Review: Mary Queen of Scots

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It is inevitable to notice how much contrast there was in in the lives of Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I.  How much women in their time fought for the power to be heard. If you’re wondering how these rival queens are related here’s the quick guide. Mary Queen of Scots’ grandmother was Margaret, Queen of Scots who was also King Henry VIII’s older sister and as we know Queen Elizabeth I’s father was King Henry VIII. So that is how these two queens are related, they are cousins. Their rivalry over England’s throne is one that we know from the many Elizabeth biopics that exist, it is based on Elizabeth’s parentage (remember her mother was Anne Boleyn).

The movie started off and moves rather quickly rightfully so as historically these events happened over several years, so the movie proceeds by marking important events in Mary’s life in the span of two hours. You do have to follow closely as the narrative moves very quickly; however, it does not bombard you with information about the plot which lets the characters carry the story through until the end. There are a few spots where the audience is expected to assume Elizabeth’s romantic relationship with Lord Dudley, Elizabeth’s royal advisor and his motives, Mary’s half-brother and his involvement with England, but most notably there is not a clear marker of how much time has passed.

Director Josie Rourke covered a lot of ground by marking the important life passages in Mary’s life which mirrored those of the roles women were expected to fulfill at the time but which resonate even today. Saoirse Ronan (Mary) is radiant on screen, this is one of her best performances yet. She transcends the audience into Mary’s struggle to prove herself among the men who undermine her authority when she proves time and time again that she is the boss, that she knows what she wants. Margot Robbie’s (Elizabeth I) performance is suitably quiet yet strong. We’re so used to seeing films about Queen Elizabeth I and her reign or her lovers, but this is not that film. This one is particularly about Queen Mary and her fight to a throne that was rightfully hers. You can expect the men to grotesquely enjoy weaving lies and plots to have these two women against each other. Why? Why else if not to be king. Because there is nothing more attractive than watching men moving two monarchs across like game pieces to gain power themselves. They will build them up only to bring them down.

This is a great approach to a different perspective that we don’t normally see in film. We’re so tired of seeing Elizabeth I  biopics what about everyone else? There are so many other stories this one waited too long to be told but it was desperately needed.

Mary Queen of Scots premieres Friday, Dec. 07.

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Review: Venom

 

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Let’s start with how this is the closest comic to movie Marvel film to date. Last night I was part of a group who got to see an advanced screening of the movie out this Friday, October 5, and I will say that the general consensus was that Sony and Marvel stayed close to the comic for the first big anti-hero movie we’ve seen. I am a true believer that not every story needs a hero and sometimes the villain wins. While I am an absolute supporter of all of Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed previous performances I walked in with an open mind and super excited to see all of them in one movie. They did not fail. All three brought forth their best in the most professional way that I know also brings out the best in every scene with anyone they work with. Anyone.

As an audience member, I enjoyed the funny parts which were earned. Lately, previous Marvel films have really pushed comedic moments and they come across forced and overwhelming, I’m looking at you Avengers. That is not the case for Venom. While it’s an anti-hero movie, there is an exact balance between the tension the characters require as well as the release that the story needs. All tension and no release is not good on the page or on film. Which brings me to the following: as a writer, I appreciated that every scene and dialogue in this movie is earned. There were no unnecessary scenes that we often see in superhero films (I’m looking at you Superman, Batman, and others).

There is no comparison needed between this movie and a previous characterization of Venom in the Spiderman 3 (2007) movie. Because I’d like to point out just like other people, other critics, and other writers make it known when it’s convenient for them and that I will throw back at you that that characterization exists in a far-long gone Marvel universe that is irrelevant to the one in the Venom movie.

Tom Hardy’s performance brings charisma and character to Eddie Brock who stumbles upon Venom in a heroic way. Eddie’s relationship with Annie (Michelle Williams) is one of the most modern and solely independent characterizations of real relationships I’ve seen in a Marvel film. Their chemistry on-screen is genuine and through their characters truly show us that actions have consequences that hurt for the people involved. Which again doesn’t typically happen in these types of films. Riz Ahmed’s performance as Dr. Carlton Drake is amazing. He takes you scene by scene building up to his villainous stride.

Like all origin movies, it is going to feel like there is too much to take in quickly because that’s how these types of stories are supposed to feel like in the beginning. There is no other way to convey to the audience in an origin story all the important bits as well as the stuff that makes them care for the character without making them feel this way. All of these things take time and in this movie, they achieve it in less time than most. Which speaks to the timely pacing that exists and moves the story forward. I was fully engaged in the story.

Don’t miss out and get your tickets today.

You definitely want to check out Venom this Friday, October 5th.

Review: KIN

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Here’s why you have to go watch KIN this weekend. First, let me start by saying that this is not your typical film and that’s a good thing. The title tells you pretty much what the main plot involves: family. Families come in many different ways and this movie celebrates that. It starts with Eli (Myles Truitt) a fourteen-year-old boy, who’s been having a tough time since his mom died. His ex-con brother Jimmy (Jack Reynor) returns home from prison and from there all hell breaks loose. As it would right? Only Eli has been hiding a secret, a weapon he found in an abandoned warehouse. A weapon that does not belong on Earth. The genre of this film is undefined it has young adult sci-fi vibes with tech-noir undertones. It’s dark and gritty it’s the perfect antidote for anyone in search of a palette cleanser this summer. KIN is the type of film that I am so often searching for and you’ll realize that too. It’s got great fresh talented faces and some familiar ones too. The chemistry among the cast really transcends across the screen to the audience. One of the reasons I enjoyed this film is that the story is solid about family. You have a story of a family living on this Earth and all the conflict that can entail in the forefront and then you have in the background the mysterious otherworldly weapon. The story not only focuses on what the main plot is and what you’ll discover along the way until the ending, but it also brings out the complexities of families, the dangers that exist for all of us in this world or another.

Gosh, I hope there is a sequel.

KIN is directed by twin brothers Jonathan and Josh Baker it is out Friday, August 31st

Review: Gemini

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This is the reason why you need to go watch Gemini this week/weekend!

From the moment the movie begins you get the feeling that you are indeed in the beachy parts of Los Angeles that hide in plain sight. The palm trees and purple chrome tinge in the film give us a clue that not all is what it seems in a town that reports 24/7 on the ongoings of most of its citizens. The first scene is perfect taking it’s audience into the world of celebrity that we don’t get to see, but only read about in the tabloids or on TMZ. We meet Heather (Zoë Kravitz), an actress and Jill (Lola Kirke), her assistant. From the get-go it is understood that they have been working together for quite some time, with Jill often covering for Heather, who is wanting a change of pace and wants to just chill for awhile. There’s nothing wrong with a rather busy person wanting to take some time off from work from time to time. Heather refuses to carry on with her commitments so you can imagine the response from the people involved–they hate her–they threaten her. Heather’s just a movie star that has fallen victim of her profession, she wants the simpler things in life–friendship, close relationships, people she can trust. At some point you feel sorry for her for what she possibly has had to endure to get to where she is–fed up with her life being so public. Zoe Kravitz performance is a testament to what is not said but shown. She nails her characters likability with other characters–and communicates the other side of that to the audience.

The writing is where it’s at with Gemini. Aaron Katz who wrote and directed gives the audience exactly what they need to know for this thriller. Every scene has a purpose, the transitions between each are direct, the score pulls you into these characters lives and resonates an eerie kind of loneliness that springs from the screen. As does the choice of film and color which complement the story very well. Every turning point brings you closer to the truth. So pay attention. Lola Kirke’s performance is captivating as her character Jill is left to make sense of Heather’s mysterious murder. You have to listen and take cue again, to what is and isn’t said to get that Jill may have something to hide–from her past. That’s one of the reasons why this movie is so precisely written, you have a great balance of backstory that’s sprinkled throughout the movie that gives off this sticky feeling of fresh and dreamy mystery that plays with what you may have gathered to be true. The only thing I can say is that there were not enough John Cho scenes. However, he too nails the push-hard, play -hard detective role to a tee. Leaves you wondering whether he’s got a motive of his own.

As the end approaches we’re left indeed with a lingering feeling of uneasiness that borders both on having found the answer to having barely touched the surface to a murder that may not be what it seems. This I think was intentional on Katz part. Perhaps the answer we got wasn’t to the right question or person.

Gemini is out in theaters now.

Review: The Light Between Oceans

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Is your love as deep as the ocean? Would you be able to do anything for the one you love? Would the past prevent you from moving forward?  In “The Light Between Oceans”, a film adaptation based on the novel by M.L. Stedman and under the direction of Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, A Place Beyond the Pines), we are taken to Janus Rock, a remote island off the coast of Australia. Like the two-faced Roman God it is named after, it faces two different oceans which symbolically serves as a reminder that all beginnings have an ending just as all those who love have a past and future.  Tom (Michael Fassbender) is a war veteran struggling to find normalcy in his life after the Great War. In his search, he finds an opportunity as the lighthouse keeper at Janus Rock. Life on the secluded island is just as one would expect, quiet and rewarding, as guiding those lost at sea proves to Tom that there is light for those who seek it.

A few months later in his new position, Tom unexpectedly meets Isabel (Alicia Vikander), a light hearted and spirited young woman who had lost two brothers to the war. Learning they share the bonds of grief and loss, Isabel takes it upon herself to be the shining light that Tom had only hoped to find amidst the darkness. After a short courtship, Tom and Isabel’s relationship develops into an endearing, non-traditional love story in which the couple increasingly views each other as equals during a non-egalitarian post-war 1920s. Together they face struggles that no couple would ever expect to experience. At the time far less complicated situations would have separated them, emotionally dooming them for a life of resentment and guilt. However, their relationship remained strong through the hardest of times because the devotion they shared for one another was not faltered by the crushing of the waves that daily remained them of what could have been. But as soon as the storm had settled and stayed with them a ray of hope appears out of nowhere and breathes on new beginnings.

Through sharp and beautiful cinematography, Cianfrance is able to bring to the big screen a vibrant and timeless romance. Each scene reverberates the inner struggles that each character conveys and becomes obvious that Fassbender and Vikander are the real deal. The challenging choices the story presents after a “reawakening” occurs in both of their lives transcends across the screen and into to your heart. Rachel Weiz’s characterization of Hannah, a grieving mother with little will to live, is nothing short of magnificent as she echoes the person she once used to be before the loss of her loved ones. The score of the film is by Academy Award winner Alexandre Desplat (Argo, Philomena, The Danish Girl, Secret Life of Pets) and is the anchor that sets the motion and aura of this dramatic love story.

This is a story about love and letting go, and embracing the present and moving forward to the future. While there are moments of predictability, the dialogue is strong and thoroughly centers the story without oversaturating its ebb and flow. Highest acclaim to the performances and production of the film as it portrays the humanity that exists between the notions of right and wrong when love clouds our judgment. This film is a perfect representation of the moments in life that are taken for granted, the selfless and selfish acts that we do out of love for others and the inner sadness that we battle in our search for forgiveness. A powerful, heartbreaking story beautifully told of what it means to love and to be loved.

Comfortable Movie Theatres

Movie theaters are a kind of refuge. A refuge where we seek quiet and dark comfort that could place us almost anywhere: A movie. Finding the right movie to watch on a night out with friends seems easy since that can be determined on a variety of factors mostly revolving around dinner.

But what exactly determines what movie theatre you’ll end up choosing? Sure proximity has always been the obvious answer, but in recent years going to the movies has expanded to a lot of other options.

Today, you can pick whether you would like to have dinner while watching your movie a la Studio Movie Grill. You can also choose whether you want your movie going experience to be ultra relax for that there are several theatres that have recliner seats like select AMC Theatre’s and all LOOK Cinema’s, the latter is ultra fancy while still staying true to the typical price you would expect to pay for a movie anywhere else.

But here’s a look at the types of theaters available for your particular interests.

Mainstream Theatres

AMC Theatre: You will find the most recent movies at a variety of time slots both in 2D and 3D. Discounts are available for students and seniors. Select theater’s have recliner seat options. Depending on location some AMC theatre’s will have tickets at cheaper prices for all of their movies at all time slots. Reserve seating is a must. AMC Theatre has an app which not only will allow you to choose your theatre location but also give you the movie critics Rotten Tomato rating available for each film-if you’re the kind of person who follows ratings. The app also lets you know of special offers available at your location as well as purchase tickets (with a convenience fee-eh?). AMC has a membership called AMC Stubs which will cost you at least $12 up front to purchase but with the membership the convenience fee that comes with purchasing tickets online will be waived. The app does let you reserve your seat.

Cinemark Theatre: Cinemark will also be showing the most recent movies at a variety of time slots both in 2D and 3D. Discounts are available for seniors and students; however, student discount is only available on certain days of the week and NOT at all theatre locations. Depending on the theatre location you can find cheaper prices for all of their movies at all time slots. There are also select theatre locations that offer luxury loungers as well. Reserve seating is available at select theatre locations. The Cinemark app has a variety of features including setting your phone to the apps Cinemode which will earn you rewards. If you sign up to the Cinemark newsletter you can often receive coupons for a free drink or popcorn.

Studio Movie Grill: In addition to the most recent movies showing at a variety of time slots like the theaters listed above, Studio Movie Grill also offers special movie series for specific audiences. They have Family Rewind which presents family films from years past at an ultra low price of $3. Their Children’s Summer Series is a variety of recent and past popular children’s films for $1. Other film series they offer are Date Night and Girls Night Out which show films in their respective categories for $3. There is no app available at this time.

LOOK Cinema: This is the theatre has the relax attitude that makes you feel like you’re sitting right in your living room. LOOK Cinema’s offer the most recent movies not a very varied schedule because they offer you 4 different movie experiences:

  • Evolution: huge screens and power recliners
  • Living Rooms: power recliners, or sofas with ottoman
  • The Lofts: Upstairs screens, sofas and full bar (21 and over after 6 pm)
  • Look & Dine: Power recliners, drinks and food of course…

Availability of experience is set at different prices and is not available for all showing films. There is a LOOK Cinema app where you can purchase your movie ticket and reserve your seat. There is no convenience fee for this feature.

Indie Theatres

Alamo Drafthouse: Now if you are one of those people that actually enjoys watching the movie with ABSOLUTELY NO distractions this is the place you should go. Once the movie starts there is no talking, no cell phone of any kind or you get kicked out…seriously. They have drinks and food which is brought out to you. Movies at these theaters will be the most popular with a few retro or indie film choices. Like the name implies they have a large selection of drafts mostly local which is a great way to discover and expand your drinking palette. Now they also have sing-alongs, trivia nights as well as film series. They also have an app available where you can purchase tickets. Their Victory Rewards program is great since it costs nothing and you gain rewards for tickets you purchase, you can get special invitation to Victory Rewards members only special screenings. Pretty cool.

Magnolia Theatre: You will not find the mainstream movies at the Magnolia. But I love it because these theatre is geared towards a specific film lover audience. I have been going to Magnolia for a good while and I’ve noticed it curates the films it shows based on film festival merit, critic reviews and limited release. Sometimes some films shown at the Magnolia will go on to be shown at more mainstream theaters depending on their limited release success. The types of films that you will find here are artsy and independent. The Magnolia has select food items and drinks available; however, the location is next door if not walking distance to other restaurants and eateries.  They regularly show classic films and special events like live performances from the National Theatre Live. A few times a year they host several film festivals as well as regularly  host directors/actors/writers and producers of films showing.

Angelika Film Center: Now the Angelika will have a mixture of mainstream and independent films only a few but that is enough to satisfy anyone’s movie going experience. Also at the Angelika you can find film festivals, performances from Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Ballet and Opera. Select food items and drinks available although there are restaurants and eateries nearby. Seats are typically fairly close to each other which can be a little tough to manage if you’re wearing a large coat, have large elbows or a large enough purse.

Inwood Theatre: Although there are fewer movies showing at this small theatre you can find the most popular movies out in particular family films as well as an alternative independent movie choice for that person in your group. This theatre is popular for its midnight showings as well as for events and giveaways it hosts for big releases. The inside is unique in that you will find decorative couch seating.

So whether you select which theatre you go to based on location. Venture out check out all the other amenities  that other theaters offer. You might be surprised at your experience at that particular theatre.