It’s No Joke – “Joker” nabs 11 Academy Award nominations!

“Joker,” director Todd Phillips’ “origin” tale about Batman’s greatest foe scored a total of 11 Academy Award nominations today, leading all films this year.  The film earned nods in several major categories, including Best Picture, Best Director (for Phillips) and Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix.  “1917” and “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” tied for second place with 10 nominations each.

This year saw an amazing batch of first time nominees, many who have done award-worthy work in the past and have never been recognized.  They include Antonio Bandares (“Pain and Glory”) and Jonathan Pryce (“The Two Popes”) for Best Actor and Florence Pugh (“Little Women”) for Best Supporting Actress.  Scarlett Johansson earned her first two nominations this year, scoring nods for Best Actress (“Marriage Story”) and Best Supporting Actress (“Jo Jo Rabbit”).  But no less than eight of the acting nominees have Oscars already on their mantle while others, like Brad Pitt and Phoenix, have been nominated several times in the past.   The South Korean film “Parasite” also did well, earning six nominations, including Best Picture and Best International Feature Film (formerly Best Foreign Film).

Composer John Williams received his 52nd nomination for his score the “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”  Here are the nominees in the major categories:

BEST PICTURE

FORD v FERRARI

THE IRISHMAN

JOJO RABBIT

JOKER

LITTLE WOMEN

MARRIAGE STORY

1917

ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

PARASITE

BEST DIRECTOR

Martin Scorsese – THE IRISHMAN

Todd Phillips – JOKER

Sam Mendes – 1917

Quentin Tarantino – ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

Bong Joo Ho – PARASITE

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Antonio Banderas – PAIN AND GLORY

Leonardo DiCaprio – ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

Adam Driver – MARRIAGE STORY

Joaquin Phoenix – JOKER

Jonathan Pryce – THE TWO POPES

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Cynthia Erivo – HARRIET

Scarlett Johansson – MARRIAGE STORY

Saoirse Ronan – LITTLE WOMEN

Charlize Theron – BOMBSHELL

Renee’ Zellwegger – JUDY

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Tom Hanks – A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Anthony Hopkins – THE TWO POPES

Al Pacino – THE IRISHMAN

Joe Pesci – THE IRISHMAN

Brad Pitt – ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Kathy Bates – RICHARD JEWELL

Laura Dern – MARRIAGE STORY

Scarlett Johansson – JOJO RABBIT

Florence Pugh – LITTLE WOMEN

Margot Robbie – BOMBSHELL

This year ushers in a few things that you may be able to use when you play Trivia in a few years.  Should Phoenix win, he would become the second actor, following the late Heath Ledger, to win an Oscar by portraying the Joker.  This achievement has only been done once before, when both Marlon Brando (“The Godfather”) and Robert DeNiro (“The Godfather Part II”) each won Academy Awards for portraying Vito Corleone.  Also, this year marks the first time that a husband and wife were both nominated separately in writing categories.  Noah Baumbach is nominated for his original screenplay for “Marriage Story” while his wife, Greta Gerwig, is nominated for her adaptation of “Little Women.”

For a complete list of nominees, click HERE.

The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, February 9th.

Time to Help Choose the Winners of the 2019 Media Mikes Awards

Award season is in full bloom and once again it’s time for the readers of Media Mikes to vote for their film favorites for the 2019 Media Mikes Awards.

Last year over 3,000 readers submitted their choices in the following categories:

  • BEST PICTURE
  • BEST DIRECTOR
  • BEST ACTOR
  • BEST ACTRESS
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  • BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Members of the Media Mikes staff will vote on the following categories:

  • BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
  • BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
  • BEST MUSICAL SCORE
  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Votes can be submitted either through our Facebook page or by email. Emails can be sent to MikeS@Mediamikes.com Votes can be submitted through February 5, 2020, with the winners announced on Friday, February 7th.

Random voters will be chosen to receive some great 2019 movie swag!

Our Critics Share Their Choices for Best Films of 2019 (and their WORST!)

Between us I’d have to estimate that Mike G, Lauren, Jeremy, Michael D. Smith, Becki and myself see no less than 150 films a year here at Media Mikes. So when the year comes to an end, many of us like to share with you what films we felt were the Best. And, because they can’t all be winners, we like to tell you which ones we wished we had stayed away from. Ideally, if you haven’t seen any of these particular films you will either be intrigued enough to seek it out…or make the mental note to avoid at all costs! Enjoy!

MIKE SMITH

THE BEST

#1. 1917
Sam Mendes has created an epic film that thrives on its small cast and “continuous shot” presentation. Cinematographer Roger Deakins, who shot many of the Coen Brothers’ films, will surely earn Academy Award nomination number fifteen for his work here. (He won previously for “Bladerunner 2049”)

#2. JUST MERCY
This film doesn’t open wide for another week but it has been playing in select cities since Christmas. An emotional look at the injustice heaped upon one man and the attorney who works tirelessly to find the truth. Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx give award-worthy performances.
#3. MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN
Edward Norton laid it all on the line as he not only starred in this film but wrote and directed it. His eye as a director is keen and changing the time setting of the story from the present to the 1950s was a masterstroke.
#4. JOKER
Todd Phillips’s look at an almost dystopian society and the people who inhabit it. In my mind, it’s between Joaquin Phoenix and “Marriage Story” star Adam Driver for the Best Actor Oscar.
#5. KNIVES OUT
When I was a teenager I loved the Neil Simon-penned comedy “Murder by Death” and, when I saw the trailer for this film I thought it would be similar. Wrong! Funny? Yes. But amazingly crafted. Extra credit for Daniel Craig pulling off a southern accent.
#6. YESTERDAY
What if you woke up tomorrow and found that the Beatles never existed? A true masterpiece that pays tribute to the universal joy brought to us by the four lads from Liverpool. Also contains the year’s most emotional moment. I won’t spoil it but, if you didn’t tear up, it’s quite possible that YOU’VE never heard of the Beatles.
#7. (tie) LINDA RONDSTADT – THE SOUND OF MY VOICE / DAVID CROSBY-REMEMBER MY NAME
Two amazing documentaries that give viewers an inside look at two of the most influential singers and musicians of their time.

#8. THE IRISHMAN
When people look back at the history of film making they will probably be flabbergasted to see that Martin Scorsese won his first directing Oscar for “The Departed.” The creator of arguably the greatest film of the 1980s (“Raging Bull”) as well as “Taxi Driver,” “The King of Comedy,” “Goodfellas” and “Gangs of New York” just may take home his second one for this 3 1/2 hour masterpiece.
#9. ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD
I will admit that, while I enjoyed the film, I didn’t LOVE it when I reviewed it. But a second viewing put it on my list. Great performances and a beautifully recreated Los Angeles, circa 1969. And boy…that ending!
#10. AVENGERS: ENDGAME
The final film in a 23-film series, the likes of that Hollywood will never see again (unless Marvel does it). When Robert Downey, Jr declares, “I AM Iron Man” the emotional explosion in the theater is jaw-dropping.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: US, MARRIAGE STORY, BLINDED BY THE LIGHT, STAN and OLLIE

THE WORST

When a web site includes your name you have the opportunity to stay away from most of the stink-burgers that come out. Luckily (and sadly) these two lured me in.
ANGEL HAS FALLEN:
There is a great “Mean Tweet” in which Gerard Butler reads, “Does Gerard Butler have a lot of student loans to pay off? He’s always doing shitty films?” To which Butler replies, “No, I don’t have any student loans. I just like doing shitty films.” Add this one to the list.
DUMBO:
Damn you, Tim Burton. My wife and I skipped the critic’s screening of this so we could take our granddaughter. She hasn’t talked to us since!

JEREMY WERNER

THE BEST

#1. PARASITE
Wild, entertaining, shocking, gripping and a movie you’ll be thinking about for days, if not weeks. This is Bong Joon-ho’s magnum opus. This isn’t just the best movie of 2019, this is easily one of the best movies of the 2010s.
#2. 1917
We’re treated to way more WWII movies than we are WWI. “1917” is not only a visual masterpiece, but the kind of movie that reminds us why WWI shouldn’t be forgotten and just how devastating it truly was for the brave soldiers in it.
#3. THE LIGHTHOUSE
If it wasn’t for “1917,” this would have been the most visually impressive film of the year. Marketed as a horror, I’d say it’s more a suspenseful comedy, with a pair of tour de force performances.


#4. TOY STORY 4
Not to be a narcissist, but to quote my own review earlier this, “I would have never guessed back in 1995…that these plastic toys come to life would make me cry twice later in my life.”
#5. JOJO RABBIT
Channeling Charlie Chaplin and Mel Brooks, Taika Waititi has given audiences one of the most heartwarming, tragic and uplifting films of 2019, and it’s about a boy and his Hitler.
#6. THE IRISHMAN
I wouldn’t say this is Scorsese’s best, but he certainly has book-ended a beloved genre and given several actors a much-deserved swan song.
#7. MIDSOMMAR
An unsettling nightmare in broad daylight. Besides the unforeseen horrors happening in the sun, there are plenty of laughs to go along with this outstanding horror film.
#8.US
Jordan Peele raved about “Midsommar.” So I’m sure he wouldn’t be upset to see his stellar sophomore outing below “Midsommar.” I can’t wait to see what he does next.
#9. BOOKSMART
I absolutely adored this film and its messages. But just as impressive as the script, were the performances by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, as well as the direction by Olivia Wilde.
#10. CLIMAX
If you’ve ever been on the fence about trying LSD or any other kind of hallucinogens, I wouldn’t recommend “Climax.” It’s a delirious technicolor nightmare that entrances viewers.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: HONEY BOY, LORDS OF CHAOS, ONE CUT OF THE DEAD, EL CAMINO, UNCUT GEMS, ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD, SHAZAM, THE REPORT, MARRIAGE STORY

THE WORST

#1. AFTER
Everyone involved in this should be ashamed of themselves. What’s that you say? They’re making a sequel? This is further proof we’re living in the darkest timeline.
#2. SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2
Illumination knows exactly what it’s doing and they feel no shame. I wish people would stop giving them reasons to make awful sequels.
#3.A DOG’S JOURNEY
Sappy sentimentality tries to mask the flawed and unethical morality. I love dogs, but this is a crap story and film.
#4. MIDWAY
When Michael Bay said, “No one can top my crappy WWII movie,” Roland Emmerich said, “Hold my beer.”
#5. DETECTIVE PIKACHU
Knowing that some people loved this movie makes me hate this cliche, predictable, trite flick even more.

LAUREN DAMON

THE BEST

Here’s my Top 9, leaving open that 10 slot as the end of the year has so many films on offer that I’m sure one I’ve missed would be bound to swoop in!

#1. MIDSOMMAR
Oh “Midsommar,” how much did I love this film? Enough to come back for the 171 minute director’s cut at Lincoln Center this August for even more. Ari Aster’s follow up to “Hereditary” showcases yet another powerhouse female performance in Florence Pugh. The film is hard to call a “horror”, unless you’re in the middle of a fight with your romantic partner, but it definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. Aster packs this film with so much visual detail that return trips continue to prove satisfying. This film also has a pitch dark streak of savage humor that gave me one or two of the most morbid laughs of the year.
#2. JOJO RABBIT
I elaborated in my five star review of Taika Waititi’s WW2 satire, but this is for me the funniest film of the year while still tugging on a ton of heartstrings. For me, it is Scarlett Johansson’s best performance (and yes, I’ve seen “Marriage Story”)

#3. KNIVES OUT
Chris Evans and Daniel Craig played wildly against type in Rian Johnson’s murder mystery whose twisty turny finale was a delight, or maybe it was a donut…
#4. AVENGERS ENDGAME
I may not be fully on board with all of the character choices for Marvel’s epic Infinity Saga conclusion, but man, if this didn’t do justice to the 21(!) films whose job it was to wrap up. The “Portals” sequence playing to a sold out crowd on opening night was chills, cheers and tears inducing in a way I have never experienced at a movie theater.
#5. JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLEM
In a year without a “Mission: Impossible,” John Wick came to the rescue in terms of just absolutely satisfying stunt sequences. That knife fight IN a knife store alone earned the whole movie’s placement on this list.
#6. FORD v FERRARI
I fortunately saw this one in IMAX where the roar of the impeccably edited racing sequences could be felt in my bones. James Mangold delivered a solid spectacle lead by the always-reliable Matt Damon and Christian Bale.
#7. ROCKETMAN
“Rocketman” was everything I wished last year’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” would have been. From star Taron Edgerton actually recording a slew of Elton John classics himself to the integration of said songs into lively and visually fun musical numbers. Bonus points for a lovely turn from Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin.
#8. LITTLE WOMEN
Greta Gerwig’s sterling adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic assembled one of the strongest acting ensembles of the year and showed the March sisters in a whole new light.
#9. THE LIGHTHOUSE
Robert Eggers’s follow up to 2015’s “The Witch” was just as steeped in atmosphere–this time of an isolated New England lighthouse in the 1890s where Robert Pattinson’s Thomas is taken under the lunatic wing of Willem Defoe who may or may not have a supernatural connection to the beacon they tend to. In stunning black and white, Eggers produced some of the most memorable imagery of the year.

THE WORST

In lieu of a Worst list–since I don’t see enough to pull a whole list confidently–I’m sorry to say MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL was the biggest disappointment. Taking Hemsworth and Thompson, who have a proven comedic chemistry and just throwing them into this lazy script was a huge wasted opportunity.

MICHAEL D. SMITH

THE BEST

#1. 1917
Selected by the Kansas City Film Critics Circle as the year’s Best Film, “1917” is simply a stroke of genius. Nominated for three Golden Globes, “1917” is not only a masterful example of the war film genre, but it is also a masterpiece of cinema in general. Directed by Oscar-winning British filmmaker Sam Mendes (“Skyfall,” “The Road to Perdition”), who co-wrote the screenplay with Krysty Wilson-Cairns (“Penny Dreadful”), “1917” is an accurate depiction of the Great War with an edge-of-your-seat plot that is essentially Great Britain’s “Saving Private Ryan.”

#2. KNIVES OUT
An impressive piece of creative writing, “Knives Out” deserves to be in the pantheon of great murder mystery flicks. With a terrific cast including Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Christopher Plummer and Michael Shannon, “Knives Out” is led by Daniel Craig in a wonderfully entertaining performance that makes you forget all about his more famous alter egoJames Bond. Whether you guess who done it within 15 minutes or not until the very end, “Knives Out” provides a great way to spend the night out at the movie theater.
#3. JOKER
Featuring by far the best male lead performance of the year, “Joker” is the most in-depth character study captured in cinema in 2019. Joaquin Phoenix goes to Herculean lengths to tap into the essence of a man so ostracized by society that when his last thread to sanity is cut, he becomes something that lies somewhere in the middle of being a villain and a hero. Dark, gritty and violent, “Joker” is not your typical comic book or even graphic novel movie. It eclipses both. Phoenix is supported by a memorable supporting performance from Robert De Niro.
#4. MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN
Edward Norton’s effort is a triumph of cinematic art and deserves to be an Oscar contender in multiple categories. Adapted from the 1999, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning novel of the same name by American novelist Jonathan Lethem, “Motherless Brooklyn,” written and directed by Norton, is a brilliant, throwback detective story with an all-star cast that delivers the goods. It mirrors early 1950s Brooklyn in such a palpable way that it makes you feel like you are there. Despite its arguably long, two-hour plus running time, the puzzle-like central story is so engrossing with its twists and turns that you can end up losing yourself in it.
#5. US
Academy Award-winning writer Jordan Peele followed up his magnificent horror thriller “Get Out” with another stroke of genius thatwhich should not be watched immediately before bedtime. An inventive work that will give you goosebumps throughout as the Wilson family, led by Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke, tries to stay alive in the face of eerie doppelgangers who want them all dead. Nyong’o was recently selected by the Kansas City Film Critics Circle as 2019’s Best Actress for her memorable performance.
#6. ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
Love or hate him, there is no denying the talent of Quentin Tarantino. In this, his ninth and allegedly next-to-last film, Tarantino pays tribute to Hollywood’s Golden Age by putting his own unique spin on the August 1969 Sharon Tate murders. With enthralling performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, Tarantino dug deep into his imagination with an entertaining “what if?” story with a climax that will drop your jaw to the floor and imagery that will be stuck in your head for days afterwards.

#7. THE IRISHMAN
At three hours and 29 minutes, “The Irishman” is a Martin Scorsese film not to be tackled lightly. However, if you are a fan of not just mafia-related stories but also a trio of iconic actors – Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino – then you will be greatly rewarded. It is the supposed story of mob hitman Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran who worked closely with the mob for decades and claimed that he was the one who made labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa famously disappear. Of the three, it is Pesci who outshines everyone as a mob boss. It is nothing less than the greatest performance of Pesci’s long career.
#8. QUEEN & SLIM
Ideally, a great work of art, especially one that is controversial, will have a deeply emotional and/or intellectual impact on the viewer. It is no different with the genre of cinema. Erroneously labeled by some as a Bonnie and Clyde-type story, “Queen & Slim” explores the fear and outrage felt by many in America over numerous fatal shootings in recent years of black men, often young ones, by white law enforcement officers. While its climax is heavy-handed and the overall portrayal of the police is too generalized, “Queen & Slim” remains a terrific specimen of cinematic art.
#9. A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Last year, I had the fantastic documentary “Won’t You be My Neighbor?” in the eighth spot of my 2018 top ten list. This year, another Mister Rogers film makes my year-end highlights. Inspired by true events, Tom Hanks puts in a mesmerizing supporting performance as the late, beloved PBS show host as he tries to help a jaded newspaper reporter remember what is most important in life. It is a sweet, lovely story amidst harsh times.
#10. AVENGERS: ENDGAME
Ten years’ worth of Avenger-related movies, some better than others, culminated with “Endgame” and it was all worth it with a tremendously rewarding finale. What made it so spectacular was not that it had great special effects or a cast with enough stars to fill up the nighttime sky. Rather, it contained an emotional story that did not have a neat and tidy ending. It was a true struggle of good vs. evil with many of those on the side of good having to pay a terrible price for their collective success. It does leave one to wonder how the gang at Marvel Studios will do with the next phase of Avenger flicks.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: AD ASTRA, I AM MOTHER, PEANUT BUTTER FALCON

Film Review: “Little Women”

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, Eliza Scanlen
Directed By: Greta Gerwig
Rated: PG
Running Time: 135mins
Sony Pictures

Little Women has been adapted to the screen a dozen times, so approaching it hot off of her acclaimed Lady Bird, it appears writer-director Greta Gerwig decided to adhere to its own Amy March’s strict standards: “to be great or nothing” Which is to say, Gerwig’s telling is pretty great. Emphasis on the pretty. Her ensemble cast, lead by Lady Bird alum Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh (“Midsommar”), brings a fresh take to Louisa May Alcott’s iconic characters amidst an absolutely gorgeously mounted production. This adaptation of Alcott’s tale of a quartet of sisters finding their way in Civil War era New England feels both classic and vividly relevant to today.

Full disclosure time–I haven’t read Alcott’s novel. Like many kids of the 90s my introduction to the March family was with 1994’s release starring Winona Ryder and Christian  Bale. It so fit into 90s cozy family fare that it came to vhs in one of those big puffy plastic boxes like Disney cartoons. This isn’t a slight against it, I love that version. But it did make me wary that I would be plodding through some well worn territory. Happily, Ms Gerwig flips the script by shirking a linear adaptation. Instead we follow our heroine Jo March (Ronan) from the point at which she’s already pitching her life story at a New York publisher, and then we go winding back and forth through her adolescence in New England. This approach gives the tales of the March’s idyllic family history a warm veneer of nostalgia, which actually feels a more honest way to see it.

Additionally, with Jo as our primary entry point into Marches, Gerwig’s update places a greater emphasis on the sisterly bonds than their romantic entanglements. Timothee Chalamet does well as Laurie–taking over from Bale as the mischievous neighbor boy who pursues both Jo and eventually Amy (Pugh)–but for this 2019 version, he rightly takes a back seat in screen time to, for example, Jo’s bond with her ailing sister Beth (Scanlen).            

This treatment especially benefits the oft-maligned Amy March. In 1994 the duties of the youngest March were shared between a very childish Kirsten Dunst and a very cold Samantha Mathis but here Florence Pugh effortlessly takes her from tween to adulthood. Pugh is having an amazing year, from her breakthrough leading role in Fighting with My Family to a wrenching performance in Ari Aster’s Midsommar, she is exhibiting an incredible range that she flexes even more as Amy. In this non-linear telling, Amy has the advantage of being introduced not as a clingy youngest sibling, but as the aspiring artist studying in Paris. Her childhood crimes (which are numerous and feature Pugh for the second time this year participating in arson) are more readily forgiven through an adult lens whereas when they were previously presented in “real time”, she was a little monster. Meanwhile, though Pugh is given aging assistance via wardrobe decisions and some well-deployed bangs, it is her performance, her entire bearing and pitch of her voice that fully sells Amy’s growth. It’s a special performance that I am hoping will be recognized this awards season since, if Hereditary’s snubbing last year is any indication, Academy voters might not have the stomach for Midsommar. But I digress. 

Supporting all these sparkling performances, Gerwig’s production radiates warmth and beauty. She gives us a screenplay that lets the March clan talk all over each other like a living, breathing family, costumes and settings that frequently look like they could be paintings and underscores it all with yet another winning score from Alexandre Desplat (“The Shape of Water”). It is a lovely holiday gift of a film.  

Film Review: “The Two Popes”

Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins, Juan Minujin
Directed By: Fernando Meirelles
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 126mins
Netflix

In 2013, the Catholic church faced a prospect it had not dealt with in 600 years when Pope Benedict XVI decided to step down as head of the Catholic Church. Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named as his successor, taking the title of Pope Francis. The official reason Benedict gave was declining health but he also did so in the face of mounting progressive movements among the global congregation as well as the rampant allegations of sexual abuse from clergy. In Netflix’s new film, The Two Popes, writer Anthony McCarten (“Darkest Hour”) stages an imagined meeting of the minds between Benedict and Bergoglio before this changing of the guard. Each of the men having crises of faith and trying to convince the other to keep or take on the title, respectively. Fortunately for director Fernando Meirelles, acting legends Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce stepped in to play these two. Unfortunately for viewers, their discussions do not dominate the entire film as you might hope nor do those talks address the church scandals in a meaningful way. That Meirelles’s film manages to tread through such tonally rocky terrain without more of an issue is down to great performances from Pryce and Hopkins.

Meirelles’s film opens amidst the death of Pope John Paul II and the ensuing 2005 papal conclave. The highly secretive process requires a super majority of the cardinals convening in Rome to elect a new pope. Publicly it was a spectacle in which crowds gathered in St Peter’s Square in eager anticipation of seeing white smoke to signal that choice had been made. The interior specifics of this conclave were under official oaths of secrecy. The film brings this all to vivid life within a recreation of the Vatican and introduces Bergoglio (Pryce) and Ratzinger (Hopkins) as opposing roads for the church to take at this crucial moment in time. Ratzinger is the more conservative of the two and glad-hands the other attendees like a politician while Bergoglio downplays talk from his peers who insist he is also a favorite. Ratzinger, redubbed Benedict, wins the votes. 

Anthony McCarten’s script is based on his own stage play of this story and the best parts of this film felt like a stage production. The film easily moves from the spectacle of the conclave to the intimate summit between Hopkins and Pryce with Bergoglio seeking to tender his resignation from a Benedict who refuses to grant the request. Hopkins plays Benedict here with an air of mischief that lifts all their interactions. Bergoglio is pressing Benedict with his sincere desire to leave while Benedict brushes him off and inconveniences him at every turn. Their dialogue is also peppered with charming little old man moments. Bergoglio being the more “in touch” of the two brings both ABBA and the Beatles into the discussion for example. But once the gravity of Benedict wanting to leave takes priority–he speaks of losing touch with the voice of god–and Bergoglio’s reluctance has to be supported by how he got to where he is, the film drags. As interesting as it is and as capable an actor Juan Minujín is at playing the younger version of Pryce in war torn Argentina, it shifts the focus of the film down in taking it entirely through his past.

It’s also jarring to have the two old men watching the World Cup as though they’re in a set up from Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip while literally dropping out the audio of Benedict confessing regarding the abuse scandal later in the film. Such a jarring decision when we’ve already seen a lot of Bergoglio’s rough past, made me wonder if they knew acknowledging this darkness was a bridge too far in tone, your mileage may vary. Either way, I was grateful to see these two acting legends share the screen as much as they did.  

The Two Popes is now streaming on Netflix

Panic Fest 2020 Announces Feature Films & Special Guests

NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (PRESS RELEASE) – Panic makers and creatures of the night – film fans and filmmakers alike – gather for a week-long onslaught of thrills, chills and kills at Kansas City’s annual horror hangout – Panic Fest.

Panic Fest, now in its 8th year, is a renowned horror, thriller, sci-fi movie festival hosted at Screenland Armour in collaboration with DownrightCreepy.com. Recently named one of the 25 Bloody Best Genre Fests in the world in 2020 by Movie Maker, Panic Fest has made its name on premiering huge hits like “What We Do in the Shadows” and cult favorites like Elijah Woods’ “Maniac” remake. Panic Fest is also a Fangoria Approved fest, giving it a certain level of prestige that genre aficionados will appreciate.

The latest, greatest, and grizzly genre offerings. Up-and-coming auteurs of the arcane and unknown. Audiences will gasp and be amazed and appalled. Panic Fest is the pinnacle of genre festivals featuring over 70+ films and we are proud to bring you our short film showcase and feature film announcements along with some special guest appearances and podcasts!

FEATURE FILM LINEUP
panicfilmfest.com/schedule

After Midnight (Guest TBA)
Artik
Beyond the Woods (with Brayden DeMorest-Purdy and Nina Werewka)
Blood on Her Name
Blood Quantum
The Cleansing Hour
Color Out of Space
The Dare
December Vol. 1 (with AJ Bowen and Dominic Saxl)
Disappearance at Clifton Hill
Eat Brains Love (with Rodman Flender)
Extra Ordinary
Evil Dead 4K (Hosted by Film Society KC)
Frozen 10th Anniversary (with Adam Green and Joe Lynch Movie Crypt Podcast Live)
Greenlight
Hardware (NC-17) (with Joe Lynch and Nightmare Junkhead)
James Vs His Future Self
Kindred Spirits (Guest TBA)
The Lodge
A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio
The New End
The Other Lamb
The Perished (with Paddy Murphy and Joe Lynch)
Puppet Killer (with Lisa Ovies)
Porno
The Room
Rock, Paper and Scissors
Rot (with Beth Crudele)
Scare Package (with Aaron B. Koontz)
Sea Fever
The Soul Conductor (with Mikhail Kurbatov)
Swallow
The Swerve (with Dean Kapsalis and Tommy Minnix)
Two Heads Creek
Uncle Peckerhead (World Premiere – with Matthew John Lawrence)
VFW (Hosted by Fangoria)
VHYes (Hosted by Forever Bogus and Magnetic Magic Rentals)
The Vice Guide to Bigfoot (Zachary Lamplugh and Brain Emond)
To Your Last Death (with Jim Cirile)

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE PROGRAMMING
panicfilmfest.com/shorts

PREVIEW NIGHT BLOCK (Jan 23)
(((75 mins)))
Allergic Overreaction
Black Mass
Best Friends Forever
She Must Vanish
The Unseen
Merger

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE BLOCK #1 (Jan 25)
(((90 mins)))
Night of the Shooter
Let Me Play
Hellevate
Night Crawl
See You On the Other Side
Amber
Pepper
Imagine a World
Feeder

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE BLOCK #2 (Jan 25)
(((90 mins)))
Lane 9
Go Back
Killer Confidence
Haunting of Pottersfield
Swipe
Night Owls
Here There Be Tygers
Hotel
Pathosis

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE BLOCK #3 (Jan 25)
(((90 mins)))
Conspiracy Cruise
Safe States
Momma Don’t Go
Buffalo & Trout
Daughter of Dismay
A Noise That Carries
Mateo
The Burden
The Animator

SPECIAL GUESTS:
Adam Green (Hatchet Franchise, Frozen)
Joe Lynch (Mayhem, Point Blank Remake)
AJ Bowen (You’re Next, Frontier, Deathcember)
Rebekah McKendry (All the Creatures Were Stirring)
John Pata (Dead Weight, Gags the Clown, Pity)
Rodman Flender (Director Eat Brains Love)

and many more – over 100 filmmakers and special guests!

PODCAST SHOWS:
– The Movie Crypt Live (Fangoria with special guests)
– Nightmare University (Fangoria with AJ Bowen)
– Generation Why Podcast + Crimelines (with Gangland Wire podcast)
– Cult Podcast (true crime comedy)
– Nightmare Junkhead (90’s Nightmare with Joe Lynch)

Kansas City Film Critics Circle names “1917” Best Film of 2019

“1917,” Sam Mendes’ look at a secret mission during World War I, was named the Best Film of the Year by the Kansas City Film Critics Circle.  The film also took home honors for Mendes’ direction and for its cinematography.  “1917” and “Us” were the only film to receive multiple awards, with “Us” star Lupita Nyong’o being named Best Actress while the film was chosen to receive the Vince Koehler Award for the year’s Best Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror Film.

Each year the Kansas City Film Critics Circle, the second oldest critics organization in the United States, votes on their choices for the groups James Loutzenhiser Awards.  2019 marks the 54th time the group has passed out its awards.  The South Korean film “Parasite” was named the year’s Best Foreign Film while “Toy Story 4” joined the first three films in the series by also being named the year’s Best Animated Film, an amazing achievement.

Below is a complete list of the winners of the 54th Annual James Loutzenhiser Awards

  • BEST FILM:                                        “1917”
  • ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
  • FOR BEST DIRECTOR                      Sam Mendes for “1917”
  • BEST ACTOR                         Adam Driver in “Marriage Story”
  • BEST ACTRESS                                 Lupita Nyong’o in “US”
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR           Joe Pesci in ‘The Irishman”
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS        Da’Vine Joy Randolph in “Dolemite is My Name”
  • BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY     Rian Johnson for “Knives Out”
  • BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY      Greta Gerwig for “Little Women”
  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY Roger Deakins for “1917”
  • BEST ANIMATED FEATURE           “Toy Story 4”
  • BEST FOREIGN FILM                       “Parasite” – South Korea
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY                    “Amazing Grace” and “Apollo 11” (tie)
  • VINCE KOEHLER AWARD
  • FOR THE BEST SCIENCE                “Us”
  • FICTION/FANTASY/HORROR
  • FILM  
  • TOM POE AWARD FOR THE
  • BEST LGBT FILM                              “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”      

Panic Fest 2020 Announces Short Film Showcase Lineup

Kansas City, MO – Named one of MovieMaker Magazine’s Best Genre Fest in the World in 2019 and 2020  – Panic Fest has expanded and announced films for it’s Short Film Showcase.

This year they have expanded from two blocks of films to four blocks. The first will be a Short Film Preview Night Block, which will screen on Thursday, January 23rd at Screenland Armour. The following three blocks will be on January 25th.

Opening weekend will take place January 24th-26th with extended weekday programming January 27th-30th. The Short Film Showcase will be sponsored this year by Shudder and the Best of Fest showcase winner will receive a free year of the subscription service.

PREVIEW NIGHT BLOCK (Jan. 23rd) 75 mins
Allergic Overreaction
Black Mass
Best Friends Forever
She Must Vanish
The Unseen
Merger

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE BLOCK #1 (Jan. 25th) 90 mins
Night of the Shooter
Let Me Play
Hellevate
Night Crawl
See You On the Other Side
Amber
Pepper
Imagine a World
Feeder

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE BLOCK #2 (Jan. 25th) 90 mins
Lane 9
Go Back
Killer Confidence
Haunting of Pottersfield
Swipe
Night Owls
Here There Be Tygers
Hotel
Pathosis

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE BLOCK #3 (Jan. 25th )90 mins
Conspiracy Cruise
Safe States
Momma Don’t Go
Buffalo & Trout
Daughter of Dismay
A Noise That Carries
Mateo
The Burden
The Animator

Official website: https://panicfilmfest.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/panicfilmfest/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/panicfilmfest
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/panicfilmfest/
Film Freeway: https://filmfreeway.com/PanicFest


Film Review: “Little Joe”

LITTLE JOE
Starring: Emily Beecham, Ben Whishaw, Kerry Fox, Kit Connor
Directed By: Jessica Hausner
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Magnolia Pictures 

Due to the prominence of Little Shop of Horrors‘ famous “Audrey II” in pop culture, it makes sense that I approached Little Joe–the titular blossom in Jessica Hausner’s new feature, named after its lead’s young son–somewhat warily. After all, naming that unnatural plant after its owner’s closest loved one didn’t quite work out for Seymour, did it? Both the plant and the feature Little Joe are not quite the bombastic spectacle as that man-eater, but they offer a few creepy elements of their own. Part sci-fi, part social commentary and with hints of horror, Hausner’s film is visually arresting but its many thematic seedlings never fully take root.  

Alice (Emily Beecham) works in an advanced plant breeding lab, where she has just made a breakthrough in engineering: a plant that is meant to boost its keepers happiness just by breathing in its presence. This antidepressant alternative, which Alice dubs “Little Joe” after her son, sounds promising but Alice’s coworkers remain suspicious. Particularly after the Little Joes causes “his” planted neighbors to wilt. Alice’s only supporter appears to be Chris (Ben Whishaw) who’s anxious for Alice to come out for a drink with him. The first red flag comes in the form of fellow scientist, Bella’s (Kerry Fox) dog running rampant in the lab after encountering the new plant. His owner was already in opposition to Alice’s work and even more so after she becomes adamant that his encounter made the dog “not himself.” Despite this, Alice has a seedling of her own currently potted in the home she sometimes shares with her son (she is divorced), the human Joe. 

As you can imagine, suddenly Joe isn’t exactly himself either. The trouble with the film comes in how it never really commits to how malevolent Little Joe is meant to be. In some of those encountered they do gain a sort of vapid air of cheerfulness. In others, their entire personalities take hard turns. Human Joe suddenly does want to move out to live with his father while the lovelorn Chris gets more aggressive in his overtures to Alice. At times it seems to lean into critiquing what exactly is true happiness–if you’re only happy on a drug, does it count and does it matter? At the same time though, Hausner introduces this angle of the plant wanting to multiply via its human hosts and a whole lot of movie pseudo-science. A sort of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. But it’s an extreme it only really goes to in one tense sequence with Fox’s character trapped in Little Joe’s greenhouse. 

If there’s one thing that’s consistent, it’s Hausner’s overall grip on the film’s visual design.  Production designer’s Katharina Woppermann beautiful pastel palette complements Beecham’s overall aloof demeanor well from her sterile labs to her small home. Little Joe’s flower with its vibrant puffs of blood red pollen is also fittingly ominous. Meanwhile Hausner’s camera never quite stays still, even roving slowly through the quietest of conversations to keep viewers just a little on edge throughout. It’s unfortunate however that the visual team’s work is frequently undermined by a jarring score of loud clashing sounds. Again, the score is telling me horror film, but Hausner isn’t giving me enough to support it.

Overall, like a botanical garden, Little Joe is something I admired in a slow meandering sort of way for its beauty and craftsmanship more than any sort of emotional connection. 

Film Review: “Queen & Slim”

Film review: “Queen & Slim”
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith
Directed by: Melina Matsoukas
Rated: Rated R
Running Time: 132 minutes
Universal Pictures

Ideally, a great work of art will have a deeply emotional and even an intellectual impact on the viewer. It is no different with the genre of cinema. A rare, special example of such a work is the new drama “Queen & Slim.” Erroneously labeled by some as a Bonnie and Clyde-type story, “Queen & Slim” brilliantly explores the fear and outrage felt by many in America over numerous fatal shootings in recent years of black men, often young ones, by white law enforcement officers. While its climax is heavy-handed and the overall portrayal of the police is insultingly generalized, “Queen & Slim” remains a terrific specimen of cinematic art.

The story begins innocently enough in a black-owned restaurant where Ernest “Slim” Hines (Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out,” “Black Panther”) and Angela “Queen” Johnson (Jodie Turner-Smith, “Jett”) are having their first date. Ernest seems almost outclassed by Angela, an experienced attorney who only said yes to him because she was lonelier than normal on this night in Ohio. During the drive back to her place, a white police officer pulls them over because Ernest forgot to use a turn signal on a deserted street. The situation escalates when the officer forces Ernest out of the car and pulls his gun despite the latter’s cooperation. A struggle ensues, resulting in Ernest fatally shooting the officer in self-defense, all of which is caught on the officer’s dashcam.

Considering her knowledge of the law, Angela inexplicably and fatefully convinces Ernest that they should flee the scene. Thus, begins an arduous journey to the Deep South while trying to avoid a nationwide manhunt that produces a large bounty for their heads. They eventually make it to Louisiana where Angela’s Uncle Earl (Bokeem Woodbine, “Spider-Man: Homecoming”), a pimp suffering from PTSD because of his war service, reluctantly helps aid their quest to get to Florida. Once there, their plan is reach Cuba. This is also when the duo realizes how much of a media sensation they have become across the country and how they have become a symbol to those tired of racial injustice. This is touched upon in one powerful scene, but in the film’s totality it is a paltry effort to explore an important aspect of the story by first-time, feature-length director Melina Matsoukas, who is best known for her music videos, short films and the HBO series “Insecure.”

Kaluuya and Turner-Smith are magical on the silver screen together. Their chemistry is smooth as silk and their powerful, emotional performances, brimming with fear, anger, love and bravery, are worthy of Oscar consideration. Woodbine delivers the best acting of his long career with a brief, yet complicated portrayal of a man swimming in pain beneath the surface of his tough exterior. He, too, should be considered for a nomination come Academy Award time.

It is a misnomer to compare Ernest and Angela to Bonnie and Clyde, who seem to still be mistakenly labeled as some sort of folk heroes like the James brothers. Here is a refresher from a trained historian – Bonnie Parker (1910-34) and Clyde Barrow (1909-34) are credited with murdering at least four civilians and nine law enforcement officers as well as numerous armed robberies and kidnappings. They were not Robin Hood-type characters and bare no resemblance to Ernest and Angela, who go out of their way to not harm anyone during their attempt to get out of the country before being potentially gunned down.

Overall, “Queen & Slim” is a thought-provoking story that is relevant to our times and is so emotionally powerful that it will stick with you long after you have left the theater.

Holiday Gift Guide 2019: “The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Series”

The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Series on Limited Edition Blu-ray™

Featuring All 12 Seasons along with Exclusive Bonus Content   

If you are looking for the perfect holiday gift this season, look no further than the The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Series Limited Edition Blu-ray, which features highly collectible packaging, a digital copy of every episode and all-new, never-before-seen special features. I am a huge fan of this show for over a decade and it is sad to see it end but at least we have this beautiful limited edition Blu-ray set to enjoy over and over again. This is a show that has amazing replay value and I expect to be cracking open this box set often. I can imagine that this will be a popular gift this holiday season and it deserves to be since it is a fine release from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Series, including all 279 original episodes from 12 seasons of the top-rated sitcom, will also be available for fans to own on DVD ($179.99) and a premium Limited Edition Blu-ray ($249.99 SRP). The complete set will feature nearly 12 hours of extras along with an additional disc including three exclusive and never-before-seen featurettes! The special Limited Edition Blu-ray Boxset comes in a beautiful lay-flat book with a fun pop-up and includes a digital copy.

For years, fans have been delighted watching their favorite physicists Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) navigate the universe and everyday life along with Penny (Kaley Cuoco), and fellow scientists Howard (Simon Helberg), Raj (Kunal Nayyar), Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), as well as other beloved characters. Now that Sheldon has married neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler, he’ll have to make some serious adjustments to their “Relationship Agreement” in Season 12. Will their equation for marital bliss alter the chemistry between these two beautiful minds? Perhaps Leonard and Penny will provide the data as they experiment with variable in their own marriage.  Meanwhile, Howard and Bernadette explore the principles of parenthood, and Raj considers a traditional arranged marriage. Quantum comedy converges in the twelfth dimension for the final season!

With Blu-Ray’s unsurpassed picture and sound, The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Series,  Blu-Ray releases will include 1080p Full HD Video with DTS-HD Master Audio for English 5.1. These Blu-Rays also come with a digital copy of all the episodes.

SPECIAL FEATURES

The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Series

Includes nearly 12 hours of previously released bonus content from Seasons 1 through 12, plus the following exclusive special features:

  • The Big Bang Theory: A Retrospective
  • BBT’s Greatest Hits: 12 Years of Comedy in 24 Minutes
  • All The Stars in the BBT Universe

Holiday Gift Guide 2019: “Batman Beyond: The Complete Series”

BATMAN BEYOND: THE COMPLETE SERIES LIMITED EDITION

SERIES’ FIRST-EVER BLU-RAY PRESENTATION COMING OCTOBER 15, 2019 TO DIGITAL; AND BLU-RAY™ BOX SET OCTOBER 29, 2019

This holiday season Warner Bros. Home Entertainment delivers the most perfect holiday gift for any fan of Batman. For the first time ever “Batman Beyond” is home on Blu-ray in a beautiful limited edition set. Collectibles within the stunning packaging include an exclusive chrome Batman Beyond Funko POP, and four beautifully-designed lenticular art cards produced especially for Batman Beyond: The Complete Animated Series Limited Edition. This ultimate collectors Blu-ray box set will be individually numbered for a Limited Edition release of 50,000. So if you are lucky enough to snag one of these, it will surely make for a most terrific holiday gift.

BURBANK, CA (July 18, 2019) – Batman Beyond, the landmark animated television series that illuminated the imagination of a new generation of Batman fans with its creation of an altogether new hero, is celebrating its 20th anniversary – and you get the gift! Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has remastered the heralded series for its first-ever presentation on Blu-ray™ in the all-encompassing Batman Beyond: The Complete Animated Series Limited Edition, arriving on Digital ($49.99 SRP USA, $59.99 SRP Canada) starting October 15, 2019 and in a stunning box set ($99.99 SRP USA, $119.99 SRP Canada) on October 29, 2019. Distribution in Canada will be day-and-date with the USA, Pre-orders are now available.

The extraordinary Batman Beyond: The Complete Animated Series Limited Editionpackage features approximately 1,500 minutes of entertainment spread over four Blu-ray™ discs, plus the two bonus discs of enhanced content. In addition to a newly-remastered Blu-ray presentation of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, there are 15 featurettes on the bonus discs, highlighted by two new inside looks at the beloved television series, led by Nostalgic Tomorrow, a gathering of Batman Beyond production talent and cast led by executive producer Bruce Timm and actors Kevin Conroy and Will Friedle, the voices of Batman and Terry McGinnis, respectively. The bonus discs also spotlight four episodes with audio commentary from Timm and select members of the production team.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, Batman Beyond premiered on January 10, 1999 to instant ratings and critical success. The series would run for three seasons, covering 52 total episodes and a full-length animated film, Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker. Nominated for nine Emmy Awards, Batman Beyond would ultimately take home two Emmys – including Outstanding Special Class Animated Program in 2001 – as well as three Annie Awards.

Of the 52 original Batman Beyond episodes, 41 have been fully-remastered from either their original 35mm film source or the uncommon format “OCND,” the original camera negative digital (a digital scan of original negative). Lines and resolution have been enhanced, and dust and dirt have been removed – however, cell dirt remains to not disturb the original picture. Included in the remastering was the removal of grain, resulting in enhanced colors. The remastering process does cause a slight aspect ratio change (approximately 3% loss of screen image).

Due to time-worn irreparable damage, the remaining 11 episodes were “Smart Rezzed” from standard definition Digibeta video. The process provides for significant enhanced resolution and improvement of the original source material in converting from standard to high definition, though it does sacrifice horizontal lines for clearer image and color representation. While still a marked improvement over the original video, viewers will notice a slight difference between the Remastered and the Up-Rezzed final footage. The 11 affected episodes are: “Eyewitness,” “Final Cut,” “The Last Resort,” “Armory,” “Sneak Peek,” “The Eggbaby,” “Zeta,” “Plague,” “April Moon,” “Sentries of the Lost Cosmos” and “Speak No Evil.”

Film Review: Jojo Rabbit

Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Rated: PG 13 
Running Time: 108 minutes
Fox Searchlight Pictures

I don’t know how a movie featuring an imaginary Adolf Hitler managed to be one of the most heartwarming films of the year…but it’s 2019 and every day actual reality gets more ludicrous, so that sounds about right. Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit is a masterful satire that nails its tone with a kind of supernatural precision that most filmmakers can only dream of and a story still more wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.

Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is a small boy who lives with his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) in a village in WWII Germany. His only ambition is to fight for Hitler just like his absent father. Lacking any real warfront nearby and too young to be conscripted, Jojo instead joins up with the local division of the Hitler Youth headed by the one-eyed Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell). It’s a lot like boy scouts if all the participants were extremely racist and whose bonfires consisted of banned books. Jojo plays tough but gains his titular nickname when the older scouts test how murderous Jojo actually is and the kid fails to kill a bunny in front of the everyone.

Jojo is not only disappointed with himself but he’s royally failing Hitler! Specifically the imaginary Fuhrer, played by Waititi himself, who follows Jojo around and goads on Jojo’s tough guy persona. To be clear, Waititi isn’t actually playing Hitler (in fact when asked about ‘researching’ his portrayal, the director says he didn’t because that guy was “a fucking cunt.” Yep.) Instead, he is playing an icon to a child, which is an entirely different prospect. In Taika’s take just about the scariest thing about him is the unnatural blue contacts. He’s a playground bully who spouts back all the vile lies about Jewish people the boy’s troop leaders are trying to drill into him. Jojo’s whole bubble is popped when he finds an actual living Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in his mother’s attic.

With McKenzie’s arrival, the film begins to become something much more than the riotous comedy that Waititi achieves in laying out Jojo’s life in the scouts. (Although if this film had only given me a burnt out Sam Rockwell demonstrating deadly weapons to a group of small children, I would have still considered it a cinematic gift, but I digress.) No, rather than being fearful, Elsa leans hard into the gross mythos the Nazis are spreading about her people in order to intimidate the young Jojo. It’s one thing to tell a ten year old that Elsa is a demon, entirely another to ask him not to then be terrified when faced with her one on one. Their bond is the heart of the film and McKenzie wields what small power she has over Jojo with ferocity while Jojo steadily moves from fear into fascination and maybe even friendship. Mckenzie’s is a stunning performance that has me more excited to see her in Edgar Wright’s next feature. As for Davis, putting the weight of this movie on the ten year old is thematically fitting but a huge risk. However just like Hunt for The Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison, Waititi’s casting of Davis proves to be spot on. 

Meanwhile these kids are surrounded by the grown actors putting in some truly beautiful work. Sam Rockwell’s one eyed captain is physically out of commission but maybe that’s not the only reason he’s not on the field. Considering there’s nothing remotely straight about him and second-in-command Finkel (Alfie Allen). Scarlett Johansson is fearless as Rosie who lovingly calls Jojo “Shitler” and whose drinking, smiling facade belies her own defiance. After all, her sheltering Elsa is a huge breech of the law. Still Rosie dances, she bike rides and she declares her dinner table neutral Switzerland. Johansson brings genuine depth and warmth to Rosie in both her bonds with Jojo and Elsa.

Jojo meeting Elsa and beginning to encounter the larger world is where Waititi really hits home. Rosie allows Jojo into the Hitler Youth only insofar as she is a single mother and there’s really no alternative daycare. But when face to face with his supposed enemy, Jojo’s whole worldview is challenged.  Hate cannot flourish without ignorance and it’s the ordinary people in this film whose small acts make the larger world better for all. Taika’s crafted a film that’s not only timely but manages to earn tears both from laughter and sadness.

“Caddyshack” Hits the Links in Omaha

The SHACK is back!

On Friday, November 8th, film historian Bruce Crawford will be presenting the 1980 comedy classic “Caddyshack,” starring Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Cindy Morgan.

The event will be held at the Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge Street in Omaha, Nebraska.

In attendance at the screening will be actress Cindy Morgan, who played the beautiful and much sought after Lacey Underalls in the film.  Miss Morgan will speak before the screening and reminisce about the making of the film.  Fans can stay after the event for a meet and greet with Miss Morgan and autograph session.

2019 marks the 27th year of Crawford hosting an evening of classic film, along with members of the casts and crews who created them.

This event marks 27 years since Crawford started hosting film legends and the classic films on which they worked. He typically presents two movies each year, spring and autumn.

Tickets for the event (screening and meet and greet) are $24.00 and go on sale Thursday, October 3rd.  They can be purchased at the customer service counters of all Omaha-area Hy Vee food stores.   Proceeds will benefit HELP Adult Services. All tickets are a non-refundable donation.   Fans interested in just attending the screening may be able to obtrain complimentary tickets by calling 402 393 4884

For more information or to obtain tickets over the phone you can call (402) 341-6559  or click HERE.

 

 

Film Review: “Ad Astra”

AD ASTRA
Starring:  Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones and Ruth Negga
Directed by: James Gray
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  2 hrs 2 mins
20th Century Fox

Roy McBride (Pitt) is an astronaut.  He begins and ends every day with a diagnostic test, one that is given to ensure he has his emotions in check.  Roy is the only person who, despite the situation, can maintain a heart rate of less than 80.  This is put to the test when, during a routine maintenance mission on a space antenna, a tragedy happens, causing Roy to literally fall back to earth.  Despite the obvious adrenaline rush his heart rate remains low.  Which makes him perfect for his next mission…one to save the world.

Overly long (it feels like double the 2 hour run time) but beautifully filmed, “Ad Astra” rockets across the screen powered by one of Brad Pitt’s best performances.  Age has somewhat weathered his good looks, which is a good thing because there has been a fine actor under that face for years.  Roy’s mission is to head to Jupiter to find out what is emanating from the planet that is putting the Earth in danger.  Roy is shocked to learn that the cause may be his father (Jones), who was presumed killed in action during a visit to Jupiter many years ago.

A lot of the film is Pitt, alone with his thoughts, and he holds the story together as best he can.  Supporting players, like Negga, Loren Dean and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Donald Sutherland do well with what screen time they have.  The film is beautifully photographed so credit is due to the production people.  But the pace…Oy!  Pitt mentions in the film that his journey has covered 2 billion miles.  Believe me, it feels like you were along for every last one.

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