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2021 Oscar-nominated ANIMATED Shorts

April 7, 2021

 

It’s Oscar season, even though it doesn’t feel like it and that typically means there are Shorts that need your attention. Those who traditionally partake in Oscar pools will want to catch all of them in select theaters (this year, it’s a very select few, thanks to COVID) or On Demand via ShortsTV. If you’ve been paying attention over the years, these are the nominees I’m most curious about and ones I get the most exciting about each year after viewing them leading up to the telecast. While I usually recommend them, I must say I was a little disappointed in the Animated Shorts this year. Of the five nominees, only one is the real standout and it would ludicrous if it didn’t go home with a golden boy. The other four were fine, but just didn’t really rise to an Oscar level. Here’s my rundown, from worst to best… Read more…

SHIVA BABY (2020) review

March 31, 2021

 

written by: Emma Seligman
produced by: Kieran Altmann, Katie Schiller & Lizzie Shapiro
directed by: Emma Seligman
rated: not rated
runtime: 77 min.
U.S. release date: March 15, 2020 (SXSW) & April 2, 2021 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL)

 

The things you overhear or witness at a funeral service when you try to be a wallflower can often wind up being just as baffling and unexpected as the conversations you inevitably have with other attendees, especially the ones you’d rather not run into anywhere. The surface talk about anyone other than the deceased is understandable as are the obligatory condolences, but those banal questions about whether or not you’re seeing anyone (that is, if you’re single) or what you’re doing for work, can feel as if your own life is slowly draining. These reminders and observations came to mind while watching writer/director Emma Seligman’s relatable and tender comedy “Shiva Baby”, which portrays the claustrophobic awkwardness of attending a social gathering commemorating the recently deceased. Read more…

GODZILLA VS. KONG (2021) review

March 31, 2021

 

written by: Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein (screenplay) & Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields (story)
produced by: Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Brian Rogers, Mary Parent, Alex Garcia & Eric McLeod
directed by: Adam Wingard
rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language)
runtime: 113 min.
U.S. release date: March 31, 2021

 

The last time Godzilla and King Kong duked it out was in 1963’s “Kong vs. Godzilla”, now we have “Godzilla vs. Kong” and while the destructive kaiju has first billing here, the story is primarily Kong-centric this time around and it makes sense since the big ape is the closest to conveying genuine emotions in this movie and that’s included his human costars. Yes, it’s become common to take jabs at the flesh-and-blood characters in these recent MonsterVerse movies, but they really aren’t why these movies are made nor are they the main draw of these giant-sized blockbuster spectacles. You don’t check out these movies to see a geologist/cartographer and an anthropological linquist team-up against an egotistical CEO of a tech organization, you’re here to see monsters smash and those are indeed the best moments here. Read more…

NOBODY (2021) review

March 27, 2021

 

written by: Derek Kolstad
produced by: Kelly McCormick, David Leitch, Braden Aftergood, Bob Odenkirk & Marc Provissiero
directed by: Iilya Naishuller
rated: R (for strong violence and bloody images, language throughout and brief drug use)
runtime: 92 min.
U.S. release date: March 26, 2021 (theaters) 

 

Word-of-mouth will describe the action thriller “Nobody” as something along the lines of a “John Wick” movie. That’s fair enough since this movie has another middle-aged guy going up against a league of bad guys, leaving them seriously injured, maimed, or dead. Considering “Nobody” comes from the mind of screenwriter Derek Kolstad, whose responsible for that Keanu Reeves franchise, such an assessment isn’t far off at all. But, it differs in that the lead is Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”), someone typically not associated with the action genre and winds up initially subverting what we’re used to in the one-man-army subgenre. The actor succeeds in delivering an uncanny performance here, while director Illya Naishuller (“Hardcore Henry”) fully embraces the oddity of it all, combining comedy with hyper kinetic violence. Read more…

Interview with SENIOR MOMENT director Giorgio Serafini

March 22, 2021

 

Today William Shatner boldly goes where he has never gone before, by turning 90 years old. It’s hard to believe it, but then again it does feel like the prolific larger-than-life Canadian actor, writer, producer, director, and singer, has graced various stages, television shows and movies forever. On some projects, like his Priceline advertisements or his role as Grand Pear on the animated television series “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”, all we hear is his inimitable voice. Apparently, working with Shatner is like magic, which is what I gathered when I spoke with Giorgio Serafini last week. He directed Shatner for his latest movie, “Senior Moment”, a romantic comedy which will be released in theaters and on VOD as of March 26th. Read more…

THE COURIER (2021) review

March 21, 2021

 

written by: Tom O’Connor
produced by: Adam Ackland, Ben Browning, Ben Pugh & Rory Aitken
directed by: Dominic Cooke
rated: PG-13 (for violence, partial nudity, brief strong language, and smoking throughout)
runtime: 111 minutes
U.S. release date: March 19, 2021 (theaters)

 

Cold War spy thrillers can be for a target audience, but when specific elements are combined, they can have the ability to reach viewers that would otherwise overlook such films. Those specific elements would include obvious ingredients such as great performances and solid direction, but when a compelling story is based on actual events, it adds significant weight to it, asking viewers to lean in a little closer. Such is the case with “The Courier”, the latest film from director Dominic Cooke (“On Chesil Beach”) and screenwriter Tom O’Connor (“The Hitman’s Bodyguard”), that examines the part an British businessman had in preventing an outbreak of nuclear war in the early 1960s. Read more…

ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE (2021) review

March 18, 2021

 

written by: Chris Terrio, Zack Snyder, and Will Beall
produced by: Deborah Snyder and Charles Roven
directed by: Zack Snyder
rated: R (for violence and some language)
runtime: 242 min.
U.S. release date: March 18, 2021 (HBO Max)

 

It doesn’t take much to say that “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is a better movie than the debacle Warner Brothers Pictures released in 2017, since the bar was quite low to begin with. Despite being credited as director on “Justice League”, Snyder had to understandably bow out (along with his co-producer wife, Deborah Snyder) during post-production after the tragic death of his daughter, and the studio hired two-time “Avengers” writer/director Joss Whedon to finish the feature. The result was a creative and aesthetic mess and a financial flop, hurting any chances of expanding the DC Extended Universe on the big screen. Now, after much outcry and online petitions from disappointed Snyder fans (along with members of the cast and crew), for the studio to release the “Snyder Cut”, we have a course-correcting 4-hour/6-part endeavor (including an epilogue) for DC Comics fans. While it is entertaining and slightly more fulfilling, it also showcases the best and worst of a stylistic filmmaker. Read more…

STRAY (2020) review

March 15, 2021

 

written by: Deborah Lo
produced by: Deborah Lo
directed by: Deborah Lo
rated: not rated
runtime: 72 min..
U. S. release date: March 5, 2021 (Music Box Theatre & Siskel Film Center; also available on YouTube, Google Play, VUDU & Amazon Prime)

 

“If dogs run free, then why not we/Across the swooping plain?” is how Bob Dylan opens his poetic beat jazz tune from “New Morning” his album from 1970 and that line surfaced from my subconscious while watching “Stray”. It’s a documentary revolving around just that: dogs that run free. Just how free and how humans respond to such freedom is touched on throughout the course of the immersive film. Even if you’re not a “dog person”, there is something to be gleaned here on an anthropological level, something to be said about homo sapiens. Read more…

THE VIGIL (2021) review

March 3, 2021

 

written by: Keith Thomas
produced by: J.D. Lifshitz, Adam Margules, Raphael Margules & Jamie Buckner
directed by: Keith Thomas
rated PG-13 (for terror, some disturbing/violent images, thematic elements and brief strong language)
runtime: 89 min.
U.S. release date: February 26, 2021 (avail. to rent on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Vudu, Apple TV+ and Google Play)

 

There have been horror films steeped in religion from different cultures, but it’s rare to find one like “The Vigil”, which incorporates Orthodex Jewish rituals and lore into an atmospheric ghost story. The feature-length directorial debut from writer/director Keith Thomas focuses on an emotionally plagued young man who takes a very unique job for one specific night which will set into motion an unsettling turn of events. While the central performance is noteworthy and underlying themes of guilt and shame accentuate the elements of fear, “The Vigil” is weirdly usurped by obnoxious sound design and a distractingly blaring score by composer Michael Yezerski. Read more…

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…