WOLF

By Liz Lopez

Rating: B+

Wolf by writer/director Nathalie Biancheri (Nocturnal) is a dramatic narrative film that most certainly is thought provoking. A young man named Jacob (George MacKay, 1917) is taken by his parents to a “clinic” because he has identified himself as a wolf that was born as a human being. There aren’t many details about how long this has been happening, but the film begins with a naked Jacob out in a forest, enjoying the sun as he sniffs the air – but not quite as what humans are shown to do. It is quite evident that his parents are having a hard time leaving their son at this facility (especially his mama), but it pails in comparison to the pain Jacob and his fellow patients feel/display at the hands of the person identified as the “medical professional” for the young people and is known as “The Zookeeper” (Paddy Considine, How to Build a Girl, “The Outsider” TV series). I will avoid spoilers, but I can say my jaw dropped at the sight of his behavior with the patients to correct or cure their belief of their identity. The Zookeeper’s screaming is harsh enough, so any other of his actions toward the individuals may be a trigger for someone who can understand some of the feelings of identity described here. Although some scenes are difficult to watch at times, the performances of George MacKay, Lily – Rose Depp and Considine are extraordinary.

Of interest in the film is a term I was unfamiliar with - “species dysphoria” – a term for a disorder for what Jacob and the other patients are experiencing - where they believe they have been born into the body of the wrong species. Depp portrays a fellow patient (long term in patient) and goes by the name Wildcat, and she develops a bond with Jacob. There are hints in the script of what may have happened to her pre – admission, but she is not permitted to leave the facility. There is an excellent scene of when she moves into her cat mode as Jacob is at his peak of being a wolf. No other spoilers here!

In the “Zoo” there are other patients who identify as a dog, a bear, a spider and a bird to name a few who are treated by The Zookeeper and a therapist, (Eileen Walsh, “Women on the Verge” TV Series). All of the actors who portray the individuals with the identity listed here are also excellent and there is plenty they go through for the audience to have empathy for their daily life.

Additional cast includes Senan Jennings, Darragh Shannon, Elisa Fionuir, Lola Petticrew, Amy Macken, Fionn O’Shea and Karise Yansen, among others.

Wolf is a unique story that may not appeal to all audiences, but the performances, especially Jacob’s where his emotions are felt so keenly, is one that will leave the audience thinking deeply about those who have this or a similar situation in their lives.

The film is in theaters on Friday, December 3rd (domestically).

Source: Focus Features

Fantastic Fest 2021 Review: SILENT NIGHT

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Leave it to Fantastic Fest to conclude their film extravaganza with a Christmas movie. Of course, this is not the typical, feel-good holiday fare one comes to expect from the season. What is served up is a pitch-black comedy that takes place during Christmas, but during what is essentially the end of the world as we know it. And of course, no one is really feeling fine. While some of the family members have, to some degree, accepted their dark fate, one particularly young child believes that not all hope is completely lost. Written and directed by Camille Griffin, Silent Night is a subversive piece that is sure to please anyone who does not want to endure another Hallmark Holiday movie.

As humanity faces an inevitable extinction, a British family and friends decide to gather together for one more holiday get together. Despite the limitations of their current situation, this moderately wealthy and successful group hope to have one more final dinner party before their inevitable demise. After their festivities, they will follow the instructions suggested by the world's leaders to commit suicide before experiencing any pain and suffering. As the group eats, drinks, and attempts to remain merry, many emotions from their past events surface and threaten to dampen their last hurrah.

Silent Night is another one of those movies that could be awesomely adapted for a stage play. The impressive writing by Griffin truly drives this movie well and makes the affair all the more compelling and riveting. Despite the dark and forboding inevitable end, Griffin and her cast manage to make the movie mostly funny and entertaining. In the end, the movie does reflect a struggle to handle the morbid conclusion, but given the circumstances, I feel the filmmaker mostly succeeds.

Griffin and her casting department have assembled an amazing cast. All of whom perform wonderfully. The movie features incredible turns by Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Annabelle Wallis, Lily-Rose Depp, Kirby-Howell Baptiste, Sope Dirsu, Rufus Jones, and Lucy Punch. However, it is Roman Griffin Davis who shines the brightest and most passionately and emotionally as Art. Art is the young child who strongly and vehemently believes that there must be a way for humanity to survive. He not only serves as a thin ray of hope, he also serves as a major source of conflict in the film.

And in a movie full of emotions, conflicts, and wonderfully executed comedy, Silent Night is certainly a remarkable holiday offering. Now granted, this movie will not at all appeal to anyone wanting the usual, feel-good Christmas movie that allows audiences to escape the stress and pain in the world. Silent Night embraces all that is real on this planet and is a much more satisfying and realistic movie than most holiday-themed films released during this season.

Fantastic Fest 2021 Review: BENEDETTA

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Always an evocateur, Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven takes on Catholicism in a film that empowers women and challenges its audience to think critically about the conventions that often prevent Christian religions from remaining relevant to the people they are supposed to serve. Verhoeven, who utilizes exploitation in his work, has made a powerful and artistic statement with his adaptation of the non-fiction book Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy by Judith C. Brown. Though his film doesn't completely work as a defiant commentary on organized religion, it still delivers some indelible blows with much passion and courage.

In 17th century Tuscany, Italian nun Benedetta Carlini (Virginie Efira) is passionately inspired to deliver the will of God and Jesus through her work and examples in her abbey. Through dreams and visions Bendetta believes she is destined to become the wife of Jesus, but also has strong feelings of attraction and lust toward Bartolomea (Daphne Patakia), a disheveled peasant taken in by the convent who also aspires to become a servant of God. What follows is a power struggle within the nuns of the convent and the Catholic church. However, Benedetta remains undaunted and passionate about her goals, despite her natural inclinations which are eventually recognized and witnessed by those who oppose her.

Verhoeven, who co-wrote the screenplay with David Birke, has made a provocative film with Bendetta. The film, which screened at this year's Fantastic Fest as the second secret screening, was introduced Tim League of the Alamo Drafthouse. In his introduction, League jokingly stated that the festival is screening a faith-based film. However, I feel that Verhoeven is definitely serious about his faith-inspired story that, while it does critique religious conventions, it never completely diminishes the power of said faith. While the character of Benedetta does challenge Catholic hypocrisy, she never once gives any indication that she does not believe in the divine work she hopes to accomplish.

My only issues with the movie have to do with the more explicit, sexual content that often comes across as exploitation. While Verhoeven often utilizes shock and eroticism welll, he sometimes crosses a line that makes his overall messages feel tainted by his indulgences. Nevertheless, Benedetta is truly a remarkable film that is sure to arouse much conversation by audiences, as all good art should.

The movie features some bold and dynamic performances by the cast, particularly that of Virginie Efira who portrays the titular character of Benedetta. As Bartolomea, Daphne Patakia also gives a tremendous turn as Bendetta's love interest and staunchest supporter. Charlotte Rampling, who is known for her daring and incredible acting career, is perfectly cast as Benedetta's Abbess.

In the end, Benedetta is another movie that delivers a commentary about power and what women have gone through to attain such power in a world dominated by men. Using shock and awe, Verhoeven goes deeper and more fearless than he ever has prior to this film. It is a movie that is sure to upset many, but will also intrigue, tantalize, and marvel just as many.

C’MON C’MON

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Life, as seen through the perspectives of adults and children, are usually very different things. While grownups are more knowledgeable and often jaded by what the world has to offer, the youth sometimes have more hopeful and promising outlooks on their future. This new film by Mike Mills offers a glimpse of the world through these different views, and reminds adults that sometimes a little hope and positivity can keep us going, despite the definite unknowns in our future. C'mon C'mon really is a remarkable film that reminds its protagonist Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) that not all which we desire from this world is completely lost.

Dealing with much heartache and sadness in his life, Johnny, a radio journalist, clings to his career for dear life to keep him motivated and enriched from the world. His latest project involves him traveling around the United States interviewing various children of different ages to get their perspectives on the world and their futures. Even though he has had an estranged relationship with his sister Viv (Gabby Hoffman), she has no one to turn to when she needs someone to watch over her son Jesse (Woody Norman). Viv must come to the aid of Jesse's father Paul (Scoot McNairy) who has been struggling with his mental health problems.

Johnny reluctantly agrees to watch over Jesse, and what is supposed to be a short stint turns out to be much longer than any of them expected. Because Johnny has commitments to continue his journalism project, he is forced to bring Jesse with him and the two share a powerful bond, from which both learn much about life and how to deal with their own personal struggles.

Writen and directed by Mike Mills, C'mon C'mon is an incredible movie that has much to say about the good in this world and how we much relish all that is positive and right. The film also gives its audiences a more hopeful outlook, but never shies away from how difficult it is to maintain this positive approach to life. Mills does an exceptional job of developing his characters by placing in them in very realistic scenarios which will certainly feel relevant to the struggles of its audiences.

The movie benefits greatly from the outstanding performances by its cast. As the main protagonist Johnny, Joaquin Phoenix gives a beautifully nuanced turn with whom most people can relate and identify. It is a exceptional performance which deserves much attention when it comes to awards season. As Jesse, young Woody Norman gives an amazing performance that perfectly fleshes out his character Jesse. I would love to see his name appear in multiple awards nominations for Best Supporting Actor. Also notable in this movie are Gabby Hoffman and Scoot McNairy who both give excellent performances as their characters.

C'mon C'mon is one of those quieter movies I feel will fall below many people's radars at this time, but it truly is one of the great offerings cinema has delivered this year. It is a sleeper indie film that I must strongly encourage adult audiences to seek out if available to them at their local cinemas.

ENCANTO

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Lin-Manuel Miranda has worked with Disney previously in multiple ways. He has previously contributed songs, and has made different appearances in some of their movies, and his latest contribution to "The House of the Mouse" once again proves to be a great success. In Encanto, Miranda contributes songs and music in ways closer in tune to his cultural background in Disney's Colombian-inspired movie. Though Encanto certainly comes across as a Disney-fied interpretation of Colombian culture, the film nevertheless features timeless and relevant themes about family and how familial pride can harm that which keeps a family tightly knit. Featuring gorgeous animation and a mostly compelling story, Encanto is a remarkable and entertaining offering by Disney.

As told through the mind and eyes of protagonist MIrabel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz), Encanto tells the story of the Madrigal family, and how they endured hardship and adversity to become powerful and magical protectors of their village. Though several members of the Madrigal family display magical gifts, Mirabel is the one black sheep who has yet to discover what she must bring to the family. On the day that Mirabel's cousin Antonio is to discover his special power, she begins to see the cracks and problems within her family that could threaten to destroy all for which they have fought hard and have been blessed to receive.

Written and directed by Jared Bush, who co-directed with Byron Howard and co-wrote with Charise Castro Smith, Encanto is a gorgeous and riveting movie that has some pertinent messages with which audiences can relate. The movie is a folk tale that makes some commentary and statements about pride, but also deals with the acceptance of those who are different from the expected norm, and how their special abilites and qualities can enrich that which already exists.

In addition to the beautiful animation and vibrant characters in the movie, the songs of Lin-Manuel Miranda add another level of entertainment which make the whole experience much more enjoyable and mostly fulfilling. Though not all of the songs are at equal levels of memorability, this wonderful story would not have had the same impact had it not been a musical. Miranda has much talent when it comes to enhancing stories and his work in Encanto is no exception.

The movie has a wonderful voice cast which includes Maria Cecilia Botero, Diane Guerrero, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Wilmer Valderrama, and much more. The real stars, however, are definitely Stephanie Beatriz, who brings much joy and vulnerability to character Mirabel and John Leguizamo who protrays another family black sheep in the role of Bruno. Both Beatriz and Leguizamo deliver performance full of vigor and passion and bring their own signature skills of comedy when it comes to the humor in the film.

Encanto might not exactly be Disney's most extraordinary movie, but it is definitely one that I highly recommend for families to enjoy on the big screen. It is a film full of life, excitement, and passion, with some fun songs. It is a movie I am sure will please families of all cultures, and will certainly charm people of LatinX cultures.

HOUSE OF GUCCI

By Liz Lopez

Rating: B+

Directed by Ridley Scott, House of Gucci is a very entertaining (albeit very long) story about the Gucci empire and the family drama full of greed, backstabbing – oh and I cannot forget to mention murder. Scott works from a script by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna, based on Sara Gay Forden’s 2001 book “The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed.” The true-life story behind “House of Gucci” begins in the late 1970s Italy when Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), daughter to a gentleman who owns a trucking company in Milan, is invited to attend a high - end party at a mansion where she hardly knows anyone. She has a chance encounter with Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver, nerdy looking in oversize glasses), a law student who has no interest in the family business. He is naïve, doesn’t pick up on her clues she is interested and leaves the party, but she finds a way to “run into him” and pursue spending more time with him. Yep, you guessed it – she got her man (and ultimately the luxurious lifestyle), but not until his father Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) is no longer opposed to their marriage followed by a granddaughter. Power, money, and greed can make people change and although you may be into all of it at one time, this film shows us how decisions are made in both family and business to keep you in or out. When Patrizia is no longer in Mauricio’s favor, she doesn’t take it well and she won’t allow another to keep her man. As Gaga portrays Patrizia, she wanted Mauricio, fell in love with him and stayed with him even during the unwealthy time and into the better days. To some individuals this may sound too much like soap opera material, but people love to know about another human’s drama, especially when it becomes very cut -throat and has scandalous behavior. Gaga is the glue that holds this film together from beginning to end – well over two hours!

The viewers should be aware that this is an Italian story cast with many American actors trying their best to keep their Italian accents throughout their performance, but that may make some viewers cringe when it is not continuous.

In “House of Gucci,” Mauricio’s father, Rodolfo (Irons) is co-owner of the Gucci brand with his brother Aldo (Al Pacino) and he has a son, Paolo (an unrecognizable Jared Leto), who really is an “idiot” as his own father describes him. Aldo hosts his 70th birthday party, invites Mauricio and Patrizia and she connects with his uncle who in turn lavishes them with gifts, trips and more. The elder actors are good in their respective roles, but it is Leto who is amazing as the family loser with a limited future in design. When Patrizia’s schemes don’t go as planned, she consults with the local television psychic, Pina (portrayed authentically by Salma Hayek), leading to more blunders, Mauricio changing and leaving her. The pair of ladies end up as partners in crime. This is war and it is lethal. It is long, but worth watching.

Crew: Camera: Dariusz Wolski. Editor: Claire Simpson. Music: Harry-Gregson Williams.

MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 2 hours and 37 minutes. Opens in theaters November 24th.

JULIA

By Liz Lopez

Rating: A

Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s feature-length documentary, Julia, appealed to me so much more than any other previous film about Julia Child’s life and career. I did not anticipate feeling quite so satisfied with this story about a very well known and often written about celebrity cookbook writer and TV cooking show pioneer. The filmmakers not only focus on how Julia became the celebrity she is, the public Julia, but also the private life of Julia, her family and her husband. I finally connected with Julia in other ways I had not before and though I don’t consider myself a cook, I found myself wanting to be a fearless cook by the end of the film. I am not saying all viewers will walk out of the theater and run to the kitchen to become the next Julia Child, but this respectful tribute may be an eye – opener for younger generations who do not know what she went through to achieve her status. Keep in mind that the filmmaker’s previous works are RBG (2018 Ruth Bader Ginsburg tribute) and My Name Is Pauli Murray, so viewers who are fans (especially of RBG) can anticipate how Julia’s story is told and the fine details that come with it. We learn who she is starting with her birth as Julia McWilliams into a wealthy Pasadena family in 1912, a student at Smith and how she pushed through what others may have thought are barriers.

The film contains interview material with producer Russell Morash, and we see footage of her television debut for Boston PBS station WGBH in 1961. Those of us who enjoy Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” will see how the song is used in the film in a most entertaining and unexpected way.
Years before her celebrity status, Julia left her private life for that of military service and seeing other parts of the world. Despite her degree from a university, she has a typist job in the military, but does work for the OSS in the Far East. She meets Paul Child, a State Department official, and they connect over art, photography and other reasons, but not especially love at first sight. They married in 1946, were posted to Paris, and Julia began her studies at the Cordon Bleu culinary school as the only woman among all males who had previously been the only ones considered to be chefs. She is very candid about making a superb daily workday lunch for Paul and their love.

The filmmakers use archive footage along with interviews with family members, friends, and colleagues. Julia is seen as being humorous on her shows and telling the American audience not to worry about making mistakes while cooking. She did not mind repeating steps until she got it right. The clip of Dan Aykroyd impersonating her on Saturday Night Live is still hilarious after airing in the 1970s.

Child and Simone Beck collaborated on her first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and after years of trying to have it published, it was, and Julia’s fame took off. It was not the same for Beck who had resentments. This is covered in the film, as is their reconnecting later in life. Paul was shown to be always proud of Julia and her success, by her side and supportive in many ways, including her bout with breast cancer.

I liked Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia, which is semi-fictional and not a documentary, but like this better. I think this will be similarly well received as the filmmaker’s previous work if audiences give it a try.

The film had its world premiere at the 48th Telluride Film Festival on September 3rd and is now to be released in theaters November 24th. Rated PG-13, 1 hour 35 minutes.

Source: Sony Pictures Classics

GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Jason Reitman has obviously chosen a career that follows in his father's footsteps in cinema. This has never been more apparent until he chose to make a sequel to his father's (Ivan Reitman) iconic Ghostbusters movies. Though not as overtly comedic as his Ivan Reitman's first entries in the franchise, Jason Reitman uses his opportunity to contribute to the Ghostbusters series with a very personal film that both honors and celebrates Ivan Reitman's contributions to cinema and pop culture. I know that this movie will not appeal to everyone who loves the previous movies, but Reitman has certainly made a movie on his own terms, and I feel that it will definitely appeal and touch some of the fans who hold the original movies in such high regard.

Written by Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman, Ghostbusters: Afterlife appropriately takes place thirty-seven years after the events of the very first movie. A troubled American family gets evicted from their home and have no other choice, but to move to the old house of an estranged, late relative who spent his last days in a ramshackle old farm in a dead end town named Summerville, Oklahoma. As single mother Callie (Carrie Koon) and her children Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (McKenna Grace) adjust to their new home and surroundings, they soon discover that their father/grandfather once had a stange career as a Ghostbuster. Even though this discovery doesn't really faze or impress Callie, the more impressionable Phoebe and Trevor want to know more. In their discoveries they soon realize that a malevolent supernatural force, which previously threatened the world, is planning to make a major comeback.

The original Ghostbusters take a much stronger tongue-in-cheek and more cartoonish approach to their tones. Whle Jason Reitman mildly acknowledges this in his film, his approach to the material is a tad more serious, which will probably rub some fans the wrong way. As for myself, I actually really enjoyed this difference. The movie does have its share of comedic and amusing moments, but raising the stakes a little made the film much more compelling for me. In addition, Jason Reitman gives his film a more exciting edge by including an amazing ghost-chasing action sequence which delivers some wonderful thrills.

What strikes me the most about this movie is the heart that went into it and permeates just about every moment in it. By making the children the main protagonists of the movie gives it more wild-eyed wonderment and sentimentality that the other films don't have. At the heart of this movie is actor McKenna Grace who shines so wonderfully as Phoebe, an intelligent and awkward misfit who totally gets what her grandfather was trying to accomplish. While he certainly performs solidly, Stranger Things actor doesn't get all that much to do in this movie, unfortunately.

When it comes to the comedy, though, I must say that Paul Rudd contributes his lovable comic stylings which provide for several laughs in the film. Carrie Coon also performs wonderfully as the descendant of a Ghostbuster who feels slighted and unloved, given her father's obsession with saving the world from malevolent supernatural forces.

Now, I chose not to reveal which Ghostbuster it is in my review, because the discovery of that information is definitely part of the movie's fun. And there is plenty of fun, excitement and amusement to be had in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. It is a movie I highly recommend for fans of the original, and also for new audiences just discovering the fun and magic this franchise has to offer.

TICK, TICK…BOOM!

By Mark Saldanay

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Now playing in some theaters, as well as available for streaming via Netflix is a wonderful musical that tells the story about the humble beginnings of the acclaimed late playwright Jonathan Larson. Larson, who is best known for his successful musical play Rent, struggled as a starving, but creative and talented artist in New York who aspired to get one of his productions on Broadway. Directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, based on Larson's semi-autobiographical musical (of the same title), Tick, Tick...Boom! is certainly a must-see for all struggling artists attempting an insane and challenging career in the fine arts.

Andrew Garfield stars and excels as Jonathan Larson. Before Larson achieved his post-humous noteriety for Rent, he feverishly worked hard to get a musical plray titled SUPERBIA made. While working as a server at New York's once legendary Moondance Diner, Larson juggled paying his bills, developing his play and maintaining a healthy relationship with his girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp). However, as he shows promise and an obvious talent for creativity and music, Larson has reached the end of his rope and must face the cruel reality that his career choice might not be the right one for him.

Larson's eventual musical production, Tick, Tick...Boom! details a slightly musical telling of Larson's challenges in pursuing his dream. Miranda's film adaptation gives the audience both the stage experience of Larson's play, while also delivering dramatizations of what was actually happening in his life during this crossroads. Miranda succeeds in conveying Larson's story, his creative process, and his problems to keep that process working for him. I have to say that I was thorougly compelled and moved with this somewhat romantized story, and the screenplay by Steve Levenson definitely makes this movie work so well.

Miranda's movie can boast a wonderful assortment of talented and exceptional actors, who all have some solid singing chops, but it is Andrew Garfield who shines the brightest of them all. I had no idea whatsoever that Garfield could sing so well. I knew, already, that the actor had great chops when it comes to dramatic acting, with some solid comic timing, but I never realized that he could really sell a diversely talented character as Jonathan Larson.

Though I screened this movie at home, and I am sure that watching this movie on Netflix will be still rewarding, I encourage my readers to seek out this movie in theaters, as this seems much more appropriate, given the theatical nature of it all. While Tick, Tick...Boom! isn't necessarily the best film I have seen so far, I genuinely feel that Garfield deserves some attention during the upcoming awards season.

VANDAL

By Liz Lopez

Rating: B

Jose Daniel Freixas’ feature directorial debut Vandal is a drama about the young leader Nick 'Damage' Cruz (Daniel Zovatto, Don’t Breathe) of an infamous graffiti crew in Miami who experiences love, loss, and the consequences of his actions as he comes of age, struggling to justify his obsession with illegal street graffiti. Director/producer Freixas co- wrote the script with Paul Taegel, Derek Mether, Andrew Bozalis, and Tony Gonzalez, who also serves as one of the Executive Producers. The story is engaging for fans of the art and the artist, as well as informative for anyone who is not familiar with the graffiti art and the artists. Zovatto turns in a good performance as Nick, portraying the artist and the realities of what the lifestyle may bring, both positive and negative. Otmara Marrero (“Connecting…”, “StartUp”) excels as she portrays Sofia 'Silk' Campos who is also an artist and Nick’s love interest. They have good chemistry on screen, but also their performance is great when it comes time that their relationship goes south. The very effective performance of Nick’s enemy is Beau Knapp (Southpaw) who stars as Sismik in this film. He is so good as portraying his character, a very low life creep that the audience can easily dislike. 

The film also stars Juan Pablo Raba (“Narcos”), Richard Schiff (“The Good Doctor”), and Frankie J. Alvarez (“Looking”), as well as Manolo Gonzalez Vergara. They all give good performances.  

“Graffiti has been a part of my life since I was 10 years old. I grew up through graffiti with so many highs and so many lows along the way. As a filmmaker it has been one of my earliest dreams to make a film that authentically depicts the lives of graffiti artists from the perspective of Miami and represent my Hispanic culture. I am eternally grateful to our cast and crew for bringing their energy, creativity, and talent to deliver what I believe is one of the greatest films about graffiti ever made. I am equally grateful to 1091 Pictures for believing in this film and helping spread the message and magic of graffiti and street art around the globe. We know Vandal is in great hands with the team at 1091 Pictures,” said Director Jose Daniel Freixas.

Greg Maurice, Director of Content Acquisition for 1091 Pictures stated that “VANDAL showcases an authentic and unique perspective of the graffiti world. Both The Godfather of LA graffiti, Kelly ‘Risk’ Gravall, and Atlanta graffiti legend, Dax Rudnak from the Dungeon Family, approved of the true experiences graffiti artists encounter through this film. Jay Dee's selection of an inclusive, award-winning crew including Gregory Tripi, Caleb Heyman and Oscar-winning casting director, Yesi Ramirez, was the perfect combination to authentically highlight the world of graffiti, something most people see but know anything about."

Upcoming projects for Daniel Zovatto is HBO Max’s “Station Eleven” and Otmara Marrero in the upcoming Netflix series “Florida Man.”

The film will be available to purchase or rent beginning November 16, 2021.

Source: 1091 Pictures

NO FUTURE

By Liz Lopez

Rating: B-/C+

I was drawn to the film No Future upon finding Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee Catherine Keener has a lead role as the mother of a son with addiction. She is a talented actress and has a range of roles to her credit. This outstanding performance is one to watch, especially dealing with the topic of addition and all that the families go through. No Future is written by Mark Smoot and co-directed with Andrew Irvine as a follow up to their prior film, The Love Inside. Smoot wrote a great role of a mature woman and Keener is remarkable in the lead.

In no future, Keener may be almost unrecognizable to some viewers in the first scene as she greets her son Chris (Jefferson White) who returns home one evening. Her face bears the signs of the wear and tear of the stress and her concern for Chris as he struggles with addiction. She doesn’t really believe him when he said he was out looking for work. She does not fully know his state of mind when he goes behind closed and locked doors. She knows it is not a good sign when she cannot get through to him. Her performance as a mother losing a son is so authentic and may ring true for anyone who has lived this life with a family member.

Chris had actually paid a visit to a former good friend, Will (Charlie Heaton, “Stranger Things”), a recovering addict who now has a steady job and attends NA meetings. Chris wants to reconnect with him, but Will does not want to because he now has a supportive and understanding girlfriend Becca (Rosa Salazar, Alita: Battle Angel), and intends to establish a long - term relationship. However happy Chris is for Will, depression is apparent. Will is not actually as strong as he may try to appear to be and when he learns of Chris fatally overdosing, the ghosts of his past begin to surface.

Will is haunted by guilt and decides to visit a portion of the funeral services, but with the intent to visit Claire, Chris’s mother. Claire is grieving and clings to Will as if he is her son, but this bond of grief and remorse develops into something else. They may think they only have each other for healing the wounds of their pasts and mending their damaged lives, but the relationship goes to territory that is not a healthy one in the long run. When secrets are revealed, hearts are broken, and the spiral begins again.

Academy Award nominee Jackie Earle Haley has a few, but very effective scenes as Will’s father. One is with Will early on, then later with Claire as they discuss their sons one day. Rosa Salazar is also impressive in this dramatic role, and I look forward to viewing her future work. Charlie Heaton gives a very good performance as a recovering addict. The film also stars Austin Amelio, Heather Kafka, Jason Douglas, Kia Nicole Boyer, Mollie Milligan, Jasmine Shanise, and Marissa Woolf.

Run time: 1 hour 29 minutes and is R rated

No Future was an Official Selection: Features at the Tribeca Film Festival and Gravitas Ventures released the acclaimed drama recently on VOD nationwide.

Source:  Gravitas Ventures

BELFAST

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

When filmmakers choose to tell their personal stories from childhood, this often makes for compelling cinema. Such is the case with Kenneth Branagh's Belfast. Branagh, who was born and partially raised in Ireland, eventually moved to England with his family as a child, due to the turbulent and violent climate that existed in Ireland due to the fiery relations between the Irish Catholics and Protestants. Though Belfast isn't exactly a completely true biographical story about his life, this fictionalized portrait does paint a rather riveting picture and time capsule of the 1960s which obviously had a profound impact on his life.

The movie focuses on a humble, working class family living in Belfast, Ireland during the 1960s. The main protagonist is Buddy (Jude Hill), a hopeful and mostly happy Irish child who has a mostly positive and joyful outlook on life. This is no easy feat, given that, during this era, relations between the Protestants and Catholics have come to a very violent head, making his life in his town rather explosive and treacherous. His loving, but often absent (due to seeking out lucrative work) father (Jamie Dornan) struggles to maintain a mostly peaceful home for his wife, sons, and elderly parents (Dame Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds), despite the pressures of his more radical Protestant acquaintences who continuously demand him to take a more active role in the violence and terrorism they inflict on the Catholic people simply desiring equality and happiness.

Mixing comedy and drama, writer/director Branagh succeeds in recreating a dramatic and stormy era in Irish history. There is a certain level of predictability in the film; however, despite this minor issue, Belfast nevertheless manages to maintain its urgency and tension, while offering heartwarming and amusing entertainment in its process. Shot mostly in black and white, the cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos looks beautiful, with splashes of glorious colors that represent the more hopeful fantasy of cinema and fiction. It is these glimpses into what can be and that which truly exists that certainly inspire Buddy, and have unmistakably inspired Branagh to pursue his career in entertainment.

Belfast definitely displays some exceptional performances by its more experienced and talented cast, but it is the remarkable acting of young Jude Hill that really helps the film hit its audiences in the heart. In addition to Hill, Hinds, Dench, and Dornan, another exception turn comes from actor Caitríona Balfe who portrays the mother of Buddy's family. I sincerely believe that Hill, Hinds, and Balfe should receive some recognition through award nominations next year.

After watching the movie, I discussed my reaction with friends and associates and described the film as Kenneth Branagh's Roma. Roma, which was loosely based on the childhood of filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón, tells a similar story, but with a style more his own. Even though Belfast isn't quite as remarkable or amazing a movie as Roma, I still feel that it is a great movie which will hit audience in all of the feels.

Fantasia Film Review 2021: IDA RED

By Liz Lopez

Rating: B-/C+

The new crime thriller written and directed by John Swab (Body Brokers), Ida Red, may not be the most original in story, but I did find it entertaining and a good switch from the other films I was viewing virtually during the Fantasia International Film Festival. I have viewed many films that star Frank Grillo, including this year’s Cop Shop with Gerard Butler and Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, where he stars in roles of some sleezy characters, but in Ida Red he seems to have punched up his character’s sleezyness a few notches as Dallas Walker, the brother of Ida “Red” Walker (Melissa Leo, The Fighter), head of this Oklahoma crime family. I was drawn to the film because of Melissa Leo, as well as Josh Hartnett (Pearl Harbor) who portrays her son, Wyatt. All three of the actors give their best to boost the film in many scenes we have seen before of robberies, as well as how the money moves between those who appear to be fine, upstanding gentlemen and the criminal world and the body count that builds up when deals are broken among them.

Cinematographer Matt Clegg starts off the initial scene with very little lighting when a truck robbery is taking place and that is not because of bad work, but one of the robbers involved is the protagonist, Wyatt Walker (Hartnett) and trying to keep a low profile as he still has a “regular” business in town. He does not want to draw attention to himself or have anyone know that he has been assigned by his mother, Ida “Red” Walker (Leo), to take care of her “family business” while she is in prison. 

Unfortunately, Uncle Dallas (Grillo, The Purge: Anarchy) is not as careful and his lack of attention to details when he shoots people, or at least threatens them, quickly is detected by FBI special agent Lawrence Twilley (William Forsythe). Of course, the local law has to be involved and it is Bodie Collier (George Carroll), married to Wyatt’s sister Jeanie (Deborah Ann Woll, Escape Room, “True Blood” TV series). They care for their teen, Wyatt’s beloved niece Darla (Sofia Hublitz).

Ida Red knows her illness while in prison is terminal and she tasks Wyatt to find a way for her to die any place else other than behind bars. With the law now stepping on his heels, Wyatt gives it his best shot. You know the rest, but you will find one twist along the way and what might become of the business.

Additional cast includes Mark Boone Junior and Beau Knapp, among others

Rated R, 1 hour 51 minutes

After premiering at the Fantasia International Film Festival in August 2021, "Ida Red" is available on VOD on November 5, 2021.

Source: Saban Films

Fantastic Fest 2021 Review/News: THE BETA TEST

By Liz Lopez

Rating: B

Jim Cummings is back as co-director and star in this pitch - black film biz satire. Cummings revels in the full spectrum of bad behavior, leaving you laughing and gasping in equal measure. Cummings stars as a married Hollywood agent who receives a mysterious letter for an anonymous sexual encounter. After deciding to participate, he becomes ensnared in a sinister world of lying, murder and infidelity in this scintillating satire. The Beta Test had its Texas Premiere during Fantastic Fest this past September.

The film is written and directed by Jim Cummings (The Wolf of Snow Hollow) and PJ McCabe. While the beginning of the story is very intriguing, it unfortunately does not have an ending to match.

Jordan (Cummings) is a very important (in his mind) Hollywood agent and appears to be happily on his way to wed his love, Caroline (Virginia Newcomb). Jordan is very good at having two personalities – the manipulative one for his career – and the other one as the loving charmer who will do anything for Caroline. That is until, he receives an engraved invitation that grabs his interest and ultimately, he can’t resist the opportunity to have one last fling with “no-strings-attached.” Although he and the partner he is set up with were masked and anonymous, Jordan is happy and satisfied with his choice - until the paranoia sets in and he goes to all lengths to solve the riddle of who is behind the arrangement with this unidentified woman and what is the real cost behind it.

Jordan is just one horrible character in the first place, but as he conducts his research, the worse he gets. It is amusing at times, but he really is not someone to have around – especially in the workplace when he gets verbally abusive, then dives deeper to being a creep with people in stores, and then to those he loves. He continues with this act of entitlement and abuse of authority. Most any adjective can be used to describe the nasty person he can really be, so much so that Caroline doesn’t seem to recognize him either.

It is unfortunate the ending will likely leave some viewers a bit confused as it did me, but there is no doubt that Cummings and other actors in the film certainly turn in a good performance that will keep you watching until then. His performance does impress and I hope to view the past and future work. 

Also starring: PJ McCabe, Kevin Changaris, Olivia Grace Applegate, and Jessie Barr, among others

93 min – The film has been released for viewing On Demand.

Source: Fantastic Fest, IFC Films

SPENCER

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

I recently watched two similarly themed movies recently; both of which deal with unhappy women in crisis. The first one, which I also recently reviewed, is an Israeli film titled Woman Alive, a powerful and haunting movie that depicts a Jewish woman who feels trapped in a loveless marriage and has no other source of happiness and passion in her life. The other is the much talked about film by acclaimed Chilean director Pablo Larrain (Jackie). In Spencer, Larrain offers a sad and moving portrait of Princess Diana of Wales who has been suffering while remaining in a cold, loveless marriage to Prince Charles and under the strict, oppressive rules and disdainful scrutiny by the rest of the royal family.

Both films are exceptional in their own rights and feature incredible performances by their lead actors. In Spencer, Kristen Stewart delivers a phenomenal and transcendent turn as the much beloved Princess Diana and portrays her with grace, vulnerability and delicacy. It is so far the best performance I have seen by Stewart and by any female actor this year. Once again Pablo Larrain works his magic behind the camera and gives his audience a lovely and moving portrait about famous and iconic woman with a very human heart.

The movie takes place in 1991, ten years after Charles married Diana and made her the next in line to become Queen of England. Even though their marriage was originally portrayed and spun in the media as a fairy tale romance, things could not be any further from that in '91. Under the ever watchful eyes of the royal family and forced to follow their strict rules and regulations, Diana feels like she is suffocating. To make matters worse, she knows that Charles (Jack Farthing) remains unfaithful to her by secretly seeing Camilla Parker Bowles, a woman he had previously dated decades ago.

Well, the Christmas Holidays have arived and once again, Diana must spend it at the official Royal Family's festivities at the Queen's Sandringham Estate. Wishing to put on a brave and happy face for her boys William(Jack Nielen) and Harry (Freddie Spry), the Princess very reluctantly agrees to swallow her pride, hide her pain and participate as it is expected of her. However, the longer she must endure the inflexible itinerary and the traditional rituals, Diana grows increasingly depressed, feeling trapped and imprisoned in what should be a happy and exciting life.

Written by Steven Knight, Pablo Larrain's Spencer is a heart-rending portrait of Princess Diana that honors and celebrates the wonderful qualities that made her special. At the same time, the movie presents the more candid, behind-the-scenes facet of the woman who always had to present her public self as confident, graceful, and amiable. Knight's writing mixed with Larrain's adept direction allows the audience to see Diana not just as beautiful princess, but also as a real human woman with genuine emotions, needs, and desires for real passionate love.

The script serves the movie well, and could be easily adapted into an amazing stage play, as there is a limited amount of settings in the film. As a movie on the big screen, Spencer looks beautiful. From the makeup, hair, and costumes to the production design and sublime cinematography by Claire Mathon, it is an artistic feast for the eyes. Enhancing the visual experience along with the tone of the film and the emotions of the characters, Johnny Greenwood's score delivers beautifully.

As far as the cast is concerned, everyone performs well, but this movie absolutely belongs to Kristen Stewart. Her stunning and moving turn as Diana Spencer, the Princess of Wales is definitely a career best for the actor and deserves much attention during awards season. Other noteworthy performs include Sean Harris, Sally Hawkins, Jack Nielen (Prince William), Freddie Spry (Prince Harry), and Timothy Spall.

Now, even though I didn't find this film as extraordinary and amazing as Jackie, Pablo Larrain, nevertheless, has made another great movie with Spencer. Should the filmmaker decide to make another film about a famous woman in crisis, he could very well have himself an awesome trilogy. For now, Spencer will serve as a fine match for Jackie, should anyone would love to do a Larrain double feature. Because the cinematography and look of the movie is absolutely gorgeous, I strongly recommend that people go see this film in a theater while they have the chance. And I certainly expect to see Kristen Stewarts name in multiple, if not all, the acting award categories. She has truly come a long way from the Twilight movies and has proven herself as an exciting and incredible actor who deserves to keep working in cinema.

THE HARDER THEY FALL

By Mark Saldana

Rating 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

When it comes to promoting their films during awards season, Netflix has to be the master of the "hard sell." The film production and streaming service seriously goes "HAM" with special screenings, physical screeners, coffee table books and other promotional items during the "for your consideration" push. In keeping with the times, the company is actually requiring at home COVID tests (for which they foot the bill) in order to attend theatrical screenings of their movies during this season, beginning with The Harder They Fall.

This really took me aback. Why would Netflix go to such lengths to bat so hard for a seemingly formulaic, but stylish and cool Western However, as I prefer to attend movie screenings in a theater over watching virtual screeners at home, I decided to play along. If Netflix is going to so much trouble over this movie, then it must be really good. Well, while the film isn't at all horrible, it is definitely not their cinematic masterpiece either. Still, I will admit that I had a great time watching this movie and was well-entertained, but realized that my initial instincts were right. The Harder They Fall has much cool style and badass characters to boot; however, the film lacks a particularly dynamic story that truly sets it apart from plenty of other classic Westerns.

To the film's credit writer/director Jeymes Samuel, who co-wrote with Boaz Yakin, do offer a delightful twist on the American Western--all of the main characters are Black. Samuel and his team have assembled an impressive cast of talented and popular Black actors working today. It is pretty much a "Who's Who" of talents that are red hot in cinema and television right now. What is also refreshing is that Samuel and Yakin offer their audiences a Black, African-American perspective on the Western genre and do so much style and panache that feels inspired by the Tarantino school of Western filmmaking. This movie most certainly feels like the "bastard" offspring of Django Unchained. And as a director, Jeymes Samuel proves that he is no flash in the pan to be completely dismissed. He just needs a better and more dynamic script and story to bring to life.

The story mainly follows the life of Nat Love (Jonathan Majors), a wanted outlaw who once witnessed the murder of his father at the hands of a ruthless criminal. Now an experienced adult, Nat and his crew have decided to steal from bank robbers, as they feel that there is less a risk of getting either caught or killed. This plan, of course, fails when they happen to steal from Rufus Buck's (Idris Elba) gang. As it turns out, Rufus Buck is the man who killed Nat's father. As Nat has been slowly discovering his way to capture and kill Buck, this serendipitous moment gives him the opportunity to finally get his revenge. This proves especialy challenging, as Buck and his crew are some of the most notorious and vicious outlaws in the land.

I wil admit that I very much liked this movie. It is refreshingly unique in that the fillmmakers have refreshingly made a dominantly Black movie with finesse. And the performances by the amazing ensemble cast help make watching this film a worthwhile experience. In addition to Jonathan Majors and Idris Elba, who are fantastic as always, the movie features stellar turns by Zazie Beets, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, Lakeith Stanfield, RJ Cyler, Danielle Deadwyler, Edi Cathegi, Deon Cole, and Damon Wayans, Jr.

So, on one hand it is somewhat bewildering that Netflix would go so crazy over a fine, but not necessarily awards caliber cinema. On the other hand, it is commendable that they promote a lot of their movies this way, particularly during awards season. While The Harder They Fall probably won't win any major film awards for this year, it is still a movie I can get behind for its entertainment value. Though it is currently playing in select theaters, it is also available for streaming on Netflix. My recommendation is avoiding spending money on expensive movie tickets and watch this one at home. You will feel much better about spending too much cash on tickets and concessions, and can simply enjoy the fun excitement and wicked coolness that this movie has to offer.

THE ELECTRICAL LIFE OF LOUIS WAIN

By Liz Lopez

Rating: A

Benedict Cumberbatch produced the film and stars as Louis Wain, a late 19th and early 20th century English illustrator in the new Amazon Studios film "The Electrical Life of Louis Wain." I honestly did not really know what to expect when I quickly read a brief synopsis of the film about a man, a cat and electricity. I was never more pleasantly surprised by the story said to be based on true events at the start of the film. I honestly did not research deeply into this artist who the audience learns about in the film that covers his life moving from the late 1800s through to the 1930s. This was most helpful for me and for anyone else interested in learning about his life as an artist and all he went through.

The film is directed by Will Sharpe (Black Pond, The Darkest Universe) based on the script co-written with Simon Stephenson (Luca) who is also an Executive Producer. It is narrated by Olivia Colman who provides information about what was happening in England during this period, and the scientific work using electricity for lighting and machinery. Louis Wain had an entirely different belief about electricity and how it worked in our lives. There are many things that happened to Louis Wain since birth, childhood, education and later his career. Benedict Cumberbatch does an outstanding job of portraying all the mannerisms, quirks, anxieties, and you name it that was unique to this individual. I anticipate that he will be nominated for his performance from a young man to an elder in the excellent make-up and hair design. His performance made me feel just about every emotion possible. I cried again today.    

He loved using his artistic abilities, but as the oldest child of six in the family (and only male), he had external pressures to become the head of household as a young adult to provide for his widowed mother and five sisters. None of them worked outside the home to help keep the family housed and fed. Despite his success at different points in his career, his artist mind was sharper than his business mind leading to failing to pursue better business practices. He was not the best at managing money, so the family stayed in debt.

The sisters hired a governess, Emily Richardson (Claire Foy) and first he objected, thinking he could do all the teaching and related duties, but he quickly changed his mind when he saw her. They developed a very sweet romance once they decided they could care less what the neighbors and society said about it. They were happy and their household was peaceful (as opposed to when living with his sisters). They find a stray cat, keep him, and name him Peter. Although cats were not considered household pets at the time, it was a great source of comfort, especially as Emily became very ill. Her love of Peter and what she told Louis she thought of cats inspired him in his artistic work as he drew with both hands.

After Louis has the loss of his wife, cat, extensive work in transit for sale and one sister becomes severely mentally ill, his oldest sister is concerned for him and results in living in mental hospitals.

Additional cast: Andrea Riseborough, Toby Jones, Sharon Rooney, Aimee Lou Wood, Taika Waititi

Rated: PG-13 and 111 minutes. It is available on Amazon Prime on November 5th.

HELL HATH NO FURY

By Laurie Coker

Rating: D+/C-

It is true, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” With these words comes an image of a woman bent on revenge and the victim or victims in her wake. ‘Hell Hath No Fury’s’ title evokes a similar representation, but director Jesse V. Johnson and writer Katharine Lee McEwan miss the opportunity to really demonstrate a scorned woman’s rage, in spite of a decent performance by their lead, Nina Bergman.

ETERNALS

By Mark Saldana

Rating 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

As a movie critic living and working in the age of social media dominance, it is sometimes difficult to avoid spoilers and reviews from other critics and film analysts. This is especially true when it comes to major studio tentpoles that thrive on Rotten Tomatoes scores. It often huge, unavoidable news when a major studio film's RT score starts declining as more film journalists contribute to the overall score. Such is this case with latest movie from Marvel Studios, Eternals. Eternals has been making loads of headlines lately for becoming one of the lowest rated (on Rotten Tomatoes) movies of the MCU. And because I don't live under a rock in the desert, or in a van down by the river for that matter, I find myself a little perplexed by these results.

I will acknowledge that Eternals is not a top tier Marvel Studios entry, but it is definitely not the worst movie that they released. If anything, the movie reflects artistic ambitiousness on the part of the filmmakers, particularly writer/director Chloé Zhao. The movie is so grand in scope and attempts so hard to cover as much ground in a short amount of time that the end results feels a tad bloated. Still, I found myself enchanted, and dare I say, marveled at the beauty and deeper, more human messages of the movie, despite the fact that Marvel probably waited a little too long to make this movie and are now playing catchup in a hurried manner.

The movie's timeline spans from the beginning of all existence in the Marvel Universe to the "present" time which is post Infinity War and Endgame. At the beginning of the universe, the Celestials ruled. These large powerful lifeforms where believed to be guardians and protectors before humans and other humanoid lifeforms would take on these challenges. When Earth, and humanity in its infancy, fall prey to a race of powerful and ravenous creatures called Variants, the Celestial Arishem places powerful humanoid beings from the planet Olympia in charge of protecting humans from the Variants.

Through millenia the Eternals, led by Ajak (Salma Hayek), would fight against the vicious Variants and would also help humanity evolve by sharing their knowledge of farming, land development, and technology. At one point in history, the Eternals would seemingly vanquish the Variants and continued to live among humanity for centuries. Though they did assist people with various tasks and challenges they were forbidden to interfere with problems and disaster the humans brought on to themselves, and could not intervene when they faced any other non-variant threats. However, once the Avengers destroyed Thanos and brought back the lost half of the world's population, it seems as if new Variants have arrived and have evolved into more powerful creatures.

Now I know my lengthy synopsis has loads of exposition, as does the film, Chloé Zhao and her co-writers Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo, do a mostly decent job bringing its audience up to speed on the immense backstory of the Eternals and their laments as guardians of humanity. The movie jumps back and forth in time, launching the present story forward, while revealing the protagonists' history in flashbacks. This is probably the most effective way to tell this massive story, but still manages to feel a bit overstuffed in the end. What should have worked best would have been two Eternals movies with the first one earlier in the MCU filmography and the sequel post-Endgame. While I realize that coordinating, planning and executing films in the MCU is challenging work, involving loads of people, I am sure, at one point, there is a more experimental, "let's try turning this Marvel property into a movie/series and see how we can fit it in with the grand scheme of things." And such is the challenge, and sometimes drawback of making an MCU movie. It requires filmmakers to juggle their creative ideas, but still fit in the big machine that is Marvel.

This particular property is particularly challenging because if not a die-hard, avid Marvel comics reader of everything they publish, then for sure this movie begs the question, "Who the hell are the Eternals?" I honestly feel that Zhao and her writing team did their very best to tell a compelling story with more obscure characters that aren't necessarily iconic in pop culture. And they do so with artistic integrity.

All writing challenges aside, what impresses me the most about this film are the visuals. The cinematography by Ben Davis, along with the production design costumes, and use of locales is absolutely gorgeous. The colors, the beautifully composed shots, the visual effects all look amazing! This is by far, the best looking MCU movie ever made. Zhao and her cinematographer collaborators in the past have been known to deliver visually arresting films, but on a much smaller scale. This is stunning cinema created with big money. So while I have my critiques about the film's story and script, I just could not take my eyes off of the majestic beauty that was projected before my eyes.

And even though this movie has its meditative and pensive moments, reflecting on the value of human life on our planet, it is still very fun and thrilling in the ways Marvel movies usually are. Now I do have another complaint in that this movie follows the typical Marvel/superhero playbook in that everything culminates in to a massive CGI battle towards the end. I know this is usually to be expected, but I had hoped that Chloe Zhao and her writers would do something dynamically different and I was ultimately disappointed.

Now regarding the cast, this is most certainly a high point of the movie. Not only is it refreshing to see such a culturally diverse cast as the heroes in the film, but it is wonderful to see them perform very well. The cast includes Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Angelina Jolie, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Kit Harrington, and Salma Hayek. What can I say? An epic movie requires an epic cast. For me the real standouts of the film are Chan, Nanjiani (whose brand of humor fits in well with the MCU's penchant for comedy), and Brian Tyree Henry.

So, regardless of my gripes with the movie, I still feel that Eternals is good movie worth watching and deserves to be watched on the big screen. It is an experimental film that takes bold shots, sometimes misses, but then sometimes hits well and does so gorgeously. I am not sure if Chloe Zhao will get to make a sequel movie, due to the low Rotten Tomatoes score, but I hope Marvel goes to bat for her and signs her for another. I also hope that this setback doesn't deter Marvel from allowing brilliant and talented directors for making bold and dynamic choices with their properties. Otherwise, their movies will get to a point where their typical formulas will grow very stale and dull.

Critica De Cine: WOLF

Por Liz Lopez

Rating: B+

Wolf, de la escritora y directora Nathalie Biancheri (Nocturnal), es una película narrativa dramática que sin duda invita a la reflexión. Un joven llamado Jacob (George MacKay, 1917) es llevado por sus padres a una “clínica” porque se ha identificado como un lobo que nació como ser humano. No hay muchos detalles sobre cuánto tiempo ha estado sucediendo esto, pero la película comienza con un Jacob desnudo en un bosque, disfrutando del sol mientras olfatea el aire, pero no exactamente como se muestra que hacen los humanos. Es bastante evidente que sus padres están teniendo dificultades para dejar a su hijo en esta instalación (especialmente a su mamá), pero se pierde en comparación con el dolor que Jacob y sus compañeros pacientes sienten / muestran en las manos de la persona identificada como “médico” para los jóvenes y es conocido como “El guardián del zoológico ” (Paddy Considine). Evitaré los saboteadores, pero puedo decir que me quedé boquiabierto al ver su comportamiento con los pacientes para corregir o curar su creencia de su identidad. Los gritos del guardián del zoológico son lo suficientemente duros, por lo que cualquier otra de sus acciones hacia los individuos puede ser un detonante para alguien que pueda comprender algunos de los sentimientos de identidad descritos aquí. Aunque algunas escenas son difíciles de ver a veces, las actuaciones de George MacKay, Lily - Rose Depp y Considine son extraordinarias.

De interés en la película es un término con el que no estaba familiarizado - "disforia de especies" - un término para un trastorno por lo que Jacob y los otros pacientes están experimentando - donde creen que han nacido en el cuerpo de la especie equivocada. Depp interpreta a un paciente compañero (paciente a largo plazo) y se conoce con el nombre de Wildcat, y desarrolla un vínculo con Jacob. Hay indicios en el guión de lo que pudo haber sucedido con su preingreso, pero no se le permite salir de las instalaciones. Hay una escena excelente de cuando ella se mueve en su modo de gato cuando Jacob está en su punto máximo de ser un lobo. ¡No hay otros spoilers aquí!

En el “Zoo” hay otros pacientes que se identifican como un perro, un oso, una araña y un pájaro por nombrar algunos que son tratados por The Zookeeper y un terapeuta, (Eileen Walsh, Serie de TV “Women on the Verge”). Todos los actores que interpretan a las personas con la identidad enumerada aquí también son excelentes y hay mucho por lo que pasan para que la audiencia sienta empatía por su vida diaria. El elenco adicional incluye a Senan Jennings, Darragh Shannon, Elisa Fionuir, Lola Petticrew, Amy Macken, Fionn O’Shea y Karise Yansen, entre otros.

Wolf es una historia única que puede no atraer a todas las audiencias, pero las actuaciones, especialmente la de Jacob, donde sus emociones se sienten tan intensamente, dejarán a la audiencia pensando profundamente en aquellos que tienen esta o una situación similar en sus vidas.

La película estará en cines el viernes 3 de diciembre (a nivel nacional).

Fuente: Focus Features

Noticias de cine: Castle Falls En Cines, Bajo Demanda y en Digital

Por Liz Lopez

La película de género acción/thriller, Castle Falls, es dirigida por Dolph Lundgren basado en el guion de Andrew Knauer (The Last Stand).

El director Lundgren es bien conocido por su actuación en las renombradas cintas de Rocky IV, The Expendables, Creed II entre muchos otras y en Castle Falls interpreta a Richard Ericson. Scott Adkins (The Expendables 2, Zero Dark Thirty) interpreta a Mike Wade.

Sinopsis:

Tras décadas abandonado, el Castle Heights Hospital es un símbolo del pasado segregacionista de la ciudad que está lleno de dinamita y listo para ser demolido. Nadie sabe que el líder de una pandilla ––que ahora se encuentra en prisión–– había escondido en su interior 3 millones de dólares en efectivo que le había robado a sus rivales. Ahora, tres bandos quieren desesperadamente el dinero –un obrero y exluchador (Adkins) que se lo encuentra trabajando junto el equipo de demoliciones, un guarda de una prisión (Lundgren) dispuesto a cualquier cosa para pagar el tratamiento contra el cáncer de su hija y una pandilla sin escrúpulos que alega ser la propietaria del dinero.

Con la dinamita ya colocada y el edificio evacuado, todo está listo para que el Castle se venga abajo en 90 minutos. El tiempo se acaba. ¿Quién encontrará el dinero en efectivo? y ¿saldrán con vida?

Protagonizada por: Scott Adkins, Dolph Lundgren, Kevin Wayne, Jim E. Chandler, Luke Hawx, Scott Hunter y Kim DeLonghi

En Cines, Bajo Demanda y en Digital: 3 Diciembre de 2021

Duración: 90 minutos

Clasificación: Sin Clasificar

Fuente: Shout Studios

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Giveaway: NOBODY

Giveaway: NOBODY

Sources: Universal Pictures, Fandango

TVR, in association with Universal Pictures and Fandango, are giving away Fandango Gift Cards to go see the new action flick Nobody, starring Bob Odenkirk.

Sometimes the man you don’t notice is the most dangerous of all.

Emmy winner Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul, The Post, Nebraska) stars as Hutch Mansell, an underestimated and overlooked dad and husband, taking life’s indignities on the chin and never pushing back. A nobody.  

When two thieves break into his suburban home one night, Hutch declines to defend himself or his family, hoping to prevent serious violence. His teenage son, Blake (Gage Munroe, The Shack), is disappointed in him and his wife, Becca (Connie Nielsen, Wonder Woman), seems to pull only further away.

The aftermath of the incident strikes a match to Hutch’s long-simmering rage, triggering dormant instincts and propelling him on a brutal path that will surface dark secrets and lethal skills. In a barrage of fists, gunfire and squealing tires, Hutch must save his family from a dangerous adversary (famed Russian actor Aleksey Serebryakov, Amazon’s McMafia)—and ensure that he will never be underestimated as a nobody again.

Nobody is directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ilya Naishuller (Hardcore Henry), from a script by Derek Kolstad, the narrative architect of the John Wick franchise, and co-stars legendary Emmy winner Christopher Lloyd as Hutch’s father and multi-hyphenate musician-actor RZA as Hutch’s brother, whose own hidden talents aid Hutch in his quest for vengeance. 

To enter for a chance to win, send an email to trueviewreviews2@gmail.com. Winners will be randomly selected startiing Friday, March 26, 2021.

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WOLF

WOLF

By Liz Lopez

Rating: B+

Wolf by writer/director Nathalie Biancheri (Nocturnal) is a dramatic narrative film that most certainly is thought provoking. A young man named Jacob (George MacKay, 1917) is taken by his parents to a “clinic” because he has identified himself as a wolf that was born as a human being. There aren’t many details about how long this has been happening, but the film begins with a naked Jacob out in a forest, enjoying the sun as he sniffs the air – but not quite as what humans are shown to do. It is quite evident that his parents are having a hard time leaving their son at this facility (especially his mama), but it pails in comparison to the pain Jacob and his fellow patients feel/display at the hands of the person identified as the “medical professional” for the young people and is known as “The Zookeeper” (Paddy Considine, How to Build a Girl, “The Outsider” TV series). I will avoid spoilers, but I can say my jaw dropped at the sight of his behavior with the patients to correct or cure their belief of their identity. The Zookeeper’s screaming is harsh enough, so any other of his actions toward the individuals may be a trigger for someone who can understand some of the feelings of identity described here. Although some scenes are difficult to watch at times, the performances of George MacKay, Lily – Rose Depp and Considine are extraordinary.

Of interest in the film is a term I was unfamiliar with – “species dysphoria” – a term for a disorder for what Jacob and the other patients are experiencing – where they believe they have been born into the body of the wrong species. Depp portrays a fellow patient (long term in patient) and goes by the name Wildcat, and she develops a bond with Jacob. There are hints in the script of what may have happened to her pre – admission, but she is not permitted to leave the facility. There is an excellent scene of when she moves into her cat mode as Jacob is at his peak of being a wolf. No other spoilers here!

In the “Zoo” there are other patients who identify as a dog, a bear, a spider and a bird to name a few who are treated by The Zookeeper and a therapist, (Eileen Walsh, “Women on the Verge” TV Series). All of the actors who portray the individuals with the identity listed here are also excellent and there is plenty they go through for the audience to have empathy for their daily life.

Additional cast includes Senan Jennings, Darragh Shannon, Elisa Fionuir, Lola Petticrew, Amy Macken, Fionn O’Shea and Karise Yansen, among others.

Wolf is a unique story that may not appeal to all audiences, but the performances, especially Jacob’s where his emotions are felt so keenly, is one that will leave the audience thinking deeply about those who have this or a similar situation in their lives.

The film is in theaters on Friday, December 3rd (domestically).

Source: Focus Features

Fantastic Fest 2021 Review: SILENT NIGHT

Fantastic Fest 2021 Review: SILENT NIGHT

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Leave it to Fantastic Fest to conclude their film extravaganza with a Christmas movie. Of course, this is not the typical, feel-good holiday fare one comes to expect from the season. What is served up is a pitch-black comedy that takes place during Christmas, but during what is essentially the end of the world as we know it. And of course, no one is really feeling fine. While some of the family members have, to some degree, accepted their dark fate, one particularly young child believes that not all hope is completely lost. Written and directed by Camille Griffin, Silent Night is a subversive piece that is sure to please anyone who does not want to endure another Hallmark Holiday movie.

As humanity faces an inevitable extinction, a British family and friends decide to gather together for one more holiday get together. Despite the limitations of their current situation, this moderately wealthy and successful group hope to have one more final dinner party before their inevitable demise. After their festivities, they will follow the instructions suggested by the world’s leaders to commit suicide before experiencing any pain and suffering. As the group eats, drinks, and attempts to remain merry, many emotions from their past events surface and threaten to dampen their last hurrah.

Silent Night is another one of those movies that could be awesomely adapted for a stage play. The impressive writing by Griffin truly drives this movie well and makes the affair all the more compelling and riveting. Despite the dark and forboding inevitable end, Griffin and her cast manage to make the movie mostly funny and entertaining. In the end, the movie does reflect a struggle to handle the morbid conclusion, but given the circumstances, I feel the filmmaker mostly succeeds.

Griffin and her casting department have assembled an amazing cast. All of whom perform wonderfully. The movie features incredible turns by Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Annabelle Wallis, Lily-Rose Depp, Kirby-Howell Baptiste, Sope Dirsu, Rufus Jones, and Lucy Punch. However, it is Roman Griffin Davis who shines the brightest and most passionately and emotionally as Art. Art is the young child who strongly and vehemently believes that there must be a way for humanity to survive. He not only serves as a thin ray of hope, he also serves as a major source of conflict in the film.

And in a movie full of emotions, conflicts, and wonderfully executed comedy, Silent Night is certainly a remarkable holiday offering. Now granted, this movie will not at all appeal to anyone wanting the usual, feel-good Christmas movie that allows audiences to escape the stress and pain in the world. Silent Night embraces all that is real on this planet and is a much more satisfying and realistic movie than most holiday-themed films released during this season.

Fantastic Fest 2021 Review: BENEDETTA

Fantastic Fest 2021 Review: BENEDETTA

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Always an evocateur, Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven takes on Catholicism in a film that empowers women and challenges its audience to think critically about the conventions that often prevent Christian religions from remaining relevant to the people they are supposed to serve. Verhoeven, who utilizes exploitation in his work, has made a powerful and artistic statement with his adaptation of the non-fiction book Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy by Judith C. Brown. Though his film doesn’t completely work as a defiant commentary on organized religion, it still delivers some indelible blows with much passion and courage.

In 17th century Tuscany, Italian nun Benedetta Carlini (Virginie Efira) is passionately inspired to deliver the will of God and Jesus through her work and examples in her abbey. Through dreams and visions Bendetta believes she is destined to become the wife of Jesus, but also has strong feelings of attraction and lust toward Bartolomea (Daphne Patakia), a disheveled peasant taken in by the convent who also aspires to become a servant of God. What follows is a power struggle within the nuns of the convent and the Catholic church. However, Benedetta remains undaunted and passionate about her goals, despite her natural inclinations which are eventually recognized and witnessed by those who oppose her.

Verhoeven, who co-wrote the screenplay with David Birke, has made a provocative film with Bendetta. The film, which screened at this year’s Fantastic Fest as the second secret screening, was introduced Tim League of the Alamo Drafthouse. In his introduction, League jokingly stated that the festival is screening a faith-based film. However, I feel that Verhoeven is definitely serious about his faith-inspired story that, while it does critique religious conventions, it never completely diminishes the power of said faith. While the character of Benedetta does challenge Catholic hypocrisy, she never once gives any indication that she does not believe in the divine work she hopes to accomplish.

My only issues with the movie have to do with the more explicit, sexual content that often comes across as exploitation. While Verhoeven often utilizes shock and eroticism welll, he sometimes crosses a line that makes his overall messages feel tainted by his indulgences. Nevertheless, Benedetta is truly a remarkable film that is sure to arouse much conversation by audiences, as all good art should.

The movie features some bold and dynamic performances by the cast, particularly that of Virginie Efira who portrays the titular character of Benedetta. As Bartolomea, Daphne Patakia also gives a tremendous turn as Bendetta’s love interest and staunchest supporter. Charlotte Rampling, who is known for her daring and incredible acting career, is perfectly cast as Benedetta’s Abbess.

In the end, Benedetta is another movie that delivers a commentary about power and what women have gone through to attain such power in a world dominated by men. Using shock and awe, Verhoeven goes deeper and more fearless than he ever has prior to this film. It is a movie that is sure to upset many, but will also intrigue, tantalize, and marvel just as many.

WOLF

WOLF

By Liz Lopez

Rating: B+

Wolf by writer/director Nathalie Biancheri (Nocturnal) is a dramatic narrative film that most certainly is thought provoking. A young man named Jacob (George MacKay, 1917) is taken by his parents to a “clinic” because he has identified himself as a wolf that was born as a human being. There aren’t many details about how long this has been happening, but the film begins with a naked Jacob out in a forest, enjoying the sun as he sniffs the air – but not quite as what humans are shown to do. It is quite evident that his parents are having a hard time leaving their son at this facility (especially his mama), but it pails in comparison to the pain Jacob and his fellow patients feel/display at the hands of the person identified as the “medical professional” for the young people and is known as “The Zookeeper” (Paddy Considine, How to Build a Girl, “The Outsider” TV series). I will avoid spoilers, but I can say my jaw dropped at the sight of his behavior with the patients to correct or cure their belief of their identity. The Zookeeper’s screaming is harsh enough, so any other of his actions toward the individuals may be a trigger for someone who can understand some of the feelings of identity described here. Although some scenes are difficult to watch at times, the performances of George MacKay, Lily – Rose Depp and Considine are extraordinary.

Of interest in the film is a term I was unfamiliar with – “species dysphoria” – a term for a disorder for what Jacob and the other patients are experiencing – where they believe they have been born into the body of the wrong species. Depp portrays a fellow patient (long term in patient) and goes by the name Wildcat, and she develops a bond with Jacob. There are hints in the script of what may have happened to her pre – admission, but she is not permitted to leave the facility. There is an excellent scene of when she moves into her cat mode as Jacob is at his peak of being a wolf. No other spoilers here!

In the “Zoo” there are other patients who identify as a dog, a bear, a spider and a bird to name a few who are treated by The Zookeeper and a therapist, (Eileen Walsh, “Women on the Verge” TV Series). All of the actors who portray the individuals with the identity listed here are also excellent and there is plenty they go through for the audience to have empathy for their daily life.

Additional cast includes Senan Jennings, Darragh Shannon, Elisa Fionuir, Lola Petticrew, Amy Macken, Fionn O’Shea and Karise Yansen, among others.

Wolf is a unique story that may not appeal to all audiences, but the performances, especially Jacob’s where his emotions are felt so keenly, is one that will leave the audience thinking deeply about those who have this or a similar situation in their lives.

The film is in theaters on Friday, December 3rd (domestically).

Source: Focus Features

Fantastic Fest 2021 Review: SILENT NIGHT

Fantastic Fest 2021 Review: SILENT NIGHT

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Leave it to Fantastic Fest to conclude their film extravaganza with a Christmas movie. Of course, this is not the typical, feel-good holiday fare one comes to expect from the season. What is served up is a pitch-black comedy that takes place during Christmas, but during what is essentially the end of the world as we know it. And of course, no one is really feeling fine. While some of the family members have, to some degree, accepted their dark fate, one particularly young child believes that not all hope is completely lost. Written and directed by Camille Griffin, Silent Night is a subversive piece that is sure to please anyone who does not want to endure another Hallmark Holiday movie.

As humanity faces an inevitable extinction, a British family and friends decide to gather together for one more holiday get together. Despite the limitations of their current situation, this moderately wealthy and successful group hope to have one more final dinner party before their inevitable demise. After their festivities, they will follow the instructions suggested by the world’s leaders to commit suicide before experiencing any pain and suffering. As the group eats, drinks, and attempts to remain merry, many emotions from their past events surface and threaten to dampen their last hurrah.

Silent Night is another one of those movies that could be awesomely adapted for a stage play. The impressive writing by Griffin truly drives this movie well and makes the affair all the more compelling and riveting. Despite the dark and forboding inevitable end, Griffin and her cast manage to make the movie mostly funny and entertaining. In the end, the movie does reflect a struggle to handle the morbid conclusion, but given the circumstances, I feel the filmmaker mostly succeeds.

Griffin and her casting department have assembled an amazing cast. All of whom perform wonderfully. The movie features incredible turns by Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Annabelle Wallis, Lily-Rose Depp, Kirby-Howell Baptiste, Sope Dirsu, Rufus Jones, and Lucy Punch. However, it is Roman Griffin Davis who shines the brightest and most passionately and emotionally as Art. Art is the young child who strongly and vehemently believes that there must be a way for humanity to survive. He not only serves as a thin ray of hope, he also serves as a major source of conflict in the film.

And in a movie full of emotions, conflicts, and wonderfully executed comedy, Silent Night is certainly a remarkable holiday offering. Now granted, this movie will not at all appeal to anyone wanting the usual, feel-good Christmas movie that allows audiences to escape the stress and pain in the world. Silent Night embraces all that is real on this planet and is a much more satisfying and realistic movie than most holiday-themed films released during this season.

Fantastic Fest 2021 Review: BENEDETTA

Fantastic Fest 2021 Review: BENEDETTA

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Always an evocateur, Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven takes on Catholicism in a film that empowers women and challenges its audience to think critically about the conventions that often prevent Christian religions from remaining relevant to the people they are supposed to serve. Verhoeven, who utilizes exploitation in his work, has made a powerful and artistic statement with his adaptation of the non-fiction book Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy by Judith C. Brown. Though his film doesn’t completely work as a defiant commentary on organized religion, it still delivers some indelible blows with much passion and courage.

In 17th century Tuscany, Italian nun Benedetta Carlini (Virginie Efira) is passionately inspired to deliver the will of God and Jesus through her work and examples in her abbey. Through dreams and visions Bendetta believes she is destined to become the wife of Jesus, but also has strong feelings of attraction and lust toward Bartolomea (Daphne Patakia), a disheveled peasant taken in by the convent who also aspires to become a servant of God. What follows is a power struggle within the nuns of the convent and the Catholic church. However, Benedetta remains undaunted and passionate about her goals, despite her natural inclinations which are eventually recognized and witnessed by those who oppose her.

Verhoeven, who co-wrote the screenplay with David Birke, has made a provocative film with Bendetta. The film, which screened at this year’s Fantastic Fest as the second secret screening, was introduced Tim League of the Alamo Drafthouse. In his introduction, League jokingly stated that the festival is screening a faith-based film. However, I feel that Verhoeven is definitely serious about his faith-inspired story that, while it does critique religious conventions, it never completely diminishes the power of said faith. While the character of Benedetta does challenge Catholic hypocrisy, she never once gives any indication that she does not believe in the divine work she hopes to accomplish.

My only issues with the movie have to do with the more explicit, sexual content that often comes across as exploitation. While Verhoeven often utilizes shock and eroticism welll, he sometimes crosses a line that makes his overall messages feel tainted by his indulgences. Nevertheless, Benedetta is truly a remarkable film that is sure to arouse much conversation by audiences, as all good art should.

The movie features some bold and dynamic performances by the cast, particularly that of Virginie Efira who portrays the titular character of Benedetta. As Bartolomea, Daphne Patakia also gives a tremendous turn as Bendetta’s love interest and staunchest supporter. Charlotte Rampling, who is known for her daring and incredible acting career, is perfectly cast as Benedetta’s Abbess.

In the end, Benedetta is another movie that delivers a commentary about power and what women have gone through to attain such power in a world dominated by men. Using shock and awe, Verhoeven goes deeper and more fearless than he ever has prior to this film. It is a movie that is sure to upset many, but will also intrigue, tantalize, and marvel just as many.

SURVIVING SUPERCON

SURVIVING SUPERCON

By Liz Lopez Rating: B+ SYNOPSIS: Surviving Supercon is a zany behind the scenes look at how a rag-tag Mom & Pop organization pulls off one the biggest pop culture conventions in the United States. Directed and edited by Steven Shea, Surviving Supercon is an...

“The Old Ways” Now on DIGITAL, BLU-RAY AND DVD

“The Old Ways” Now on DIGITAL, BLU-RAY AND DVD

By Liz Lopez Rating: B+ In October 2020, the Sitges Film Festival was host to the World Premiere of “The Old Ways” and now this film is now available to the public to view via Digital, Blu-ray and DVD this week. The special features on the DVD/Blu-ray include BTS...

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