	Bowling Alley Teen Francisco DeCun	Francisco DeCun	...	Wall Street Executive James Eckhouse	James Eckhouse	...	Cameron Wannemaker Sami Kolko	Sami Kolko	...	Mandy Valeria Maldonado	Valeria Maldonado	...	Julie Barnes Aidan Merwarth	Aidan Merwarth	...	Teenage Michael Elodie Grace Orkin	Elodie Grace Orkin	...	Young Charlie

Release date: September 3, 2021
Running time: 102 minutes
Directed by: Jay Silverman
Written by: Van Billet
Starring: William Moseley, Johanna Braddy, and Mimi Kennedy

SAVING PARADISE is an inspiring story based on true events. A ruthless corporate raider is forced to return to his small town roots where he suddenly inherits his father’s nearly bankrupt pencil factory, which is the heart and soul of the depressed community. With the foreclosure deadline looming, he must decide to either let it close, or join the community’s fight to save it.

Andrew Patrick Ralston	...	Fred Willis Brandon Ruiter	Brandon Ruiter	...	DJ Peterson Tommy Schneiders	Tommy Schneiders	...	Jerry Cramer (as Tom Schneiders) George Steeves	George Steeves	...	Walter Wilson Denise Swindell	Denise Swindell	...	Office Worker #2 Pam Trotter	Pam Trotter	...	Leona Hines Karen E. Wright	Karen E. Wright	...	Plant Worker Produced by  Bethany Cerrona	...	producer Joseph Gamache	...	co-producer William Newman	...	producer Jijo Reed	...	post executive producer Jay Silverman	...	executive producer
Your enjoyment of Saving Paradise will depend on how much you like the two leads, and thankfully they are fun to watch.  Seeing Mike (Moseley) and Charlie (Braddy) try to save the company and the difficulties that they face is fun to see.  It's your typical small town return film, but at least the actors are enjoyable characters.  I especially liked how strong of a character Charlie was, especially when confronted with her new boss.  And the film does have an overall feel good feeling, like a Christmas movie that is released in September.  In fact, this would be a perfect Christmas movie as the timeline within the film makes it conclude during the holidays.  

But Saving Paradise also feels formulaic, like a made for TV movie.  Some of the acting is overexaggerated, the story has some emotional parts that just didn't hit, and the entire film feels like something made for television.  Many of the characters are your typical small town caricatures; wholesome, set in their ways, and wise beyond their small town circumstances.  And the film was sometimes very predictable.  The initial story felt like something you have seen before, with a lot of the tropes and characters you have come to expect.  And there is this tragic circumstance that is included in the film that just felt strange to me.  I understand what they were trying to do but the whole thing seemed clumsily handled and bolted on.  

However, stick around with this film because there are some surprises after the predictable start and middle.  There are some films where the ending can make or break it, and Saving Paradise is one of those.  The ending throws in some unexpected ideas and events, a little bit of holiday magic, and a feel good finale that leaves you with a smile on your face

Saving Paradise has a mostly predictable story with rough edges, but it ends with a feel good finale that showcases the heart of this film. 

Rent it.

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Saving Paradise s available digitally and on demand on September 3, 2021.  

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Monday, September 13, 2021

The Voyeurs Review: An Intriguing Premise and Unfulfilling Ending

Release date: September 11, 2021
Running time: 111 minutes
Written and Directed By: Michael Mohan
Staring: Sydney Sweeney, Justice Smith, Ben Hardy, Natasha Liu Bordizzo

Pippa and Thomas move into their dream apartment, they notice that their windows look directly into the apartment opposite, this will set in motion a chain of events that will lead to disaster.

The Voyeurs has a definite theme and subject matter that permeates this film.  I really liked the idea of looking into people's lives through their windows, and the film had plenty of imagery to help showcase this.  Many scenes included views of other surrounding windows and residents to showcase the main theme of this film.  And the voyeuristic aspect of the film are also quite interesting; it is exciting and downright scintillating to see into the world of Pippa and Thomas's neighbor and to see the highs and lows of those next door.  And the film built this up slowly, letting you really get to know them; thought it did seem to be a little too slowly paced at the start.  And as the obsession starts to grow, you get more and more access to this alternate world.  And some of the later symmetry of their situations and the symbolism that is evoked is also interesting to see.

But although The Voyeurs does have an intriguing story, the film goes off the deep end towards the end.  Events spiral out of control and characters make very consequential decisions seemingly quickly.  I felt like there wasn't enough groundwork laid for some of these decisions and others just felt odd.  They were for the purpose of moving he story forward and creating some shocking twists, but they felt very unnatural.  Which is a shame because the first part of the film did have a slow burning, natural, and innocent feel to it.  This quickly devolves in the back half of the movie. The film is a thriller and will keep you engaged, but it might not leave you fulfilled.

The Voyeurs has an interesting premise that permeates the film, and several shocking twists, but the story devolves to get you to the ultimately unfulfilling conclusion. 

Rent it.

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The Voyeurs is available to stream on Amazon Prime starting September 10, 2021.

Malignant Review: A Throwback Horror Experience That Gets In Your Head

Release date: September 10, 2021
Running time: 111 minutes
Director: James Wan
Writers: James Wan(story by), Akela Cooper(screenplay by), Ingrid Bisu(story by)
Stars: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jean Louisa Kelly, Susanna Thompson, Jake Abel, Jacqueline McKenzie

Madison (Wallis) is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities.

Malignant feels like a throwback film for all the good and the bad that it entails.  The movie has a definite old school style from the start, with a prominent VHS effect on the first videos that you see in the film.  And the throwback feel is present throughout, even when it is not using a VHS filter.  Many characters give exaggerated delivery and the film also has a deliberate cinematography that evokes classic horror.  Add to this the over-the-top performances and intense camera angles and you have a throwback film in our modern time.  And the 80s influence also shows in the slasher aspects of the movie, as they are violent and grisly.  The effects are quite good as is the amount of blood that is spilled when this movie gets going.  And accompanying this all is some wonderful music that also gives this film a classic feel.  And finally, the film has Wan's trademark use of red light in many scenes; it is something that has become his signature and I loved seeing it again.

And the story of Malignant starts off very mysterious, with strange occurrences and an overarching sense of dread as Madison tries to figure out more about this strange killer that she is connected to.  It was very confusing at the start but there is an explanation.  However, the film is over-the-top and that includes the explanation for what is happening.  It was clever and did pull the pieces together, but there is also a general sense of ridiculousness to this.  Part of that is the 80s nature, where some insane explanations are expected, but in practice what you get is an interesting, but sometimes laughable experience.  I give props to Wan for going for it and seeing this bizarre story to the conclusion, but I also couldn't help but wish for something more serious from this master of horror.

Malignant has some big ideas and an over-the-top, throwback style, but the craziness extends to the story which constantly skirts the line from genius to ridiculous.

Rent it.

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Malignant is available in theaters and on HBO Max on September 10, 2021.  It will leave HBO Max after October 10, 2021.  For tickets to see it in theaters, click here

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Friday, September 10, 2021

What to Watch This Weekend: Everybody's Talking About Jamie, Martyrs Lane, Final Set, Malignant, Worth, 12 Mighty Orphans, Hood River, Killing of Two Lovers

For A Musical Journey Of Self Discovery: Everybody's Talking About Jamie (Theaters)
Everybody's Talking About Jamie and rightly so; the movie adaptation of the musical has entertaining and impactful songs, a vibrant cast, and an emotional story about finding yourself.   For more information, check out the review!

For A Subtle Unconventional Haunting: Martyrs Lane (Shudder) 
Martyrs Lane is a sumptuously subtle tale about grief, love, and religion that has a slow burning story and a softer, but no less horrifying, supernatural experience for the viewers.  For more information, check out the review!

For A Drama About Sports And Life: Final Set (Virtual Cinema)
Final Set is a masterful sports drama, that focuses as much on life as it does on the sport through its fantastic characters, dramatic music, and exciting and intense finale.  For more information, check out the review!

For An Inspirational Sports Drama: 12 Mighty Orphans (Amazon)
12 Mighty Orphans scores with its blend of comedy and drama, interesting characters, and truly inspirational story of sports and life.  For more information, check out the review!

For A James Wan Throwback Horror: Malignant (Theaters and HBO Max)
James Wan's new horror film has hints of 80s horror and a lot of big ideas.  It is mixed, but generally positive reviews.

For A Drama Worth Your Time: Worth (Netflix)
Michael Keaton has come back to films with a vengeance and Worth is his latest film, which is getting great praise for its gripping and thoughtful nature.

For A Simmering Family Drama: The Killing of Two Lovers (Hulu)
The Killing of Two Lovers is a powder keg of emotion that follows a stressful family situation with great dialogue, cinematography, acting, and a compact story.  For more information, check out our review!

For A Sports Drama That Looks At Race And Class: Hood River (Digital)
Hood River looks at race and class through the lens of small town soccer, with good lessons in hard work, empathy, perseverance, and leadership.  For more information, check out the review!

Memory House Review: A Sinister And Imaginative Look At Race In Brazil

Release date: September 3, 2021
Running time: 105 minutes
Written and Directed by: João Paulo Miranda Maria
Cast: Antonio Pitanga, Ana Flavia Cavalcanti, Sam Louwyck

João Paulo Miranda Maria explores the racial tensions of modern-day Brazil in his lush, haunting debut feature rooted in Brazilian folklore.  Living in modern times but trapped in a colonial nightmare, Cristovam (Antônio Pitanga) is an Indigenous black man from the rural north of Brazil who migrated for work during the economic boom to an affluent Austrian enclave in the south. Over three decades later, he is now lost in a decadent community. Informed that he must take a wage cut at the milk factory where he has worked for many years and confronted by virulent racism on a daily basis, he becomes more and more estranged from the white world and finds refuge in an abandoned home where he discovers artifacts reminiscent of his past. As Cristovam rediscovers his roots, he comes to the realization that nothing has changed. The attacks he endures in the community, both mental and physical, awaken in him a legacy of abuse carried down for centuries and Cristovam begins a spiritual and physical metamorphosis.

Memory House has a much more sinister start than I expected that sets the mood of this film.  The movie is centered around Cristovam, who is an indigenous character that is on the outskirts of society for various reasons.  He lives in a run down house that is constantly getting vandalized and broken into.  And Cristovam himself is harassed and sometimes treated poorly for seemingly no reason.  At times I couldn't tell if it was his sometimes off putting attitude that made him an outcast or the fact that he was an outcast caused his mood to sour.  Probably some combination of the two.  But what is painfully clear in his treatment is that it has been normalized by those around him.  Kids are constantly harassing him and doing some terrible things, and adults also treat him unfairly and ask too much of him.

The film does have some really great cinematic touches as well.  There is an overarching sense of dread as some of the threats to Cristovam are real and you never know when they will strike.  And this sense of dread permeates the film.  I really loved how there were small touches to make the dairy factory he worked feel otherworldly, from the suits to the rituals that occurred there, this film gave the factory a sinister sci-fi feel.  And much of the film takes place at night, with Cirstovam never quite knowing what will happen when he enters his home.  By turning his home into a place of constant harassment, it really shows just how much this affects his life.  And the hallmark of the film, the traditional masks that some of the characters wear, do also contribute to the otherworldly feel of this film.  

However, my main problem with Memory House is that I just didn't have much sympathy for Cristovam.  Maybe this is due to my own lack of cultural understanding of his situation, but generally he came off as unlikeable, which hurt my sympathy for him.  It was strange that he wasn't sympathetic given all that was happening to him, but it did hurt my overall enjoyment of the movie.  And he has some actions that seem extreme even for his circumstances that caused me to again not feel sympathy.  Additionally, the film devolves in the end as the plot seems to spiral further and further.  The man's actions do get more eccentric and when the big finale happens, which was an important symbolic action, I just did not have any concern left for him.  And during this all the film gets stranger and stranger.  And I was also hoping that the well beautiful and imaginative masks and outfits that form a lot of the most striking images in the film would have made appearances throughout, but they only appear towards the end of the film.  

Memory House has a great setup, with some interesting cinematography, a consistent sense of dread, and an impactful conclusion to highlight race in modern-day Brazil.

Rent it.

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Memory House is available on September 3, 2021 via Virtual Cinema, VOD, and digital platforms.  For showtimes, click here.

Hood River Review: Race and Class Collide In This Sports Documentary

Release date: September 10, 2021
Running time: 82 minutes
Directed By: Steven Cantor and Jonathan Field

In a small Oregon community, a high school soccer team struggles to overcome class and racial divide in a quest for both individual and team success. While Domingo deals with the deportation of his father to Mexico, and Eric painfully learns how to become a captain and command the respect of his Mexican-American teammates, Coach Riviera struggles to keep the team together amidst the pressure of academics and athletics. This coming-of-age feature documentary focuses on the friendship and maturation of three characters and is set against the backdrop of a segregated American town. Will Domingo graduate? Will Eric become a leader? Will the Eagles win a state championship?

Hood River is an understated documentary that looks at a lot more than I originally expected.  It starts with a great sequence that highlights the class disparity in this community that could be emblematic of America as a whole.  This seems to have two classes of citizens that divide largely along racial lines.  And seeing these differences is eye opening.  The film also uses smart editing to highlight this, when one player's concern is trying to make all their own healthy meals and a different player on the same team is dealing with some intense family crises.  Seeing this disparity is a great way to highlight the difference in perspective, and it also uses this to show how that can affect team chemistry and on field performance.  All of this is told through the lens of this small, Oregon soccer team that has the potential to be great.

I really liked following this team through their season, through their ups and downs, and really seeing what the interactions between the players were like.  Some of the best scenes are seeing the kids just being kids; but then it is equally interesting to watch some of them step up or try to figure out how best to help the team.  I also appreciated the film highlighting some very difficult subjects and also these kids willingness to share their story.  One of the players had a very tough family issue that was showcased and another player has some important revelations that could make some of his earlier concerns seem trivial.  And it was heartwarming to see these kids learn about each other and make an effort to understand; something that a LOT of adults could use a lesson on.  And the soccer itself is a lot of fun to watch, I was cheering at every goal and holding my breath at some of the nail biter matches.  

And although I did very much like Hood River--this is a documentary that is basically made for me--I do wish it was longer.  I wanted to see more of the matches, although the film did have a decent number of them.  It seemed like some were skipped in the build up, but I was hoping to see a march through the team's season.  It also did not explain why some players were out for games.  Maybe it was a privacy thing but I was wondering why some very vocal players did not play in certain matches, just because I had gotten used to them.  And I also wanted some sort of conclusion in the film, something that showed what happened to the players we spent so much time with after the fact.  Are they still playing?  Did some play in college?  

Hood River looks at race and class through the lens of small town soccer, with good lessons in hard work, empathy, perseverance, and leadership.

Rent it.

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Hood River is available digitally and on demand on September 10, 2021.  

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