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Sunday, February 16, 2020


A woman starts to have second doubts about her husband after he runs away from an approaching avalanche, leaving her and their two sons behind.

Director: Nat Faxon

Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell, Miranda Otto, Zoë Chao, Zach Woods

Release Date: February 14, 2020

Genres:  Comedy, Drama

Rated R for language and some sexual material

Runtime:  1h 26min


Downhill is an oddly frustrating movie when you consider players involved.  This remake of the Swedish film Force Majeure, a film I've heard of but haven't seen, is intriguing in parts but never maintains any momentum to tell a meaningful story.  It's a rare feat that a film can feel both rushed and slow at the same time.  Nat Faxon's film screams like it should be worlds better than it ultimately is and he directs it with a steady hand, taking full advantage of the lovely locale.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell are solid together even Ferrell feels miscasted in as the family patriarch.  Dreyfus does get a few chances to show off her range, showcasing her dramatic chops while still nailing her comedic timing.  Zach Woods and Zoë Chao fun in limited roles while Miranda Otto seems to be having the most fun out of the entire cast.  Still the whole thing never connects on a emotional level the way it should, the story and meaning all feeling glossed over.  


Sunday, February 9, 2020

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Birds of Prey & The Last Full Measure

Despite the first real blast of winter rolling through my area this weekend, I was able to slip out to the cinema for Birds of Prey and the Last Full Measure.

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.

First on my agenda, the film with the unnecessarily awkward and misleading name, Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn.

Following her breakup with the Joker, Harley Quinn struggles to make her way on her own.

Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is misnamed in that it is mostly about Harley Quinn and hardly at all about the Birds of Prey, who pop up only sporadically throughout and not until the very end as a unit. Margot Robbie clearly is having the time of her life as Harley, as is Ewan McGregor as the film's psychotic big-bad. The rest of the cast is unremarkable, outside of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, always a rose even among thorns. Birds of Prey doesn't look half as good as the Gotham TV series as far as its production design and overall appearance and atmosphere, but there are a couple exceptional set pieces, particularly the climactic battle in a fun house. The movie makes great use of some popular tunes and features terrific score by Daniel Pemberton.

On the negative side, Birds of Prey is unrelentingly foul in both language and content. I'm a grownup and grownup content doesn't put me off, but the movie tries to shock for shock's sake and that's just boring. I find the character of Harley Quinn rather annoying, and this portrayal hasn't done anything to endear her to me. Much like the Minions--who are the best part of any Despicable Me movie but couldn't effectively carry a whole movie--a little Harley goes a long, long way. "Fun" is the word I've most often heard used to describe Birds of Prey, which for me frequently is code for, "It isn't very good but I liked it anyway." I can definitely see why people like this movie, despite it's not being particularly well done, and I'm grateful that solid reviews and good word of mouth should make it a win for DC, regardless of a (so far) sluggish box office.

Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn clocks in at 109 minutes and is rated R for "strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material."

While Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is built of some great pieces, the whole is too dark to be fun and too silly (bordering on downright stupid at times) to be properly dark. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Birds of Prey gets six.

Next on the docket, the Last Full Measure.

A hotshot government lawyer is assigned (against his will) to review the case of an airman killed in Vietnam, whose brothers in arms are convinced he was wrongfully denied the Medal of Honor.

First and foremost, I would like to give props to my local theater for getting this movie. Even though the film is in wide-release, there doesn't seem to be much buzz around it and I was certain it would pass right by my small town. So, thank you, Marquee Cinemas, for screening the Last Full Measure.

Onward to the movie, beginning where regular reader(s) will expect: with Sebastian Stan. I've said it before and I'll undoubtedly say it again (and again): Sebastian Stan is the finest actor of his generation, and one of the finest actors I've ever seen. If you only know him as a Marvel guy, you are really, really missing out. (Shameless plug: Please check him out in the short-lived series Kings, which you can watch for free on the NBC app.) As a longtime fan, you can bet I was as proud as his mama to see his name at the top of the credits, his first real big-screen lead. This role hardly taxes his talent, but his character is the film's backbone and he serves it well. Most of the acting heavy lifting is left to the older cast members: Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Peter Fonda, and John Savage, but--while fine performances elevate the material--they can't really save it. The tone is overly sentimental and the script is pedestrian, at times so melodramatic as to be almost comical, which is a sad disservice to its subject. Having said all that, the film does put the spotlight on a very deserving hero, and the folks in my screening and the one before it were largely moved to tears. That's a movie that certainly gets something right.

The Last Full Measure runs 116 minutes and is rated R for "war violence and language."

The Last Full Measure is a film that strikes a nerve, not necessarily because it tells its story well, but because it tells *such* a story. Of a possible nine Weasleys, the Last Full Measure gets seven.

Fangirl points: I mean, Seb, obviously, but Linus Roache was a nice surprise!

Until next time...

Saturday, February 8, 2020


It's open season on Harley Quinn when her explosive breakup with the Joker puts a big fat target on her back. Unprotected and on the run, Quinn faces the wrath of narcissistic crime boss Black Mask, his right-hand man, Victor Zsasz, and every other thug in the city. But things soon even out for Harley when she becomes unexpected allies with three deadly women -- Huntress, Black Canary and Renee Montoya.

Director: Cathy Yan

Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, Ewan McGregor

Release Date: February 7, 2020

Genres:  Action, Adventure, Crime

Rated Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material

Runtime:  1h 49min


Birds of Prey nails so many things right about Harley Quinn as a character that you'd be hard pressed to find flaw especially if you've been a fan since her inception.  Her debut in Suicide Squad, a movie that's unfairly bashed while still being fun if problematic, was iconic for Margot Robbie and the DC universe in general.  Regardless of how you feel about that movie, she was one of the shining lights of the whole affair.  Now in her own film, flanked by longtime Batman friends and adversaries, she's given full reign on the screen and story.  Cathy Yan helms the film with a kinetic energy that's hard to resist with luminous star in a role she was born to play.  There are so many impressively manic and nutty fight sequences to keep even the most blood thirsty movie goer begging for more.  It's a candy colored assault on the senses that takes a break here and there before it drops a mallet on your head again.  Supporting Robbie are equally game cast mates like Ewan McGregor who's obviously having a ball playing Black Mask.  Needless to say that DC fans will have to appreciate this take on Black Mask and Victor Zsasz because it's both respectful of each character but still their own singular take.  The same can be said of this entrie's take on Black Canary and Huntress played by an underused Mary Elizabeth Winstead.  Each brings a specific type of energy to their role much like the more seasoned Rosie Perez who just fits as Renee Montoya.  Ultimately, they are all floating around Margot Robbie's Quinn who keeps the whole thing rolling.  There's a definite girl power rolling through the entire film and it's the better for it, fitting right in as the crazy cousin to the more refined DC super heroine Wonder Woman.


Sunday, February 2, 2020


When their mother descends into madness, siblings Gretel and Hansel must fend for themselves in the dark and unforgiving woods. Hungry and scared, they fortuitously stumble upon a bounty of food left outside an isolated home. Invited inside by the seemingly friendly owner, the children soon suspect that her generous but mysterious behavior is part of a sinister plan to do them harm.

Director: Oz Perkins

Cast: Sophia Lillis, Charles Babalola, Jessica De Gouw, Alice Krige

Release Date: January 24, 2019

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Thriller

Rated PG-13 for disturbing images/thematic content, and brief drug material

Runtime: 1h 27min


There are certain films that come out of nowhere and end up leaving a major impression.  Oz Perkins’s third film is a visually arresting film that grabs your attention from its opening frame and never really lets it go.  This adaptation of the famous Grimm fairytale follows most of the basics beats but it adjusts portions of the tale to give a more meaty meaning and resonance.  The film is buoyed by two excellent performances from Sophia Lillis and Alice Krige.  Sophia Lillis performances continue to impress and this turn is tailor made for her ability to emote strength and intelligence.  She’s displays a maturity that some actors never reach but she’s boosted here by her interplay with Alice Krige.  Krige is the kind of character actor that really seems to relish being hidden behind make up and costuming. Krige and Lillis scenes together are some of the film’s highlights as the mentor and student relationship plays out.  The story plays out in an interesting and clever way while Perkin’s borrows heavily on cues from Dario Argento and Stanley Kubrick that will delight horror aficionados.   If there is a small issue it’s that for a horror movie it’s never really scary instead it’s atmospheric and moody.  Ultimately, it almost feels like the remake of Suspira people wanted all along. 

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