Author Archives: MovieManDan

Brigsby Bear (MovieMan Dan’s Guest Review)

A QUIRKY INDIE DRAMEDY

WITH A LOT OF HEART


Intro: It seems that every week now – I’m here reviewing a film hot off the festival circuit and well, this week is no different. Today, I’m here to talk about the much anticipated indie dramedy: “Brigsby Bear”. A film that even Kevin Smith took to Social Media to praise in the weeks leading up to it’s release. So the question is: After 7 long months of festival hype – Does ‘Brigsby’ live up? Let’s dive in. Read more

Lady Macbeth (MovieMan Dan’s Guest Review)

A CHILLING PERIOD PIECE DRAMA


Intro: Lady Macbeth first premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September ’16 where it opened to rave reviews from across the board. Most who saw the movie at the premiere were largely impressed with the film overall and so I was puzzled to see that the folks at Roadside Attractions (in the US) and D Films (in Canada) didn’t go with a Fall/Winter 2016 release to qualify the film for Awards Season glory.

Maybe they felt like they had too much competition on their hands and that the title would go unnoticed among the likes of so many other films or maybe they just didn’t see it as an Awards Season Contender, who knows? Regardless, the film is finally receiving a North American run all of these months later and I finally got my chance to check it out recently…

Before I dive in with my review, though, here’s a brief plot synopsis…

 

lady-macbeth-online-poster-art1Plot: In this adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s novella “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District,” a 19th century young bride is sold into marriage to a middle-aged man. (D Films)

Review: William Oldroyd’s feature debut: “Lady Macbeth” is a dark, gloomy and at times really tense and even uncomfortable film too. This is a seductive and really twisted tale with lots of sex, violence and ultimately murders which doesn’t move in the way that I thought it was going to.  There are some pretty big shock moments throughout and unlike most films of it’s nature: there is no one clear character to root for here. This is one of the few films of 2017 that makes such a move and it’s bold and most certainly leaves room for some good conversation afterwards.

With it’s confined setting – the film does plays out more like a stage play than a full theatrical production at times and it does take a few minutes to grab you but those are two of few flaws that are easy to overlook from a film of this nature. Once I got sucked in to the world and the characters that accompanied it, I was hooked from beginning to end.  It’s a really unpredictable film and without diving into spoiler territory – I will say that this film takes a lot of unexpected twists and turns as it moves along and it makes for an exciting watch.  The line between right and wrong is most certainly debatable here.

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To add to it’s praise: The Costumes, Production Design, Direction and Performances are all more than solid here and it’s really quite impressive that this is Oldroy’s first feature film.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see some Nominations for the film’s costume (Holly Waddington) and production designers come Awards Season time. While it’s still really early for bold predictions I will say that this is some of the best work I’ve seen in those two departments all year and those involve deserve the early recognition as such.  There isn’t really much of a score here but Oldroyd allows for the atmosphere and the outside world to become it’s own character with the sounds of nature playing a large part here instead of a true score of sorts. It works but I think a more traditional score might have been the more effective option here.

As for the screenplay it comes from first time feature penner: Alice Birch and she mixes modern dialogue *to make the film more accessible to a modern audience* with some of the slang and vocabulary from the featured time period which makes for a welcome mix.  Some history bluffs may not like this but I didn’t mind because as mentioned it’s a more accessible film this way and I had no problems trying to figure out what characters were saying at any given time thanks to this approach.

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Now, let’s talk performances.  As you can see from the headline of this review, there’s one actor who overshadows the rest. The talent I’m speaking of is: Florence Pugh and while you may not have heard of her yet, I assure you that you soon will.  She absolutely steals the show here with a quiet, yet effective lead performance.  While the rest of the actors/actresses involved turn in some good work here too she completely blows them out of the way.  What’s most impressive, however, is that this is only her second feature role to date.  This is most definitely a performance to seek out.  It’s not what I would consider to be Oscar Worthy or anything like that but it’s a sign of up and coming talent.

The only thing that didn’t really work for me was the relationship that blossomed between Lady Macbeth and Land Worker: Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis) – it’s one for which comes out of nowhere and didn’t really feel right. I don’t want to spoil anything though so you’ll have to check it out to see what I mean in this regard.  Other than that – all of the performances are really strong.  Next to Pugh, Naomi Ackie gives an emotionally powerful yet quiet performance as the housemaid that also deserves some praise. She was great in a role where she was barely allowed to speak unless spoken to.

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My Verdict: Stars 3.0 out of 5.0 – Dark and Gloomy, “Lady Macbeth” is a quiet, yet effective period piece thriller that showcases some great performances and impressive production values from across the board. Young actress: Florence Pugh is the film’s standout here as a star in the making and this film looks like it will be the one to launch off her career. Likewise, the film really nails the look and tone that Oldroyd was going for.  We are put into 19th Century England with impressive production and costume design from across the board.

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Everything fits into place nicely here and the impressive cinematography and beautiful landscapes make this one an easy watch. In terms of flaws, I had trouble buying into one of the film’s most important relationships and that’s a big problem on it’s own. Likewise, the film does feel a bit longer than it actually is and it drags a bit in the middle.  These flaws aren’t enough to distract from what I would still consider to be a good film but they definitely brought my grade down substantially.  Thankfully, more of the film works than what doesn’t and this film is full of exciting twists and turns throughout and it makes for a good watch overall.

In Conclusion: It isn’t the Must-See Indie of the Summer nor does it demand the big screen treatment, but if you enjoy films like this one than I would say: Go Check it Out. It’s one of few adult dramas currently in theaters and it’s a fun ride to go on too. From here, I will eagerly await Oldroyd’s next feature and hope he only improves as a director with future projects.

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Entering it’s Second Week of Canadian Release this Weekend: “Lady Macbeth” is Now Playing on Select Screens in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal from the folks over at D Films. Stay Tuned as the film continues to expand and play across the Country in the Coming Weeks.

 

The Little Hours (MovieMan Dan’s Guest Review)

A GREAT PREMISE THAT DOESN’T

LEAD TO MUCH


 

Intro: Every year at Sundance, there are a number of break out films in the lineup that festival goers and film critics a like just won’t stop talking about.  They blog and converse about the films they liked most and they of course provide recommendations to their friends and followers while doing so.  Likewise, they also create some much welcomed free marketing of sorts for the filmmakers and distributors who pick up these titles and those in office positions love it.  It’s the same story with every film festival really but it’s most true at Sundance especially as the films at other big fests like: TIFF or Venice for example usually play in theatres a mere month or two after their premieres. Studio heads don’t mind though as the more buzz that can be created this way means the less money they will have to spend on the film’s advertising campaign.

It has proven so successful that today, distributors will even choose to hold these titles longer just so that the buzz can linger around online longer – creating more and more hype as the title finally secures a release date and eventually a trailer and some promotional material as well.  This happened most recently with “The Big Sick” *which is having great success – entering wide release this weekend* and now the folks at GunPowder & Sky *in the USA* and Mongrel Media * here in Canada* are hoping to see the same results with “The Little Hours” which is now entering its theatrical release a full 6 months after it’s festival premiere.  I’ve seen dozens of posts about this movie in the last few months leading up to the film’s release and it has definitely succeeded in getting me extremely excited for the film.

It’s not just me either – People are talking about the film and with all of the re-shares on Social Media more and more people are becoming aware of it and are thus wanting to go see it.

Some times the films will live up to the incredible hype and other times, moviegoers will walk away disappointed.  Which brings me to my review of “The Little Hours” which I unfortunately wasn’t a fan of. Before, I dive in further though, let’s first talk plot. Read more

The Big Sick (MovieMan Dan’s Guest Review)

A REFRESHING LITTLE ROM-COM

WITHSOME BIG LAUGHS AND

AN EVEN BIGGER HEART


 

Intro: Every year there’s the one film that premieres at Sundance that’s extremely over hyped by the time that it’s finally released into theaters and this year that film is: Michael Showalter’s (“Hello, My Name is Doris”) new dramedy: “The Big Sick”.  It’s now been six months since the film first played at the festival and after months of touring around at other festivals across the globe – the buzz is still as strong as ever.  Movie Critics and Festival goers have been calling this one ‘The Best Romantic Comedy in Years’ and some have even begun to create Early Oscar Buzz for the film among-st other praise. Read more

The Bad Batch (MovieMan Dan’s Guest Review)

GREAT CINEMATOGRAPHY, VISUALS, AND PRODUCTION DESIGN GIVE LIFE TO ANA LILY AMIRPOUR’S BOLD VISION


Intro:  

Following the Critical and cult success of 2014’s “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” – Ana Lily Amirpour is back with another bold vision for genre fans.  “The Bad Batch” first Premiered at the Venice Film Festival in ’16 and now following a few other festival showings in previous months – it’s now out to the public – Available on Select North American screens and widely available at home on Demand* and well, thanks to the folks at Mongrel Media who gave me early access last week, I’m here to talk about it. Read more

Band-Aid (MovieMan Dan’s Guest Review)

ZOE LISTER JONES’S DIRECTORIAL DEBUT: “BAND-AID” IS LIGHT, BREEZY AND A LOT OF FUN TOO!


Intro:

“Band-Aid” was another audience favorite at Sundance this year and so naturally, it was quickly added to my watch-list following it’s World Premiere screening at the festival. Since then, the film has now been released into US theatres and on Select VOD platforms following a short but equally well received festival run and thanks to the folks at IFC Films – I got my chance to check it out recently.  So, what did I think?

Before I dive in with my full Review, here’s the plot… Read more

Wakefield (MovieMan Dan’s Guest Review)

BRYAN CRANSTON DELIVERS ANOTHER GREAT PERFOMANCE IN THIS THOUGHT-PROVOKING, POETIC AND REALLY ENGAGING DRAMA


Intro: 

After witnessing the absolute masterpiece which was: “Breaking Bad” – I’ll gladly watch any film or TV series that features Bryan Cranston in it with absolutely no questions asked.  He’s quickly become of the best actors of his generation and of all time in my eyes and so when I first discovered that a movie called: “Wakefield”  *based on by E. L. Doctorow’s acclaimed short story of the same name* was in development – all it took was Bryan Cranston’s name in the news article for my interest to be peaked.  I had never read the source material but I didn’t care – I was intrigued none-the-less.

Then, in the following months, I saw a trailer for the film and my interest only grew farther as I discovered what the film would actually be about.  The premise was great and this movie looked like it had the potential to be one of 2017’s greats and it quickly rose on my Summer ’17 watch-list as a must-see film.

Well, I finally got to see the film this week and as you can see from the headline of this review – I really enjoyed it.

Before we dive in further though, here’s a brief synopsis of the plot… Read more

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (MovieMan Dan’s Guest Review)

A FAITHFUL AND REALLY FUN ADAPTATION

OF THE WIDELY POPULAR BOOK SERIES


INTRO: TRA-LA-LAAA!

Well, It’s arrived, and while it’s here a few years later than anyone expected it to be, it’s here none-the-less. We finally have a “Captain Underpants” movie in theatres and much to my surprise, it’s not half bad either.  First printed in 1997 by author: Dav Pilkey and the popular US book distributor: Scholastic – this series of graphic novels were widely popular in North American elementary schools for years. Full of exciting adventures and loads of toilet humor – the majority of kids of that era (like myself) were hooked for many of their Elementary school years and for good reason too. These books were really fun and super easy to read and our parents and teachers didn’t mind all that much as they were just happy to see us kids reading and having fun while doing so. They rarely complained much despite the overload of silliness and low-brow humor which we were exposing ourselves to. Read more