American Melancholy

Hillbilly Elegy

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso, Haley Bennett, Freida Pinto, Owen Asztalos

This film is only available on Netflix

Frost/ Nixon and Rush director Ron Howard brings to life J. D. Vance’s autobiographical tale Hillbilly Elegy to the screen featuring superb performances by Oscar nominees Amy Adams (The Fighter, American Hustle, Vice) and the wonderfully talented Glenn Close (The Wife, Dangerous Liaisons, Albert Nobbs) as mother and daughter. Amy Adams plays the troubled mother Bev, a nurse in Ohio who has a heroin addiction and is trying to keep her young family together, namely her daughter Lindsay played by Haley Bennett (Rules Don’t Apply, The Girl on the Train) and J. D. played by the talented Gabriel Basso (Super 8, The Whole Truth).

Glenn Close plays Bev’s mother and grandmother to her two children, the matriarchal Mamaw who ultimately steps in to raise the young J.D. when he is a boy, the younger version brilliantly played by Owen Asztalos who holds his own in some heart wrenching scenes between Amy Adams and Glenn Close.

The adult J. D. has completed law school at Yale in Connecticut and is about to be interviewed for his first legal appointment as a junior attorney at law. Before he gets to that interview in the prestigious and affluent environment of Yale in Connecticut he has to head back to Middleton in Ohio to deal with his mother Bev, expertly played by Amy Adams who has had a relapse on heroin.

J. D. doesn’t come from a wealthy family but through his grandmother’s encouragement, he studied hard, worked to pay the bills and got into law school. He was determined to escape the trap of cyclic poverty that his mother and grandmother had been trapped in.

His beautiful girlfriend Usha is back home in Connecticut awaiting for his return and is played by Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto. J. D. has kept the divide between affluent Connecticut and his Hillbilly past very distinctive by not sharing his violent upbringing in Jackson, Kentucky or Middleton, Ohio with Usha.

Hillbilly Elegy is told through a series of childhood flashbacks to a younger J. D. as he had to deal with his mother’s erratic behaviour, which provides some brilliant scenes between Owen Asztalos and experienced Hollywood actresses Glenn Close and Amy Adams.

What makes Glenn Close’s performance as the chain smoking Hillbilly matriarch so brilliant is that she is playing it against type, a struggling grandmother who gets meals on wheels and barely has enough cash to feed her grandson.

Close’s performance is astounding, a far cry from her lavish and equally superb performances in The Wife, as Sunny von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune and her breakout performance as the scheming Marquise de Merteuil in the Oscar winning French drama Dangerous Liaisons. Glenn Close has never won an Oscar and she deserves to win for this supporting performance in Hillbilly Elegy.

Hillbilly Elegy is a melancholic look back at one man’s struggle to lift himself out of poverty and the immense impression his mother and grandmother made on his life and how he overcome his dire circumstances to rise up and join the professional classes while never dismissing his impoverished heritage.

Hillbilly Elegy gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is recommended viewing for those that love a good family drama.

Hot Rhythm Records

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Director: George C. Wolfe

Cast: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman , Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, Jeremy Shamos, Johnny Coyne, Dusan Brown, Taylour Paige, Joshua Harto 

This film is only available on NETFLIX

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is based upon a play by August Wilson and adapted for the screen by actor and writer Ruben Santiago-Hudson and August Wilson and stars Oscar winner Viola Davis (Fences) as the brash and take-no-nonsense Ma Rainey  who arrives in Chicago in 1927 to record a single for her song Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Conceptualized on screen by the director of Nights in Rodanthe and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, George C. Wolfe does a capable job of maintaining the tension in this film as the characters brim with talent, anger and the capacity for violence.

Blues Diva Ma Rainey is confronted by her band members particularly Levee the angry young man who has suffered years of racial abuse and injustice, superbly played by Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther, 21 Bridges) who unfortunately passed away in 2020 due to stomach cancer.

Boseman’s performance is mercurial, brimming with talent and anger, battling to control his emotions in a harsh world filled with segregation, racial hatred and mistrust which characterised American society in the late 1920’s just before the Great Depression happened in October 1929.

Nominated for Best Actor at the 2021 Golden Globes, Chadwick Boseman’s performance has already garnered critical acclaim and if he posthumously gets an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in 2021 and wins, he will only be the third actor in the Academy Awards history to win an Oscar after his death, the previous two being Peter Finch for Network in 1977 and Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight in 2009.

August Wilson’s play is a tightly constructed drama all taking place in a recording studio and once again Viola Davis steals the show as the demanding and outrageously talented Blues singer Ma Rainey who originally hailed from Georgia. Ma Rainey’s unconventional lifestyle was way ahead of her time especially her affectionate relationship with back up dancer Dussie Mae, coquettishly played with vibrancy by Taylour Paige last seen in the excellent Detroit crime drama White Boy Rick.

As tensions increase and tempers flare at the Hot Rhythm Records one hot summer’s day in 1927, the recording manager Irvin wonderfully played with complete exasperation by character actor Jeremy Shamos (Bad Education) is intent on getting Ma Rainey’s permission to eventually release the recorded song especially after so many setbacks including Rainey’s young nephew Sylvester played by Dusan Brown, who suffers from a terrible stutter.

The dialogue in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is filled with angst and despair, but if viewers can get past that, it is a fascinating period piece about Chicago in 1927 held together by two fine performances by Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Fences and enjoy play to screen film adaptations.

The Organ Grinder’s Monkey

Mank

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Tom Burke, Ferdinand Kingsley, Arliss Howard, Charles Dance, Lily Collins, Tuppence Middleton, Toby Leonard Moore, Monika Gossmann, Joseph Cross

This Film is only available on NETFLIX

The Social Network director David Fincher returnswith the unbelievably brilliant story of the screenwriter Herman Mankiewizc in the 2020 film about 1930’s Hollywood Mank starring Oscar winner Gary Oldman as the erudite, heavy drinking screenwriter who become extraordinarily famous when he won the best original screenplay for the most iconic film ever made, director Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941) inspired by the real life story of American media billionaire William Randolph Hearst and his illicit romance with the gorgeous silent screen film star Marion Davies, 30 years his junior.

Fincher cleverly frames every alternate scene in Mank with the formatting for writing screenplays, however what really dazzles is the superb script written by Fincher’s father Jack Fincher.

What is especially thrilling to watch is Gary Oldman delivering another superb performance as the tortured screenwriter who after breaking his leg in a car accident is confined to a ranch in California to finish the original screenplay for the demanding Orson Welles played by Tom Burke.

Oldman’s performance is a companion piece to his Oscar winning turn as Sir Winston Churchill in 2017’s film Darkest Hour. The frame of his character is the same. Mank has young women assisting him, in this case Rita Alexander played by Lily Collins and Fraulein Frida played by Monika Gossmann. Then there is Herman Mankiewizc’s long suffering wife Sara, wonderfully played by British actress Tuppence Middleton (The Imitation Game, The Current War).

Amanda Seyfried as silent screen actress Marion Davies

What is so masterful about Mank are the fabulous flashback scenes to Mank’s platonic enchantment with the dazzling silent screen diva Marion Davies, superbly played by Amanda Seyfried, who loves to make an impressionable exit especially out of a studio lot.

In these brilliantly executed scenes, Mank and Marion are seen conversing amidst drinks and cigarettes on Hearst’s massive estate, on his bankrolled film sets and more significantly in the social shadow of William Randolph Hearst’s friendship with studio executive Louis B. Mayer who founded Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or better known as MGM studios a rival to Paramount.

Hearst is played with a regal elegance by famed British character actor Charles Dance (White Mischief) while Mayer is played with an unrecognisable talent by Arliss Howard. Toby Leonard Moore plays David O. Selnick, the producer of Gone with the Wind.

By far the most extraordinary scene in Mank is the fancy dress dinner party in 1937 whereby Mank, utterly drunk, storms into the lavish setting and proceeds to lambast the most important guests at the table including Hearst, Mayor and Marion Davies.

Hearst after Mank’s tirade coolly escorts the inebriated screenwriter out of his mansion reciting the story about the organ grinder’s monkey, alluding to what Mank really is: a clown in a major larger circus. That circus is and always will be show business.  

Any aspiring filmmaker or film analyst studies Citizen Kane, and Mank is a very specific film, a cineaste’s tribute to the Golden age of Hollywood in the 1930’s and 1940’s. It’s best to research the period between 1934 and 1942 in Hollywood to appreciate Mank’s extraordinary elegance and cleverly crafted story.

Mank is sumptuous, intelligently told and Gary Oldman holds the entire film together in his witty and cantankerous fashion giving Mankiewizc a quality of genius bordering on the tragic.

Mank gets a film rating of 8.5 out of 10 and is a film lover’s tribute to cinema, ironically streaming on Netflix and not available in cinemas.

The Radical Left

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Director: Aaron Sorkin

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong, Frank Langella, Mark Rylance, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Michael Keaton, Ben Shenkman, Alex Sharp, John Carroll Lynch

Pacifists, Hippies and Black Panthers converge on Chicago in the summer of 1968 during the Democratic National Convention and are confronted by the police and naturally riots break out. Are the police to blame? Are the protesters to blame? It is the summer of love, anti-Vietnam protests and significant social upheaval worldwide.

This is the premise of West Wing and The Social Network Oscar winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s new film in which he directed and wrote. The Trail of the Chicago 7 was originally set for a theatrical release in October 2020 but due to the coronavirus pandemic, Paramount sold the rights to the streaming giant Netflix for a cool $56 million dollars. Which explains the reason why this great film can only be found on Netflix when in fact it was best suited to a proper cinematic release.

Especially with Sorkin’s witty dialogue and his fantastic cast that he managed to assemble for The Trial of the Chicago 7.

The cast includes Oscar winners Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) as liberal pacifist and anti-war activist Tom Hayden, Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) as defence attorney William Kunstler, Oscar nominee Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) as the non-nonsense but bigoted judge Julius Hoffman, Emmy winner Jeremy Strong (Succession) as hippie Jerry Rubin and a stand out performance by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as the fast talking defiant hippie leader Abbie Hoffman.

Also in the cast are John Carroll Lynch as David Dellinger, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Panther leader Bobby Seale who also got charged along with the original seven for incitement to start a riot and public disturbance.

While the first half of Aaron Sorkin’s film is confusing and needs to be anchored, the second half is brilliant as he clearly shows you what actually happens even if as a screenwriter he does get historically creative with the real facts.

Speaking of the real facts, as a viewer it is best to look up the actual story of the Trial of the Chicago 7 and the context in which the riot occurred. As Sacha Baron Cohen’s character Abbie Hofmann so eloquently says, “Everyone was in the Haymarket Tavern at the Chicago Hilton like the Sixties never happened until it came crashing through the window.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a great film, very dialogue heavy but it stands together through some superb ensemble acting especially from Mark Rylance, Eddie Redmayne and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the prosecuting attorney Richard Schultz and a fine performance by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale who actually lands up getting bound and gagged in an American courtroom.

Nominated for 5 Golden Globes in 2021 including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Song, Best Supporting Actor for Sacha Baron Cohen and Best Screenplay, Catch The Trial of the Chicago 7 now on Netflix. This courtroom drama gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

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.

Wish Upon a Star

Wonder Woman 1984

Director: Patty Jenkins

Cast: Gal Gadot, Pedro Pascal, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lily Aspell, Gabriella Wilde

Director Patty Jenkins had a hit with Wonder Woman back in 2017. Little did she realize what a challenge the sequel would be to get released on the big screen in 2020 amidst the ongoing crisis of the coronavirus pandemic?

Parent company Warner Brothers decided to come to a strange compromise which has divided the battling film industry in 2020 and release the sequel Wonder Woman 1984 in cinemas where possible and also simultaneously on the streaming service HBO Max.

Fortunately I was lucky enough to watch Wonder Woman 1984 in a cinema and apart from the impressive opening sequence featuring a young Wonder woman wonderfully played by Lily Aspell fighting in an Amazonian competition overseen by Antiope played by Robin Wright and Hippolyte played by Connie Nielsen, the first part of this sequel seemed slightly directionless and admittedly took a while to find its feet.

While setting the film in Washington DC in 1984 and using lots of gimmicky film references to the 1980’s especially the clothes, audiences will find Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman working at the Smithsonian in Washington DC where she meets the nerdy Barbara Minerva and the seemingly harmless oil entrepreneur Max Lord wonderfully played with a zany insecurity by Chilean actor Pedro Pascal (Kingsman: The Golden Circle, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Great Wall).

The plot line stumbles here at the beginning of the film and only really gets invigorated once Max Lord wishes upon an archaeological stone and gets bizarre superpowers to grant wishes to every human in the world, good or bad. One of Lord’s first recipient is Barbara Minerva who gets super human speed and agility enough to turn her into Cheetah, another superhero who Wonder Woman will definitely confront.

Everything goes south from there as Maxwell Lord flies off to Egypt to gain all the countries oil supplies and Wonder Woman with the help of her first love Steve Trevor, a wonderful reprisal by Chris Pine chase after Lord on a stunning action packed sequence on an Egyptian desert highway.

What is remarkable about Wonder Woman 1984 is how little screen time, the male characters really get especially Steve Trevor and Max Lord, although as a villain Pedro Pascal gives his egomaniac character some personal dimension, especially some heart rendering flashbacks to his tortured childhood as an outcast.

Naturally the stars of Wonder Woman 1984 are Diana Prince and Barbara Minerva and it’s their showdown as two alpha females as Wonder Woman and Cheetah on a stormy island at the film’s end is what makes the second half of this sequel so worthwhile.

Wonder Woman 1984 is certainly not as brilliant as the original film, but given the challenging year of its release, it’s about the best form of escapism that 2020 has to offer and is worth watching. Wonder Woman 1984 gets a film rating of 7 out of 10.

Viewers can catch the film on HBO Max or at your nearest cinema depending on which country you are in.

Film Directors & Festivals
Reviews and Awards
Review Calender
May 2021
M T W T F S S
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  
  • ‘Walking With Herb’ Review: Edward James Olmos Lifts Faith-based, Golf-centric Comedy Drama
    Since we’ve already had faith-based features involving football (“Woodlawn,” “Facing the Giants”), baseball (“Where Hope Grows”), basketball (“Slamma Jamma”), boxing (“Carman: The Champion”), competitive skateboarding (“Hardflip”) and even mixed martial arts (“The Fight Within”), it was doubtless inevitable that someone would produce a movie where the Lord works in mysterious ways on the golf course. […]
    Joe Leydon
  • China’s Huayi Bros. Marks Third Year of Losses, Despite Delivering the Highest Grossing Film of 2020
    Huayi Brothers, China’s longest-standing privately-owned film studio, has notched its third consecutive year of losses despite producing the world’s highest grossing film in 2020, its annual report showed. The company’s revenues for 2020 fell by 33% year-on-year to $232 million (RMB1.5 billion) while net losses hit $162 million (RMB1.05 billion). The figures continue a losing […]
    Rebecca Davis
  • Paramount Plus Sets Australia, New Zealand Launch Date
    The Paramount Plus streaming service will be launched in Australia and New Zealand in August. It joins an increasingly crowded marketplace, but claims local traction through ViacomCBS’s ownership of Australian linear channel Channel Ten and a handful of local content commissions. The launch announcement followed publication of ViacomCBS’ latest financial results and the debut of […]
    Patrick Frater
  • ‘Dwarfo-Psychosis’ Wins Big at Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Awards
    Mockumentary short “Dwarfo-psychosis” took home two prizes at tonight’s Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Awards, with director Maria DiDomenico and producer Emily Pascal winning the best director and best film awards, respectively. Written by and starring Steven LaChioma and Pancho Moler, “Dwarfo-psychosis” sees fraternal twins Peter and Pat celebrate turning 40 with a huge reveal. It […]
    Haley Bosselman
  • This Longtime ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Actor Is Leaving the Show
    SPOILERS: Do not read this article if you have not watched the May 6 episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.”  Jesse Williams, who has played surgeon Jackson Avery on “Grey’s Anatomy” since the show’s sixth season, will be leaving the ABC medical drama at the end of this season, its 17th. Williams’ final episode, titled “Tradition,” will […]
    Kate Aurthur
  • Read More
    Different providers offer different cell phones, so take a look at the options from each provider to choose the right one for you. You may also want to look into any promotions that the providers have to offer, such as free cell phones in exchange for signing a contract. Tags: 2gmhass90