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Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

The Mustang


The Mustang -- a Review by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Director Laure De Clermont-Tonnerre spent time at the Sundance Institute to develop this story about a man and a horse.  Yes, we know it's been done before but rarely like this, enough so that Robert Redford took it on as executive producer.  Using the severe canvas of the Nevada desert, beautifully captured by cinematographer Ruben Impens, De Clermont-Tonnerre tells an equally stark story forwarding the the belief that even the most broken among us can develop empathy and thus start on the path toward redemption.  The success of this film is rooted in the performance of its star, Matthias Schoenaerts (The Drop, Red Sparrow, The Danish Girl), as Roman, a violent convict serving hard time in a high security prison, and we believe it is one of the best you will see this year.

Roman has served 12 years for a violent crime, the specifics of which we don't know.  As we meet him he has just returned from isolation. and is meeting with a no-nonsense prison psychologist (Connie Britton).  In response to her probes, he merely stares, but as she persists, she finally asks, "How does Roman feel about reentering the prison's general population?" His response is an understatement: "I'm not good with people,"  As a result, she recommends he have a solo job outdoors mucking manure.

We learn that this prison takes part in a Bureau of Land Management initiative which saves some of  the 100,000 wild mustangs who roam the West.  They are herded by helicopter and a dozen or so are brought to the prison for an equine therapy program whereby they are tamed, then trained by inmates to be sold at auction.   The foreman of the project is Myles (the aptly cast Bruce Dern), a cranky piece of hickory who knows men as well as he knows horses.  Myles notices  Roman has a strong interest in the wildest of these mustangs, and we see at once the parallels between man and beast.  Myles assigns another inmate, Henry (Jason Mitchell--Mudbound, Detroit), the self-professed best trainer, to show him the ropes.

At the same time, Roman gets a visit from his estranged 16-year old daughter Martha (Gideon Adlon), who is pregnant and only wants him to sign papers for her emancipation so she can sell her grandmother's home, which was left to them.  For the first time, we begin to touch on the details surrounding Roman's crime, as Martha's hostility and resentment and his social maladjustment make for a brief, unpleasant meeting.  Just when Roman is at his most alienated he turns his energies to the mustang.  He gets an equestrian magazine to learn more about his charge, but from academics to corral the conflict beteen two wild and headstrong creatures rains frustration down on both--Myles even banishes Roman for a time.

Just as Roman seems like a lost cause, Henry tells him, "if you wanna control the horse, first you gotta control yourself."  Only then he begns to make progress. and that progress extends to both his psychological counseling and his relationship with Martha.  In his restorative justice anger management sessions he pries himself open as he gains insight into his own impulsive behavior.  In subsequent visits from his daughter (he still hasn't signed the papers) we also see him opening up more to her, culminating in one of the most gut-wrenching scenes in the movie.  Though it is not in Roman's nature to be outgoing, as he gains insight into himself, he allows the light to shine into his soul, the greatest manifestation of this is his relationship with the mustang.

De Clermont-Tonnerre's sidling pace brings slow-burn tension and tiny revelations as the film moves toward resolution.  It should be added, though, that the film never seems slow, and at a sparse 96 minutes, it left all of us wanting more.  Although it's early, we see The Mustang as an Independent Spirit Awards player for "Film," Director," Cinematography," Supporting Actor" (Dern), and Schoenaerts should lead the way, even making a strong bid for an Oscar.
8.0 out of 10



Spring and Summer Movie Guide


Happy New Year by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Allow me to explain.  The movie year doesn't run with the calendar year.  January, for example, is still part of the previous calendar year, dominated by late arriving awards hopefuls, leading up to the Oscars, which ends the year.  Then there's a brief post-Oscars dead period, when Hollywood dumps the dregs into theaters--in truth, most of the spring used to be that way, with nary a movie worth seeing until late May, when the summer blockbusters landed.

Not any more.  Back in 2012, The Hunger Games arrived in March to record-breaking audiences, and studio bigwigs realized they were onto something.  Ever since, the new movie year has kicked off with a blockbuster, with even an Oscar contender or two sneaking in (The Grand Budpest Hotel released on March 28, 2014).   Last year, Black Panther arrived on February 16 and dominated the movie scene for months.  This year, it's Captain Marvel.

So, with the spring equinox, let me wish you a Happy New Year.

Below, we've broken down the films into two groups.  First, the BEST BETS; 19 sure fire box office hits; the last one could be be the kickoff to the awards season. You'll note that the list is dominated by sequels, series, and remakes; no matter how much critics and fans say they want original content films; they don't support them when they are released.  The animated offerings also will show up for awards, and a number of these biggies will earn technical honors.  The second list, THE REST, is a carefully selected group that might be sneaky good or appeal to niche audiences.

BEST BETS  (Note: studios sometimes change release dates)

Captain Marvel - In theaters now - Action, Sci-Fi
Follows USAF pilot Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) as she makes an unplanned detour into space and returns ... changed, joining forces with a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) when Earth becomes the target of an intergalactic war between two alien races.  Jude Law, Clark Gregg, 

Us 
- March 22  - Horror, Thriller
Writer/Director Jordan Peele's follow-up to his hit, Get Out: Gabe (Winston Duke), Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o), and their children face an existential threat when  doppelgängers invade their lives.  Elisabeth Moss, Anna Diop, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Dumbo
 - March 28  - Fantasy, Family
Director Tim Burton's reimagination of the Disney classic about a young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly and in the process save a failing circus, but danger lurks below the sawdust.
Eva Green, Michael Keaton, Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito

Shazam!
 - April 5 - Sci-Fi Comedy 
We all have a superhero inside.  In Billy Batson’s (Asher Angel) case, he brings it out by shouting "Shazam!" and this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult super hero Shazam (Zachary Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou).  Mark Strong, Meagan Good

Hellboy
 - April 12  - Action, Fantasy 
Based on the graphic novels by Mike Mignola, Hellboy (David Harbour: Stranger Things), caught between supernatural and human worlds, battles an ancient sorceress (Milla Jovovich) bent on revenge. Ian McShane, Daniel Dae Kim 

Avengers: Endgame
 - April 26  - Action, Sci-Fi 
After Thanos (Josh Brolin) randomly destroyed half of all life (luckily leaving the original Avengers unscathed) in Infinity War, things look bleak. Bowed but unbeaten, our heroes regroup for one last desperate attempt to undo the tragedy and restore order to the universe.  Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Brie Larson, Paul Rudd, Karen Gillan

Pokémon Detective Pikachu
 - May 10  - Animated Family 
When a detective goes missing, his Pokémon partner, Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) seeks to solve the mystery.  With the help of a boy (Justice Smith), he uncovers a plot that threatens the coexistence of Pokemon and humans. Suki Waterhouse, Kathryn Newton 

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
 - May 17  Action
A $14 million open contract is on the head of super-Assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) because he killed another assassin on forbidden ground.  He's given a head start by a man named Winston (Ian McShane) before the baddest and best assassins go after him.  Halle Berry, Jason Mantzoukas

Aladdin
 - May 24  Adventure Comedy, Family
Guy Ritchie directs the live-action retelling of the 1992 Disney film. Recall Aladdin (Mena Massoud) finding a lamp with a genie (Will Smith) inside and turns himself into a prince to win the heart of Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). Enter the evil Jafar (Marwan Kenzari).  Alan Tudyk voices Iago

Rocketman - May 31 - Biography/Fantasy
A musical fantasy about Elton John's (Taron Egerton) transformation from shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into international superstar, including his inspiring collaboration and relationship with Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). Bryce Dallas Howard, Richard Madden

Dark Phoenix
 - June 7 - Sci-Fi Action, Adventure
Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) develops powers she can't control that turn her into Dark Phoenix.  The X-Men will have to save her from herself before she destroys the world.  Simon Kinberg directs Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain

The Secret Life of Pets 2
 - June 7 - Animated Comedy
The continuing story of Max (Patton Oswalt) and his pet friends after their owners leave them each day.  Voices of Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Harrison Ford, and others

Men in Black: International - June 14 - Sci-Fi Comedy
The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.  Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Rebecca Ferguson, Liam Neeson

Toy Story 4
 - June 21 Animated Family
Woody (Tom Hanks) helps newcomer Forky (Tony Hale) embrace being a toy by leading the gang on a road trip.  Tim Allen, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves, Patricia Arquette, John Ratzenberger

Spider-Man: Far From Home
 - July 5  Sci-Fi Action, Comedy
Peter Parker (Tom Holland) leaves his Spidey-suit at home when he and his friends go on summer vacation to Europe, but then he comes up against a villain known as Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal).  Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau

The Lion King
 - July 19 Animated Adventure
Director Jon Favreau presents the CGI re-imagining of the 1994 Disney classic.  Voices of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Keegan-Michael Key

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - July 26 Comedy-Drama
Amid the backdrop of the Manson family murders, a fading actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double (Brad Pitt) strive to reclaim fame in a 1969-noir Los Angeles.  Quentin Tarantino directs.  Al Pacino, Luke Perry, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
 - August 2  Action
Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and disgraced MI-6 operative Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) are unhappily teamed up when a cyber-genetically enhanced villain (Idris Elba) threatens the future of humanity.  David Leitch directs.  Eiza González, Vanessa Kirby, Eddie Marsan

Where'd You Go, Bernadette
 - August 9  Comedy, Drama
Based on a runaway best-selling novel about a runaway wife and mother, Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett) has disappeared and her daughter Bee (Emma Nelson) and husband (Billy Crudup) set out to track her down, discovering her troubled past in the process.  Director: Richard Linklater; co-stars Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer, Laurance Fishburne, Troian Bellisario 


THE REST

MARCH
Arctic -  (in limited release)
The lone survivor of a plane crash (Mads Mikkelsen) is stranded in the Arctic and must decide whether to remain in the relative safety of his makeshift camp or to embark on a deadly trek through the unknown in hopes of making it out alive.  Maria Thelma Smaradottir.

The Aftermath - March 15
In post-WWII Germany, Rachael (Keira Knightley) is reunited with her husband Lewis (Jason Clarke), a British colonel charged with rebuilding the shattered city of Hamburg.  Unbeknownst to Rachael, Lewis has arranged to share their house with its previous owners, a German widower (Alexander Skarsgård) and his troubled daughter. 

The Hummingbird Project - March 15 Thriller
Cousins (Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgård) involved in high frequency trading go up against their old boss (Salma Hayek) who is intent on beating them at their own game in a fiber-optic cable deal.   Michael Mando

The Mustang - March 15
Roman (Matthias Schoenaerts), a violent convict, is given the chance to participate in a rehabilitation therapy, training wild mustangs. Led by a tough ranch hand (Bruce Dern) and a fellow parolee (Jason Mitchell), Roman learns to control both the horses and his own savage emotions.


APRIL
Pet Sematary - April 5  Horror
Reprise of a Stephen King-based film of Louis (Jason Clarke) and Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two children who move to a rural home where they are enlightened about the eerie 'Pet Sematary' located nearby.  John Lithgow, Naomi Frenette

Little - April 12  Comedy, Fantasy
When pressures build too high, a tough tech-mogul (Regina Hall) is transformed into her 13-year-old self (Marsai Martin), and the only person in on it is her personal assistant (Issa Rae).  Justin Hartley,  Tone Bell


MAY
Long Shot - May 3  Comedy
A talented, unconventional journalist (Seth Rogen) reunites with his first crush, now a powerful diplomat considering a run for President (Charlize Theron).  His self-deprecating style charms her and she hires him as her speechwriter. Romance ensues. June Diane Raphael, O'Shea Jackson Jr.

Tolkien - May 10  Biography, Drama
The formative years of the orphaned author (Nicholas Hoult) as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school, and the ourbreak of WWI, which threatens to tear the "fellowship" apart.  Lily Collins, Genevieve O'Reilly, Pam Ferris

The Souvenir - May 17  Drama, Mystery, Romance
A young film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) becomes romantically involved with a charismatic, untrustworthy man (Tom Burke), in defiance of her mother's (Tilda Swinton) warnings, and the resultant relationship threatens to destroy her dreams.  Richard Ayoade

Ad Astra - May 24  Sci-Fi Adventure, Mystery
Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels across space to find his father (Tommy Lee Jones), who went missing on a flight to Neptune 20 years before, and he uncovers a mystery that threatens life on earth.  Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga

Booksmart - May 24  Comedy
Two academic superstars (Kaitlyn Dever, Billie Lourd) are best friends who, on the eve of their high school graduation, realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram 4 years of fun into 1 night.  Director: Olivia Wilde, co-stars Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis

Brightburn - May 24  Horror
A nightmare version of the Superman story: a child (Jackson A. Dunn) from another world crash-lands on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, will he prove to be a nemesis?   Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner

Godzilla: King of the Monsters - May 31  Sci-Fi Action,
In this throwback to the golden age of Japanese mega-monsters, Godzilla clashes with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah.  Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford


JUNE
Late Night - June 7  Comedy, Drama
A legendary late-night talk show host (Emma Thompson) fears she may soon be losing her long-running show.  John Lithgow, Mindy Kaling, Megalyn Echikunwoke

Shaft - June 14  Crime Action,
John Shaft's son ((Samuel L. Jackson), a cyber security expert with a degree from MIT, enlists dad's (Richard Roundtree) help to uncover the truth behind his best friend's untimely death.  Regina King, Avan Jogia, Luna Lauren Velez, Alexandra Shipp

The Art of Self-Defense - June 21  Comedy
A bookkeeper (Jesse Eisenberg) who is attacked by a motorcycle gang, enlists in a local dojo, led by a charismatic and mysterious Sensei (Alessandro Nivola).  An aggressive brown belt (Imogen Poots) helps in his effort to learn how to defend himself.  Steve Terada

Child's Play- June 21  Horror
A reimagining of the 1988 thriller of the same name, a mother (Aubrey Plaza) gives her son (Gabriel Bateman) a toy doll for his birthday, unaware of its sinister nature. Brian Tyree Henry, Tim Matheson


JULY
[This is the dead zone of summer, except for the three blockbusters listed at the top]


AUGUST
The New Mutants - August 2  Sci-Fi Action,
Five teenaged mutants, including Native American Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt), Scots girl Wolfsbane (Maisie Williams), Brazilian ladies man Sunspot (Henry Zaga), a Kentuckian code-named Cannonball (Charlie Heaton),and Russian teen Magik (Anya Taylor-Joy), hone their abilities at the Xavier Institute.  Antonio Banderas, Alice Braga

Artemis Fowl - August 9  Fantasy
Artemis Fowl II (Ferdia Shaw), an adolescent millionaire, genius, and criminal mastermind, kidnaps the fairy LEPrecon officer Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) for ransom to fund the search for his missing father  and restore the family fortune.  Director: Kenneth Branagh; co-stars: Judi Dench, Josh Gad.

Midsommar - August 9  Drama, Thriller, Mystery
Writer-Director Ari Aster follows up his frightfest Hereditary with this confection about a group of young travelers--Florence Pugh, Will Poulter, William Jackson Harper, Jack Reynor--who head to a Scandinavian summer festival, evidently inspired by the Wicker Man.

The Angry Birds Movie 2 - August 16  Animation, Family
The adventure takes flight (or not) a second time.  Peter Dinklage, Bill Hader, Josh Gad, Dove Cameron, Awkwafina, Jason Sudeikis
 
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