Archive for January, 2021

From Arizona to Chicago

The Marksman

Director: Robert Lorenz

Cast: Liam Neeson, Katheryn Winnick, Teresa Ruiz, Jacob Perez, Juan Pablo Raba

Producer of such films as Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby and Trouble with the Curve Robert Lorenz takes to the director’s chair in the latest Liam Neeson thriller The Marksman, which is one of the first films to be released in cinemas in 2021.

Liam Neeson takes to the border as he plays a hard drinking rancher Jim on the Arizona border with Mexico, whose ranch is about to be foreclosed by the bank. Jim’s relationship with his no-nonsense step daughter Sarah played by Vikings TV Star Katheryn Winnick is frosty at best.

Jim’s deadbeat lifestyle takes a turn for the worst when he helps rescue a young Mexican mother Rosa played by Teresa Ruiz and her young son Miguel brilliantly played by Jacob Perez as they escape across the border into America in a bid to outrun a brutal drug cartel who killed their relative. The cartel is headed up by Mauricio played by Latin American actor Juan Pablo Rada (Peppermint).

Jim, the Arizona Rancher

Jim is the type of guy that doesn’t use smartphones, only pay phones and just relies on his wits and instincts to survive in a cruel and brutal world.

Soon, against the advice of his step-daughter, Jim protects young Miguel who has to get to his relatives in Chicago without the cartel leader and its gang members catching up to them.

Luckily Jim is ex-military and an expert Marksman and soon as Jim discovers many of the American cops are on the cartels payroll. Mauricio and his gang soon catch up with Jim and the immigrant boy Miguel whose best line in the film is: “I hate this country, why did I have to come here” in his desperate plea to return to Mexico.

Unfortunately, the American Mexican scenario has been done so many times in films, that The Marksman’s storyline is nothing original, although the action is really good and the story is basically a road trip adventure.

The Marksman is entertaining, although the film’s pace could have been faster. The film is saved by a great on screen chemistry between Jim and Miguel and the dog Jackson.

Support cinemas and catch The Marksman in theatre’s now.

The Marksman gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 is recommended viewing for a light action adventure film which takes the viewers from Arizona across the Mid-West to Chicago.

Intimate Portrayal Of Loss

Pieces of a Woman

Director: Kornel Mundruczo

Cast: Vanessa Kirby, Ellen Burstyn, Shia LaBeouf, Sarah Snook, Benny Saldie, Iliza Shlesinger, Molly Parker

This film is only available on the streaming service Netflix

Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo’s immersive portrayal of a mother giving birth is the spell bounding opening scene of Pieces of a Woman which premiered at the 2020 Venice International Film Festival in which its star the supremely talented Vanessa Kirby walked away with the Best Actress prize at Venice.

Pieces of a Woman is brilliantly acted and beautifully directed.

The Emmy nominated star of The Crown, Vanessa Kirby is amazing as the pregnant Martha, an affluent young woman who decides along with her partner Sean wonderfully played with trapped aggression by Shia LaBeouf (Fury, Charlie Countryman) to have a home birth with the assistance of a midwife Eva played by House of Cards star Molly Parker. This controversial scene was shot with minimal editing and is graphic, visually impressive and holds the emotional crux of this film together.

Director Kornel Mundruczo cleverly uses a cinematic metaphor of a bridge being built over the Charles River in Boston, Massachusetts, which is in fact the bridge that construction foreman Sean is working on before his life completely unravels.

To add more emotional depth to the film, legendary and Oscar winning actress Ellen Burstyn (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) is cast as Martha’s wealthy and controlling mother Elizabeth. The confrontational scene at the end of the film between Burstyn and Kirby is electrifying and a master class in screen acting.

Kirby tautly presents an intimate portrayal of loss, of a woman who gives birth and then loses everything and how her male partner and family react in different ways to this unprecedented tragedy. Vanessa Kirby’s nuanced and deeply complex approach to such a challenging portrayal of a woman will definitely earn her Golden Globe and Oscar buzz during the 2021 awards season.

Ellen Burstyn is equally superb as the mother Elizabeth who watches her daughter disintegrate emotionally and thinks that money and legal justice is the only solution to assuage the guilt and loss.

Succession star Sarah Snook has a brief role as a callous Boston lawyer who becomes too involved in Martha and Sean’s legal case. Pieces of a Woman is a superb film, beautifully written and absolutely riveting, an intelligent insight into a deeply taboo subject matter, which has not been tackled frequently in world cinema.

Pieces of a Woman gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is highly recommended but not for sensitive viewers.

Nursing a Vendetta

Promising Young Woman

Director: Emerald Fennell

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Adam Brody, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Connie Britton, Chris Lowell, Max Greenfield, Clancy Brown, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Molly Shannon, Emerald Fennell

Actress Emerald Fennell who ironically played Camilla Parker-Bowles on the hit Netflix series The Crown has turned writer and director and created an original piece of cinema, Promising Young Woman with a film’s ending that no viewer will guess.

Casting British actress and Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan (An Education) in the lead role of Cassandra, a young 30 thirty year old gorgeous woman who gets her kicks out of harassing young men after they have tried to pick her up while playing drunk, is a master stroke. Mulligan channels every controversial female role from Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction to Margot Robbie in Birds of Prey.

Set in a nameless Midwestern city, Cassie still lives with her doting yet confused parents played by Jennifer Coolidge and Clancy Brown after dropping out of med school due to her best friend Nina Fisher suffering from a horrific sexual assault incident at the medical school while they were both in their second year.

The best statement Fennell makes is that the perpetrators of sexual assault are not necessarily wealthy and powerful old men, but they can also be young professional men who behave badly at university and still manage to maintain a lucrative postgraduate career. Cassie witnessing her friend Nina’s life falling apart due to sexual assault, decides to blame all young men and tricks them into taking her home, only to turn on them in their own environment.

Cassie’s revenge really starts getting going when she meets Dr Ryan Cooper, wonderfully played by Bo Burnham, who appears to be a sweet, charming and humorous paediatrician and is attracted to Cassie. Ryan mentions to Cassie that he still sees a lot of their old medical school classmates including Al Monroe and Madison, played respectively by Chris Lowell and Alison Brie, both of whom were directly and indirectly responsible for Nina’s sexual assault.

The beauty of Emerald Fennell’s script is that there is not a lot of details given to the viewer, so Cassie’s actions and her peculiar relationship with men hints at a feminist revenge fantasy. The garish costumes adds to the dark psychology of this thriller, which leaves viewers intrigued.

One by one Cassie hunts down all those responsible for the sexual assault of her best friend and finally lands up at the foot of the bed of the real perpetrator Al Monroe on the night of his bachelor’s party dressed as a kinky nurse.

Promising Young Woman is a tour-de-force of acting for Carey Mulligan who effortlessly transcends from a demure blonde girl behind a coffee counter to a vicious sociopath who is on the hunt for vengeance.

For its sheer originality, Promising Young Woman gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 but as a feminist revenge fantasy it’s going to be divisive and controversial especially with its shocking ending.

Broadway Comes Out in Indiana

The Prom

Director: Ryan Murphy

Cast: Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, Andrew Rannells, Kerry Washington, Tracey Ullman, Keegan-Michael Key, Ariana Debose, Jo Ellen Pellman

This Film is Only Available on Netflix

Eat, Pray, Love director Ryan Murphy and TV writer of such hit shows as American Horror Story, Glee, American Crime Story assembles an all-star cast for the Netflix film production of the Broadway hit show The Prom, about a group of failed Broadway stars who decide to take on a personal crusade to assist a teenage lesbian girl Emma Nolan played by Jo Ellen Pelman who is not allowed to take her in the closet girlfriend Alyssa Greene played by Ariana Debose to the James Madison High School prom in conservative Indiana, in the American mid-West.

Besides James Corden’s cringe worthy performance as gay theatre actor Barry Glickman, it’s really three time Oscar winner Meryl Streep’s beautiful and tantalizing turn as the Broadway Star Dee Dee Allen which makes The Prom worth watching.

Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours) reunites with Meryl Streep and stars as the leggy actress Angie Dickinson to give some back up support. The Boys in the Band and Black Monday star Andrew Rannells plays the dashing but slightly dim-witted Trent Oliver, also a wannabe Broadway actor.

Django Unchained star Kerry Washington plays Alyssa’s conservative mother Mrs Greene, which is an interesting casting choice and Washington pulls off the role as a stuffy PTA mother who is ruling her daughter’s life and spearheading a campaign to prevent the lesbian Emma from bring another girl to the prom.

The traditional nexus of liberal open-minded egotism which clashes with small town conservatism is explored and laboured upon multiple times with numerous bouncy song numbers, which is just sufficient to convert the conservatism into an acceptance of all LGBT teenagers in the Midwest. Idyllic but not realistic. After all Broadway is a far cry from Indiana.

Director Ryan Murphy’s obsession with Indiana comes from the fact that he was born and grew up there, so The Prom could be a story about the director’s own difficulties with coming out in a conservative environment.

Barry Glickman’s own coming out as a gay man is heightened by the arrival of his mother Vera wonderfully played by Tracey Ullman, James Corden’s co-star in Into the Woods.  

The Prom is a really light and fluffy musical, a dream inspired vision of a culturally accepting Midwest which is a far cry from reality. Meryl Streep channels her Oscar nominated performance from The Devil Wears Prada as the outrageously narcissistic Broadway star Dee Dee Allen, although the script leaves such talented stars as Streep and Kidman floundering to make a lasting impression.

If audiences are looking for something superfluous and unsubstantial, then watch The Prom, it’s fun  but not intellectually challenging. This film is a far cry from Gus van Sant’s Oscar winning film Milk but nor is it meant to make a significant statement about LGBT rights in American schools in the 21st century.

The Prom gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and watch it for Meryl Streep and no one else. Streep plays a Ryan Murphy inspired version of herself, which is poignant since he had a fan club of her work when he was in high school in Indiana.

Bitchy Repartee

The Boys in the Band

Director: Joe Mantello

Cast: Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesus, Brian Hutchinson, Tuc Watkins, Michael Benjamin Washington

This film is only available on the streaming service NETFLIX

The original 1970 film directed by William Friedkin

Based upon the Tony Award winning play by Mart Crawley, The Boys in the Band was originally made into a film in 1970 by the Oscar winning director of The French Connection William Friedkin. Screenwriter and playwright Mart Crawley died in March 2020.

50 years later, director Joe Mantello remade the film for Netflix and assembling an all gay cast to basically play bitchy versions of themselves in the 2020 version of The Boys in the Band.

Set in Greenwich Village, New York in 1968, this film is about 6 gay men who gather for a fabulous birthday party and one heterosexual man who accidentally gets invited. The cast includes The Normal Heart co-stars Jim Parsons and Matt Bomer who offers some genuine eye candy; Zachary Quinto (Star Trek, Margin Call) as Harold, Andrew Rannells (The Intern, Sex and the City 2) as the flirtatious Larry; Tuc Watkins as the straight acting Hank; Charlie Carver as the Cowboy and Robin de Jesus as the quick-tongued Emory along with Michael Benjamin Washington (Love and Other Drugs) as Bernard.

It’s really the Golden Globe winning star of the TV comedy series The Big Bang Theory Jim Parsons who steals the show in a masterful performance as Michael, the twisted and conflicted host of the party whose razor sharp tongue gets released during the second half of the evening as he viciously takes to the Vodka bottle and starts verbally annihilating his closest friends forcing them all to reveal their dark secrets.

Jim Parsons is brilliant in this film and he actually deserves an Oscar nomination in 2021. Parson’s portrayal of Michael is brittle and cruel, unleashing a verbal tirade of bitchy repartee on his unsuspecting guests only to be intellectually challenged by the equally vicious Jewish gay man Harold, another superb performance by Zachary Quinto.

Director Joe Mantello gives each of the characters in the film especially Bernard’s a perceptive flashback into their first crush.

The Boys in the Band has to be contextualized in contemporary queer history as its set the year before the infamous Stonewall riots that happened in Greenwich Village in July 1969, which was the initiation of the gay rights movement in America and a decade and a half before the devastating effects of the AIDS crisis which ripped through New York’s gay community in the mid 1980’s.

Viewers must watch this film as a play being performed. The Boys in the Band is a vicious portrayal of 30 year old gay men projecting the bullying the conventional heterosexual world put onto them while growing up onto each other, a dark and bitter self-loathing wrapped in vodka, chardonnay and forbidden desire.

The Boys in the Band is brilliant, a bitter and fabulous evening filled with bitchy one-liners held together by a superb performance by Jim Parsons, who is the glitter that holds the group together.

The Boys in the Band gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is available on Netflix.

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