Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: ENDGAME fan event

Are you ready for AVENGERS: ENDGAME? Check out these photos of stars, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Paul Rudd and Jeremy Renner, along with producer Kevin Feige and directors Anthony and Joe Russo, greeted excited fans at a special Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: ENDGAME fan event held in Shanghai. 

Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: ENDGAME opens in U.S. theaters on April 26.

The grave course of events set in motion by Thanos that wiped out half the universe and fractured the Avengers ranks compels the remaining Avengers to take one final stand in Marvel Studios’ grand conclusion to twenty-two films, “Avengers: Endgame.”

Kevin Feige produces “Avengers: Endgame,” and Anthony and Joe Russo are the directors. Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo, Trinh Tran, Jon Favreau, James Gunn and Stan Lee are the executive producers, and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely wrote the screenplay.

SDLFF – Frontera Filmmakers

F1The San Diego Latino Film Festival shows a variety of themed short film blocks. Every year I make sure to check out one of their showcases. This year I attended Frontera Filmmakers, featuring movies made by directors near our border town of San Diego and Tijuana. There has been a resurgence in filmmakers like no other time in history. The mix of films ranged from documentaries to horror to suspense, all unique in their storytelling approach.

One of the films that I enjoyed was the documentary Chicano Legacy: Students Empowering Students, directed by Horacio Jones, told about the struggles that occurred and are still occurring at UCSD, in terms of race relations and education. Many minority students at the school felt that they were not being represented or that there were even many people like themselves on campus. After some racial comments went up on social media by a fraternity house, students protested for change and argued that behavior like so, would not be tolerated on their campus. From there, they fought to have a Chicano mural be put up on campus. Through much blood, sweat, and tears, the students brought it to fruition with the help of Mario Torero, a local Peruvian artist. The documentary gives us the details of how it all happened and how the mural itself was created out of stone tiles made in China. It was an intricate process and the final reveal showcased a beautiful mural featuring Cesar Chavez, Barrio Logan, and the students who rallied for change. This was an eye-opening film for me, as I live in San Diego and had no idea that those events took place at UCSD. As a former student of UCSB, I myself have felt the same way as those students, as my race was hardly represented on campus. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and recommend it to everyone, students and non-students alike.

F2Another film that really caught my eye was El Amor No Existe (Love Does Not Exist), a short film directed by Fernando Fisher, about a treacherous love triangle involving a husband, wife, and the husband’s brother. The wife is mean and unhappy with her lot in life and seeks out the comfort of her husband’s brother while he is away at work as a police detective. The husband has no idea what is going on behind his back, but it is all revealed to him on the fateful day where he forgets his gun at home. To top it off, his teenage son, on the same day tells his father that he is gay. He goes to school on that same day and professes his love to another boy, who then proceeds to beat him up for his revelation. When the husband encounters his wife and brother having sex, what happens from there is suspenseful and dramatic and shocking to boot. When the son witnesses everything that happened with his family it becomes a heartbreaking tale. By the end we realize through the film’s story that love truly does not exist in our world. If you get a chance to see this, I would check it out because it was mind-blowing and interesting to watch unravel.

Only a few days to catch this and more at the San Diego Latino Film Festival: https://2019.sdlatinofilm.com/

Film Review: Nos Llaman Guerreras

NLG3The documentary film Nos Llaman Guerreras (They Call Us Warriors) directed by Jennifer Socorro, Edwin Corona and the late David Alonso, centers on the Venezuelan women’s soccer team and their fight to win the first World Cup for their country. What makes these women different from all other female soccer players, they had to fight against their country’s political and economic strife to get there. Their coach explains that when he first started with these women, some were so poor that they could not afford toothpaste or deodorant, let alone have the funds to travel and compete with a soccer team. Against all odds, these women battle poverty and their livelihoods just to join the team. The film showcases the personal lives of many of these women, taking us deep into their rural communities and their homes. Yerliane Moreno’s town was so badly flooded that she thought she would never be able to leave her family to play soccer, but regardless she sacrificed everything to be on the team and play with all her heart.

 

NLG2In this film, we also get to see how playing soccer enables them to be lifted out of poverty into having a better life. The star and key player of the team, Deyna Castellanos, got recruited to play at Florida State University and was given a full scholarship. We see Deyna leave Florida and come back to play at the World Cup with her team. Despite being gone for so long, she picks up the rhythm and plays to her best with her team as if no time has lapsed between them. When the women make it to the World Cup in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, they are faced with the best teams in the world. We see them fight and push through every adversity and in doing so, they become national heroes for their country. Their story was so inspirational that female soccer players in Venezuela increased by 97% after the World Cup, only further establishing them as role models to future generations of players. This film’s story was beautifully crafted and told, and by the end of the film, you cannot help, but become a fan of these women.

 

NLG1

 

Check out this and more at the San Diego Latino Film Festival until March 24. 

26th Annual San Diego Latino Film Festival

sdlff bannerThis year’s San Diego Latino Film Festival (SDLFF) from March 14 – 24, 2019 marks its 26th year. It will take place at the AMC 18 Fashion Valley theaters and Digital Gym CINEMA in North Park.

Started as a student film festival by Ethan van Thillo (SDLFF’s Executive Director), it is now one of the largest celebrations of Latino film in the world. It’s not rare to run into names like Edward James Olmos and Kate del Castillo. “I am confident that through the power of cinema and storytelling, we can continue to break down walls and create a more just and equitable world for future generations” said van Thillo. SDLFF was born out of a desire to challenge the negative stereotypes about the Latino experience in movies and to give Latino filmmakers a chance to show the world the realities and richness behind the Latino identity.

This year’s celebrations will include a special screening of the 15 finalists of the Migrant Voices FilmCompetition highlighting the current humanitarian crisis unfolding along the San Diego-Baja California Border. Also, a tribute to iconic Mexican actor Damián Alcázar, a 26th Annual ‘Classics Film Showcase’, 75 + guest filmmakers/celebrities, and the 26th Annual Awards Ceremony Gala to be held March 23rd at Music Box. Plus, over 160 films from Latin America, the United States, and Spain, celebrity appearances, live concerts & performances at the Sonido Latino stage, and the 4th Annual Sabor Latino – Food, Beer & Wine Fest.

Highlight films include:

Soccer documentary (Mexico) Chivas, La Película; romantic comedy (Mexico) La Boda De Mi Mejor Amigo; music documentary (Panamá / Argentina / Colombia) Yo No Me Llamo Rubén Blades; boxing drama (Mexico/Finland) Bayoneta; sports comedy (Spain) Campeones; drama(Paraguay / Germany / Brazil / Uruguay / Norway /France) Las Herederas; adventure drama (Mexico/Colombia) Cómprame Un Revólver; mystery drama (Mexico) Dos Veces Tú.

sdlffTickets and Festival Passes are now on sale. An all-access special *VIP Pass* can be purchased for $300. A Festival Pass; which includes Media Arts Membership can be purchased for $225 (includes over 160 films, front of the line access, entrance to Opening and Closing Night celebrations and more. Film Pass can be purchased for $120 (includes entrance to 11 films, + priority access). Passes are non-transferable. Individual ticket sale prices are: $12.00 General Audience, $10.00 Students/Seniors, $9.00 Members.

For festival and ticket information visit the festival’s website at www.sdlatinofilm.com or call 619-230-1938.

Mary Poppins Returns – Film Review

4stars

M2When the original Mary Poppinsfilm came out in 1964, it was a refreshing and light-hearted story that audiences ate up with a spoonful of sugar. The playful nanny and her chimney sweeper sidekick, provided the perfect distraction from the chaos and violence that was ripping through the outside world at the time, think the Vietnam war, race riots, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Disney catered to baby boomers, who were just children then, the opportunity to escape the news and dreadful events, and just focus on feeling good. I wondered, why revive a movie that is now over 50 years old and start anew? It is clear that what the world needs now, everyone from baby boomers to kids today, is an escape from the negative airwaves that are polluting our minds. The truth is we need a break, and who better to fly in through a gust of wind and help us, than the magical woman herself, Mary Poppins.

In the new film, Mary Poppins Returns, directed by Rob Marshall, Mary’s (Emily Blunt) former charges, Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) are now grown-up and live together with Michael’s three children. His wife just passed away and Michael is learning how to care for them with the help of his sister. He is still grief-stricken and trying to cope with the loss. On top of this, the bank has come to repossess their home, as Michael took out a large loan against the house and forgot to make the payments in his state of grief. The issue is he did not read the fine print and now the loan is due back in full. Michael’s father had shares in the bank and he learns that if he can find that certificate, then he can save the house. The problem is, he has no idea where that certificate was kept.

nullThis creates the perfect storm for Mary to step in and just as she did before, she comes through out of nowhere literally and steps in as their nanny. The older children remember her and the magic, but scoff, as they believe it was all in their imagination. She takes the children, who are in desperate need of some parental direction, and brings back their child-like wonder. The children had been so set on trying to put on the food table and take care of their father, that they forgot how to laugh and be free.

She takes them on wild adventures through bath tub, and into another world inside of their mother’s prized vase. Inside the vase, the children are transformed and enjoy a musical moment that is intertwined with animation on the screen. The animation was like that of the original film and was not revived to look like the Disney and Pixar movies that we know today. I enjoyed the fact that they kept it classical in nature and a throwback to a simpler time in movies.

Mary’s sidekick this time around is the scruffy and chummy lamplighter Jack, (Lin Manuel Miranda), who gives us most of the musical moments in the film. They redo the infamous chimney musical scene, but replace it with his lamplighter buddies and it turns out to be one of the most infectious displays of fun and dance in the film. Miranda stuns in the film, he imparts the child-like feeling of delight and joy in every scene that he is in and his musical numbers, especially the “A Cover is Not a Book” number.

The cast is rounded out by Colin Firth, who plays the evil bank-owner, and we get wonderful cameos by Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury. The absolute best part of the film was seeing Van Dyke, I will not ruin the fun and tell you what happened but let me he does not disappoint. You could feel the entire audience clamor and clap like children when he arrived on the screen. A testament to the power that the original film had on people, it made us happy; and seeing him on screen again will make you smile.

Blunt was the best part of the entire film, she imparted on to the iconic role a subtle sense of charm and wit, and always delivered every line with a sly smile on her face. She does not try to act like Julie Andrews, but instead it infuses the role with her own no nonsense type of flair. She will leave an indelible memory on those who watch and will most likely garner an Oscar nomination for her role.

M4The colors used in the film were beautiful and saturated, and only added to giving this revival the jolt that it needed to have in order to succeed. The costumes were stunning and again this movie will get numerous Oscar nominations in many different categories, that is a fact. 

I have to say the children in the movie, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson, were the most delightful actors I have seen in a long time. Acting alongside such heavy-hitters they performed with ease and stole many of the scenes. I am sure they will be ones to watch.

I highly recommend this movie for both adults and children. This might just be the most supercalifragilistic movie of the year.

 

3stars

BH2There are people who come into this world, this galaxy, and shine so bright that they were meant to be stars. These people they’re not like most of us, there is something so unique about them, that we can’t help but stare and sit there like addicts wanting more. Freddie Mercury or Farrokh Bulsara, was one of those people. He gave music fans around the world something special and just like that, in 45 years he was gone. The biopic film Bohemian Rhapsody directed by Brian Singer, tells the story of not only Mercury, but of the band. How they came into existence and how they were catapulted into fame with their iconic hit songs.

Mercury (Rami Malek) was a baggage handler at Heathrow airport who happens upon the band Smile. While he sips a pint, he looks around at the audience and is enthralled by the buzz of the concert. On his way to meet the band, he meets Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), and from there springs a love story that will last his entire lifetime. Call it kismet or good luck, the band’s lead singer ditches them, and they need a front man. When Mercury approaches them, he tells them he can sing. With his overbite and shaggy hair, he doesn’t appear to be the singer of their dreams, but when he belts out a tune they immediately hire him.

From there it happens fast, he goes from the shy Parsi boy from Zanzibar to the lead singer of one of the most iconic and enthralling bands of our time. The film showcases his gift for song writing and how the band’s different energies made the songs unique. Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), the drummer, was the staunch critic who always put up a fight against a lyric or riff, then there is guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee), who has a knack and flair for knowing how to fit the melodies together (oh and he came up with the infamous clap-back idea for We Are The Champions), and the pacifist of the group bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) who came up with many of the ingenious lyrics and chords of their songs.

BH4I don’t have to tell you what happened to the Titanic, same for the band Queen. Many know the songs, the lyrics, and what happened to Mercury. The film glosses over much of Mercury’s life as a gay man and as someone who contracted and died of AIDS, instead we get hazy scenes of gay clubs and truck stops, and the audience can seemingly understand what was going on in his life. This is not Dallas Buyers Club, you will not see Mercury go through a harrowing collapse or whittle down to 100 pounds. This is not that type of movie.

The focus instead is on his relationship with Austin, whom he loved from the day he met, married, and begged to never take off her wedding ring. She was there till the day he died. After he confesses to her that he is bisexual, she tells him that he is gay, and she knew it all along. She supported him through thick and thin and was always there to pick him back up.

BH6The movie showcases the band’s rise to stardom, how Mercury is thrown off base by manager Paul Prenter (Allen Leech), the dubious villain of the film, and how they come back together as a band. Just like any biopic, the film can only highlight so much, and under the tutelage of executive producers, Roger Taylor and Brian May, it is obvious that they had some input into how the movie was put together. This is their vision of the band, we don’t see a lot of down in the dumps moments, or Mercury on his deathbed, instead we see a story about a group of men bonded together for life by an experience that only they will ever understand.

What struck me the most about the film was Malek. He will undoubtedly be nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Mercury. He wears a set of teeth to mimic the singer’s and we see him as shy one minute and flamboyant and wild the next. The whole time we are watching it, we almost forget that it is not Mercury on stage, but Malek himself. This is the role he was meant to play and one that will be sealed in his acting repertoire forever.

DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and Rami Malek (Freddie Mercury) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. Photo Credit: Alex Bailey.

DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and Rami Malek (Freddie Mercury) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. Photo Credit: Alex Bailey.

I also couldn’t keep my eyes off of Lee, who portrayed May exactly as I have always envisioned him to be in real life. Calm, cool, and collected, yet able to wail on a guitar like no other. Also keep your eye out for Mike Meyers who funnily enough makes a cameo as music producer Ray Foster, who rejected Bohemian Rhapsodyfor being too long.

You will see a lot of mixed reviews about this movie. First, you need to understand that this was made for mainstream audiences, and they will love it. They will eat it up with a spoon and want to lick every edge of it off. The film delivers with the highlight reel of their most spectacular arena performances, but the true shining star of the film is Malek’s performance as the legendary singer.

 

rhapsody movie poster

 

Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy,Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers, Aaron McCusker
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Anthony McCarten…(story by) and Peter Morgan…(story by) Anthony McCarten…(screenplay by)
MPAA rating: PG-13
Running time: 2 Hours 14 Minutes
Rating: 3

 

Mid90s – Film Review

4stars

The film Mid90s accurately captured the adolescent sentiment that many people grow up with, the feeling that parents don’t understand our feelings, and the undeniable urge to seek out fun and excitement on our own terms, like I did when I was a teenager. I must have been 17 or 18 when I gave my 13-year-old cousin my World IndustriesWet Willy skateboard because to be totally honest, I sucked at skateboarding. From there he ran with it and fell in love with the sport. We would watch Shorty’s, Zero, Toy Machine, and Birdhouse videos on loop, to name a few. I would take him to our local community college, by trolley of course, to try to land some tricks and he failed most of the time, but it was still fun to go and mess around. Skateboarding is a rite of passage for a lot of people, especially those that don’t feel they fit in anywhere else. He was trying to find a niche or a tribe for himself, unfortunately he ended up giving up skateboarding and fell in with some other people and at 18, he was tragically killed. I will never forget those years we spent together, being young and free, bonding over skateboarding we became super close. Mid90s took me back to those days.

M905Jonah Hill makes his directorial debut and spent years working on making this film historically accurate in every way. He went straight to skateboard companies like Chocolate and Girl for old school 90’s gear and decks, and it worked. The film was also shot on Super 16 mm, which adds to the grittiness, giving it texture. The digital photoshopped feeling of recent movies isn’t felt here.

The film centers around Stevie (Sunny Suljic) or “Sunburn” as they call him, who is a regular lower-class kid living in Los Angeles with his single mom (Katherine Waterson) and older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges). He happens into a skate shop and ends up bonding with all the guys, they give him a skateboard and he becomes part of their crew. There is an instant bond there for him and he is eager to fit in.

He drinks forties with ease and takes puffs of marijuana like a seasoned pro, but the reality is that he is not an expert, he is just pretending to be one. I guess like most young people are, when they are trying to fit in and be accepted by their peers. It would be mortifying to ever admit that you never smoked weed or cigarettes, or that you never even tasted beer. Stuff like that could get you ousted from a group, so Stevie does what he thinks every normal kid does, he pretends he knows what he’s doing and feels like he is part of something. He smiles shyly when he knows he got it right with them.

M904New actor and real life professional Supreme skater, Na-Kel Smith plays Ray, who appears to be the voice of reason in the group. He wants more to life than just smoking and drinking, he wants to be a professional skater. He watches over Stevie and we can feel that he wants to make good decisions, but doesn’t always know how. He is the soul of the film, and one to watch.

Mid90s is reminiscent of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine’s 1995 classic Kids, and I am sure Hill took cues from it. The rawness that we felt in Kids, can be seen in this film as well, except it is not at the same level, where the camera was in the faces of teenagers making out and bashing other guys heads into the pavement and hearing the skull crush. I used to have to turn my head every time that scene came on. But a similar sentiment is felt in this film. 

The skaters are chased by cops, disrespected by their parents, and even each other. When one of the other kids Ruben (Gio Galicia), starts to notice that Sunburn is being favored by the older skaters, he picks a fight with him, and Stevie gives him back equal hard punches.

At home Stevie must contend with his older brother, who is the opposite of a skater, but also a figure of the 90’s. Dressed in Polo and baggy jeans and stud earrings to match, he was most likely someone influenced by the rap culture of the time. He seems angry and pissed off, they are two boys without a father figure in their life, and Ian proceeds to constantly beat the living hell out of his younger brother. Hedges is impressive in this role of the bitter older brother, the one who had to watch guys go in and out of his mother’s bedroom growing up, while Stevie did not. I think we might be seeing a possible Oscar nomination for him in this role.

Hill stepped it up and did a remarkable job at directing his first movie. I think people will be impressed that he didn’t imbue his film with Superbad raunchy teenage jokes or his sarcastic humor. Instead this movie felt real and I think it will strike a chord with a lot of people. Especially those like myself who grew up in the era where iPhones and Google didn’t exist. We figured things out on our own and we didn’t stare at phone screens, and these kids do the same with their life. They are just trying to make sense of it all and find their place in the world. All while hanging out with friends and listening to good music; and isn’t that what ever teenager is always trying to do.

Mid90s posterStarring: Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia, Ryder McLaughlin, Alexa Demie
Directed by: Jonah Hill
Written by: Jonah Hill
MPAA rating: R
Running time: 85 minutes
Rating: 4

Beautiful Boy – Film Review

4stars

bb11What does the face of drug addiction look like in the United States? Are they young and white, living in an affluent neighborhood, or a person of color living in the projects? The truth is that drug addiction has no barriers; it can affect anyone who is susceptible to the lures of euphoria and escape. It doesn’t necessarily mean only depressed and lonely people use; no, it affects happy people who seem to have idyllic lives as well. Nic Sheff (Timothy Chalamet) had it all, he grew up in Marin County (an affluent area north of San Francisco), someone who was seemingly content, had an upbringing with loving parents and siblings, and all the opportunities that the world could offer, at his fingertips. In the film Beautiful Boy, we experience the journey of drug addiction and a father’s relentless fight to save his son’s life.

Set in the early 2000’s, David Sheff (Steve Carell), a prominent magazine writer, tries to help his son Nic conquer his addiction. He is constantly glued to his phone, waiting for that phone call from Nic or from someone who knows his whereabouts. He frantically searches on the internet for some shred of knowledge about methamphetamine addiction. He wants to understand how meth is affecting his son’s brain, how he can help restore his son’s failing nerve endings; he wants some information that will tell him what to do to help his son. Desperate to get his son help, he doesn’t even blink an eye when he is quoted forty thousand dollars for a drug rehab stay.

bb2This movie does not portray drug addiction like Requiem for a Dreamor Trainspotting, we do not see Nic downward spiral to that extent or take a joy ride through what drugs can feel like through the lens of Hollywood. You know when they show a person’s eyeballs dilate, all while psychedelic music plays in the background, none of that happens here.

Instead this film is the journey of what drug addiction really looks like; it’s one where a person gets clean, and they seem to be riding the high that is sobriety, and the person’s family believes wholeheartedly that the person will stay clean, but then they relapse. They get clean again, and they relapse again, the cycle continues ad nauseum to the point where the family who is trying to help the junkie feels defeated and crushed. Will they ever get better? Is my son, daughter, mom, dad (insert anyone), still inside there? And when the family sees a glimmer of their old self come through, that is what keeps them going to save that person.

I have experienced the ups and downs of drug addiction first hand, in my family. I’ve seen people get and stay clean, people trying to jump out of windows to fight the detox, festering heroin wounds, and how loving people turn into mean and monstrous people on drugs. I can never shake some of these memories. Many relapse again and again to this day falling back into old patterns. This is one of the few movies I have ever seen that has really shown that side of drug addiction. It isn’t cool, it isn’t funny, or hip, it takes a person’s soul day by day, but as a family we also hope for the best for our loved ones. We hope that they will get better, and deep down inside, we know that they can. David embodied that sentiment and Nic personified the charming addict.

BEAUTIFUL BOY Timothée Chalamet as Nic Sheff and Steve Carell as David Scheff

BEAUTIFUL BOY
Timothée Chalamet as Nic Sheff and Steve Carell as David Scheff

Chalamet was extraordinary, we felt compassion for him, and could see the moments when he was clean and probably thinking about drugs. You could see him coming out of his skin, without doing it literally. His acting showed layers of emotion and depth. One I haven’t seen in a long time, in fact I kept thinking throughout the film, that Nic Sheff would have been the role that young Leonardo DiCaprio would have wanted to play. But now we have Chamalet, a new guard of young actors is coming through, and he will be at the forefront for years to come.

Carell was phenomenal, and as an actor we see a different side of him. No longer the quirky Michael Scott persona that many people remember him as, here we see him as a multi-dimensional character. One minute he is fighting for his son’s life, another he makes a bold choice to tell him that he cannot enable him anymore. A father lost in his head, constantly thinking of his son, Carrell was able to portray that emotion with ease. At his younger children’s play, we see him look at their faces, relish in their innocence, and know that he has lost a part of his son.

Both Chamalet and Carrell gave Oscar-worthy performances and will be in the running for this year’s Oscars race. This is a movie you cannot miss, and one that will leave indelible mark on your psyche and make you appreciate your loved ones even more.

BB Poster

Starring: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Christian Convery, Oakley Bull, Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Ryan, Stefanie Scott, Julian Works
Directed by: Felix Van Groeningen
Written by: Luke Davies (screenplay), Felix Van Groeningen (screenplay), David Sheff (based on the book “Beautiful Boy”) Nic Sheff (based on the book “Tweak”)
MPAA rating: R
Running time: 120 minutes
Rating: 4

The Sisters Brothers – Film Review

4stars

John C. Reilly (left) stars as “Eli Sisters” and Joaquin Phoenix (right) stars as “Charlie Sisters” in Jacques Audiard’s THE SISTERS BROTHERS, an Annapurna Pictures release. Credit : Magali Bragard / Annapurna Pictures

John C. Reilly (left) stars as “Eli Sisters” and Joaquin Phoenix (right) stars as “Charlie Sisters” in Jacques Audiard’s THE SISTERS BROTHERS, an Annapurna Pictures release.
Credit : Magali Bragard / Annapurna Pictures

The Sisters Brothers gives us a western film with a masculine heart. It includes many western movie tropes such as, gunslinging, whiskey drinking, and saloon entrance making men, but what sets this movie apart from others is that it shows us that there is more to these men, than just their wild ways. 

Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) and Eli (john C. Reilly) Sister are bounty hunters who do the bidding and killing for a powerful man they call the Commodore. He dispatches orders and they comply; no questions asked doing whatever it takes to get paid. He orders them to find and bring him a gold-hunting chemist by the name of Hermann Kermit Worme (Riz Ahmed). Also, under the direction of the Commodore is John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is tasked with finding Worme and bringing him to the Sisters brothers. 

Worme befriends Morris and finds out that he has a formula for finding gold. He created a chemical that when poured into the water, dissolves and illuminates where the gold is hiding. Morris is intrigued not only by his idea, but by who he is as a person. He exudes generosity and intelligence, something that we see is lacking in the outposts that are filled with crude and insolent men, whose only mission is to find a piece of gold. Which they will probably turn in and use to buy booze. Worme and Morris join forces and have a vision of collecting gold and using the funds to start their own utopia in Texas. 

SB3French director Jacques Audiard makes his first English film debut while adding his French aesthetic to the western motif. He provides audiences with gratuitous bloodshed, albeit only slightly, in no way shape or form can we even compare it to the blood count in Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight. Nonetheless it delivers the western artistic vision of beautiful and lush landscapes, untouched yet by the industrialization that would soon come and take over. The horses stand in the foreground, and we understand that they are vital to these men.

The Sisters brothers continue their mission to find Worme and Morris and stop at nothing to find these men. Along the way, we learn that Eli is the more sensitive of the two, every night before he goes to bed he folds up a red scarf and touches it to his face. Who it belonged to, we don’t really know, but we see that he is sensitive to the world and yearning for something more. Charlie is a lewd drunk, drinking himself to the point of vomiting, but Eli is used to his shenanigans and knows how to deal with him. After all, it’s his brother and he will stand by him through thick and thin. 

By the end of the movie, we realize that it is Reilly who carries the film. I was not expecting that from him, but he executed it brilliantly. Although he was a brash man, and a sharp shooter, we see that he has a tender side. He makes sure his horses are safe and tends to them as if they were his children. When he encounters a prostitute, he talks to her, instead of doing anything else. I am sure unheard of in any western town of that era. 

We don’t ever see a feminine perspective throughout the film, instead we get a deeper interpretation into a male point of view. I thought the movie was well done, but the plot was somewhat lacking. Regardless, the actors gave good performances and it is worth a watch. 

SB1Starring: John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rebecca Root, Allison Tolman, Rutger Hauer, Carol Kane

Directed by: Jacques Audiard

Written by: Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain (screenplay) 
Patrick DeWitt (book author)

MPAA rating: R

Running time: 121 minutes

Rating: 4

 

Book Club – Film Review

3stars
BC2The time has finally come where Hollywood is embracing and making movies that older actresses can star in and that audiences want to see on screen. In Bill Holderman’s new film, Book Club, the story centers on four lifelong friends in their 60’s, who decide to read Fifty Shades of Grey for their monthly book club selection and how the book ends up changing their lives. The film stars power house actresses, Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen, and Candice Bergen, and together they play off each other with charisma and sass that can’t be beat by any other actors.

All four women are in different phases in their love and sex lives, Vivian (Fonda) is single and loving it, Carol (Steenburgen) and her husband Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) have been married so long that their sex life has gone stale, Diane’s (Keaton) husband just passed away and she is grappling with the idea of dating, and (Sharon) Bergen has been divorced for years and finally decides she wants to date. The women take to the book like bees to honey and can’t put it down. After they finish reading it, they all start to see their lives a little differently. It makes them realize that they do have a sexual appetite and even in their 60’s, they haven’t lost it at all.

BC4Opposite the women, the men come to terms with their sexuality as well. Arthur (Don Johnson) is an old friend of Vivian’s and he pursues her in a comedic fashion and makes her realize that she doesn’t always have to just rely on herself. While Mitchell (Andy Garcia), the debonair pilot makes a play for Diane and shows his softer side. We see that the men are just as vulnerable and yearning for a good time, just as much as the women. What they all have in common though is that they want to build relationships with one another and it shows that it is never too late in life to start a new relationship or friendship with someone.

I enjoyed watching some of my favorite actresses of all time together, they are all funny and played off each other perfectly. Keaton has the same sensibility that we have loved from her since Annie Hall, and Bergen, for example still projects that tough as nails, yet sweet character that her fans have grown to love. Fonda is hilarious and witty, and Steenburgen rounded out the cast perfectly with her romantic charm. I enjoyed that the women were portrayed as strong and independent, and that they didn’t necessarily need a man to make them happy.

The movie has its rom-com corny moments, but they were all done in good fun and with taste. I enjoyed the movie and would recommend it as one to watch with friends or even the mom in your life. Overall, it’s a fun movie that both men and women of all ages can enjoy. If you are in the mood for a light and funny film, this is one to watch.

BC1Starring: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson, Alicia Silverstone, Richard Dreyfuss

Directed by: Bill Holderman

Written by: Erin Simms, Bill Holderman

MPAA rating: PG-13

Running time: 104 Minutes

Rating: 3