The Father

Where to Watch Anthony Hopkins' 'The Father' Movie

The Father is practically a psychological horror movie, depicting the decaying psyche of an old man, battered by dementia. The Father tends pretty grimly, but its excellent lead performance from Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins and the film’s structural fluidity set it apart from similarly bleak dramas about the dilapidating mental functions of a senior citizen.

Anthony (Played by Anthony Hopkins) at first glance, an ordinary elderly man, in the waning years of his life, awaiting his daughter’s arrival (Played by Olivia Colman) to discuss her new living arrangements. This all serves as a prelude to the mental and emotional fireworks. From there, everything becomes a lot less concrete. Faces of loved ones morph, the layout of Anthony’s apartment shifts, Anne gains a husband and Anthony is introduced to an in-home care person who bears a striking resemblance to his youngest daughter who may or may not be dead. As dementia wreaks havoc on his subconscious, Anthony’s only attachment to reality becomes a watch he keeps misplacing, an almost perfect metaphor for Anthony’s spiraling reality.

The Father commits itself to depicting the realities of dementia through oft-surreal ripples in the consciousness of its protagonist. That first sign that things are amiss in Anthony’s flat is quite alarming and so, so well-executed, a slight, but perceptible alteration to what we’ve been told by Anthony’s daughter about why she’s come to see her father, that becomes a dire sign for what’s to come as minuscule shifts balloon into far more concerning and substantial lapses in memory that we witness through Anthony’s point of view.

Anthony Hopkins is the focus of this movie and Hopkins’s performance is a consistently surprising lead performance representative of a film that is just as unpredictable. He doesn’t play it too big even in the very erratic and sporadic launches between an almost effortless effervescence and the prickly, defensive edge that comes to the surface whenever his self-sufficiency comes into question. Hopkins not only has to channel a frequently changing demeanor but a frame of mind. He goes from distant, resigned in his cloud of seemingly eternal confusion, to in your face, saying truly cruel things to his daughter and finding himself reduced to tears, calling out for his mother. It’s no secret we’re nearing Oscar season and Hopkins’ turn here is poised to reap some awards, unlike other performances that often find themselves in a similar position, there isn’t that moment that feels like he’s reaching, attempting to milk an enthralling monologue or moment within the material. Hopkins’s performance stays in line even in its frequent transformations within his mind and mood, everything feels of a piece with that character. He is just as compelling as when he putters down a hallway as when he explodes at his daughter, the person who cares for him most. Speaking of his character’s daughter, Olivia Colman is in this too and she’s good! Her performance is almost all nuance, amidst her father’s declaration of his preference for her sister over the daughter in earshot who’s taken care of him, a palpable look of dejection spreads across her face, Colman’s strength, as an actress lies in her conviction, whether it’s the queen of England or a local detective, it’s the poise she possesses that has shaped so many of her roles. She has that same poise in The Father, but the real key to her performance here is in the moments that poise slips, the cracks in the armor brought about by her father’s outbursts, a person who gives her father so much to make sure he’s taken care of and gets nothing back. It’s a really complicated and interesting perspective and it’s almost to the film’s detriment that Anthony’s point of view is so distinctive and encompasses so much of the movie and it spends so little time with Anne.

The Father applies precision to the unraveling of an old man’s reality. You can see The Father where theaters are open on March 12th and it will be available on Video On Demand platforms starting March 26th.

The Father movie review & film summary (2021) | Roger Ebert

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A Glitch In The Matrix

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A Glitch In The Matrix is a radical, uniquely presented look at simulation theory in the digital age, how those who prescribe to the notion that we’re all living in a simulation came to those beliefs and how it affects their outlook going forward. Dense, but accessible, directed by Rodney Ascher, it’s the rare documentary that asks a question it knows it can’t answer.

 

In the late 1970s, famed author Phillip K Dick, known for his sci-fi stories, gave a talk where he laid out his theory that we are living in a simulation. This becomes the entry point to dive into the maw of simulation theory, its depth only outmatched by its complexity. Similar to another Rodney Ascher joint Room 237, which mined the Stanley Kubrick film The Shining for its hidden meanings, A Glitch In The Matrix utilizes a famed and celebrated movie as its main frame of reference in exploring its theme, as it pertains to simulation theory, that film or masterpiece rather is the 1999 Keanu Reeves-led sci-fi wonder The Matrix, the point at which simulation theory went fully mainstream. Ascher’s film investigates where stimulation theory stemmed from, how its tenets and principles have been echoed throughout history by everyone from Plato to Elon Musk and how it’s looked at in this day and age.

 

I’m so glad I went into this movie knowing as little as I did and frankly, I’m not sure how much any research pre-watch could prepare you for what this film is. Initially, my interest peaked at the possibility of exploring the making of The Matrix in a documentary format, which, for the sake of forwarning this is very much not, but I soon realized that this was about simulation theory and after a short explanation from a friend about what that even means, I sat down and watched the film. Rodney Ascher’s film subverts a lot of documentary trappings. The conceit of A Glitch In The Matrix can’t so much be explored as marveled at and the possibilities of a simulated reality tinkered with and so that’s exactly what it does, boldly depicting this proposed reality entirely through CG animation that brings it to life and clips from popular culture that has dealt with similar ideas. I respect that a film about simulations indulges so heavily in the same thing, even many of the people’s identities it seeks out to discuss the topic with are shielded by these heightened virtual avatars that their perspectives are filtered through. More simulation-like choices. It gets very meta, but in a way that tries to adhere to and honor the film’s focus and not in a way where it’s constantly tapping you on the shoulder trying to see if you got what it was going for. 

 

The movie even interrogates its existence and whether or not it is a tool of the simulation it’s circling and what impact will it have, but on a different level, not will it change hearts and minds, but how will it warp its viewer’s sense of reality? And while mine didn’t feel shattered by the film’s conclusion, I don’t think that’s what’s A Glitch In The Matrix is going for. I have respect for any movie that seeks to make you question the world you live in, socially, politically, A Glitch In The Matrix does that quite literally. If you’re looking for a documentary that finds the key to its main topic and deconstructs it bit by bit, this isn’t that, but if you’re willing to go on a bit of a journey through a school of thought via the lens of a capable filmmaker that challenges what you think about your reality, sit down, give this a chance and I think you’ll enjoy it. A Glitch In The Matrix is left incomplete almost by design, but somehow that works to its charm.  It just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and it will be available in theaters and at home on February 5th.

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News of the World

Tom Hanks Western 'News of the World' Coming to Netflix Internationally -  What's on Netflix

News of the World is a classical, character-driven western amped up by the strength of its lead performances and cinematography.

Directed by Paul Greengrass of Captain Phillips and United 93, News of the World stars Tom Hanks as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a veteran and former newspaper man. He charts course across a divided, post-civil war America, going from town to town and doling out the news along with hope or despair depending on the headline. It’s on these journeys that he finds in the woods a corpse and a toppled buggy, with a lone girl inside and some papers telling her story. She’s Johanna, a German orphan adopted by  then taken from the Native Americans who slayed her parents. Kidd takes it upon himself to find her the home she’s had taken away from her on more than one occasion, undeterred by the challenges ahead of them.

Tom Hanks is a gem as usual. This is a capital m movie star who’s committed to naturally exuding warmth and empathy with nearly every role he takes on in this stage of his career, but it works and he’s great at it. Hanks plays Kidd as gruff, grizzled, a little rough around the edges, a performance that seems a little out of left field in the canon of Hanks but without sacrificing the qualities that make him so endearing as a performer. He’s flawed, we know he’s done some things he’s not proud of prior to the events of the film, but he’s atoning for those actions with an outstretched hand and caring heart to a person who needs it, a beacon of decency in a world that doesn’t always adhere, the ideal stage on which for Hanks to work his magic. Fortunately, Hanks has a more than capable scene partner throughout in Helena Zengel, who plays Johanna, the child who he embarks on the journey at the center of the movie with. Her performance is mesmerizing and layered with nuance and captures a character with a fiery spirit and worldly inner life. 

The vistas and wide plains of a western are catnip to any cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski creates a soft unease amid the ethereal hues of the frontier. There’s an air of uncertainty that comes with their arduous journey that clouds over the majesty of the terrain. Wolski’s cinematography basks in that majesty but doesn’t let it shake its focus on the characters at the center of it all. You become enveloped in the vastness of Captain Kidd and Johanna’s travels, but fearful of what may lie ahead.

Greengrass’s film seems primed for the big screen with its wealth of setpieces motivated by scale and environment, but in the current times, a good portion of the people who watch this movie will watch it at home and the movie seems just as set for that viewing experience with its stripped-down moments in between those grander ones.

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Mosul

Mosul': Venice Review | Reviews | Screen

Mosul is a whirlwind of a movie anchored by legitimately visceral sequences throughout and brisk pacing that the film sustains from beginning to end. In an environment where streaming has become the predominant mode of consuming content, it’s gratifying to get a movie this immersive, one that never truly lets up and one that will certainly keep you invested in the different directions it goes in.

Based on a New Yorker article from 2017 and produced by the Russo Brothers and the production company AGBO, Mosul takes place in the titular city and follows the exploits of the Nineveh SWAT team, who gained their prestige through their clashes against ISIS forces. We meet the team through the eyes of Kawa, a rookie cop who is ushered into the team by the steely commander Jasem after they save Kawa and his seasoned partner mid-ambush. With ISIS on the retreat from the city and the arrival of a new command, the team has gone rogue and decides to carry out one final mission of their own, the details of which are kept from Kawa, but we come to find it’s rooted in a far more personal place than the ones they’ve gone through prior.

Through the absorbing bend much of the film takes, we are put in the heat of battle at every turn, but it’s rarely energetic and that becomes an effective element of the film’s tone. There’s a weariness to each encounter with the enemy as they occur with increasing frequency and over the course of their journey, these soldiers are just trying to survive, and here’s where Mosul cements its stakes breathlessly and efficiently. It begins to feel inevitable that the Nineveh will lose one of their own nearly every time they make contact with ISIS’s opposing forces. What sets Mosul apart from similar tactically minded flicks is the moments of loss it frequently hammers home. In between the intensity of the action and each waypoint on their venture, there are moments of stillness where we get to witness the fighter’s true colors which makes their losses sting with greater severity, sometimes it’s commentating over a soap opera on television and at others, it’s cruising in a humvee through the ruins of Mosul, as they’re reminded of why they fight and who they’re fighting for. The secret sauce that really makes those points of the film work where the team isn’t being rained down on by gunfire is that they’re still actively pushing the story forward and doing the necessary work to engage us with the characters at the center of the story. Mosul’s structure reminded me of that of a video game, with each conflict or objective so to speak being separated by points of exposition and development but it works for a mission-focused narrative in this case.

 Mosul is a raw testament to the heroism of the Nineveh SWAT team with an unexpectedly emotional conclusion and I’d greatly recommend it.  You can see it on Netflix right now.

Mosul (2019) - IMDb

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Tenet

Christopher Nolan's movie 'Tenet': What is this movie about? – Film Daily

Since for almost as long as Christopher Nolan has been making movies, time itself has been his greatest muse. From the fragmented narrative of Dunkirk to the gun re-entering Leonard’s hand in Memento as the film begins to travel backward (Big time inversion vibes there). Nolan is to time as Kubrick is to hubris and imperfection. Nolan seems horrified by all that time can achieve, whether lost, misplaced, or in the case of Tenet, placed in the wrong hands, but is fascinated by the way it operates, forwards, backward, and every way in between. It can be harnessed, manipulated, and weaponized, but never fully controlled or understood. In his 11th and latest film, time takes center stage and The Protagonist  (John David Washington) is dispatched to figure out what’s going on.  After a roaring setpiece set in an opera house that opens the film, we enter a world of espionage and The Protagonist meets with a scientist, played by Clémence Poésy, who informs him that time can be inverted, sending one backward through a world going in an entirely different direction with objects, whose entropy can also be bent to navigate the inverted world, helping him uncover the key to traversing this new world he’s found himself immersed in. He and another operative named Neil (Robert Pattinson) rendezvous and unfold this web of oligarchs with thick accents, arms dealers, and world-ending stakes all while causing a fair amount of big-budget hijinks (Blowing up 747s, launching up buildings, etc.) along the way.

I’m not going to lie, I was AMPED for Tenet.  I  didn’t think I would see this movie in any capacity for at least a couple months, fortunately, I found a drive-in reasonably close to me showing the film. Tenet is an interesting film to think about and digest, warts and all. As much fun as I had with lighter fare this summer like Eurovision and An American Pickle, it was refreshing to have a movie to dig into this deeply and openly interrogate its flaws because as much as I admire the movie, it certainly has some. The time since I saw it has been split between me going “Oh, that doesn’t make sense and that scene was pretty difficult to follow,” and “OH MY GOD! Remember when they crashed that plane into the hangar. Did you know that was the same guy who flipped the truck in The Dark Knight? Ah, that was awesome!” The grander stakes of Neil and The Protagonist’s mission are easy to grasp as soon as another character drops the threat of mass destruction mid-exposition, the emotional ones don’t hold the same weight. It reminded of me in Inception in that way, a film I have the same problem with, for all the film does to establish the rules of time inversion, it rarely gives the audience anything substantial amongst the characters it introduces to latch on to. Nolan’s work can be overly reserved and distant, even his best films suffer from this flaw to a degree. Elizabeth Debicki plays the wife of the main antagonist and her characterization goes about as far as she has a son. She and Cobb from Inception would get along. I imagine them chatting about their steadfast dedication to seeing their children again. I’m so, so glad I saw this on the big screen, I like its ideas, John David Washington just might be the next great movie star and the score by Ludwig Gorransson rips. Watching Tenet felt strangely similar to the experience of watching the pilot of a TV show. I bought into it and am excited to give it another couple episodes (In this context, viewings.), but I don’t think I quite understand the full hand it’s playing yet at first glance. I’m looking forward to further deciphering the film when it’s more widely available, there’s a lot I like here, but there’s some I don’t. Christopher Nolan has made some of my favorite films of the 21st century and a few of my favorite films ever, so for him to deliver a rollicking, jubilantly complex and at times incomprehensible espionage thriller in which he’s toying with and manipulating the ideas and concepts he’s been tinkering with his whole career is not out of left field but after a movie like Dunkirk that bore all his trademarks but felt unlike anything he’d ever made, it’s slightly disappointing. There’s a line delivered early on in the film to The Protagonist to help him grasp the conflict he now finds himself a part of- “Don’t try to understand it. Feel it.” That may be the key to truly appreciating Tenet, but although there’s a lot you can try to understand in the film, there’s not enough to feel.

Tenet Review – The Musings of Apple Juice

 

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Streaming Recommendations (HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Criterion Channel etc.)

There’s a lot of content to consume out there right now, we got new streaming services popping up left and right, countless movie releases opting out of a theatrical release for one on VOD. Even though, it’s been close to 5 months since I last went into a movie theater, the river that is streaming continues to flow.

HBO Max:

Ford V Ferrari- 

This movie is fantastic.  I already praised it in a review on this website, but I watched it again recently and it is absolutely thrilling stuff. It consistently reaches this point of pure visceral rush that most movies never come close to achieving.

 

Megamind

A masterpiece ignored in its day. No joke. This is a stand-alone superhero story and a loving ode to comic books long before those became the norm. It’s the classic Superman story, but with a few wrinkles to it (Take notes, Zack Snyder). Megamind, played by Will Ferrell, sent away from a dying planet out into a wide universe with an uncertain destiny. On his way to a new home, his journey is interrupted by another child sent on a journey of his own, Metroman, played by Brad Pitt (!). Thus, an unparalleled rivalry begins. Oh, yeah and with a standout score by Hans Zimmer. This movie rules.

My Neighbor Totoro- 

This movie is pure magic and a fantastic way to acquaint yourself to the work of Hayao Miyazaki.

Alita: Battle Angel-

An equal parts schlocky and epic sci-fi adaptation. Definitely feels like the product of Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron,  2 accomplished cinematic voices with pretty disparate styles. Not sure it was the best idea to have them collaborate because the final product is MESSY. It feels like 2 drastically different visions at war with each other, fighting for control on the same film. Cameron’s sense of scope and Rodriguez’s cartoonish sensibilities (more akin to something like Spy Kids than Sin City). Alita is a visual feat all her own, but the performance by Rosa Salazar is even more impressive. She brings so much life to this character and by extension, the film as a whole. Alita, a warrior searching for her identity. Discovering who she was and becoming the hero she was meant to be. I have a feeling that her and Paddington would get along. Can someone make that happen? That’d be pretty cool.

Aquaman-

This movie is a Saturday morning cartoon come to life and it is. So. Much. Fun.

Drop Dead Gorgeous-

What initially seems like a chance to give the world of pageantry a mockumentary spin (rightfully so) becomes a semi-slasher. semi-whodunnit as the death toll accrues. Anchored by a knock-out ensemble consisting of actors like Amy Adams, Kristen Dunst, Allison Janney, Brittany Murphy, etc.

 

Hulu:

Palm Springs- 

I. Love. This. Movie. Palm Springs gives you a familiar setup, but does something entirely new with it. It unfolds and evolves into a rollicking, fizzy, incredibly enjoyable comedy with an earnest edge. Groundhog Day is like the epitome of the time-loop movie. It’s engaging, hilarious, thoughtful, take your pick of a positive superlative, that movie’s probably got it. Palm Springs has a lot to live up to, and fortunately it does. More of a riff on Groundhog Day, a slight homage than a straight modern-day adaptation. It continues it’s way of exploring what it means to be a human being through these extraordinary circumstances and how these people discover themselves within them. Groundhog Day is about self-improvement and enlightenment whereas Palm Springs chronicles the connections we make in our life with the people around us because there’s a chance that life can be a little less mundane with them in it.

A Quiet Place-

A Quiet Place  is a horror film that stands out amongst the crowd. It’s riveting  and ingeniously plays with one of the building blocks of film itself: sound. I wouldn’t call A Quiet Place purely a horror movie. The way I see it, it’s a family drama that takes place in horrific circumstances. 

 

Netflix:

Train To Busan-

What every zombie film should strive to be. (Can’t wait for Peninsula!)

Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark-

Kinda perfect. The pinnacle of 80’s action blockbusters and the franchise. Pure rollicking, rewarding fun. Perhaps Spielberg’s finest film. Insane how tightly paced this film is.

The Shining-

The Shining is this incredibly unnerving descent into madness. It’s built on unsettling imagery and that uneasy feeling that something has gone very awry deep in the halls of the Overlook Hotel. Director Stanley Kubrick masterfully builds tension and that ever-encroaching sense of dread never lets us go.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World- 

10 years later, still one of my favorites that never quite got its due.

 

Disney+:

Avengers:Endgame-

Endgame is a blockbuster at it’s finest- spectacular, deeply moving and built as much around character as it is action. A sprawling conclusion to a grand cinematic saga. I struggle to fathom how the Russo’s pulled this off, but I’m so glad they did.

Fantastic Mr. Fox-

 It is such a wonderful film to revisit. It’s one of the few films I watch where I continue to notice new things every time I revisit it, not just in the animation and look of the film, but also the script and these characters. It’s a film so human and understanding set in this heightened, surreal world. Willem Dafoe plays a mangy, Southern-accented rodent who sports a swiss army knife and guards a room full of alcoholic cider. Like, honestly, what more could you want from a movie?

Captain America: The Winter Soldier-

Does for Captain America what Skyfall did for 007. If every Marvel movie were on this level, the MCU would be the greatest modern franchise.

 

Criterion Channel:

Certain Women-

Director Kelly Reichardt seems to have a deep affinity for people. Their experiences, their imperfections and trials and tribulations. She makes the mundanity of everyday life feel worthy of exploration. Reichardt does something I think only the best filmmakers know how to do well. You can douse your film in glitz and polish and stuff it with bombastic filmmaking choices, but the mark of a talented filmmaker is knowing when to let the camera sit. When to take a breather without grinding the film to a halt.

Hollywood Shuffle-

Robert Townsend is a talent. This feels custom-made to show off his versatility and dynamism as a comedic force. He made a satirical, sketch-based comedy that still feels it has something to say about the Black experience in Hollywood not just then, but now too, over 30 years after its release. This is a film about a struggling actor that feels like its made by someone who understands those struggles. Also thank god for high-quality movies that clock in under 90 minutes.

Virtual Cinemas/VOD:

John Lewis:Good Trouble-

If you want to have even an inkling of the magnitude of Congressman Lewis’s life and work and how monumental his legacy will be, watch this documentary.

The Fight:

It’s pretty good. Shines when it showcases the micro-struggles these lawyers face within the monumental ones they face-whether its a lawyer trying to put their argument through faulty voice-to text software or a lawyer’s phone dying just as a ruling comes in. It’s incredible current and I think an important watch to understand the issues we find ourselves talking about everyday and who’s fighting them.

First Cow:

Fantastic. A delicate, intimate portrait of friendship between a cook named Cookie and a Chinese immigrant named King Lu in frontier-era America that becomes a larger look of the systems and institutions that hold them back from achieving greater. Director Kelly Reichardt’s films operate at such a distinctive rhythm that tiny, minuscule moments within the movies have the ability to stand out as something much greater.

Alright, well that’s it for now, but look out for another one of these roundups in a couple of weeks.

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Scoob!

Scoob!' coming to iTunes on May 15, bypassing theaters and rental ...

The Scooby-Doo property has been around since 1969, but believe it or not, Scoob! is the first full-length, theatrically released animated feature to come out of this brand and it takes the Mystery Inc.’s members on a new, but not entirely satisfying path.

After being told off by Simon Cowell (Yes, that Simon Cowell), Shaggy (Will Forte), and Scooby (The incomparable Frank Welker) leave their pals to go bowling when they are chased by aww-inducing, but deadly robots who are intent on attacking them. They are beamed up to the Falcon Fury where they meet Dynomutt, Dee Dee Sykes, and the adult son of their childhood idol, Brian (Mark Whalberg), who struggles to live up to the expectations placed on him by his father’s tenure as the superhero Blue Falcon (Basically Robin with confidence issues.). They soon find themselves at the center of a grand prophecy where Scooby is the key to opening the gates of hell and must be protected before Dick Dastardly uses him to unleash havoc on the world and retrieve his sidekick Muttley.

Scooby-Doo’s resonance in our cultural lexicon has long surpassed that of it’s Hanna Barbera cohorts. Nearly 50 years later, people are still finding new ways to update the original cartoon and crank out new iterations of the adventures of Scooby, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne, and Fred. To Scoob!’s credit, it does a fine job of breathing new life into a reliable, time-tested formula and greatly expands its scope. 

Scoob! Is set to be the catalyst for a Hanna Barbera cinematic universe (For the rest of this review, I’m just going to refer to this as the HBU for the sake of conciseness)  that would feature the various characters from their catalog of cartoons. That seems like a fun idea and I am curious to see where that potential franchise is headed in the wake of Scoob!, but the results so far are not great. I understand this is only their first outing, but Scoob! fails to see what makes a cinematic universe successful. It’s about steady build-up from one character to another, each film building on that of the previous. I wouldn’t write off this cinematic universe just yet, after all, it is only their first outing, but Scoob! reveals too much of its hand for what is supposed to be an introduction to this new era of Hanna Barbera’s characters. 

Scoob! has an affinity for the series it spawned from. In the opening minutes, we get a faithful recreation of the original show’s title sequence and countless references that only the most seasoned fans will truly appreciate. It is telling that you’ll find way more of the passion for this property in the smaller details and deep in the background of this film and not at the forefront of the story being told and that gets to the root of this film’s greatest flaw. While watching Scoob!, I yearned for the simple, but rewarding thrills found in a traditional Scooby-Doo adventure. They come now and then, but they’re pretty fleeting in the grand scheme of a film that routinely feels contrived and sloppy.

The voice cast is packed, but unfortunately very few of them bring a lot to this film. The entire Mystery Inc. crew are such radically distinct personalities that it seems difficult to distill the essences of those characters in one single voice performance. That said,  I was disappointed with the voice performances of Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), Velma (Gina Rodriguez), and Fred (Zac Efron). The film coasts more on their star power than it does the substance of their performances. They bring very little energy to the film and their performances lack the gusto necessary to correctly bring these characters to life. As usual, Frank Welker is excellent, but he’s also been playing Scooby-Doo for literally decades and has made a career out of transforming into various characters using only his voice. Mark Whalberg’s role is a welcome surprise. He’s really fun and brings a lively, spirited force to Scoob!. In terms of Whalberg’s career arc, it comes pretty out of left field to have Whalberg play an insecure, dimwitted low-rate superhero, but I found him to be pretty delightful.

The title Scoob! seems apt because while it features the entire Mystery Inc. crew, at its core, this is a Shaggy and Scooby story. The plot can sometimes feel like a Mad Libs-like exercise (Seriously, Simon Cowell, the gates of hell and the skulls of Cerberus all find their way into this film’s story), but it’s the bond between Shaggy and Scooby that grounds Scoob! and gives the film a sense of heart. The main thing that this property benefits from transitioning to a feature-length runtime are the degree to which the characters can grow in comparison with a normal Scooby-Doo outing. There are actual emotional stakes when it comes to the growing divide between Shaggy and Scooby and their interpersonal conflict is decidedly more effective than the supernatural one that unfortunately takes a much greater hold on the film.

If you’re a fan of Scooby-Doo, I think it’s pretty likely you’ll enjoy this, but otherwise, if this is a sign for the movies coming our way on VOD in these unprecedented times then I am deeply worried and I can’t say I’d recommend this film especially with its $20-plus price tag.

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Paper Moon

PAPER MOON | Metrograph

The year is 1973, the Vietnam War rages on and the Watergate scandal begins to escalate. The Exorcist haunted audiences across the country leading to countless sold-out showings and long lines. Martin Scorsese made his debut with Mean Streets. This was the year of films like The Sting, American Grafitti, Serpico, Robin Hood, Enter The Dragon, Westworld, and many more. At this time, director Peter Bogdanovich was in a near unparalleled groove that any filmmaker would consider a blessing. After breaking on to the scene with 1968’s Targets, he hit it big with 1971’s The Last Picture Show which brought him acclaim and serious clout as both a screenwriter and filmmaker, catapulting him toward promising future endeavors. After Last Picture Show, Bogdanovich went right into directing and writing a screwball comedy vehicle starring Ryan O’Neal, Barbara Streisand called What’s Up Doc. It ended up being one of the biggest hits of 1972 here in the states, grossing nearly 67 million dollars on a 4 million budget. Paper Moon was originally planned to star Paul Newman and his daughter, Nell, and would’ve been directed by John Huston, but when Huston departed the project, the Newmans soon followed. Paramount came to Bogdanovich next and initially, he turned it down. At that time, he and novelist Larry McMurtry were collaborating on a western that had attracted the talents of stars like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Cybill Shepard, Ellen Burstyn, and Cloris Leachman. Gradually, the project fell through with numerous actors losing interest in the project. This was not all bad news, though, as McMurtry bought back the rights to the script he and Bogdanovich had written years later and from it, wrote a book called Lonesome Dove that won the Pulitzer Prize that year and would spawn an Emmy-winning miniseries of the same name in the late 80s. Now that Bogdanovich’s schedule was free, he could turn his attention to Paper Moon.

 

Paper Moon is based on the 1971 novel Addie Pray, written by Joe David Brown (Why Paper Moon? Bogdanovich liked the title and pitched it to Orson Welles, who was cutting a movie in Rome at the time. Welles said, “That title is so good, you shouldn’t even make the picture, you should just release the title!” In the end, a scene was inserted where Addie gets her picture taken in front of a paper moon, funnily enough, the studio that had disapproved of Paper Moon as a title made it the title of the short-lived TV series that spun off from the film.). Addie Loggins (Tatum O’Neal in an Oscar-winning performance) has just become an orphan and it is at her mother’s funeral where she first meets Moses Pray (Ryan O’Neal), who poses as a kind soul and also goes by Moze, who will take Addie to her Aunt’s house in St. Joseph, Missouri. He tries to sell her to a man at a local grain mill for $200. Addie becomes wise to Moses’s efforts and they come to an agreement where she can travel with him until they make back $200. Addie discovers Moses’s profession- he sells bibles to recent widows saying their former spouse has bought them a special edition bible with gold personalized lettering. Addie joins Moses in his crooked schemes as they traverse the midwest and run into a whole host of colorful personalities on their way to St Joseph.

 

Paper Moon is a strangely captivating tale of small-time criminals and petty thieves. As for the casting process, it was frequent collaborator and ex-wife of Bogdanovich, Polly Platt, who led him to consider Ryan O’Neal, whom he’d just worked with on What’s Up Doc, and O’Neal’s daughter Tatum for the parts of Moses Pray and his partner in crime, Addie Loggins. So much of the film’s thrills come from their strifeful dynamic on screen. These are 2 people who deeply care about one another, but can only express it through quarreling. Bogdanovich puts the camera at the front of their vehicle and just lets it sit there, capturing very fun, engaging exchanges between Moze and Addie. Tatum O’Neal is incredible. Calling her performance precocious doesn’t do it justice. She exudes a kind of weary shade of wisdom beyond her years throughout the film. There is a real heart in this film and the way it depicts this relationship but the film rarely feels sentimental.

 

There are several instances where the film strays from its source material including the reduction of Addie Pray’s age to fit Tatum O’Neal’s age at the time, significantly changing the back half of the story and moving the action from the deep south to Kansas and Missouri. Trixie Delight, played here by Madeline Khan, who had worked with Bogdanovich before on What’s Up Doc, was notably not present in the first few drafts of the script but was added later on. It’s hard to imagine this film without Delight’s place in it. Madeline Khan brings a large amount of depth to this otherwise ditzy and dim character. Khan wows with her delivery of a monologue that starts as a plea for Addie to return to their vehicle after being relegated to the back seat through Trixie’s entrance into their way of life. It becomes a recounting of her many past failed relationships and ex-flames. Khan is up to the task absolutely nails it, blurring the lines of what’s comedic and what’s truly tragic in this woman’s tale of woe. It’s a monologue that works on either level thanks to Khan’s skillful performance. This is a textbook supporting performance. A memorable performance that resonates and “supports” the film, without taking away from the performances of her co-stars.

 

Peter Bogdanovich’s decision to shoot the film in Black and White pays off immensely. The look of the film gels so well with the story being told that within minutes, you feel transported to an entirely different era. The song selection in the film further grounds the viewer in the depression era-world being depicted and by shooting much of Moze and Addie’s trip on-location, it gives their journey an air of authenticity. 

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The Best of SXSW 2020: Shorts

Due to concerns surrounding the Coronavirus, the entirety of the SXSW conference and festivals set to take place in Austin, Texas in late March has been canceled. Fortunately, SXSW has partnered with Amazon Prime Video to bring a portion of the shorts and features that were supposed to play at their film festival to the Amazon Prime platform for a limited time (April 27th-May 6th). I watched several of the short films made available, so I’m going to do a sort of rundown. There are some I wasn’t impressed with, so I’d rather talk about the ones that I liked and the ones you should definitely watch while they’re being made available. I usually see the Pixar shorts and a few of the Oscar-nominated shorts as well, but I’ve never been anything of a short film aficionado. Overall, I was very impressed with the field of shorts presented. Keep in mind, all the shorts discussed here are available on Amazon Prime and you don’t need an Amazon Prime subscription to view them.

Watch The Tiniest Murder Scenes Come to Life as Dioramas - Stream ...

Dieorama:

Dieorama follows a court-appointed attorney who crafts dieoramas- dioramas with a twisted edge. My favorite aspect of this short was how the short treats this woman’s work with respect. It treats her work not as an off-kilter hobby, but as art that this woman has put her heart and soul into, and by the end of this short, I have a feeling, you will see it the same way.

Staff Pick Award at SXSW 2020: "VERT" by Kate Cox - Vimeo Blog

Vert: 

A short about a couple who try out a VR-like service that captures how your subconscious most wants to appear. This feels in the vein of Ready Player One or Black Mirror but has more to say about the interpersonal implications of this tech, not the global ones. What would cutting-edge technology mean for a middle-aged couple on their anniversary? Vert has a very good sense of atmosphere with the virtual space anchored by this almost otherworldly palpable use of purple. Vert feels intimate, while still exploring heady ideas of identity.

SXSW 2020 Schedule

Basic: 

Basic is a comedically adapt short film that explores the often negative emotions social media brings out in people. One woman’s commentary over another person’s social media profile illustrates what social media can turn people into and the insecurities it fuels. When the thing built to bring us together pushes people apart. It clocks in at just under 3 minutes. It’s fast and loose, but still has something to say about the world we’re living in.

Quilt Fever on Vimeo

Quilt Fever:

Quilt Fever is a delightful deep dive into the world of quilting at a convention in Kentucky that brings together the finest quilters across the country. It’s comprehensive, it’s touching and bound to make you feel the best out of all the shorts mentioned here. 

Lions in the Corner by Paul Hairston | Documentary | Directors Notes

Lions In The Corner:

This short is set in Virginia and follows a man named Scarface, who has set up a space called Streetbeefs where two people settle a disagreement MMA-style. I love how unbiased this short feels, what initially feels quite barbaric shifts to where I wouldn’t hesitate to call Streetbeef’s leader Scarface a hero. He is living proof of what happens when a beef between two people gets out of hand and he has the scars to prove it. He has taken his suffering and done something about it. He’s preventing violence in his community and using his past experiences to make sure no one else suffers that same fate. The camera captures, it doesn’t judge. I can’t wait to see what director Paul Hairston because this is an excellent debut.

 

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The Half of It

Free Members-Only Screening: The Half of It - Film Independent

The Half of It is a deeply endearing teen rom-com that remains charming even when it struggles to break free of the timeworn trappings of its genre.

Ellie Chu (Played by Leah Lewis) is a high school senior, who lives with her father by the railroad tracks in the fictional town of Squahamish. She makes money doing various assignments for her classmates in exchange for money. She is taken aback when classmate Paul Munsky (Played by Daniel Diemer) asks her to write a love letter to the girl of his dreams, Aster Flores (Played by Alexxis Lemire), who he’s fallen in love with. An unusual request that takes her out of her comfort zone, but with further convincing and negotiations for her price, she caves. From there, Chu coaches Munsky through various dates and they become friends, all while she conceals her true romantic feelings for the object of Paul’s affection. 

The Half of It inverts the way a love triangle operates. A love triangle is something that you’ll see often in films from this genre, but rarely does it live up to the hype. It often feels like an unnecessarily tedious wait for everything to come to a head and everyone’s true feelings to come to light, but The Half of It does something clever by pairing two of the triangle’s residents and building a friendship between them.  Ellie and Paul are not competitors vying for one person’s love, but two friends who bring out the best in each other and support one another in their endeavors. I enjoyed being in the company of these characters and that’s very much to the credit of the performances from Leah Lewis and Daniel Diemer, both very charming and two actors I think we’ll be seeing more of in the future. 

This film is just as much a coming of age story as it is a romantic comedy. From the opening scene, the film’s themes are established through a recounting of a Greek myth. The Half of It, at its core is about people finding their “other half.” even if that’s within themselves. Ellie Chu goes on a moving journey in this film, gaining confidence in who she is and learns the value of being herself. The Half of It, for all its strengths, struggles to avoid the conventions of the teen comedy. It views much of its characters very one-dimensionally. It gets close to feeling like something of a reinvention, but it’s the often stereotypical and trite depictions of these different types of people Ellie encounters that holds it back from doing so.

Many of Netflix’s other comedies directed towards this film’s demographic often feel lazy or sloppily put together. Director Alice Wu’s subtle storytelling and visual dynamism put her a step above her teen film filmmaker contemporaries. You can clearly see Wu’s passion in the way this film is presented and the story being told and you will feel like you’re watching something Wu put her heart and soul into.

The Half of It arrives on Netflix May 1st 

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