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

Dracula (BBC-One, 2020)


Dracula (BBC-One creation for Netflix, 2020) -- by Guy Malone, Researcher

It's been a while.  We've been busy bingeing the old Robert Young dramedy Father Knows Best, each episode of which makes me ask myself why I didn't know better.  I did take time out to cheer up with the recent BBC-One reimagination of the classic, Dracula on Netflix.  You should know, I'm a Dracula scholar (I say with all humility), going back to the time, as a precocious 10-year-old, I dyed a sheet black for a cape, combed my hair straight back using shoe polish as pomade, and cut a set of wooden teeth on a jigsaw, all with the intention of convincing the neighbors I was a vampire.  It worked; no one ever invited me in again.  All of this is to say that I'm a hard man to please when it comes to Dracula, and if you mess with the legend, you're messing with me.  Well, they messed with the legend, and I liked it.  A lot. 

BBC-One's limited series--three 90-minute episodes--departs from the original.  This is the latest creation from the brains behind BBC's Sherlock: Mark Gatiss (who also plays the fly-loving servant Renfield here) and Steven Moffat.  They keep the erm, skeleton of the Stoker tale, but they flesh out new details, updating the characters, the tone, the legend itself.  In short, it is a new look that took a little getting used to, but it soon eased me into the atmosphere with the belief that it's all right to revive a 123-year-old story with fresh blood.  

As befits a BBC show, it has strong production values and edges into Masterpiece Mystery territory.  The characters are well-drawn and charismatic, none more than Claes Bang's interpretation of the Count and Dolly Wells as Sister Agatha VanHelsing (yes, in this iteration Van Helsing is a female and a nun).  Here, Dracula is no longer the stoic, quietly mesmerizing sophisticate, he is a witty, gleefully verbose sophisticate.  [After draining one man, Dracula takes the victim to his home; once there he goes to the bedroom, aiming to kill the man's wife.  She awakes, and when Drac sees the cross on the necklace the woman is wearing, he backs off, explaining that he drove her husband home from the bar.  The woman demands, "Is he drunk?" to which Dracula responds, "In a manner of speaking, yes."]  

That's brilliant writing, and Claes Bang delivers lines like these with a twinkle in the eye and a toothy grin.  And never fear, traditional lines, "I never drink ... wine" and "Ah, the children of the night ..." remain.  Dolly Wells' Van Helsing brings dogged determination and no-nonsense scientific reasoning, which plays perfectly off of the flamboyant Count and is reminiscent of Inspectors Morse and Lewis, and, yes, even Sherlock.  It's just very intelligent stuff.  The supporting cast is equally up to the task, with the aforementioned Gattis' Renfield, John Heffernan as the tragic Jonathan Harker, Morfydd Clark as Harker's fiance' Mina, Lydia West as party-girl Lucy Westenra, and Matthew Beard as the lovelorn Dr. Jack Seward.

Not all is peachy, though.  Once we got used to the more modern tone and updating of story details, Chapter One hums along, leaving us with a nice cliffhanger.  With Chapter Two, we've settled into the vibe and it's even better than the previous night, though it leaves us with a WTH cliffhanger.  Chapter Three veers into a variation of the Hannibal Lecter trope, and after an impressive buildup, the ending is original, but frankly a bit of a letdown considering the very cool buildup.  Oh, and one more thing, you may want to forego snacks, particularly during Chapter One.  These are minor quibbles, though. If you love intelligent British mysteries with a bloodthirsty creature as icing on the cake, you will want to see this.

8.0 out of 10

The Old Guard

The Old Guard -- a Review by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

First, let's take it as gospel that when Charlize Theron is in a movie, it's usually worth watching (Aeon Flux notwithstanding).  Not to give our assessment away up front, but just so you know.

Her new Netflix sci-fi superhero flick is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love and Basketball and Beyond the Lights), the first Black woman to direct a big-budget film, and she proves herself a force for the future. She has fun source material to work with: Greg Rucka's graphic novel series that he is adapting for the screen.  His story is rich in mythology but firmly rooted in today's realities of predatory capitalism and man's inhumanity to man.  Which sets up our vicarious identification with a small band of immortal warriors that rights society's wrongs.

"The Old Guard" is a covert band of immortal warriors.  They owe allegiance to nothing but their own moral rectitude, They are mercenaries who pick and choose where and when to fight good fights.  Andy (Theron), the oldest and leader of the Guard, has tried to be secretive, but her feats have become legendary.  Her closest friend on the team is Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), the youngest but most intelligent--and most troubled--of the immortals.  Rounding out the crew are ancient compatriots and lovers Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli).  Andy feels an obsessive protectiveness of her crew since she lost her oldest ally, Quynh (Van Veronica Ngo) centuries ago, a burden she has carried ever since.  But that is just part of Andy's existential and moral baggage.

The plot engine begins to roll when a CIA operative named Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) hires them for a black-ops mission that goes awry.  Around the same time, another immortal is discovered: Nile (KiKi Layne) is a Marine who has been mortally wounded; miraculously, she not only survives but thrives.  Nile is the first new immortal Andy has discovered in centuries. She believes the botched mission and the newly discovered immortal mean something, but what?

This is a perfect role for Theron.  In quiet moments, she is subtle and pensive, and her easy grace is that of a jungle cat, one always on the watch and poised for action in an instant.  And action there is.  The fight scenes are choreographed things of beauty, though the battles, at times, stop just short of John-Wickian carnage.  The Belgian actor Schoenaerts is inspired casting.  He is a commanding physical actor who can match up to Theron onscreen, yet he also can switch his innate intensity to bare-wire sensitivity that is magnetic on the screen.  Kenzari and Marinelli are able sidemen who carry some humor as well as the film's romantic interest.  Harry Melling (Harry Potter's Dudley Dursley) even shows up in a pivotal role.  The weak link is Layne, who has improved since If Beale Street Could Talk, but placed opposite the likes of Theron, Schoenaerts, or Ejiofor, her line readings are exposed as absolutely oaken.  Unfortunately, it seems that she's been set up as one of the major players as the story moves forward.

And believe me, ladies and gents, if ever a film was set up for at least one sequel, this is it, a well-deserved sequel, in our minds.  The Old Guard is not great art; it's a graphic novel turned film that's fun.  FilmZ, the Czarina, Czarito Number One, and I haggled over a score and give it a charitable
7.0 out of 10

2020's Upcoming (?) Film

2020 Film Preview That May Be Completely Fictional -- by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

So far, 2020 has been a nightmare for the film industry.  Movies that were in theaters when the pandemic struck went straight to video, those in production halted as did those in pre-production, and those ready for release moved their release dates down-calendar.  Below, we've tried to shake down where we are at this moment, but as you know, coronavirus will have the final say, and dates could change drastically.


10  Greyhound  Action, Historical Drama  [Apple TV+]
During World War II, an inexperienced U.S. Navy captain (Tom Hanks) must lead an Allied convoy through a wolfpack of Nazi U-boats.  Elisabeth Shue, Karl Glusman, Stephen Graham NOTE: Hanks himself is heartbroken Greyhound will not be available on the big screen.

10 The Old Guard  Fantasy Action  [Netflix]
Led by a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), a covert group of immortal mercenaries has protected the mortal world for centuries, but when the team's existence is exposed their survival is endangered. Chiwetel Ejiofor,  Matthias Schoenaerts, Harry Melling, Van Veronica Ngo

15  The Sandman  Fantasy  (Audible)
An audio-only release, based on the Neil Gaiman graphic novel, Lord Morpheus (James McAvoy) rises from the land of sleep to rebuild his realm.  Taron Egerton, Michael Sheen, Kat Dennings, Samantha Morton, Andy Serkis, Bebe Neuwirth, Joanna Lumley


The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run  Animated Comedy
When SpongeBob's pet Gary is snail-napped, SpongeBob and Patrick go on an odyssey to retrieve him.  Keanu Reeves, Awkwafina, Clancy Brown, Snoop Dogg join the usual gang

12  TENET  Sci-Fi Action
Christopher Nolan, in typical fashion, has kept the lid on the plot, but it seems that an espionage agent (John David Washington) must defy time and space to save the world, fighting with and against Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh

14  Bill and Ted Face the Music  Comedy, Musical
Our titular heroes (Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter) are now grown men with parental responsibilities, yet to be truly fulfilled, they yearn to be hit musicians.  William Sadler plays Death

14  The Secret Garden  Classic, Fantasy
Retelling of the classic tale of an adolescent orphan (Dixie Egerickx) who finds a magic garden at her uncle's (Colin Firth) estate.  Julie Walters

21  Antebellum  Thriller, Fantasy
Veronica Henley(Janelle Monáe) a successful author, is incapacitated by her abusive ex and finds she must face a surreal nightmare that takes her through time. Eric Lange, Jena Malone, Jack Huston

21  Mulan  Action-Adventure, Drama
Live-action remake of one of Disney's most enjoyable and best-animated films in which a young Chinese woman (Lifei Lui) disguises herself as a man in order to fight for her father's life.  Also, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Tzi Ma

28  The New Mutants  Sci-Fi, Action
As five young mutants (Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Blu Hunt, Henry Zaga) are held in a secret government facility while they hone their skills and get to know each other (and we learn their backstories).  Alice Braga


(ND) Ammonite  Romantic Drama
In 1800s England, Mary (Kate Winslet) sells fossils to support herself. When a wealthy visitor entrusts her with the care of his wife (Saoirse Ronan), she cannot afford to turn his offer down. They initially clash, but an intense bond develops, compelling them to examine the nature of their relationship.

A Quiet Place: Part II  Horror, Family Drama
A followup to the original sneak hit, the Abbotts now confront other survivors and realize the alien creatures aren't the only threat to their survival.  Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Cillian Murphy

18 The King's Man  Action, Comedy
Prequel to Kingsmen, one British agent must stop a plot by history's worst tyrants and criminal masterminds to wipe out millions. An excellent cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Gemma Arterton,
Daniel Brühl, Matthew Goode, Ralph Fiennes, Stanley Tucci, Charles Dance, Tom Hollander

25 (limited)  The Trial of the Chicago 7  History, Political Drama (wide release October 16)
Aaron Sorkin's interpretation of the seven people on trial for plotting the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Eddie Redmayne, Alex Sharp, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong, John Carroll Lynch, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt


Falling  Drama
Willis (Lance Henriksen), a conservative, headstrong man, leaves his isolated farm to live with his son John (Viggo Mortensen) and his partner, Eric (Terry Chen), and their daughter, Monica (Gabby Velis) in Los Angeles.

2  Tom Clancy's Without Remorse  Vengeance Porn (opens wide on October 16)
John Clark (Micael B. Jordan), a Navy SEAL, is out to avenge his wife's murder only to find himself inside of a larger conspiracy.  Taylor Sheridan Screenplay Jamie Bel

Wonder Woman 1984  Superhero Action
Director Patty Jenkins fast forwards WW (Gal Gadot) in a secret script, in which Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) somehow returns, along with Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), Antiope (Robin Wright), and adds Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig

Death on the Nile  Crime Mystery
Kenneth Branagh directs and returns as sleuth Hercule Poirot in the Agatha Christie classic about the murder of a young heiress. Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, Annette Bening, Letitia Wright, Jennifer Saunders, Russell Brand, Sophie Okonedo

The Witches  Fantasy, Comedy
Robert Zemeckis offers Roald Dahl's 1983 classic about a boy (Jahzir Bruno) who encounters real-life witches, led by the Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway).  Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci, Chris Rock

16  The French Dispatch  Comedy
Wes Anderson's latest, with his usual cast of zanies: An American journalist (Bill Murray) starts a newspaper in a mythical French city.  Tilda Swinton, Elisabeth Moss, Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, Léa Seydoux, Edward Norton, Christoph Waltz, Benicio Del Toro, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Rupert Friend, Owen Wilson, Liev Schreiber, Frances McDormand, Jeffrey Wright, Anjelica Huston, Lois Smith, Jason Schwartzman, Henry Winkler, Bob Balaban, Tony Revolori

16 Halloween Kills  Horror
Yet another Halloween.  Michael Myers' career lasted longer than Mike Myers' has.  Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Anthony Michael Hall

23 Those Who Wish Me Dead Thriller
A teenage murder witness is pursued by twin assassins in the Montana wilderness with a survival expert tasked with protecting him -- and a forest fire threatening to consume them all.  Nicholas Hoult, Angelina Jolie, Jon Bernthal, Aidan Gillen, Jake Weber, Tyler Perry


(ND)  Hillbilly Elegy  Drama
Ron Howard directs the adaptation of the J.D. Vance memoir, a modern exploration of the American Dream, and three generations of an Appalachian family as told by its youngest member (Gabriel Basso). Amy Adams, Haley Bennett, Glenn Close, Freida Pinto, Sunny Mabrey, Bo Hopkins

Black Widow  Superhero Action
Long-awaited origin story of Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in her quests and a fast forward to the recently-filmed mythology. Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, David Harbour, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, and maybe Robert Downey, Jr.

Stillwater Suspense, Drama
A father (Matt Damon) travels from Oklahoma to France to help his daughter (Abigail Breslin) who has been charged with murder.

13  Clifford the Big Red Dog  Animated Comedy
A little puppy grows to enormous size, thanks to a little girl's love.  Voicework by Sienna Guillory, Rosie Perez, John Cleese, Kenan Thompson, Jack Whitehall, David Alan Grier

13  Deep Water  Mystery, Thriller
To keep their marriage together, wealthy Vic (Ben Affleck) allows wayward wife Melinda (Ana de Armas)to take lovers, but when her lovers start to disappear, he becomes the prime suspect.  Tracy Letts, Rachel Blanchard, Lil Rel Howery, Finn Wittrock

20  No Time to Die  Spy Action, Thriller
Daniel Craig returns as James Bond, retired until old friend CIA operative Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) asks for help in facing another twisted evil genius. Ana de Armas, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz, Naomie Harris

20  Soul  Animated Comedy
A musician (Jamie Foxx) who has lost his passion for music has an out-of-body experience and needs the help of an infant soul (Tina Fey) to find his way back. Other voicework by Daveed Diggs, Phylicia Rashad, Angela Bassett, Richard Ayoade, John Ratzenberger

25  Happiest Season  Romantic Comedy
A young woman hopes to propose to her girlfriend during her family's annual holiday party; problem: her partner hasn't yet come out to her conservative parents.  Alison Brie and Kristen Stewart star, with Dan Levy, Aubrey Plaza, Mackenzie Davis, Mary Steenburgen, Victor Garber, Ana Gasteyer

25  Raya and the Last Dragon  Animated Adventure
In the ancient realm of Lumandra, a warrior named Raya sets off to find the last dragon. Voicework by Awkwafina, Cassie Steele


11  Free Guy  Action, Adventure, Comedy
Shawn Levy directs Ryan Reynolds as a Bank Teller who finds that he is actually an NPC (Non-Player Character) inside a violent, open-world video game.  Jodie Comer, Taika Waititi.

18  Dune  Sci-Fi Adventure
Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of the Frank Herbert classic story of a young man (Timothée Chalamet) who must protect the most valuable element in the galaxy. Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Rampling, Javier Bardem, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista

18  Coming 2 America  Comedy
A sequel to the 1988 hit, Akeem (Eddie Murphy) learns he has a long-lost son in the United States and must return to America to meet the unlikely heir to the throne of Zamunda. Arsenio Hall

18  West Side Story  Musical
For some reason, Stephen Spielberg thought it necessary to remake the Broadway and film classic. Ansel Elgort (Tony), Rachel Zegler (Maria), Ariana DeBose (Anita), David Alvarez (Bernardo),  Mike Faist (Riff), Rita Moreno (Valentina)

23  The Croods 2  Animated Comedy
The Crood Family face the Bettermans, a family that claims to be more evolved.  Voice work by Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone Leslie Mann, Catherine Keener, Peter Dinklage, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke, Joanna Lumley, Kelly Marie Tran

23  Top Gun: Maverick  Action, Drama
It's 30 years later and, yep, Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) inexplicably is still flying. Maybe he can strafe West Side Story. Jennifer Connelly, Val Kilmer, Miles Teller, Jon Hamm, Ed Harris, Jean Louisa Kelly, Glen Powell

25  News of the World - Western Drama
A retired military man (Tom Hanks) who travels the West reading the news of the world in scattered towns, agrees to take a kidnapped young girl (Helena Zengel) to her family.  Paul Greengrass directs the adaptation od Paulette Jiles bestseller.
25  The Last Duel  Historical Drama
King Charles VI insists that Knight Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) settle his dispute with his squire by challenging him to a duel.  Jodie Comer, Ben Affleck, Adam Driver, Harriet Walter


Antlers Mystery, Horror
Scott Cooper co-wrote and directed this story of a teacher (Keri Russell) and her sheriff brother (Jesse Plemons) who uncover a student's secret, leading them to a horrific ancient creature.  Graham Greene, Amy Madigan

Black Beauty  Drama
A teenager (Mackenzie Foy) grieving over the deaths of her parents bonds with a horse who was taken away from her family.

The Boys in the Band  Drama
A group of gay men at a friend's birthday party begins to drink and expose the weaknesses, grudges, insecurities, and heartaches that threaten their friendships.  Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesus, Brian Hutchison

Cherry Drama
Anthony and Joe Russo step out of the Marvel Universe to direct this story of a drug-addicted Army
medic (Tom Holland) suffering PTSD who resorts to bank robbery to pay off his debts. Kelli Berglund,
Jack Reynor

Let Them all Talk  Comedy Drama
Steven Soderbergh directs this story in which a famous author (Meryl Streep) goes on a cruise with her nephew (Lucas Hedges) and a group of friends. Gemma Chan, Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest

Mank  Biographical Drama
Follows screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz's (Gary Oldman) hurdles developing Orson Welles' (Tom Burke) 1941 classic, Citizen Kane.  Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tom Pelphrey, Tuppence Middleton, Charles Dance

The Midnight Sky  SciFi Drama
In a dystopian future,  Augustine (George Clooney), a scientist in the Arctic, races to stop Sully (Felicity Jones) and her fellow astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.
Sophie Rundle, Kyle Chandler, David Oyelowo

Next Goal Wins Comedy, Sports Action
Taika Waititi directed and adapted from the 2014 British documentary. The story of the American Samoa
soccer team, who suffered the worst loss in World Cup history, losing to Australia 31-0 in 2001.
Elisabeth MossMichael FassbenderArmie HammerRhys Darby, Frankie Adams, Rachel House

Nomadland Drama
After losing everything in the Great Recession, a woman (Frances McDormand) embarks on a nomadic
odyssey through the American West, living in her van. David Strathairn, Linda May, Charlene Swankie

On the Rocks  Comedy, Drama
Sofia Coppola wrote and directed this story of young mother (Jenny Slate) who reconnects with her larger-than-life playboy father (Bill Murray) on an adventure through New York. Rashida Jones, Jessica Henwick, Marlon Wayans, Barbara Bain

Untitled Fred Hampton Project  Biography, Drama
The life story of Black Panther Party member Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).  LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Martin Sheen, Ashton Sanders, Algee Smith, Jermaine Fowler, Lil Rel Howery

The Woman in the Window  Mystery
Joe Wright directed the adaptation of the A.J. Finn novel in which an agoraphobic woman (Amy Adams) living alone in New York begins spying on her new neighbors, only to witness a disturbing act of violence. Anthony Mackie, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Brian Tyree Henry, Wyatt Russell

Brief Thoughts On Three Ladies: Anna, Brittany, and Emma

Anna and the Apocalypse, Brittany Runs a Marathon, and Emma
-- three brief reviews by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

It seems we've been spending a lot of time indoors; how about you?  Reading, jigsaw puzzles, drinking absinthe while staring at the cats--typical stuff.  Oh, and we watched three movies (Hint: the 5:00 PM hour or thereabouts is the ideal time).  Anyway, three comedies, all named after young women: Anna, a teenager making music while she battles zombies; Brittany, a 31-year old remaking her life through running; and, Emma, a classic 20-year-old making matches and mischief.  All three are worth a watch; it's a matter of taste.

Anna and the Apocalypse
Maybe what we need now is a British musical about a zombie apocalypse.  Think Glee meets Shaun of the Dead, as young people sing and dance their way through typical teen angst and a virus that's turning people into zombies.  John McPhail’s weird little film was a hit at Fantastic Fest, and it's easy to see why.  One morning, Anna (Ella Hunt) wakes up, dons headphones, and heads to school, singing the catchy tune, “It’s a Beautiful Day!” as she obliviously skips past deaths, defenestrations, and destruction, eventually joining her best friend John (Malcolm Cumming) for a duet romp through a cemetery.

The plot, such as it is, is typical.  Anna has admitted to her dad (Mark Benton), the put-upon school janitor, she is taking a gap year in Australia in lieu of uni.  John secretly loves Anna, but she is drawn to the school bully Nick (Ben Wiggins).  Her best friend is Steph (Sarah Swire), an activist who is at odds with the martinet school Principal Savage (Paul Kaye), while other friends and star-crossed lovers, Lisa (Marli Siu) the school diva, and sensitive artist (Christopher Leveaux) just want to be recognized.

It's all a self-aware spoof, with an exhilarating set of tunes performed by a talented and attractive cast.  Taken at that level, it's a fun ride.  Yes, the plot takes a few wrong turns and covers familiar high school-set turf, but like Booksmart (though not as good), it gives it a new twist, never takes itself too seriously and gives us a bunch of young unknowns who may not be unknown for long.
Note: Anna and the Apocalypse started as a 2010 YouTube short called Zombie Musical, written and directed by Ryan McHenry, who tragically died of cancer in 2015 at 27 years old before it could be made into a film.
7.0 out of 10
Brittany Runs a Marathon
SNL writing alum and bit-part actor, Jillian Bell finally, and deservedly, gets a starring role as the eponymous Brittany in a story based on the real experiences of a friend of writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo.  His muse must have made an impression because Colaizzo creates an indelible, layered character.

Brittany is a 31-year-old, under-employed class clown whose endearing humor leavens the consequences of her irresponsibility.   Broke, bored of hanging around with her self-centered roommate Gretchen (Alice Lee), and finding her scale tipping at nearly 200 pounds, she decides to make some changes.  Always looking for the easy way out, she decides Adderall is the best answer until a doctor she tries to hit up tells her that her blood pressure and fatty liver should drive her to some lifestyle changes. Determined to take on a new regimen, she finds an unlikely partner fellow tenant (Michaela Watkins) and her running group, and another new friend, Micah Stock, a fellow self-doubter.  She also takes on a job as a dog and house-sitter, where she meets third-shift sitter Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar) who is much deeper than first impressions would indicate.  This is a true broadening for her; before, the only person who truly mattered to her was her sister's husband and surrogate father-figure Demetrious (Lil Rey Howrey).

Will Brittany's self-loathing undermine her?  Will she accept true friendship, which means letting people in instead of keeping them at arm's length with a self-deprecating joke?  At times, it's a tough watch, but there are so many exhilarating moments that the film makes for an emotional joy ride. Brittany is not Rocky, but it goes beyond the standard "anyone can remake themselves" fare and the standard ugly duckling to swan tropes.  Colaizzo has given us a protagonist whose emotional baggage outweighs the body mass she must overcome to change her life.  To do this with humor and feeling without slipping into pathos is difficult, and a trap Colaizzo doesn't always escape, but his brutal honesty and the nuanced characters of surprising depth he has created make Brittany a winner.
8.5 out of 10
We splurged and spent the $19.99 to see the latest Jane Austen film treatment (we would have spent that much just for tickets and gas to see it in the theater, so don't judge).  Many hold the Gwynneth Paltrow 1996 version sacrosanct, so director Autumn de Wilde had her work cut out.  As the ever-so clever and popular 20-year-old of the title (Anya Taylor-Joy) is doe-eyed and incisive.  Her friend, Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn) is the ultimate staid gentleman.  But the best parts of the film are the precious moments we get to spend with the brilliant supporting cast: Bill Nighy, droll as ever, as Emma’s adoring father; Mia Goth as Emma’s friend and protege', Harriet; and the marvelously charming and daffy Miranda Hart as Miss Bates.

Emma is a light and breezy story about an independent young woman in the Georgian era who lives a carefree life and delights in matchmaking, only to discover that the laws of unintended consequences sometimes have serious effects on the objects of her social manipulation.  Austen's rapier wit and sly sensibilities are at their strongest in pointing out not only the strengths of her characters but also the foibles that make them so endearingly human.   When Emma's inevitable comeuppance arrives, it becomes an axis upon which other events fall into place.

The film is the directorial debut of music videographer Autumn de Wilde, with a script written by Eleanor Catton, who has only one other writing credit.  Putting a film so laden with history and precedent on the shoulders of novices shows unnatural confidence and trust, and in large part, they justify it.  It's a beautiful film, from the costume design to the production design to the locations, and de Wilde's composition tied it together in a beautiful bow. Some choices from scene to scene are a bit more questionable: though we are not prudes by any stretch, one has to question why we have two buttocks scenes that are gratuitous in that they neither forward the story nor do they provide sensuality anywhere approaching the Colin Firth wet shirt scene from Pride and  Prejudice.  Overall, though, a game effort on all parts.
8.0 out of 10


Staying In and Looking Forward

Social Distancing: My Favorite Sport, and Now it's "In" -- by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Spending most of my time in FilmZ's dungeon does have its perks: I am less likely to get (or spread) COVID-19, and I am less likely to come into contact with people, in general.  Win-win. 

And soon I will get the opportunity to see the few good films that are out there because they will be right in here (dungeon) with me. With major movie chains shutting their doors, and small Indie theaters reluctantly doing the same,  the studios frantically search for options to hedge their losses, and their plan could change the landscape for the future of film distribution.  Monumental stuff, eh?

But the plan, for now, is to reschedule most upcoming films for later in the year.  All this and more below.

Films Currently in Theaters Soon to be Released to Video on Demand

Studios have decided to move up Video on Demand (VOD) release dates. Forsaking the usual practice of waiting 90 days between a film's theatrical release and availability on home video, movies currently in theaters including Emma, The Invisible Man, Birds of Prey, and The Hunt will be available to home audiences as soon as Friday, March 20.  Rentals will be Purchase-on-Demand at $19.99 for 48 hours, in most cases, and already some are squawking about usurious pricing (typical rental usually high-end at $5.99).  But let's look at it: figuring someone goes to the movie with at least one friend or family member; the cost of two tickets and gas to get there and home would already exceed that.

And for parents desperately seeking ways to entertain little ones home on a surprise school break, the Trolls World Tour will be released to home video on April 10.  This is the date it was initially planned for theatrical release.

Other popular titles available now or coming to VOD sooner than planned include the Greta Gerwig's delightful Little Women, the manic comedy Jumanji: The Next Level, and the final episode of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Two Limited Series to Watch

In timing with the coronavirus self-quarantines two interesting movie-style limited series arrive. Hulu has released the first three episodes of its new show Little Fires Everywhere.  The eight-part limited series is based on the runaway bestseller by Celeste Ng.  And HBO just opened a limited series, The Plot Against America, based on Philip Roth's acclaimed 2004 alternate history novel.

Here is a list of recent and upcoming released to VOD

March 3
Queen & Slim
The Furies
Dark Waters

March 6
Run This Town
Escape from Pretoria

March 10
Charlie's Angels
Little Women
Spies in Disguise

March 13
Ride Like a Girl
Lost Transmission

March 17
Jumanji: The Next Level
Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss
Richard Jewell
Black Christmas

March 20
Human Capital
Hooking Up

March 24
The Song of Names
The Grudge
Birds of Prey
The Gentlemen
Just Mercy

March 27
Banana Split

March 31
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
The Current War

Upcoming Releases Up in the Air

As to upcoming film scheduled for release, everything is on hold, awaiting developments in the current health crisis in the theater.

In critical news, we'll have to wait and see what happens to Scarlett Johanssen in Black Widow.  Disney has announced that it is postponing the blockbuster, scheduled for May 1.  It is doing the same with Dev Patel's comedy-drama The Personal History of David Copperfield (May 8), and Amy Adams in the film treatment of A.J.Finn's best-seller The Woman in the Window (May 15). No new release dates have been announced yet.

With new directives coming out of the CDC almost daily, studios have set some new release dates for late this year or even into 2021 while others are waiting for further developments, most significantly, where Black Widow lands.  Few films want to compete with that monster--or any films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The Eternals is due to be released in November, with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and WandaVision coming to Disney+ in 2020 

It's also worth mentioning that many films in pre-production or early production have stopped altogether because of the unpredictability of the length and effects of the pandemic.  That will also bring a slew of incoming release dates and further reshuffling.

Here is what we know as of now.

Mission: Impossible 7: Filming halted in Venice because of the devastation in Italy.

No Time to Die: James Bond stirs and shakes from April to November.

Fast & Furious 9: Races forward from this May until April 2021.

A Quiet Place Part II: Originally late March, now TBA.

The Lovebirds: Romantic action-comedy with Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae from April 3, now TBA

The French Dispatch: Wes Anderson's newest is scheduled for July 24 and is in a holding pattern

The major player these days: Disney has halted production on all its live-action films in development, including:

The Little Mermaid: with Halle Bailey as the lead

The Last Duel: Ridley Scott's newest with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck

Nightmare Alley: Guillermo del Toro's latest

Movies in post-production that were assigned release dates have been pushed back:

Mulan: had rave reviews in its Hollywood premiere was supposed to open March 27, is now TBA.

The New Mutants: The X-Men update was set for April 3, but is now TBA

Antlers: The Keri Russell horror was to open April 17 is now TBA.

Military Wives: Supposedly from March 27 to May 22--we'll see about that

Pulled from Release Schedule:

Antebellum: was supposed to be Janelle Monáe's breakout starrer

Run: Sarah Paulson thriller

Spiral: The Saw reboot starring Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson was to open May 15

We will update as developments come in.

The 2020 Bi-Czarries

The 2020 B0-Czarries: The Worthy, the Lost, and the Forgotten 
-- by FilmZ and Guy S. Malone, Researcher
Proofread by Marge Inovera and guarded by Dragan Armansky, Milton Security

Yes, it's time again for the real movie awards for real people: the 2020 "Bi-Czarries!" (pat. pending).  We don't assign an arbitrary limit on films and performances, and all genres are considered.  Where we do get arbitrary is with the categories (professional wrestling, zombie-comedies) and the fact that we don't really cover documentaries and animated films, except where they may fall in other categories.  And our choices are arbitrary. ... Arbitrary and capricious, if I'm being honest. ... Well, it is our list, now, isn't it?


Simple criteria: movies we enjoyed in the sheer entertainment sense, like, we could handle repeated viewings, and those we appreciated in the sense that the art of filmmaking burst through.  We chose three "best films" of the year, and then the others we liked the most.  For your convenience, we rank-ordered the rest, breaking them into two categories: "Popular Films" and  "Indies and Hidden Gems."


Three films stood a notch above the rest:

1 - JoJo Rabbit - A film I could watch over and over; Waititi's signature hilarity with true heart
2 - Parasite - Artistically, the best, most original film of the year
3 - Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - Tarantino's riff on history, nostalgia, best since Pulp Fiction

The Rest of the Best (with comments on the non-Oscar nominated):

4 - Avengers: Endgame - (Kevin Feige brilliantly steered the MCU to this grand finale)
5 - The Irishman 
6 - 1917 
7 - Little Women 
8 - Knives Out  Daniel Craig's Southern-fried Poirot in the best mystery Agatha Christie didn't write
8 - Ford v Ferrari 
10 - Marriage Story 
11 - The Farewell - Alternately hilarious and heartwarming story of Chinese family covering a secret
12 - The Two Popes - Politics take a back seat to personal beliefs and conscience
13 - A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood - A fitting tribute to a man who heals through love

These films received less publicity and generated less money, but they are among the best of 2019:

Hidden Life - Terrence Malick's true story of an Austrian farmer refusing to serve Hitler in WWII
Booksmart - Olivia Wilde makes the last day of high school for two nerds fresh and hysterical
Motherless Brooklyn - Edward Norton tour de force detective story of corruption in 1950's NYC
The Mustang - Matthias Schoenaerts brilliant as a violent convict redeemed by equine therapy
Dolemite is My Name - Eddie Murphy loving, laughing riff on a 1970s Blacksploitation phenom
The Peanut Butter Falcon - Down Syndrome man escapes home to become a pro wrestler
The Last Black Man in San Francisco - A man squats in his family's ancestral home
Fighting with My Family - Two siblings dream of becoming professional wrestlers, one makes it
Midsommar - A fragile young woman and friends study a Scandinavian Nature cult
The Dead Don’t Die - Bill Murray and Adam Driver protect their small town from zombies


Female Actor - Scarlett Johansson 
We could argue, with some justification that Johansson turned in the Best Lead as Nicole in Marriage Story; as JoJo's Mom, Rosie Betzler, in JoJo Rabbit; and as Best Ill-Fated Super-Hero Natasha Romanoff in Avengers: Endgame.  In addition to garnering awards nominations for two roles, no female actor was seen by so many misty eyes in 2019.

Actor - Adam Driver
What a year.  In addition to playing Scarlett's husband, Charlie in the rom-com Marriage Story,  Driver starred as Daniel Jones in the political history/drama The Report, as Bill Murrays's laconic deputy in the zom-com The Dead Don't Die,  and as emo-baddie Kylo Ren in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker, making us laugh, cry, love, and hate, all in 2019.

Breakout Actor - Florence Pugh
The 24-year-old started the year as Goth-girl professional wrestler Saraya "Paige" Knight in the comedy-drama Fighting with my Family and ended it playing Amy March, youngest of the Little Women.  In between, she played the troubled Dani in the Indie horror hit Midsommar.  If that's not range, I don't know what to tell you.
Note; Despite no formal acting training, the Oxfordshire, England native is set to follow-up an impressive 2019 and become a household name in May when she stars opposite Scarlett Johansson in the next Marvel blockbuster, Black Widow.  Her career eerily parallels that of Jennifer Lawrence, arguably the biggest female star of the 20-teens, and Florence Pugh could become the successor to J-Law of the 2020s.


Lead Female Actor
Ana de Armas - Knives Out
Awkwafina - The Farewell
Annette Bening - The Report
Sienna Miller - 21 Bridges
Lupita Nyong'o - Us

Lead Male Actor
Daniel Craig - Knives Out
August Diehl - A Hidden Life
Eddie Murphy - Dolemite is My Name
Edward Norton - Motherless Brooklyn
Matthias Schoenaerts - The Mustang

Supporting Female Actor
Toni Collette - Knives Out
Jamie Leigh Curtis - Knives Out
Zoey Deutch - Zombieland: Double Tap
Gugu Mbatha-Raw - Motherless Brooklyn
Shuzhen Zhao - The Farewell

Supporting Male Actor
Alan Alda - Marriage Story
Chris Evans - Knives Out
Don Johnson - Knives Out
Kang-ho Song - Parasite
Ben Mendelsohn - Captain Marvel

All of these folks also wrote the Screenplays for their films, BTW

Taika Waititi - JoJo Rabbit
Greta Gerwig - Little Women
Rian JohnsonKnives Out
Terrence Malick - A Hidden Life
LuLu Wang - The Farewell


Terrence Malick - It took him three years to whittle A Hidden Life down to a 2:54 runtime, thus scuttling both the film's chances at wide distribution and its awards consideration.  Hokey smokes!

Martin Scorsese - At a 3:29 runtime, make a decision: either it's a limited TV series, or a film on the big screen with an intermission.  Actually, it should have been on the big screen.


Joker - The supervillain's origin story is unremittingly grim, but Joaquin Phoenix is amazing
The Lighthouse - Fascinating cinematography and acting take a back seat to body functions



JoJo Rabbit 
Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood 
Knives Out -
Dolemite is My Name - Eddie Murphy's comeback is a wild, profane ride
The Upside - Formulaic, but Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, and Nicole Kidman are winning


Zombieland: Double Tap - Zoey Deutch's hysterical turn ratchets up an already worthy sequel
The Dead Don't Die -  Bill Murray, Adam Driver, and Tom Waits bring the weirdness


The Peanut Butter Falcon -  (See above)
Fighting with My Family -  (See above)


Rocketman - Genre-bending, but not like Bong Joon-Ho, more like Dolemite
Men in Black: International - They thought Chris and Tessa's charisma was transferrable
Tolkien - A fascinating man reduced to a mundane story
X-Men: Dark Phoenix - Not as bad a critics said, just not up to previous chapters' standard
Downton Abbey - All right for fans, but foreshadowing hit like a sledgehammer


Avengers: Endgame 
Captain Marvel - We didn't think Brie could pull it off, but she and Samuel L. had chemistry
Spider-Man: Far From Home - Don't let the teen-centered story fool you, it's fun and funny
Ad Astra - The problem was advertising; it's not an action film but rather a pensive study
Alita: Battle Angel - Ancient cyborg is revived and seeks to learn the origins of her power
Pokémon Detective Pikachu - Ryan Reynolds gives adults something to like


The Lighthouse - Photographed like Nosferatu, lit like Caligari; moody study of insanity
Us - Not as strong as Get Out, but a creepy original with a scary good Lupita Nyong'o


Knives Out
Motherless Brooklyn 
The Report - Fact-based political thriller that counterpunches Zero Dark Thirty
21 Bridges - Intense police procedural with Chadwick Boseman and a terrific Sienna Miller


Parasite - Of course
Honeyland - Macedonian documentary that sides with nature over predatory capitalism.

Oscar Predictions: 2020

-- By FilmZ and Guy S. Malone, Researcher
Results kept in a roll of 24 Copenhagen Snuff cans, guarded by Dragan Armansky, Milton Security

On Sunday, February 9 at 8:00 PM, the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.  Once more, we have been denied press passes (I told Guy S. Malone, Researcher, that sheer Calvin Klein number he wore would get us banned).  So, like most of you, we will be watching it on our local ABC TV affiliate.

To increase your joy (if not knowledge), below we have predicted the winners with the prescience of Nosferatu (some of you would have preferred Nostradamus, but you get what you pay for).  Anyway, for each category we give brief intros, our picks to win, potential upsets or something like that, and then the est of the nominees in alphabetical order.

Four films are in the running for Best Picture, none of which is my personal favorite of the year (JoJo Rabbit), though, admittedly all are among my favorites. And the winner will not be the movie many people believe is truly the best this year: Parasite.  Why?  Because Parasite will win the "International Film" category.  Last summer, I thought Once Upon a Time in Hollywood would be the frontrunner, and it's still up there, though it has lost some steam, as has The Irishman, which loses some power by its sheer length and the fact that it only had a limited theater release.  No, in this horse race, one film came around the December backstretch and passed the rest to win by a nose at the finish line.


Possible upsets:
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

The rest:
Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Little Women
Marriage Story

For a time in December, many thought Joker was going to clean up at the Oscars but rarely has a film lost so much steam so fast.  Still, this is one category that's a near lock.

Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

The rest:
Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

All performances are rave-worthy, but only one has led start to finish and only one is given an outside shot.

Renee Zellweger, Judy

Cynthia Erivo, Harriet

The Rest:
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Charlize Theron, Bombshell

We've liked Brad Pitt's performance ever since the summer, and then Joe Pesci came out of retirement and blew us away.  Still, when two performers are nominated from the same film--Pesci and Pacino from The Irishman--they usually split votes.

Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Second among equals:
Joe Pesci, The Irishman

The rest:
Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
Al Pacino, The Irishman

Laura Dern's performance jumps off of the screen, but this is a tough one to call, as Scarlett Johansson is both funny and endearing, and I would have picked her if she wasn't splitting votes with her Best Lead Actress role in Marriage Story.  Relative newcomer Florence Pugh is their equal but not yet known well enough (this is her J-Law in Winter's Bone breakout).

Laura Dern, Marriage Story

But don't be shocked if it's:
Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

The rest:
Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
Florence Pugh, Little Women
Margot Robbie, Bombshell

Tough call here, as the field is stuffed with great work--and as much as we hate to bring up folks who weren't nominated, Greta Gerwig (Little Women) and Taika Waititi (JoJoRabbit) are equally worthy.  In reality, it comes down to two: Sam Mendes for his epic undertaking and Bong Joon Ho, for his most original spellbinder.  We're thinking Hollywood sticks with the traditional epic.

Sam Mendes, 1917

Could easily win and get no complaints:
Bong Joon Ho, Parasite

The rest:
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Todd Phillips, Joker
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Conventional wisdom favors The Irishman.  We love what Taika Waititi did with JoJo Rabbit, though, bringing his brand of heart and soul to the comedy, an incredible high-wire act that worked.  And we adore Greta Gerwig's treatment of Little Women,  She took a story no one thought needed another retelling and brought a faithful adaptation, lending a 21st-Century fem-power that also gave nuance to the characters, especially Amy, who is often portrayed as a simple villain.

Jojo Rabbit - Taika Waititi

Another second among equals:
Little Women - Greta Gerwig

The rest:
The Irishman - Steven Zaillian
Joker - Todd Phillips, Scott Silver
The Two Popes - Anthony McCarten

One could make an argument for any of these to win, though our personal favorite--Knives Out--probably won't.

Parasite - Bong Joon-ho, Jin Won Han

But Hollywood's love of stories about Hollywood could prevail:
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - Quentin Tarantino

The rest:
1917 - Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Knives Out - Rian Johnson
Marriage Story - Noah Baumbach

Last year, in his 13th Academy Award nomination, Roger Deakins finally won for Blade Runner: 2049.  When he wins this year for his single-shot brilliance in 1917, no one can say it's because he was due.

1917 - Roger Deakins

The rest:
The Irishman - Rodrigo Prieto
Joker -Lawrence Sher
The Lighthouse -  Jarin Blaschke
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - Robert Richardson

UPSET SPECIAL: The smart money will bet that many voters haven't watched the screeners and with a jerk of the knee will vote for Toy Story 4 over Golden Globe favorite Missing Link and guild sweeper Klaus.  We will show faith in humanity.

Klaus - Sergio Pablos

But don't listen to me:
Missing Link - Chris Butler

The rest:
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World - Dean DeBlois
I Lost My Body -  Jeremy Clapin
Toy Story 4 - Josh Cooley

SECOND UPSET SPECIAL: Two possibilities here, the favorite, American Factory, the economic/cultural clash between Rust Belt traditionalism and Asian tech and the upstart, Honeyland, about environmental preservation and neighborliness.  We're going for the one nominated in two categories: here and Best International Film

Honeyland - Tamara Kotevska, Ljubo Stefanov

Odds-on favorite:
American Factory - Julia Reichert, Steven Bognar

The rest:
The Cave - Feras Fayyad
The Edge of Democracy - Petra Costa
For Sama - Al-Kateab, Edward Watts

Parasite, the genre-bending original, arguably the best film regardless of qualifiers, is the only choice here.

Parasite - Bong Joon Ho

The rest:
Corpus Christi - Jan Komasa
Honeyland - Tamara Kotevska, Ljubo Stefanov
Les Miserables - Ladj Ly
Pain and Glory - Pedro Almodovar

We love the re-creation of late-1960s Hollywood, especially with the Tarantino-added easter eggs in ads and playful references to his other films and his own life.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh

The rest:
The Irishman - Bob Shaw and Regina Graves
Jojo Rabbit - Ra Vincent and Nora Sopkova
1917 - Dennis Gassner and Lee Sandales
Parasite - Lee Ha-Jun and Cho Won Woo, Han Ga Ram, and Cho Hee

I'm always amazed then a Scorsese film gets nominated for editing.  As good as it is, The Irishman, at a 3:29 runtime, is way too long.  Now that we have that gripe out of the way. Outside of that, there are two realistic candidates.  Going with my heart here.

Ford v Ferrari - Michael McCusker, Andrew Buckland

Pretty much a toss-up:
Parasite - Jinmo Yang

The rest:
The Irishman - Thelma Schoonmaker
Jojo Rabbit - Tom Eagles
Joker - Jeff Groth

Only one, IMO

Avengers Endgame

The rest:
The Irishman
The Lion King
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Really only two contenders in the Sound Editing and Sound Mixing categories.  Let's say:

1917 - Oliver Tarney, Rachel Tate

Could upset:
Ford v Ferrari - Don Sylvester

The Rest:
Joker - Alan Robert Murray
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - Wylie Stateman
Star Wars: The Rise of SkyWalker - Matthew Wood, David Acord

Like the Sound Editing category, two possible winners.  Since I'm guessing here, let's flip the script for this one.

Ford v Ferrari

Could upset:

The rest:
Ad Astra
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

My brain says one, my heart says another.  [And again, I am flabbergasted that Star Wars gets yet another nomination for John Williams 1977 refry, refry, refry, refry, refry, refry, refry, refry.]

Joker - Hildur Guðnadóttir

My heart:
Little Women - Alexandre Desplat

The rest:
Marriage Story - Randy Newman
1917 - Thomas Newman
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - John Williams

We really wanted to like Rocketman; we really didn't, but a lot of people did, and a win here is their way to honor the film and Sir Elton.

“I’m Gonna Love Me Again,” Rocketman

The rest:
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” Toy Story 4
“I’m Standing With You,” Breakthrough
“Into the Unknown,” Frozen 2
“Stand Up,” Harriet

Bombshell has been getting the press for this, I guess because they made Charlize look like Megyn, which she does anyway.  But the field just isn't that strong this year.


The rest:
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Never bet against a period piece here

Little Women - Jacqueline Durran

Could Upset:
Jojo Rabbit - Mayes C. Rubeo

The rest:
The Irishman - Sandy Powell, Christopher Peterson
Joker - Mark Bridges
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - Arianne Phillips
*** NOTE: 
I never get the short film categories right, so pay absolutely no attention to my picks below.


Hair Love - Matthew A. Cherry

The rest:
Dcera - Daria Kashcheeva
Kitbull - Rosana Sullivan
Memorable - Bruno Collet
Sister - Siqi Song

Learning to Skateboard ... is more than a catchy title; it's a touching, and at times amusing story, of a courageous initiative to bring self-esteem, education, and empowerment to the most at-risk people in Afghanistan: young girls

Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone - Carol Dysinger

The only serious competition:
St. Louis Superman - Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan

The rest:
In the Absence - Yi Seung-Jun and Gary Byung-Seok Kam
Life Overtakes Me - Kristine Samuelson and John Haptas
Walk Run Cha-Cha - Laura Nix

Flip a coin.

The Neighbors’ Window - Marshall Curry

The rest:
Brotherhood - Meryam Joobeur
Nefta Football Club - Yves Piat
Saria - Bryan Buckley
A Sister - Delphine Girard

A Hidden Life

A Hidden Life -- a review by Captain HE
(with connective tissue, written by Guy S. Malone, Researcher, because, truth be told, sometimes Captain HE's brilliance has to be translated into English)

"...the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."
-- George Eliot

How many know who Franz Jägerstätter is?  Hands?  We certainly didn't until he became the protagonist of Terrence Malick's newest film about Jägerstätter (played by August Diehl), a conscientious objector who refused to sign a loyalty oath to Adolf Hitler and fight for the Nazis in World War II.  Franz and his wife Fani (Valerie Pachner) have an idyllic life, raising their three daughters on a lush farm outside St. Radegund, a village nestled in the picturesque Austrian Alps.  Franz and Fani thresh grain together on golden fields, lift their children to pick apples in sun-dappled orchards, dance and drink beer with villagers at local festivals, and pray devoutly every day.  Suddenly, the thunder of warplanes herald events that will change their lives forever. 

Terrence Malick has come out of the woodwork more in the past ten years (four feature films and six documentaries/shorts) than he did in the first 40 years of his career (four films, one short).  Many feel his past ten years have been uneven, indulgent even, though we believe 2010's The Tree of Life is a masterpiece, and the main thing keeping  A Hidden Life from that level is its hefty (and indulgent) 174-minute runtime.  That length blunts the power of the message and the central theme. Perhaps, he sees this as his magnum opus and was unwilling to pare it down. Personal letters exchanged between Franz and Fani, the primary source material around which Malick crafted the screenplay almost became secondary.  Jörg Widmer's sweeping and magnificent cinematography, depicting the beauty of God's creation, coupled with the continuous examination of man's reason for existence was the core of the story.  James Newton Howard's score, which infuses classical strains that also incorporated Radegund's church bells, switching scythes, buzzing from the sawmill, cow and sheep bells, and other natural sounds emphasize the pastoral ambiance Malick was surely going for.

The all-abiding faith of Franz and Fani is their rock, the foundation that provides the strength that sees them through the worst that war can inflict on them.  And that faith is tested throughout.  Sadly, that faith commitment is not seen in the local priest and bishop (Michael Nyqvist, in his last role); they are exposed, as is the Church, in the tolerance/fear of Hitler's regime. The central characters continually referenced Christ and His persecution, their faith in God and the purpose of man's existence, hoping for salvation from their existential hell. Some scenes illustrate this, the sharing of vegetables, the doubling of the grain, the love and forgiveness of family, the sharing of bread in the prison yard. But, ultimately, like Christ, Franz must suffer because collectively, man can't overcome himself. He must continually start over, he must rebuild and replenish the land. The struggle continues.

The film would provide an excellent complement to a philosophy or Western Civ course. Through spiritual symbolism juxtaposed with Church survival tolerance, Franz's life brings the true meaning of spiritual freedom. He references this in his refusal to sign the loyalty oath to gain his freedom from prison. "I am already free" he replies.  And it is Fani's innate goodness that brings the ascendance of the species through the female drive to replenish and rebuild.  Franz's mother, who always disapproved of Fani, finally says" He changed when he met you."  The seasons change and Nature rolls inexorably on, proof that our lives make hardly a ripple in the world   The only mark we make is on other people, and even that, as the George Eliot quote says, is "unhistoric", "a hidden life."  Any film that makes one think and share and postulate to such an extent is a great film.  HE rates A Hidden Life 9.0 on an Artistic Scale, with it's meandering (not quite glacial because we can see it move) pace making it 7.5 on an Entertainment Scale.  Let's make it:
8.5 out of 10

Quick Hits on Some Awards-Contending Films

Quick Hits on Some Awards-Contending Films -- by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Late-December and early-January are crunch times for keeping up with films.  Too many awards contenders released in a rush, compete with our desire to spend time with family and our latent but ever-present procrastination.  If I were one given to making apologies, one would be inserted here; the above explanation will have to suffice.  Anyway, here are the movies we saw in the past few weeks, rank-ordered from best to not the best:

Little Women
Greta Gerwig adapted and directed.  At first, we were a bit leery about yet another adaptation of this story, but we should have learned from Lady Bird.  Gerwig is brilliant; her adaptation brings new life with the subtle twists she gives to the characters: her take on Jo, interpreted with Saoirse Ronan in mind is fresh and vibrant, but equally impressive was Amy, the youngest sister, whom Gerwig recreates as a complex young woman whose ambition isn't seen as odious but rather as a strength.  Casting Florence Pugh in the role was inspired.  She also draws Emma Watson's best as Meg, the oldest, and Eliza Scanlen as sweet Beth.  A stellar supporting cast includes Laura Dern as the little women's mother, Timothée Chalamet as their charming and rebellious neighbor, "Laurie;" James Norton as Meg's tutor husband John; Chris Cooper as Mr. Laurence, Lois Garrel as Friedrich; Meryl Streep as Aunt March; Bob Odenkirk as Mr. March; and Tracy Letts as Mr. Dashwood.
9.0 out of 10

Sam Mendes' film is garnering a lot of awards and even more nominations.  Like 2015's The Revenant, it is a triumph of cinematography (Roger Deakins should win another Oscar), depicting a simple tale of man's odyssey through the harshest of conditions. In World War I, two young British soldiers (Dean Charles Chapman and George MacKay) are tasked with a seemingly impossible mission: cross no-man's-land to deliver a message that will prevent 1,600 men (including one of the soldiers' brothers) from walking into a deadly trap.  Along the way, they meet a variety of British stars in cameos: Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, and Benedict Cumberbatch.  One of the year's best.  See it on the biggest screen you can find.
9.0 out of 10

The Farewell
A comedy-drama, starring Awkwafina as Billi, a New Yorker who learns that her grandmother, Nei Nei (Shuzhen Zhao) has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and according to Chinese custom, the family decides to keep her in the dark. As a cover story to get the family together, they schedule a wedding.  The film is not getting the recognition it deserves, in part because of its late summer release date; it is a gross injustice, though, that this funny, touching film has received recognition neither in the Best Picture nor the Best International Film categories.
8.5 out of 10

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Based on the true-life friendship between Fred Rogers and Esquire magazine writer Tom Junod, it tells of writer Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) assigned to write a profile of American hero, Mr. Rogers (Tom Hank).  Lloyd considers the story a puff piece and originally sets out to Pittsburgh to expose the myth, his cynicism stoked by his own deep resentment of his own father (Chris Cooper).  His wife (Susan Kelechi Watson) cautions, "Lloyd, please don't ruin my childhood."  When he meets Mr. Rogers, he finds his cynicism met with unrelenting kindness and acceptance, his hostility with empathy.  And slowly, friendship--and healing--come. Christine Lahti, Enrico Colantonio
8.0 out of 10

The Two Popes
A look at the transition of Roman Catholic authority from conservative Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) to progressive Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce).  It delves into the life of Francis, flashing back to his life as young priest Jorge Bergoglio (Juan Minujin) in Argentina and how it forged his beliefs.  Moving forward he is called to the Vatican where Benedict is about to abdicate--almost unheard of in the Church.  The two men, coming from conflicting worldviews, seek common ground, or at least understanding.  While the story skims over recent serious problems in the Church, it does provide insightful dialogues into the personal character of each man, performed beautifully by Pryce and Hopkins.
7.5 out of 10

The Lighthouse
Grizzled old lighthouse keeper Thomas (Willem Dafoe) takes on a young apprentice Ephraim (Robert Pattinson) must share a four-week stint on a remote rock off the New England coast in the 1890s.  Thomas acts the martinet, giving Ephraim the worst tasks as their relationship flows from hatred and fear to drunken camaraderie on the way to insanity.  Robert Eggers tints his dark fantasy with the blackest of humor and various bodily excretions.  We recommend The Lighthouse with caution, largely for the expected excellent performances and for Jarin Blaschke's cinematography, which is presented in almost a square aspect ratio on-screen and in stark black and white, almost reminiscent of classic horror films, like Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
7.0 out of 10

2020 Oscar Nomination Predictions

2020 Oscar Nominations Predictions (Guesses, Preferences..) -- FilmZ & Guy S. Malone, Researcher

The 2020 Academy Awards nominations come out on Monday, January 13, so we've had to hustle and submit our picks to Gold Derby before we even had a chance to write reviews of late-release movies we've been rushing out to see.  What you see below are our predictions--plus guesses, and in some cases, wishes--for names and titles that will be called out on Monday.  We admit some are reaches, but they are picks from the heart rather than the mind (we'll save cold-blooded objectivity for when it counts (besides, not all of the data is even in yet).

Each category that follows is ranked from most-to-least likely, in our opinion.

The Academy can nominate up to ten films in the Best Picture category; the real guessing game is how many.  We think ten are deserving and they will pick between seven and nine, but only the first five listed below are shoo-ins.

Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
The Irishman
JoJo Rabbit
Marriage Story
Little Women
Knives Out
Ford v Ferrari

Mendes and Tarantino are locks, Bong and Scorsese and likely, and Waititi is our wish bolstered by his out of left field nomination from the Directors Guild. A lot of experts say Todd Phillips (Joker) nabs the fifth spot, though we feel if Waititi can't make it, we would like to see Greta Gerwig (Little Women) break through.

Sam Mendes - 1917
Quentin Tarantino - Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
Bong Joon Ho - Parasite
Martin Scorsese - The Irishman
Taika Waititi - Jojo Rabbit

Zellweger has been the clear favorite for months.  Scar-Jo gave her best-ever performance, but does she carry the AMPAS loyalty that Theron and Ronan do, and Awkwafina has our love for her funny but touching performance.

Renee Zellweger - Judy
Scarlett Johansson - Marriage Story
Charlize Theron - Bombshell
Saoirse Ronan - Little Women
Awkwafina - The Farewell

Phoenix is the one to beat. Driver keeps showing his chops, DiCaprio in his standard performance and Banderas portraying a soul-searcher all have puncher's chances.  Egerton is excellent, but no way does the Academy award a rock star portrayal two years in a row.  Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes), Eddie Murphy (Dolemite is my Name), and Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari) have outside shots.

Joaquin Phoenix - Joker
Adam Driver - Marriage Story
Leonardo DiCaprio - Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
Antonio Banderas - Pain and Glory
Taron Egerton - Rocketman

Most lists include Margot Robbie (Bombshell and/or Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood), but we just don't get it, especially when one sees the performances of the women below, and you could add Zhao Shuzhen (The Farewell) too.

Laura Dern - Marriage Story
Jennifer Lopez - Hustlers
Florence Pugh - Little Women
Scarlett Johansson - JoJo Rabbit
Annette Bening - The Report

Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), or Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy), could break in here with no raised eyebrows.

Brad Pitt - Once Upon a Time ...  in Hollywood
Joe Pesci - The Irishman
Tom Hanks - A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Song Kang Ho - Parasite
Al Pacino - The Irishman
For the rest of the categories, we will just list picks with no comment


The Irishman - Steve Zaillian
Jojo Rabbit - Taika Waititi
Little Women - Greta Gerwig
Joker - Todd Phillips & Scott Silver
The Two Popes - Anthony McCarten


Parasite - Bong Joon Ho & Han Jin Won
Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood - Quentin Tarantino
Marriage Story - Noah Baumbach
Knives Out - Rian Johnson
1917 - Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns


1917 - Roger Deakins
Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood - Robert Richardson
Ford v Ferrari - Phedon Papamichael
Parasite - Kyung-Pyo Hong
A Hidden Life - Jörg Widmer


Ford v Ferrari
Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood

Little Women
Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
Dolemite Is My Name
Downton Abbey


Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Dolemite Is My Name


Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
The Irishman
Little Women
Jojo Rabbit


Ford v Ferrari
Avengers: Endgame
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Ad Astra


Ford v Ferrari
Avengers: Endgame
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker


Avengers: Endgame
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
The Lion King
Alita: Battle Angel


Missing Link
Toy Story 4
Frozen II
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body


Apollo 11
American Factory
The Biggest Little Farm
One Child Nation


Pain and Glory
Les Miserables

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