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LAND (2021) review

February 15, 2021

 

written by: Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam
produced by: Allyn Stewart, Lora Kennedy, Peter Saraf & Leah Holzer
directed by: Robin Wright
rating: PG-13 (for thematic content, brief strong language, and partial nudity)
runtime: 89 min.
U.S. release date: February 12, 2021

 

Having directed ten episodes of Netlix’s “House of Cards”, Robin Wright makes her feature-length directorial debut with “Land”, an emotional and contemplative drama that deals with themes such as loss, grief, and isolation. The actress not only helms this picture, she also stars in it, giving her an opportunity to delve into some weighty material and in turn delivering her best performance in years, possibly her career. The screenplay from Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam is understandably light on dialogue since it predominately requires an internal struggle from the protagonist. There is real beauty and poignant reflection in “Land”, and even if the third act tends to wrap things up in a rapid manner, it is nevertheless an impressive debut from Wright. Read more…

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH (2021) review

February 12, 2021

 

written by: Will Berson and Shaka King
produced by: Charles D. King, Ryan Coogler and Shaka King
directed by: Shaka King
rating: R (for violence and pervasive language)
runtime: 126 min.
U.S. release date: February 12, 2021 (theaters and HBO Max)

 

Fred Hampton was portrayed by Kelvin Harrison Jr. in a small role last year in Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of Chicago 7”, but now the one-time leader of the Illinois Black Panther Party is front and center in “Judas and the Black Messiah”, a sweeping and absorbing drama from writer/director Shaka King. Feeling far less like a typical biopic and more like an homage to something from Martin Scorsese or Spike Lee, and while a movie focused on Hampton has been in development for years, the timing seems right for Warner Bros. Pictures to release it now considering the ongoing dialogue about civil unrest and racial injustice within the past year. Read more…

PREPARATIONS TO BE TOGETHER FOR AN UNKNOWN PERIOD OF TIME (2020) review

February 1, 2021

 

written by: Lili Horvát
produced by: Dóra Csernátony, Lili Horvát and Péter Miskolczi
directed by: Lili Horvát
rating: not rated
runtime:
U.S. release date: January 29, 2021 (virtual cinema & Music Box Direct)

 

No matter what, I kept forgetting the name of the film I was watching. That’s not reflection of the quality of writer/director Lili Horvát’s film, but considering the title, “Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period”, can you blame me? The poetic title is just as curious and enigmatic as this mystery from Hungary and it comes across as one of the more unique submissions for this year’s Best International Feature category at the Oscars. Reminiscent of amnesiac love stories or psychological dramas of the noir variety, “Preparations” is admirable for its moody (and at times sultry) tone and alluring lead performance, even if the end scene gives us a possible answer we could’ve been fine without. Read more…

MY LITTLE SISTER (2020) review

January 30, 2021

 

written by: Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond
produced by: Ruth Waldburger
directed by: Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond
rating: not rated
runtime: 99 min.
U.S. release date: January 15, 2021 (virtual cinema) & January 29, 2021 (Music Box Direct)

 

At times, “My Little Sister” is quite an emotional watch, as the writing/directing duo of Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond offer a strenuous, honest, and raw family drama, but when it ended I found myself wanting to watch again due to the two phenomenal lead performances. As written and performed they feel like such real characters, flaws and all, often feeling frustrated and helpless and often trying to push on with those feelings. The story follows a pair of somewhat estranged adult twin siblings, one of which has cancer, so those feelings are understood and anyone who’s gone through struggles with a sibling should appreciate the relatable characterization and portrayals here. Read more…

SUPERNOVA (2020) review

January 28, 2021

 

written by: Harry Macqueen
produced by: Tristan Goligher and Emily Morgan
directed by: Harry Macqueen
rating: R (for language)
runtime: 93 min.
U.S. release date: January 29, 2021 (theaters)

 

Anyone who has ever admired and appreciated performances from Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth will admire and appreciate “Supernova”, which co-stars both great actors in heartfelt and touching lead roles. Their work here will remind you that when great actors are given great characters to work with and live in, it’s a reminder not to take them for granted. This wonderful drama looks at love and impending loss in a gentle and restrained manner is written and directed by Peter Macqueen, an English stage and screen actor who made his directing debut with his last film “Hinterland” in 2014. I haven’t seen that one, but after watching “Supernova”, I immediately want to seek it out. Read more…

THE LITTLE THINGS (2021) review

January 26, 2021

 

written by: John Hancock
produced by: Mark Johnson and John Lee Hancock
directed by: John Lee Hancock
rating: R (for violent/disturbing images, language and full nudity)
runtime: 127 min.
U.S. release date: January 29, 2021 (select theaters & HBO Max)

 

Back in 1993 director John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side” and “The Founder”) wrote an original screenplay for his latest movie, “The Little Things”, a somewhat pulpy serial killer thriller set in 1990. That’s not surprising, since watching it will conjure the kinds of suspenseful yarns that typically came out in the 90s. That’s not a slight in the least, but it does give an indication what Hancock is aiming for here. It’s hard to believe some viewers (self included) will have a certain nostalgia for movies that came out not that long ago (at least, that’s what we think) while watching the story unfold. At one point, Spielberg was offered the script, but deemed it “too dark” (that year he released “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List”, so he had already hit his threshold for dark) and turned it down and then it was rumored the likes of Clint Eastwood (who lensed to Hancock screenplays with “A Perfect World” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”), Warren Beatty and Danny DeVito were attached, but it was tucked away until Hancock was ready to bring his to the big-screen with his own personal stamp. Read more…

BLIZZARD OF SOULS (2020) review

January 24, 2021

 

written by: Boris Frumin and Dzintars Dreibergs
produced by: Dzintars Dreibergs and Inga Praņevska
directed by: Dzintars Dreibergs
rating: not rated
runtime: 104 min.
U.S. release date: January 8, 2021 (virtual cinema) & January 29, 2021 (Music Box Direct

 

“Blizzard of Souls” isn’t a World War I movie that sets out to offer something sweeping and epic, nor does it desire to follow a historic timeline. It’s the kind of war movie that thrusts viewers into the mix by providing and staying with the point of view of a young protagonist who is thrust into war. The directorial debut of Dzintars Dreibergs is an impressive adaptation of a semi-autobiographical novel from Aleksandrs Grins published in 1934 and it feels very much like a personal account of the surreal violence and brutality of war. It’s a coming-of-age tale set in an impossibly harrowing time, that looks at devotion to family and loyalty to homeland in an immersive manner. Read more…

THE MARKSMAN (2021) review

January 21, 2021

 

written by: Robert Lorenz, Chris Charles and Danny Kravitz
produced by: Tai Duncan, Mark Williams, Warren Goz, Eric Gold & Robert Lorenz
directed by: Robert Lorenz
rating: PG-13 (for violence, some bloody images and brief strong language)
runtime: 108 min.
U.S. release date: January 15, 2021 (theatrical)

 

Everyone is hoping for 2021 to be better (or at least different) from 2020, but here we are in January with “The Marksman”, with the release of a Liam Neeson thriller and it feels like any other year. Since “Taken” was released in January 2008, the Oscar-nominated actor has headlined a handful of other thrillers (“Unknown”, “Taken 3”, and “The Commuter”) to kick off the new year and maybe there’s comfort in that. You know what you’re getting into when a new Neeson flick drops in January and this one doesn’t stray too far off from what you’d expect, but just don’t go in expecting a bloody-knuckled actioner. Just about every beat of the story is predictable in “The Marksman”, but you may be surprised that the drama of the story edges ahead out the inevitable shooting and car chases offered. Read more…

OUTSIDE THE WIRE (2021) review

January 16, 2021

 

written by: Rob Yescombe and Rowan Athale
produced by: Rory Aitken, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Ildiko Kemeny, Anthony Mackie, Ben Pugh, Jason Spire & Erica Steinberg
directed by: Mikael Hafstrom
rating: R (for strong violence and language throughout)
runtime: 114 min.
U.S. release date: January 15, 2021 (Netflix)

 

It was recently announced that Netflix will be releasing a new movie every week in 2021, but I’m betting that’s just a small fraction of what will be coming out of the streaming giant this year. No doubt their aim will be to offer variety, but also aim to target certain genres as well. “Outside the Wire” is the kind of movie that scratches the itch viewers might have for “an action movie”, while adding a bit more to kind of stand out. While the action is aplenty, director Mikael Hafstrom (“Escape Plan” and “The Rite”) with screenwriters by Rob Yescombe and Rowan Athale, place the story in a sci-fi future with the focus the terror of technology on the war front, be it drones or cyborgs. The overall message is muddled and lost amid a heavily reliance on action sequences, leaving little room for compelling characterization and ultimately making the story less interesting as it unravels. Read more…

WANDAVISION review (S1: 1-3)

January 15, 2021

 

It’s been eighteen months since we last saw the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and it feels like the last time we were in a movie theater was longer than that. While COVID may have derailed Marvel Studios theatrical release schedule (alas, “Black Widow”), their long-anticipated small screen plans are finally streaming our way this month with “WandaVision”, which may look and feel very different from what the studio has delivered in the past, yet is very much paying homage to television shows of the past in a unique and entertaining way. Read more…