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December 2019

STAR WARS: The Rise of Skywalker Brings an End to an Era

Star Wars Cover
Jeri Jacquin
Coming to theatres from director J.J. Abrams, Lucasfilms and Walt Disney Pictures Is the conclusion of a saga that began over 40 years ago with STAR WARS: The Rise of Skywalker.
It was 1977 At the Valley Circle theatre in San Diego with my bff and life sister Ellen that STAR WARS came into my life. The first time I saw the film I was transported into a world that I have embraced through the years. My summer was filled with weekly visits to the theatre so I could watch the storyline again and again.
Thus began my crush on Luke (Mark Hamill) that continues today in my much older and less cuter form. The early scene of the original STAR WARS where Luke is on the hill lamenting as the two suns of Tatooine are setting and the rise of emotion from John Williams music begins moved me. It moved me because I knew that look, I understood wanting to know what was out in the world waiting for me. I also saw the suns radiating on his face with a look that was the most handsomest I’d ever seen. Hey, I was 16!
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Then, the buddy ‘friendship’ with Han (Harrison Ford) that always made me laugh with his antics or feeling protective anytime no one understood him. He was rough and tough yet I knew that he would never leave the two people that had become his friends by not judging to harshly the way he handled things. These two guys also showed me how pensive friendships can be brought together with the glue of a very tall and very hairy Wookie and to Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) I say a humble and grateful thank you.
My lesson to be a stronger person came from Princess Leia to whom I continue to be eternally grateful on a daily basis. She was my first female role model who showed me courage, loyalty and laid the foundation of fighting for what is right no matter what is thrown at you. Fisher may not have known what she was accomplishing early on taking the role of Leia but I hope through the years she came to know there were thousands of girls who learned the same lessons I did.
Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) became the voice of reason for those of us watching Star Wars again and again in 1977. He kept us all level headed when we wanted to jump into the battle with Luke, Han and Leia. The calm explainer of the force and how it works, he introduced us all to ‘use the force’ as it became an iconic phrase that you’d have to be locked in a cave somewhere to not know. Trust me, tears fell when he allowed Vadar to swing that saber helping Luke and the gang to escape, something I never got over.
So here we are, in 2019 and I couldn’t sleep Monday night knowing that I was hours away from seeing how this would all end. Don’t expect spoilers because I would be furious if anyone told me anything before seeing the film (Remember Han Solo?) so I’m keeping it light and reminiscent.
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On a remote planet, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is working with General Organa (Carrie Fisher) on earning Luke Skywalkers light saber but there seems to be a feeling stopping her. Resistance friends Poe (Oscar Isaac). Finn (John Boyega) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) are struggling to get back to Rey after retrieving what are the next step plans for the First Order. Also out in the galaxy is Supreme Leader of the First Order Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who is knocking down anyone who gets in his way.
Now called the Final Order, it is Rey, Finn, Poe and all those who follow that must pull out all the stops to bring balance back to the force. Allegiant General Pryde (Richard E. Grant) knows how this is going to play out. There is one fiercely evil entity who is going to do his diabolical best to stop them all as secrets are revealed and choices are made!
There are others along the way who decide that it might be time to help and that includes Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) and Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell). There are those who have come before that let it be known they are with them all.
Yes, that’s all you are going to get in the plot department! So let’s move on to the characters who make their appearance in this final installment.
Ridley as Rey is still dealing with the unknown of her past. It is hard to let the force flow through you when there are those mushed up memories and a Supreme Leader who is constantly cutting into your thought process. Ridley has done everything asked of her in the three installments of the Star Wars saga she has been in. At times I wasn’t always sure where she was taking this characters but clearly, now, it was on a path that I didn’t even see coming.
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Driver as Ben/Kylo Ren has been on quite a journey! He has pretty cool parents but chooses to follow the destructive path of grandpa Vadar. Even with that there is something that connects him to Rey as she tries to convince him to put down his very angry saber and be true to himself. That’s hard to do when rage seems to be the only thing that motivates Ren. Driver has put every bit of that on the screen and when the moments where Ben shows through, this actor melts and takes everyone along with him.
Boyega as Finn has always seemed to be Rey’s protector whether that was his intention or not. Being a former storm trooper, he has truly embraced his role as being part of the Resistance and constantly surprised where it has led him. Although his relationship with Poe hasn’t always been the best, it is reminiscent of another galaxy duo who didn’t start out on the best of terms.
Isaac as Poe continues to be reckless but there comes a moment where he has to decide what his place is in the Resistance. It turns out to be the most difficult decision he has ever made (and you will know when that hits him the hardest). Isaac’s Poe is the comedy of the trio because of his casual nature and finding humor when he should be panicking.
Williams as Lando gets the chance to once again fly the Millennium Falcon with Chewy at his side. He knows that the new trio faces the same tribulations and he has one last chance to do right by Leia and help in any way he can. Lando was a wild card before and trust me when I say he doesn’t disappoint now either.
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This is where I get a little choked up – when Carrie Fisher as Leia comes up on the screen I am overcome with a wave of intense emotion. There couldn’t have been a finale without her and I am happy to take it in any form. It is even more difficult to watch Gen. Organa make a motherly choice which is something her character didn’t have a chance to do before. Yes, more quiet tears dropped but Princess Leia will always be a part of this writers life.
Other cast include everyone who could get in the film with Philicia Saunders as Tabala Zo, Simon Day as General Engell, Amir El-Masry as Commander Trach, Denis Lawson as Wedge Antiles, Naomi Ackie as Jannah, Freddie Prinze Jr. as Kannan Jarus, Dominic Monaghan as Beaumont Kin, Billie Lourd as Lieutenant Connix and Domnhall Gleeson as General Hux.
Also Jimmy Vee as R2-D2 who always had my heart as well as a humor of squeaks and blips that have always been totally understandable, and the amazing Anthony Daniels as C-3PO who always managed to be properly annoying but in such a way that I personally would never want to be without him.
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Look, I’m just going to throw it out there. Not everyone will be happy with how Abrams brings this 9 film saga to its conclusion and personally – I don’t care about the not-happy people and here’s why. STAR WARS: The Rise of Skywalker is being seen by me in a way that is part of my being. I don’t think all the Star Wars films were successful and I don’t hide my feelings about it but I still embrace it as part of the storyline that began in 1977.
Not everything in life is going to be wrapped up neatly to please every person (I mean seriously, the Game of Thrones finale almost threw people into fits!) and that’s okay. Not being neat means we all have something to talk about and share after seeing the film. We get to reminisce about more than one film, about more than one theory and about more than one character. That’s what Star Wars has done for us, it has kept the conversation going longer than any other films (maybe Harry Potter gets to be part of the club in its own way).
I hope that everyone who goes remembers that the experience is yours, each unique, each with its own memories and each with its own chance to say the words – goodbye friends! Yes there are already stories like The Mandalorian (big fan by the way) giving us a new world but I’m speaking of the story that began with Luke, Leia, Chewy, C3PO, R2D2 and Obi-Wan.
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It is time to say good-bye to seeing them on the big screen again, good-bye to the excitement of waiting for the first showing and good-bye to that part of my life that I’ve always held so cherished. Oh I won’t be removing Yoda and Darth from my desk any time soon, but instead of giggling with anticipation for the next story installment, I will smile at them for sharing the last forty two years of my life in such an impactful way. I saw these characters through 16 year-old eyes from 1977 to 2019 and that is pretty cool to my way of thinking.
So prepare yourself and just enjoy the ride – there isn’t a tub of popcorn big enough for what’s to come and look for me in the seat next to you because I’ll be there again and again and again because that’s how I started and that’s how it’s going to finish.
In the end – it started in a galaxy far, far away!

SPIES IN DISGUISE is Family Fun

Spies in Disguise cover
Jeri Jacquin
Coming to theatres for holiday family fun from directors Nick Bruno, Troy Quane, Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox is an unlikely team for SPIES IN DISGUISE.
Lance Sterling (voiced by Will Smith) is a well-dressed spy who is keeping the world safe. Well liked by everyone at work, one person who wants to impress him is Walter Beckett (Tom Holland). He has so many inventions that he believes are an alternative to blowing things up and finding a peaceful solution, including his glitter cat bomb.
But there is evil afoot in the villain Killian (Ben Mendelsohn) who has created drones that are the worst seen in the agency. Joy Jenkins (Reba McEntire) informs Sterling that he is going to have to do whatever is necessary to find him before the agent data is stolen. In the process, Killian has set up Sterling to take the fall for everything that has happened.
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Now hunting for Sterling is Marcy Kappel (Rashida Jones) who is tough as nails and just as focused as her target. The only person he can run to is Walter to get his invention that will make him disappear. Not paying attention he accidentally drinks Walter’s disappearing potion but instead of becoming invisible, Sterling becomes a pigeon.
Angry, he doesn’t understand that being a pigeon will help him do more than he could even have imagined. Along to help Sterling clear his name and get the agent data base, Walter not only shares his other inventions but must make a remedy to Sterling’s feathered problem.
Smith as Sterling has no trouble playing the agent who likes himself a whole lot and isn’t use to not being in control. Smith gets a chance to rap a little in a ‘Fresh Prince’ style but it’s fun for the kids. This seems an easy voice role for him to play but it also seems as if he is having a bit of fun doing it.
Holland as Walter is a young man who was raised with a supportive mother and working with the agency he gets the chance to perfect some inventions and create new ones. Especially the one that changes Agent Sterling into a flying agent! Holland is endearing but then again this young actor has been one to watch for years. He gets a chance to be on the other side of Spiderman for sure.
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Jones as Marcy is like a dog with a bone when it comes to finding Sterling believing him to be a traitor to the agency. Always one step behind, she begins to understand what is truly happening and isn’t about to let evil win. McEntire as Jenkins knows that Sterling does things his own way but when it comes from being a traitor to the agency, she knows that is just not true.
Mendelsohn as Killian is a man on his own mission and believes he has every reason to be as evil as he wants to be. Keep his identity a secret, he also uses his high tech to put the blame on Sterling and keep anyone who might be interested looking for him. Mendelsohn give his character all the right moods to stay a step ahead of Smith’s character.
Other cast includes Karen Gillan as Eyes, Rachel Brosnahan as Wendy Beckett, Masi Oka as Kimura, Carla Jiminez as Geraldine, DJ Khaled as Ears and Peter Kim as Joon.
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SPIES IN DISGUISE is a fun family film especially with the kids being home for the next two weeks. It is fast paced, colorful, inventive and funny. Seeing Smith try to fit in with his new pigeon friends is one laugh after another and there is a twist on that as well but no spoilers here. He isn’t happy with being a pigeon but it makes for one interesting premise of a spy story.
The film has just the right mixture of action and fun to make it a popcorn fun film and if I needed a thumbs up from anyone it would be my four year old granddaughter. She gave me a thumbs up during the film without a word because she was too busy laughing and eating popcorn. Now that’s how you know it’s a fun time at the theatre so get the family together and go have your own fun together.
In the end – super spy to super fly!

CATS Sings and Dances onto the Big Screen

Cats cover

Jeri Jacquin
Coming to theatres for Christmas from director Tom Hooper and Warner Bros. is the Broadway hit story coming to screen with CATS.
Victoria (Francesca Hayward) is a cat who has been dumped by her owner into a dark alley where Jellicle cats are waiting to see what it wiggling in the bag. She meets magician Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson) Who introduces her to a wide range of cats and informs her that she has come on a special night.
The oldest cat Deuteronomy (Dame Judy Dench) arrives to see cats perform for the honor of being chosen to rise up to Heaviside Layer and come back with a new life. In the running is Bustopher Jones (James Corden), Rum Tum Tugger (Jason Derulo), Jennyandots (Rebel Wilson), Munkustrap (Robbie Fairchild) and Gus the Theatre Cat (Ian McKellen) but it is Macavity (Idris Elba) who will do anything to be chosen. He also has help in the form of Bombalurina (Taylor Swift).
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Watching all the events in the shadows is Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson) a once beautiful feline now trying to find her place in the world that hisses where they use to cheer. Victoria sees the world differently because she was abandoned but it is the cats she has met that show her another way of life.
Hayward As Victoria is very sweet and has serious dance moves but spends most of her time on screen with wide-eyed long pull away shots and cat lounging watching every other cat perform. She is a very beautiful cat and, as a cat owner, I’d be the first to scoop her up but in the film is basically a cat for other cats to spin around.
Dench as Old Deuteronomy Is a wise ole cat who is keenly aware of everything going on in the alley of cats. Watching each of the candidates perform is entertaining enough as she stretches in her sparkly cat-bed of honor. McKellen is very cute as a cat and his moment on stage was something I’ve never seen him do before so now I can check that off his list.
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Elba as Mccavity gets a chance to be a bad guy in a cat suit but we already knew he could be a bad guy aka THE FAST AND FURIOUS: HOBBS & SHAW but now we know he can do it with fur and purr. Swift as Bombalurina Is an odd choice for a cat who likes spreading catnip like a fairy granting wishes. I have to say that her costume was odd because it seem to constantly change – please watch and tell me I’m seeing things.
Wilson as Jennyandots does what she usually does and that’s pratfall and humor her way through a role but this time in a cat suit. The same can be said of Corden as fat cat Bustopher who seems more interested in digging through garbage than anything else.
Davidson as Mr. Mistofolees is everything and charming all wrapped up in an awesome hat. I truly enjoyed watching his character grow on screen. Derulo as Rum Tum is a confident cat who doesn’t seem to mind letting everyone know what a cool-cat he is! Fairchild as Munkustrap has the fastest tapping paws while keeping time on the tracks.
Other cats include: Mette Towley as Cassandra, Larry Bourgeois as Plato, Daniela Norman as Demeter, Yasmin Harrison as Ensemble, Zizi Strallen as Tantomile, Melissa Madden-Gray as Griddlebone, Naoimh Morgan as Rumpleteazer, Laurent Bourgeois as Socrates, and Ray Winstone as Growltiger.
CATS did not thrill me and mainly because I just couldn’t get into it. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of CATS but this version is a bit wonky at best. Let’s just say some people shouldn’t sing and others who I know can – seemed not to.
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Now, the lesser known cast knocked it out of the park with their ensemble cat-ing, dancing and singing. I was more interested in their performances than the ‘stars’. The set is dull and flat and didn’t draw me in at all. In fact it was smaller things that kept my attention like the mice and the dancing roaches.
The film is an alright chance for those who can’t get to a stage production to see what the fuss is all about and that’s about it. Might I suggest that you definitely DO see a stage production because it is colorful, wonderful and emotional. There is something about going to a theatre production with others who are just as excited that makes the stage experience amazing.
I didn’t get that in this movie theatre with CATS. Instead, looking around the theatre I see people uncomfortable and not really happy with what was on the screen. There were people talking during the film (which always isn’t a good sign) because I think the expectation was much higher than the film could provide.
In the end – only one can be chosen!

AD ASTRA Takes to Space Again on Bluray

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Jeri Jacquin
This week on Bluray and Digital from directors James Gray, Dan Bradley and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment comes a story of a man who needs to save the planet with AD ASTRA.
Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is an astronaut who has the uncanny knack for keeping his emotions under control. Constantly being monitored for flight readiness, it has come at the expense of his relationship with Eve (Liv Tyler). During an accident at work, his superiors notice that he kept a level head. What Roy learns is that the accident is caused by the Lima Project that was run by his father Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones).
The senior McBride left years earlier in search of other life in the universe. Hailed as a hero for his work in space, that is what Roy remembers or more so what he has been told.
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He is given the mission to go to Mars and send a transmission to his father. Mars is the only planet that hasn’t been affected by the violent pulses sent through the galaxy. Going along with McBride is Col. Pruitt (Donald Sutherland), a one-time friend to Clifford and someone to keep an eye on Roy. Stopping on the moon, Roy learns more about what is expected of him once he reaches Mars.
Once landed, Roy is met by Helen Lantos (Ruth Negga) who seems mysterious but actually has information that he has never been privy to. Reaching out to his father through transmissions, all of a sudden things change and those in charge want him back on earth. He is not about to turn back now and with the help of Helen he once again gets aboard a ship that will take him on the most solitary and long voyage he could have imagined.
He has time to make the decision about how to stop the effects of the Lima Project and come face to face with a father he thought he knew.
Pitt as Roy is a man who tries to keep focus on his emotions by keeping himself apart from everyone else. Believing that his father was dead, he is still calm when told it is a possibility that the elder McBride might still be alive. Every step he takes is calculated and once realizing his purpose is served isn’t about to stop until he has all the answers. There is something so very cool when Pitt takes a role that isn’t full of talk but instead straight forward action. Although there is a full cast here, it is Pitt’s character that commands the film.
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Sutherland as Col. Pruitt is sent by the higher ups to keep an eye on Roy but there is also a history. Pruitt knew the elder McBride and seems to be hoping to see him once again but his reasons are a bit different that Roy’s. I have always enjoyed Sutherland on any screen because he is an actor that may be large in stature but never pulls on the screen. Even when he yells it’s brief, important and then back to center with such roles in M*A*S*H, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, ORDINARY PEOPLE and even his role in THE HUNGER GAMES, I am always all in to watch him.
Tyler as Eve has a smaller role but one that is important in understanding the repercussions of Roy’s inability to let loose once in a while. She wanted more and he couldn’t provide it. Negga as Helen has her own story to tell and she is absolutely ready to tell Roy, whether he is ready to hear it or not.
Jones as Clifford McBride is a hero to everyone who knows about the Lima Project. Roy has lived in the shadow of Clifford even though he didn’t truly understand why he chose space over his family. When Jones is on screen there is a sincere insanity that exists in that he believes in what he says to the point of not being able to tell right from wrong.
On an interesting side note – Sutherland and Jones appeared in another movie together in 2000 called SPACE COWBOYS so it seems fitting they would come full circle in suits once again. In that film they were both space geniuses as well so kudos for bringing it back 19 years later!
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Other cast include Anne McDaniels as Shunga Hologram, John Ortiz as General Rivas, Kimberly Elise as Lorraine Deavers, Greg Bryk as Chip Garnes, Loren Dean as Donald Stanford, John Finn as Stroud, Kimmy Shields as Sgt. Romano, and LisaGay Hamilton as Adjutent General Amelia Vogel.
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment brings award-winning global product and new entertainment to DVD, Bluray, and Digital HD. There amazing collection offers fans an opportunity to expand their own home libraries with the best films. To discover what other titles they have please visit www.fox.com.
The Bluray Special Features include Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by James Gray, To the Stars, A Man Named Roy, The Crew of the Cepheus, The Art of AD ASTRA, Reach for the Stars Audio Commentary by James Gray.
MOVIES ANYWHERE gives viewers the ability to download the Movies Anywhere App. With that you can view films by downloading or streaming to your favorite device using a Digital Code. For more information on Movies Anywhere please visit www.MoviesAnywhere.com.
AD ASTRA is a film about many different things – from a man who is about to discover that his emotional world is larger than the universe he is about to fly into, to learning that history doesn’t always paint a real picture. Clearly the visual are stunning but then again most space films are. In recent years there have been several and since I am a fan of space films, AD ASTRA works.
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The film does remind me of several space films such as GRAVITY. Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t a bad thing, it’s just how I see it. Throw in 2014’s INTERSTELLAR and Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper along with Sandra Bullock’s character Ryan Stone from GRAVITY and Roy McBride of AD ASTRA – all have emotional issues that they hide with their space work. When life and death kick in they all trust in what they know intellectually but also experience a sense of acceptance and letting go.
I truly did enjoy Pitt’s performance because of in depth. A role doesn’t have to have tons of talking in order for me to totally understand the plight of a character. Pitt seems to be the calm in the middle of a galactic storm as others swirl around the outer vortex of this character.
There is absolutely no doubt that the cinematography is also a character in the film. From the stunning landing on the moon to shooting off to Mars and then Jupiter and beyond, the colors are stunning, the space is cold yet inviting and it is eye candy for anyone who just adores the idea of space and space travel.
In the end – the answers we seek are just outside our reach!

THE TWO POPES is a Hit for Netflix

The Two Popes cover

Jeri Jacquin
Coming to Netflix from director Fernando Meirelles and writer Anthony McCarten comes the story needing to be told by these two actors about THE TWO POPES.
The story set in 2012 should be easy to tell but this one isn’t. Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) is an interesting man to say the very least but he is more interested in Jesuit Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce). On a visit to Pope Benedict’s summer house, Bergoglio wants to present the Pope with his resignation.
With paper in hand and explaining himself, Pope Benedict doesn’t seem to be the slightest bit interested. In fact, he begins conversing with Bergoglio about everything but the papers in his hand, including their differing views on the church.
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Their conversations tell the story of these two men and the lives they have led and in that lies so much greatness. Juan Minujin portrays the Bergoglio as a young man telling the story of a time when decisions cost everyone everything. As Pryce tells his story, it is so heavy a tale he is telling remembering where he has come and what he feels he must do by resigning. He certainly doesn’t shy away from telling his Holiness what he really thinks which had my jaw dropping.
Hopkins Pope Benedict listens intently but tends to coat the conversation with brevity every chance he gets. Here is a man who has his own past to deal with and lets Bergoglio know that in that fashion that they are only human no matter what clothes they are wearing. He is also confronted with the scandals that have been a part of the Church and Bergoglio wants to understand.
Throughout the film, it is Hopkins and Pryce that are stellar and with every conversation there are revelations about the two men who would become Popes. This film could easily have become a dry story with a peak behind Vatican curtain but instead it is a film that you can’t take your eyes off of from first moment to last.
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One might not expect humor from THE TWO POPES but between jokes, a little piano time, orange soda and pizza you’d be wrong. That is what Hopkins and Pryce bring to the film – an unpredictability that is informative, endearing, charming and worth every minute. The story being told is one of two men holding the highest religious place in the Catholic Church.
The cinematography is absolutely stunning and the costuming is equally beautiful. Those are important in this piece because this is no ordinary story about the church being told, it is also a look inside the walls of where both these men live in a way most of us cannot fathom.
Netflix has certainly found a winning streak this year with some of the most fantastic stories for viewers. THE TWO POPES ends their year on an even higher note as streaming channels truly cater to originality in their programming. Netflix’s release of THE IRISHMAN in November is another example of showing viewers something new, interesting and thought provoking.
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THE POPE is a film I want to see again because the performances by these two actors is so brilliant and stunning it has to be seen again. Hopkins and Pryce carry the film together with equal greatness of the Popes in both humor, strong character and acceptance of their pasts. We should all see those characteristics in ourselves.
In the end – two men with one goal!

THE GALLOWS ACT II Frights on Bluray

the Gallows cover
Jeri Jacquin
On Bluray/DVD and Digital from writer/directors Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing and Lionsgate is the return of evil with THE GALLOWS ACT II.
Auna Rue (Ema Horvath) is a young girl that has decided to go live with her sister Lisa (Brittany Falardeau) and start at a new school. Wanting to be an actress, Auna is looking to start with her YouTube channel that doesn’t have very many viewers.
Starting out in the drama class, teacher Mr. Schlake (Dennis Hurley) calls on a student to do a piece on stage and Auna willing accepts. The problem is that when she stands up, the words just don’t come. Frustrated, she looks for works that she can perform and finds The Gallows and reads it online.
Almost overnight people watch her channel and the views skyrocket and people want to become her friends. She meets Cade (Chris Milligan) and the two hit it off well. So much so that Cade introduces Auna to his parents who were once famous actors.
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Just when Auna thinks life is finally going her way, strange things begin to happen. Day by day there is something evil coming through and The Gallows is responsible. Auna wants to find a way to make it stop and with the help of Cade they find someone who can give them answers.
Other cast include Jener Dasislva as Nick, Anthony Jensen as Scott Lamont, Pfeifer Brown as Pfeifer Ross, Erika Miranda as Lex, Deandre Pierre as Scott, Lupe Cobain as Marcus, Alan Crop as Craig, and Amy Cooke as Kate.
Lionsgate is a global leader in motion picture production and distribution for theatres, television, home entertainment and more. Theatre franchises include THE HUNGER GAMES, and DIVERGENT along with JOHN WICK. Now, adding this film to its 16,000 motion picture and television titles you can see everything coming soon as well as available now at http://www.lionsgate.com.
The Special Features of THE GALLOWS ACT II are Audio Commentary with Writers and Directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing, Summoning The Hangman: Staging THE GALLOWS ACT II and Deleted Scenes.
THE GALLOWS ACT II is about as creepy as you’d want a horror film to be. The Hangman and Charlie Challenge pretty much pushes the limits to what is real, what is illusion and what is driving everyone just a little crazy. This all began with a game that took the internet by storm and ends up with victims all around.
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What is the most interesting about this film are the twists, turns and things I didn’t see coming. As a fan of horror films from way back in the good old days of Freddy Kruger, I like films that shake things up. That is what brings the conversation up at the coffee machine when someone says ‘did you see….?’ and THE GALLOWS ACT II is such a film.
The cast is small and that keeps it interesting as well staying laser focused on Auna and the things she wants most not realizing that everything comes with a price – especially wanting fame.
In the end – evil chooses you!

Nothing Prepared Them for the BOMBSHELL

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Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director Jay Roach and Lionsgate comes an explosive story about women and a power they fought against when preparing for the BOMBSHELL.

On the Fox News channel, women like Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and Megan Kelly (Charlize Theron) are making a name for themselves. Seeing it for herself is incoming wanna-be Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie) who is one of the producers for Carlson’s show and wants more. So much so that Kayla takes a position with Bill O’Reilly which infuriates Carlson.

Luring above all the newsrooms is Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) who made Fox News a sensation and runs a tight ship with the okay from Rupert Murdoch (Malcolm McDowell). No one dare challenge Ailes as he made is very clear that he could make or break a career. That is what Carlson faced when she begins to suspect that her news days on air are numbered. Seeing legal counsel before that happens, she is told that going directly for Ailes instead of the company would be her best option.

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At Kayla’s new position she meets producer Jess Carr (Kate McKinnon) and the two quickly become friends. One day Kayla takes it upon herself to make her way up to Ailes office to introduce herself. Accepting the meeting, Ailes begins calming talking to her about what it is she wants. Once the politeness is done, Ailes claims he needs to get a closer look at Kayla since television is a “visual medium”. She leaves his office knowing what transpired was frightening.

Once out and the Carlson sexual harassment lawsuit filed, Kelly must come to terms with what she knows, but she isn’t the only one. One woman after another comes forward while Kelly remains silent. Telling her husband what is happening doesn’t help her decision on what to do next easier. Kayla also keeps her head down and avoids Ailes office as much as she can but Carr notices something is wrong.

Trying to coax people to help, Ailes wife Beth (Connie Britton) wonders why Kelly isn’t coming out in support of the man who gave her a career. Ailes vehemently denies the accusations against him and cannot fathom why the women would say such things. The bigger the story gets, people begin to take sides and finally Murdoch knows that a decision must be made to safe what is left of Fox News.

Standing together the women realize there is safety in numbers.

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Theron as Kelly is ridiculously scary because after a minute of watching her on screen I forgot that I was watching Theron. Her movements and speech are spectacular to the point of being brought into the story with ease. Theron has always been a consummate actress in my book and I have never really found fault in anything she has done but let me say in this film just absolutely blew me away. From start to finish I was riveted by her performance and, although not a huge fan of Kelly herself, do have a healthy dose of respect for her. She can thank Theron for that anytime.

Kidman as Carlson is a woman who sees the writing on the wall knowing it comes directly from Ailes and his eyes ever watching his news kingdom. The smartest thing for me was her knowing it was coming and did whatever she could to make sure things were ‘documented’. I mean really, did Ailes truly believe he was untouchable? I don’t comprehend that thinking except to chalk it up to an old school mentality where it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Kidman gives Carlson stealth and determination in a world that Ailes seem to feel was a gift he gave her with a stipulation of silence.

Robbie as Kayla is a young woman on the move and doesn’t think too much before changing lanes. It seemed that all this character wanted to do was get to the top fast and try not to leave to many high heel marks on the backs of others. Idolizing Carlson and even Kelly, the character of Kayla doesn’t seem to have the maturity to handle what is about to happen to her.

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McKinnon as Carr is a woman who is hiding who she is because she wants to keep her job. Knowing the environment around her isn’t kind to everyone, McKinnon brings her own hurting brevity to this character and it makes a hard point. Britton as Beth holds fast to her husband innocence even though I have a gut feeling she knows he’s not so innocent trusting in the ‘that’s just who he is’ line of defense.

Now let’s talk about Lithgow as Ailes because his performance is just so disturbing. Thinking that he should get an award for his portrayal it set my mind ablaze thinking ‘how do you give an award to someone for doing a stellar job without once again giving Ailes airtime’. I know, it’s making a mountain out of a mole hill but – is it? Anyway, Lithgow is riveting, yucky and portraying a man who used his powers in the most unspeakable of ways. This performance is just…wow!

Shout out to Allison Janney as Susan Estrich because she deserves a shout out. McDowell as Murdoch waltz’s into a room and shows Ailes how it’s done.

Other cast include Liv Hewson as Lily Balin, Brigette Lundy-Paine as Julia Clarke, Rob Delaney as Gil Norman, Stephen Root as Neil Mullen, Robin Weigert as Nancy Smith, Amy Landecker as Dianne Brandi and Mark Duplass as Doug Brunt.

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BOMBSHELL is a film that gives a look inside the fall from Fox News grace of Roger Ailes definitely but more importantly, what it took for Carlson to take a stand. The film isn’t shy about putting it right out there that Ailes had power of such magnitude that he managed to shut down these women for years and years while up in his tower.

I was impressed with Kidman, Theron and Robbie as the film addresses their story’s individually and I think that’s important. Ailes abuses started early and as he got bolder, so did his ‘requests’ of these women and he talk about them later. As what usually happens when a powerful man is confronted with his misdeeds (by almost everyone’s standards), Ailes thinks he is above it all. That he barks and everyone cowers – well, Carlson decided to cower no more in 2016.

BOMBSHELL is definitely a film that needs to be seen and then discussed. Whether it all happened the way its portrayed on screen or not, it is a conversation that can stop even a hint of something like this from ever happening again. I don’t care if these women were on Fox News and I’m not a fan of Fox News – no one and I mean no one deserves to live their lives with fear – in family or at a job.

In the end – based on a scandal that shook a new empire!

RICHARD JEWELL is a Lesson in Being a Hero

Richard Jewell cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming soon to theatres from director Clint Eastwood and Warner Bros. is the story of a man who sees the world better than he is treated and his name is RICHARD JEWELL.

Richard (Paul Walter Hauser) is a very polite southerner who meets lawyer Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) working for a firm delivering mail. Preparing to move on to a security job, Richard makes sure to say goodbye to Watson. As a university security, it doesn’t go well and once again he has to move on to another job. The one person standing by him is mom Bobi (Kathy Bates) knowing her son believes in law enforcement.

The opportunity comes for Richard to work security at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia’s Centennial Park. Taking his job serious, he is polite to everyone and even makes himself indispensable to on-sight law enforcement. His job also has its perks taking Mom to a concert in the park. Someone who isn’t happy about the Olympics assignment is FBI Agent Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm) and partner Dan Bennet (Ian Gomez).

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Each day Richard is ready and stays alert to everything around him. One evening he has to stop a group of young kids from throwing bottles against a media tower and notices a backpack. Alerting authorities they at first don’t seem worried, but after closer inspection everyone leaps into action to get people away – including Richard.

When the bomb explodes, the contents flies into the crowd and people fall everywhere. A stunned Richard tries to do what he can to help those who are hurt. The mayhem is emotional for everyone and when Richard returns home to a grateful Mom, he can’t believe what has happened. Quickly the media hails him a hero and the attention makes Richard a tad uncomfortable but still very polite.

The FBI immediately jump on the case and start investigating everyone who was at Centennial Park and one name that pops up is Richard Jewell. Trying to get a scoop on the story if Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who turns to Shaw for information and runs with it. Immediately Richard goes from being hailed as a hero to a villain.

Richard calls Watson Bryant at first to look over a contract but quickly needs much more help. Watson’s secretary Nadya (Nina Arianda) informs him that Richard is being looked at as a suspect in the bombing. Both Richard and mom Bobi are being emotionally torn apart with the things being said, the constant attack by the media and the life altering harassing by the FBI.

Yet Richard remains respectful until Watson reminds him that standing up for himself is just as respectful.

Hauser as Jewell is just that – a jewel! His portrayal of Richard is a combination of so many things from a very caring person who notices people to being a little over zealous wanting to be part of the law enforcement community to a son who will not tolerate anyone making his mother cry. From the moment of the bombing all he wants to do is help find the person responsible and in that lies Hauser’s stunning performance. Raised to be respectful, he knows that he is not everyone’s cup of tea but it doesn’t change how he treats them and Hauser portrayal gives Richard a depth that just tore at my heart.

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Rockwell as Bryant is the loud to Richard’s soft feelings about what is happening around them. Not understanding how Richard can continue to be loyal to law enforcement that are trying to sacrifice him is stunning to Rockwell’s character. Keeping his client under control proves to be a challenge as well but one that has moments of smiles and even, dare I say, giggles. Knowing Richard to be an acquired taste, Rockwell’s Bryant can’t help but see what we as the audience sees. I am confessing here and now that I adore Rockwell and even more so in this film.

Bates as Mom Bobi is a simple woman who keeps her life tidy and believes one hundred percent in her son. So proud of him for saving lives after the bombing, she doesn’t understand how and why the vilification of her son can possibly be happening. What I love about Bates in this role is that at no time does her portrayal of Bobi fail to believe in her son and she is everything believable.

Wilde as Scruggs is just a reporter who from the moment she steps on screen is someone I wanted to just shake because of the tactics used to get her story. She is a very outward character in her mannerisms and behavior to the point that the audience in the theatre had, and I quote from the woman next to me, “just about enough of that woman!”. I can’t remember the last time I heard that from someone in the audience. Hamm as Shaw has issues of his own and the grumblings of being at the Olympics turns bad quickly. Seeing the result of the bombing puts him on an all-out idea that he will capture the bomber. The problem is his tactics along with those he works with at the FBI letting everything get out of hand. Hamm makes an awesome good guy and an equally awesome not so good guy.

Gomez as Bennet is just as guilty for the tactics against Richard as Shaw and what was so irritating is that neither of these men seen to have any guilt for it all. You know you’ve done a good job in your role when everyone wants to scream at you so well done. Arianda as Nadya is such a good person seeing exactly what Bobi, Bryant and the audience sees about Richard Jewell and she is a no nonsense character as well.

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RICHARD JEWELL is absolutely one hundred percent a Clint Eastwood film. This actor/director takes stories of everyday people and put them on screen in such a way that we become a cheering squad by the end of the story. There is certainly nothing wrong with that to my way of thinking. What I truly enjoyed about this film is that Hauser’s portrayal of Jewell is so uncanny and so endearing. It would be easy to just play up the stereotypical southern boy instead of a man who was raised to believe in the good of people and the respect of those who know might know more, including law enforcement.

The film also forces us all to realize that, as Rockwell’s character says, we are confronted by the two most powerful forces in the world – the U.S. government and the media. That was said in 1996 without even realizing that statement would predict the future in many ways. Ruining a life in 1996 with print is one thing, if the same thing happened to Jewell today it would have been incredible worse and more dangerous than even I want to think about.

The last half hour of the film is one for a box of Kleenex as the story finally confronts all of what happened that evening in 1996 and how two men became even closer friends and a mom never stopped believing in her son.

In the end – the world will know his name and the truth!

JUMANJI: The Next Level Brings Another Adventure

Jumanji the next level cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this week from writer/director Jake Kasdan and Columbia Pictures is the return for another adventure with JUMANJI: The Next Level.

It’s the holidays and the gang makes plans to return to Nora’s Diner for a bit of catching up. Bethany (Madison Iseman), Martha (Morgan Turner), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and Spencer (Alex Wolff). Actually, Spencer is finding any way to avoid getting together at home with Mom (Marin Hinkle) and Grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito) who is recovering from hip surgery.

The reason for seclusion is that Spencer and Martha have taken a break from their relationship and he’s having a hard time. So much so that he goes into the basement and finds a certain video game and does the unthinkable. Grandpa Eddie is dealing with his own grumpiness when friend Milo (Danny Glover) comes to visit but Eddie isn’t exactly having it.

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When the gang can’t reach Spencer, they head over to his house and meet Eddie and Milo and then hear a sound that stops them in their tracks. Running down to the basement, they realize that Spencer has jumped back into the game. The only thing to do is to go in after him, except this time there are a few changes they don’t see coming.

In the game the basic rules are the same but the game has changed! It is more challenging and the players are a tad different. Martha (Karen Gillan) keeps her character but Eddie (Dwayne Johnson) has a much bigger stature, Bethany (Jack Black) is back and Milo is Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart). Confused yet? Well it gets better!

They begin searching for Spencer who is now Ming (Awkwafina) who is looking for a stone that will save the world but is being stopped by Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann). Getting it requires the help of Alex (Nick Jonas) who is happy to see everyone.

Now that all the players on in place, it’s time to put Jurgen in his place and return the beloved and precious stone before dinner time!

Johnson as Eddie gets a chance to be even more comedic than before. It is even more hilarious when you realize he is doing his best Danny DeVito Eddie. His flexing, jumping and stare into the abyss is full on fun and we’d pretty much expect nothing less from him. DeVito as the grumpy Eddie isn’t really into life and can’t seem to find a moment to be happy about. Becoming the player Eddie is the most fun he’s had in, well, forever.

Wolff as Spencer is having an early 20’s crisis and the only thing he can think to do is go somewhere where he felt special. This is a young man who didn’t think things through to well and when he shows up in the game as Ming, it’s a new character with new abilities. Awkwafina as Ming is hilarious as always and since her introduction to people in the film CRAZY RICH ASIANS, she has made a name for herself doing comedy but also can pull off true emotions when needed.

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Hart as Milo doesn’t understand what is happening except that he seems much more knowledgeable about language and animals. Hart doing Glover is probably the best I’ve seen and it just kept cracking me up. Glover as Milo wants to fix the friendship he has with Eddie and it’s not as if the grumpy guy is going to make it easy.

Black as Fridge isn’t happy about his less than perfect body and doesn’t understand why he can’t be the same character he was before. Black jumps into his role and I can see him playing any of them with ease. There is a scene with Martha that is pretty funny in the pool of change. Blain as Fridge is happy to see his friends but not so much when they have no choice but to return to the game to find Spencer.

Gillan as Martha is back in her shorts and a tank top making sure that she gets a chance to jump off things and flip around tree branches with ease. The comedy for her comes when trying to explain to Eddie and Milo that they are in a game and what the rules are. Iseman as Bethany is the monkey in the works and she has to turn to Alex (Colin Hanks) for help in a very brave way. Hanks as Alex has a small role but I’m always happy to see him.

Shout out to McCann as Jurgen the Brutal and I don’t want to say that it’s a bit of type casting but lets through it out there and see if it sticks. As the Hound in Game of Thrones he was loud, had no problem swinging a sword and was a tad frightening, hmmmm…sounds like Jurgen the Brutal. Who cares! It’s good to see him.

Other cast include Ashley Scott as Ashley, Rhys Darby as Nigel, Deobia Oparei as Gromm, Sarah Bennani as Andi Tow, Massi Furlan as Switchblade, Jared Hasmuk as Dagfin and Sal Longobardo as Tony.

JUMANJI: The Next Level is family fun and especially for those who love the idea of these actors in a video game. There is fun, humor, adventure and it’s all wrapped up in the story of family, friendship, loyalty, acceptance and fighting off bad guys with your best friends. Of course I am a fan of the Robin Williams version of JUMANJI and will always see that as the standard but at the same time it is easy to see why this generation is having such fun at the theatre.

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This version of the film has more characters than the 1995 JUMANJI and the comedy is sillier with Johnson and Hart at the helm. These two clearly share the same humor and their off screen friendship and Twitter ‘war’ adds to the charm of their film.

If you want to take a break from the crowds at the mall or the crowds pretty much anyway for the holidays and be taken away on a fun adventure, then JUMANI: The Next Level is the right film to see with the whole family. Make sure that bucket of popcorn is extra large!

In the end – it’s the very next level!

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