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The Thrill Returns Us to DOWNTON ABBEY

Downton Abbey Cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatre this Friday from director Michael Engler and Focus Features from the characters created by Julian Fellowes is the return to DOWNTON ABBEY.

The Crawley family continues normal life at Downton Abbey until Robert (Hugh Bonneville), the Earl of Grantham, receives word that the King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) are about to make a visit. Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) is thrilled but Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) goes into immediate panic especially with husband Henry (Matthew Goode) off on business. Barrows (Robert James-Collier) is now the head of the staff but Lady Mary feels as if things aren’t getting done properly.

Bringing her concerns to Lord Grantham there is only one choice, ask a retired Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) to resume his duties as Downton Abbey until the visit is over and Barrows isn’t happy. Mr. Carson gets the staff in order with Andy (Michael Fox) and the return of Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle). Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) also has her hands full as every nook and cranny must be cleaned and there isn’t a lot of time. Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) and Daisy (Sophie McShera) begin creating a menu fit for royalty.

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Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) doesn’t seem as nervous about the King and Queen’s visit but is concerned about seeing relative Maud Bagshaw (Imedla Staunton). The Dowager believes that Maud is trying to cut Robert out of any inheritance since being seen about with her companion Lucy (Tuppence Middleton). Isobel (Penelope Wilton) agrees to help Violet discover the true story behind Maud’s decision as husband Lord Merton (Douglas Reith) stays out of it.

Tom Branson (Allen Leech) is happy to be back at Downton Abbey and with his car business. When he learns about the King and Queen’s visit, some think that perhaps he wouldn’t be pleased out it. So much so that Mary senses something is wrong and isn’t sure what to do. Up for the festivities is Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) and husband Bertie Hexham (Harry Hadden-Paton) as they make their way home.

With everything buzzing and plans being made, there is a damper on the happiness when the staff are told that they will not be handling the royal visit. Enter the very stuffy Kings manservant Mr. Wilson (David Haig), Queen’s dresser Mrs. Webb (Richenda Carey) and royal chef Monsieur Courbet (Philippe Spall). Hardly ready to relinquishing their pride in Downton Abbey, Mrs. Bates (Joanne Froggatt) and Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) come up with a plan that is brilliant and wonderful. Barrows is also being watched by Captain Chetwode (Stephen Moore) as being upset with Mr. Carson leads him down a bad road.

When the King and Queen finally arrive, the household is in high gear as the royal family is treated to dinner with a party to follow the next evening. That is when secrets are revealed, loyalties are tested and everyone who lives and works at Downton Abbey once again remembers how they have all come together for so long and can’t imagine anything else.

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Bonneville as the Earl of Grantham returns to his role as the leader of a family who go their own way no matter what he might say about it. This character has grown to understand that things change and if he doesn’t then the Downton Abbey could fall at his feet. I adore Bonneville in this role because he has the facial expressions that say everything even if he says nothing. He clearly loves his family and what’s more is he respects those who keep his household running.  McGovern as Cora is the American who has embraced the world she married into. When she is stern, it comes with a smile most often and when she is giddy her face lights up. Her character is the opposite of Robert which is why these two actors make such an awesome pairing.

Dockery as Lady Mary is such an unusual character because she gives off an air of superiority but when she lets her humanity and frailty show it is a sight for the heart to see. Carmichael as Lady Edith has finally found her niche in the world along with daughter Marigold. Now she needs to find the order of it all. Staunton as Bagshaw is a relative full of secrets and some in the family are going to make sure they know every little juicy detail. Middleton as Lucy has her own secrets but a certain Irishman only sees a lovely young girl.

Leech as Branson has become a character that was once on the outside looking in and now on the inside looking out. Finding the middle ground has always been such a difficult process for this character but now he seems to have found it. Happy with his business and equally happy at Downton Abbey, he carries himself with such grace and still finds humor in his adopted family. Goode as Henry just goes along to get along and is happy in his marriage to Lady Mary, I wish there would have been more of him but I’m thinking it will happen. Hadden-Patton as Hexam is being pulled away by a King who has taken a liking to him and Edith finds herself being meek about it once again. I kept thinking ‘come on Edith, stand your ground!’. Reith as Lord Merton has found happiness in his life and plans to keep it that way by staying out of any family drama.

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Jones and James as the King and Queen are lovely and bring their own personal baggage to Downton Abbey. They prove that even royals have family issues and through it all a sense of humor as well. Moore as Chetwode protects the royal family but has a few secrets of his own. Haig as Mr. Wilson is a man I’d throw out on his ear if it wouldn’t get me put in the Tower! Carey as Mrs. Webb would be in the pig mud right night to Mr. Wilson and to complete the threesome would be Spall as the royal chef. Those three brought enough aggravation and did it extremely well – kudos!

The return of Carter as Mr. Carson brought joy to every moment he is on screen. His presence, even when he is a bit frazzled, lets you know that everything will be alright. Right by his side is Logan as Mrs. Hughes. Never let it be said that this very elegant lady doesn’t know how to take care of her position and life with Mr. Carson. Nicol as Mrs. Patmore is a character I see as the fire that is always keeping everyone warm. Food is one thing but the obvious caring she has for those around her comes through the screen. McShera as Daisy once again puts her foot in it and manages to not be concerned with how some people love traditions and pageantry.

James-Collier as Barrows has been in Mr. Carson’s shoes for some time and isn’t all that thrilled when he returns. So instead of dealing with it, which he never does very well, he once again finds destructive ways of handling things. Nothing he does surprises me! Doyle as Mr. Molesley is over excited and willing to put his teaching position on hold just to be in the same room as the King and Queen. Of course with this excitement comes the usual missteps that had me responding with a slap to my forehead. Fox returns as Andy who is in love with Daisy and discovers he might have a bit of a jealous streak in him.

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My favorite couple ever in the entire series is Froggartt as lovely Mrs. Bates and Coyle as Mr. Bates. If there was ever a couple that went through everything horribly imaginable and came out the other side the same honorable people it is the Bates’. Froggartt is beautiful, sweet, gentle yet has a sarcastic side I love. Being the dresser for Lady Mary for years, she still wants to be at Downton Abbey and in the film gets her chance to show a side that is epic. Coyle as Mr. Bates has gone through the gambit if I do say so myself. Through it all his life has changed dramatically and yet he never once looked for an excuse for anything. That being said, planning what is planned for the staff at Downton Abbey, this husband and wife duo show they will fight for what they believe in and do it as they always have done it – together.

Now let’s talk Maggie Smith as Violet – can it be said that she is the cherry on top of a very large and very ostentatious Downton Abbey cake? Well, she is on the one in my mind. Smith is sharp, witty, and doesn’t take anything lightly. One moment she is watching everything and the next jumping in the fray to mix it up. Of course she wouldn’t be able to do some of it with her partner-in-sort-of-crime Isobel. Wilton in her supporting friendship with Violet is the yin to her yang. When these two ladies get together you can be sure it will be hilarious and the repartee a feast for the mind.

Other cast include Raquel Cassidy as Miss Baxter, Kate Phillips as Princess Mary, Max Brown as Richard Ellis, Mark Addy as Mr. Bakewell, Michael Fox as Andy Parker, Susan Lynch as Miss Lawton, James Cartwright as Tony Sellick, Fifi Hart as Sybbie, Oliver & Zac Barker as George, Alice McCarthy as Nanny Harewood, Marina Balbara as Baroness Valerenay, Andrew Havill as Henry Lascelles, Eva & Karina Samms as Marigold, Diane Halling as Countess of Harrowby, and Perry Fitzpatrick as Chris Webster.

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I discovered the series DOWNTON ABBEY completely by accident as it was on KPBS the same night as my other favorite  The Great British Baking Show. It didn’t take long before I became completely engrossed in the story of the families both upstairs and downstairs. I hated when the seasons ended and I broke out the tea set when the next season came around. Little did I know that the series was exploding all over the United States.

Created by writer Julian Fellowes, it aired in 2011 telling the story of Downton Abbey in the mid-1900s of a Yorkshire estate and the Crawley family but it also told the story of the servants. There was everything imaginable happening and the cast made every bit of it magical to watch for those of us who watched week after week. Downton Abbey is actually Highclere Castle in north Hampshire and although there was filming in Ealing Studios, most of it is Highclere Castle both inside and out.

Fellowes himself has had an amazing career as an actor, to launching his own series on BBC and writing a miniseries about the Titanic. He won an Oscar for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen in 2002 for the script GOSFORD PARK and won Best Directorial Debut from the National Board of Review for SEPARATE LIES. His credit also include VANITY FAIR, THE TOURIST, FROM TIME TO TIME and one of my absolute favorite Emily Blunt films THE YOUNG VICTORIA.

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DOWNTON ABBEY has become and I believe will continue to be an iconic series and now film for years to come. There is nothing that can hold a candle to it. In the four years since fans cried their eyes out at the television show finale, the film will not only make us forgive everything but thrill us once again. The story, the character, opulence, splendor, feistiness, heart, gumption, and so much more wrapped in a castle most of us know from a mere glance.

How does one thank Julian Fellowes for giving us just a little more of what we crave and an even bigger thank you to every original cast member that came back and made us feel like they didn’t miss a beat. DOWNTON ABBEY is such a beautiful film in every way and I love period pieces of all kinds but this film has a special place in my heart because the characters.

This is not just a reunion of characters, but a reunion of us along with the characters we embraced back in 2011. We want to know they are all fine in the world of Downton Abbey and that it is possible (please let it be possible) that there might be another film to continue their story.

In the end – they’ve been expecting us!

 

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THE DEAD DON’T DIE Puts a Town on Notice

 

The Dead Cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from writer/director Jim Jarmusch and Focus Features comes a tale of small town living and the Earth with THE DEAD DON’T DIE.

Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) are the law of small town Centerville. Along with Officer Minerva Morrison (Chloe Sevigny), their day starts out with a check on Hermit Bob (Tom Waits) and a complaint by Farmer Miller (Steve Buscemi) about chickens.

On their trip back to the station, Chief Robertson has a feeling something isn’t quite right. Noticing that it is later in the day, it doesn’t look like the sun is going down. Then weird things begin to happen with watches and cell phones. That’s when Officer Peterson makes the ominous prediction that ‘this isn’t going to end well’.

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There answer comes fairly quickly when news reports about fracking has finally done damage to the Earth. Back at the station, the three officers decide what should be done. Of course someone has to stay at the station since there is a corpse in one of the cells!

At the local coffee shop, the local gossip is about Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton), who owns the funeral home. Everyone realizes there is something odd about her but it goes unchecked. Waitresses Fern (Ester Baling) and Lily (Rosa Colon) are deep in talk when they are met by…well…hungry customers.

Bobby (Caleb Landry Jones) owns the local comic book shop and sundries when he is visited by Zoe (Selena Gomez), Jack (Austin Butler) and Zack (Luke Sabbath). Everyone comments on the Sturdily Simpson song “The Dead Don’t Die” and ask for directions to a local hotel.

All this while the Chief and Officer Ronnie are back at the diner wonder what to do about what they find. Hardware store owner Hank (Danny Glover) is in shock but also notices things aren’t right in Centerville.

Almost immediately it becomes clear that what is happening to the Earth has had an impact on those supposedly resting in peace at the local cemetery. The Chief and Ronnie begin to fight back, especially with Ronnie’s zombie knowledge.

Their small little town has one huge dead problem!

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Murray as Chief Robertson is about as laid back as I would expect a small town lawman to be and exactly how I’d expect Bill Murray as a small town lawman to be! He takes things in and process it with a touch of disbelief as to what’s happening in his quaint community. Plus, and it must be said, anything Murray does will bring me to wherever he is in. The fact is Murray is an icon and a national treasure because he is…Bill Murray.

Okay, so I grew up watching him on Saturday Night Live in the days when comedy was hilarious and he provided much of that. He has made his way through comedy roles that just keep him relevant to all of us that love funny. Here he is seasoned but when he lands a line – it’s as smooth as ever.

Driver as Officer Ronnie is the side-kick that Chief Robertson needed to pull this whole thing off. It is interesting to see Driver do the give and take with Murray and it works to perfection making them such a unique and weirdly perfect team. If I were the Chief I might not have had the same patience but then again, the last ten minutes make it all worth it. Driver plays a man who is relatively calm. He feels that disaster is heading to town and loads up to protect and serve.

Sevigny as Officer Minerva is, well, emotional in her own way and in the context of the rest of the characters in the film. She is the third wheel of law enforcement but between wanting to hide in the back seat of the squad car and knowing something has to be done, she jumps back and forth with ease.

Buscemi as Farmer Miller is grumpy, loaded and hostile about his chickens. Glover as Hank melts right into the township of people who are a little confused by what’s going on and know hiding might be the way to survive. Jones as Bobby looks like he absolutely would own a comic book shop in the middle of Centerville and knows exactly what to do because of it.

The two odd and perfectly placed standouts of the film are Swinton as Zelda and I must say she is a woman I’d hang out with. Odd and out of place without realizing it, she has a part to play in all of this but then again does she? Waits as Hermit Bob is the man telling the tale of Centerville and might be the smartest Hermit ever.

Other cast include Rosie Perez as Posie Juarez, RZA as Dean, Alyssa App as Kid Zombie, Lorenzo Beronilla as Zelda Zombie, Sara Driver as Coffee Zombie, Carol Kane as Mallory O’Brien and Iggy Pop as the best Coffee Zombie ever!!

THE DEAD DON’T DIE isn’t your typical zombie movie for so many reasons that I’ll let the viewer find out personally. What I can say is that I felt like I was watching a combination of a Film Festival piece and a Saturday Night Creature Feature film that was from the B-film vaults.

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It is absolutely everything and absolutely nothing like any zombie movie you’ve ever seen. This film calls for those who love twisted films that are dry in humor yet still hilarious. It’s a journey through small town living with zombies as more of a pest than a reason to get all worked up.

This film has references from old horror films, a nod and feel of Romero and acting that is subdued and thoughtful wrapped up like bacon around a superb piece of filet mignon. The subtexts are there and its up to the viewer to catch them and it seems everyone in Hollywood wanted a piece of the film.

Of course I’m being vague in the telling on purpose because there is no right way to explain the film. This is one of those stories that must be experienced and with all honesty some will find it as hilarious as I did and some will walk away with that expression of ‘what did I just see?’ on their faces.

This is Jim Jarmusch people! Writer and director of ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (which is a beautiful vampire movie), BROKEN FLOWERS and the documentary GIMME DANGER. He has the ability to bring out the odd in his story telling but truth be known, some of us actually enjoy the odd.

The cast is varied and gives the town a little something special. Lets not forget the humor that is sharp, a bit biting at moments, very subtle in other moments which means there is something for everyone even if they don’t know they need it.

THE DEAD DON’T DIE has me scratching my head, furrowing my brow in question, jaw dropping in action and most of all giggling like a little kid who feels like she got the joke no one else did. Who cares, I had a fun time.

In the end – this could be the greatest zombie cast ever disassembled!

CINEMACON 2019 Delivers the Best in what is To Come for This Year

Cinemacon

 

Jeri Jacquin

Every year I look forward to a trip with my favorite traveling companion Jenise aka Film Brat to Las Vegas, Nevada for CinemaCon that began Monday, April 1st! We always start the very early drive 5+ hours and make sure to take time to stop at our favorite places along the way, have great conversations, crank up the music and enjoy our little working vacation.

We make our usual pit-stops along the way for gas and snack breaks but this time the stops were to see the majestic snow covered mountains that surrounded us. From San Bernardino to Victorville, I can not remember the last time I saw so much snow. We also stopped to see the masses of butterflies everywhere and the fields that are coated with flowers of every kind and color.

Our usual stop at the World’s Largest Thermometer in Baker, California also coincided with our stop at the place where humans meet aliens. Alien Fresh Jerky surprised us this year as we discovered serious renovations to the general store and the beginnings of what is to be a new alien hotel. I already asked if it was possible to make reservations for next year but alas – no lift off.

Then the long stretch of road that is good for having the window down for fresh air before coming over the slight hill that shows the ever expanding city of Las Vegas in Nevada. Of course it isn’t a surprise to find as the roadside is covered with billboards warning of impending fun times no matter what you might be into.

Our favorite place to check into is The Linq which is right across the street from Cesar’s Palace. That works out ducky since Cesar’s is where we spent our entire week with CinemaCon 2019. Checking into our rooms and a quick freshening up, we head off to the first day of the four days of a mixture of work and fun.

After a few conferences, we are welcomed to a pre-reception welcoming us to CinemaCon 2019 and to get us in the mood for what is to come, NEON premiers a screening of the film WILD ROSE. Afterwards we finally have a chance to say hello to other attendees who we have come to know over the years. It’s a great time to catch up, show off kid and grandkid pictures, and talk about what’s new in theatres and our schedules.

Tuesday morning we hit up a little breakfast time before seating to see what STX Films has to share with us. Jon M. Chu walks on stage to talk about the three movies that brought him to be a part of filmmaking and they are E.T., BATMAN and THE JOY LUCK CLUB. We were thrilled with his choices because, as for me, those three are on my top 20 list without question. His next project is IN THE HEIGHTS working with Lin-Manuel Miranda and will be in theatres in 2020.

Charles Rivkin, Chairman & CEO of the MPAA says, “As technology grows, it always speaks of doom for theaters. Yet, as Edna Mode says, ‘here we are!’ Cinema continues to grow, become more diverse and tell stories people want to see and hear. The audiences take magic seriously.”

Adam Fogelson, Chairman of the MPG introduces what is to come for STX and there are a few things we are personally waiting for. Beginning with a look at BEST OF ENEMIES which is the story of Ann Atwater starring Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell and POMS starring Diane Keaton (who takes the stage of charm us all), Jackie Weaver and Pam Grier is the story of women of a certain age who start their own cheerleading group.

Chadwick Boseman arrives on stage to talk about his upcoming city thriller 21 BRIDGES as New York shuts down the bridges to apprehend criminals. The film also stars JK Simmons and Taylor Kitch who gets a chance to try on his bad boy chops.  Dave Bautista arrives to talk about his comedy MY SPY with Ken Jeong, Chloe Coleman and Kristen Schaal.

If horror is more your style, BRAMS: The Boy II is back and this time Katie Holmes comes along to talk about the next chapter. Holmes says she saw the universal connection of a mother and child. Working with the young actor Christopher Convery was very exciting as well. As for the supernatural aspect, Holmes says, “There were a couple of times during shooting that things happened that gave me moments of a scare”.

THE GENTLEMEN is next on the slate and it starts one of our favorites Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Hugh Grant and Matthew McConaughey. Golding who starred in the hit CRAZY RICH ASIANS says he would do anything they asked to be in the film, “My character is unpredictable, young and hungry and not a character anyone would expect me to play”.

Hunnam says, “I play a guy named Ramundo who is the right hand man to Matthew, who is the biggest weed dealer in the U.K. Most of the time I play the guy who is quite bookish and does the logistics but once in the while I pull out the bone saw.” That being said, please put us down for two tickets immediately!

Colin Firth returns to the screen with his upcoming film THE SECRET GARDEN, Jennifer Lopez also has another film in the hopper with HUSTLERS, the film COUNTDOWN, HORIZON LINE, WORK IT, CRIME AFTER CRIME are waiting to jump into theatres. Gerard Butler returns with GREEN LAND, Vin Diesel is MUSCLE and the Moms’ Moms are back with BAD MOM’S MOMS.

Finally, the one we have personally been waiting for. A few years ago at CinemaCon, STX teased us with the story for a film called UGLY DOLLS. After their presentation, we were handed two of the strangest looking dolls but there was something surprisingly cute about them. Well, after two minutes of looking at it, my then two-year-old granddaughter took the pink ‘Dreamy Bat’ into her arms and they have been friends ever since. Now, the animated film is finally complete and will be in theaters in a few short weeks. It looks to be fun, full of moments and songs we will remember for a very long time.

WARNER BROS. STUDIOS brought their studio presentation hosted by Aisha Tyler, who is the voice of Lana in the animated hit series ARCHER, and she brought the laughs and a few special guests. Starting with animation, Toby Emmerich announces the coming DC PETS, TOM & JERRY, SCOOBY-DOO and SPACE JAM II.

DC brings its offerings of SUICIDE SQUAD II, BATMAN, WONDER WOMAN 84 and the highly anticipated Joaquin Phoenix as the JOKER. Director Todd Phillips says of the film, “What people hear about the film isn’t accurate. If anything, my description of the film would be that it is sad”.

Samuel L. Jackson brings the character of SHAFT back to the big screen, BIRDS OF PREY, and THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR is also in the works. THE GOOD LIAR starring Helen Mirren and Ian McKellan is directed by Bill Condon. SUPER INTELLIGENCE brings one of our favorite funny lady’s Melissa McCarthy to the screen and is directed by husband Ben Falcone.

POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU brings Justice Smith together with the yellow and furry animated Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu together for some fun. BLINDED BY THE LIGHT is a film that believes that trying to find the best of yourself is universal. Ansel Elgort and Aaron Finn star in THE GOLDFINCH DIRECTED BY John Crowley. Elgort says of the book to film, “I hope what ever drew people to the book draws them to the movie.”

DOCTOR SLEEP directed by Mike Flanigan is a sequel to 1980 film THE SHINING. Ewan McGregor stars as the very grown up Danny Torrance who meets a young girl with powers like his own. GODZILLA: King of the Monsters brings Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah back to tear up the planet.

It is 1950s New York as Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Willem Dafoe, Leslie Mann and Alec Baldwin star in the film MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN. Director and writer Andrea Berloff brings together Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss and Domnall Gleeson for the Vertigo graphic novel THE KITCHEN.

Finally, horror is back with a new friend and two repeat offenders as THE CURSE OF LA LLORNA wants your kids, ANNABELLE COMES HOME from writer James Wan and writer/director Gary Dauberman. Our favorite clown is back as the next installment prepares us for IT: Chapter Two with James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Javier Botet and Pennywise himself Bill Skarsgard and all of it put together by director Andy Muschietti.

Now we can not be in Vegas without walking around in the evening to see the big lights and people watching that is what makes this working vacation so much fun. Watching the water fun at Treasure Island, visiting Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant of fish right outside the door of The Linq with Hell’s Kitchen right across the street. If you are looking for even more tasty treats, Guy Fieri has his steak house just waiting to grill to order, Robert Irvine Public House is next to the Tropicana, Nobu, and Searsuckers. Opening only a few days before our arrival is Vanderpump Las Vegas with her own unique style of flowers and class nestled inside Caesar’s Palace next to the Coliseum.

Onto Wednesday’s presentations, UNIVERSAL PICTURES begins their showings with my favorite creator Chris Meledandri who brings the question to animation of ‘what are our pets doing when we aren’t home?’ with SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2 with Kevin Hart as Snowball and Tiffany Haddish as the new pet Daisy. Both made their way onto the stage and Hart was immediately upstaged by a rabbit that seemed to have an agenda of his own.

Dennis Quaid and director Gail Mancuso brings a look with the next chapter of a dog we have all come to love with A DOG’S JOURNEY. Quaid says of the film and the story that, “magical things happen in our own backyard.” Director Mancuso believes that the film shows how we can transcend lifetimes.

Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions says, “In film – all sizes matter!” and with that introduces Justin Hartley and Emma Thompson in THE HUNT. Then, the audience goes wild when Octavia Spencer and director Tate Taylor bring us a sneak peek at her first shot at the horror genre with the film MA.

Will Packer Productions brings Regina Hall, Issa Rae, Marsai Martin and director Tina Gordon with a big film about LITTLE. 127 HOURS and T2 TRAINSPOTTING director Danny Boyle brings Lily James and Himesh Patel into a little story that has something to do with the Beatles and YESTERDAY.

Seth Rogen brings his boyish cast of Jacob Tremblay, Josh Caras, Brady Noon and Chance Murstfield and Keith L. Williams to crack the audience up with a look at GOOD BOYS. DREAMWORKS brings the adorable look to ABOMINABLE, a story about Everest who is a 2,000 year old Yeti living in China and the young girl Yee who helps him when he needs it the most!

FOCUS FEATURES has brought giddy to a whole new level for me personally as the film DOWNTON ABBEY brings back the entire cast from the Masterpiece hit television series of the same name from the small screen to the big one. Now, the Crawley family is about to have a royal guest and its all staff at the ready.

Emma Thompson and Henry Golding along with Emilia Clarke get ready to celebrate the holidays in the film LAST CHRISTMAS. Thompson makes her way to the stage to entertain us and has the cutest snort-laugh I’ve ever heard. Also slated for the theaters is QUEEN + SLIM with Lena Waith and the film 1917 where time is the enemy.

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham get the audience going with a sneak peek at their film Fast & Furious Presents: HOBBS & SHAW. These two are on the hunt to stop Idris Elba who plays Brixton, a genetically enhances villain who seems to be tickles by the two.

Finally, director Tom Hooper brings a Broadway sensation to the silver screen as Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson, Judy Dench, Ian McKellan, James Corden, Ray Winstone and Jennifer Hudson bring CATS. If that isn’t enough, Ms. Hudson enthralled the audience with her rendition of the song Memory. She was stunning and our collective breaths were being held from the first note to the last, just extraordinary.

DISNEY wasted no time in delighting the audience with the upcoming slate of Disney, Marvel, Blue Sky, Pixar, Fox Searchlight, 20th Century Fox, Disney Animation and Lucasfilms now that they are under one roof. The list is long with STUBER, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, BREAKTHROUGH, THE NEW MUTANTS, SPIES IN DISGUISE, FORD VS. FERRARI, TOLKIEN, CALL OF THE WILD, AD ASTRA and ARTEMIS FOWL.

Not to be forgotten is the highly anticipated sequel of Anna, Elsa and Hans with FROZEN II, the coming excitement of DARK PHOENIX and the out of this world excitement of AVENGERS: Endgame.

ALADDIN brings Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott and Will Smith bring live action to the 1992 animated favorite. Director Jon Favreau takes the jungle from animation to live action with THE LION KING. Finally, Angelina Jolie returns to take on new threats to Aurora and the beloved Moors with MALEFICENT: Mistress of Evil.

PIXAR is bringing back our favorite toys with Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Bo Peep, Trixie, Rex, Dolly and the newly created Forky in TOY STORY 4. After a look at what is to come, all I can say is bring your giggles, your friends, family and Kleenex.

AMAZON STUDIOS brings Emma Thompson (and we don’t mind that she’s everywhere!) and Mindy Kaling with their work with LATE NIGHT. Thompson plays a late night talk show host and Kaling is hired to be the only woman in an all male writers’ room. They work together to bring back failing ratings and we think only these two ladies can make that happen.

It’s THURSDAY and we can’t believe the final day of CinemaCon 2019. So much has happened that this write-up is only a fraction of it all. Beginning the morning with PARAMOUNT PICTURES who start the presentation off on the right note as Taron Egerton stars as Sir Elton John in the film ROCKETMAN. Egerton says, “We always felt we wanted to be reverent about the role. We wanted to tell a raw human story about a great man. Elton was hands-off really and wanted us to have fun with it.” We can say it’s going to be a good time at the movies!

Director Alexandre Aja brings a little creepy with Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario in the film CRAWL. Paramount in conjunction with Nickelodeon bring DORA & THE LOST CITY OF GOLD starring Eva Longoria and Michael Pena, LIMITED PARTNERS stars Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne as two friends who want to start their own business and when they do Selma Hayek wants to take it all.

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG brings live action to the screen as James Marsden and Ben Schwartz (who voices Sonic) fight off Dr. Ivo Robotnik played by Jim Carrey. Of course the audience practically lost its mind when Carrey walked across the stage with a huge tub of popcorn and an announcement that we all needed to see his Robotnik work in all its glory. Well, he wasn’t going to get any argument from anyone!

Carrey says of his role, “He is pure unbridled evil with a 300 IQ so I had to take a couple of weeks to prepare. I made sure that there were some winks, nods and edgy things that work for all age groups.”

I would hate to have been Jon Cena after Carrey’s popcorn fun with the audience as he follows to the stage with his film PALYING WITH FIRE. He gives it his best shot when saying, “This film is lit! It is the hottest film of the year! No other movie can hold a candle to it, you will not be able to extinguish it, it practically sizzles with excitement. Wait, the fire puns aren’t working. I thought you were going to love them but its not turning out like I thought. We are actually still filming but I came here today to tell you guys about it. The film has heart, comedy, great characters which make you think, laugh and cry.”

TERMINATOR: Dark Fate brings is directed by Tim Miller and stars Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Mackenzie Davis and sees the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton to reprise her role as Sarah Connor. Miller says of his cast, “I never knew that one day I would be continuing the story of these iconic characters. Even more so is that I get to do it the right way and this is a direct sequel to the movie that allowed me to bring back the original cast.”

Miller brings the cast of the film to the stage and Schwarzenegger takes the mic who says, “It’s really great to be back here and I want to thank Tim Miller and James Cameron for bringing us all back together again. I’m so excited about that. It all began in 1994 and changed my life. They cast has worked so hard and I am so proud of all the work they have put into this film. I’m so happy that Linda Hamilton is back, remember when she was in TERMINATOR 1 and 2 and doing pushups? Well, she’s back doing pushups again and I was blown away. It was like magic for James Cameron to come up with this story. I love this franchise but am bummed that I can’t do this forever so I can do this for another 20 or 30 years but that’s it, that’s all”.

Hamilton had to say, “Well it has been nearly 30 years since I last stepped into the shoes of Sarah Connor. She is a character that changed my life and I have to thank everyone for bringing me back into this world. This is an event I could not turn away from and I can’t wait to share this movie with all of you.”

 

GEMINI MAN is a film that brings Will Smith and Academy Award winner Ang Lee together to bring a story about a man who comes face to face with a younger clone of himself. Lee wanted to everyone to know that, “When you are a director and you can get Will Smith you should consider yourself lucky, in this case I get to work with two of them. Working with Smith over the last year I discovered that he is such a fine actor and this film shows that.”

At the CinemaCon 2019 Filmmakers Roundtable, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde, Anthony Russo and Dexter Fletcher share what it was like to see an audience watch their films. Russo says, “The only reason you make a movie is for the audience to see it. That’s been one of the great thrills for me. We have always been fed and fired by the audience reaction. You don’t know what you’ve created until you experience that.” Olivia Wilde says that it was, “One of the most terrifying experiences of my life. You never know how its going to go but the audience reaction was amazing.”

Fletcher says, “My first film was called WILD BILL that was a father and son story. They showed it to 16 year old kids and the feeling of their response was indescribable.” Banks says, “I made my first feature with PITCH PERFECT 2 and it’s very funny and very musical. When I took it to my first screening it was like a rock concert. I was throwing up in the back but the audience loved it. You always test and show it to people and make sure you are not insane before you put it in theatres. I knew the movie worked but I didn’t know it would be so well received as it was.”

To end the studio presentations before the award ceremony, LIONSGATE brings Joe Drake, Chairman of the MPG to talk about their upcoming slate of films. Beginning with LONG SHOT, Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron star in this comedy of fun that comes to theaters in a few weeks. David Harbour hits the stage to push his upcoming little film called HELLBOY.

Our collective lady hearts skip a beat when JOHN WICK: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is introduced by director Chad Stahelski. On hand to talk about the film is Halle Berry who says that she wanted so much to be a part of the franchise that she didn’t need to read the script. For once we might be in total agreement on her movie choices because John Wick is definitely our man if we ever need someone dealt with!

I STILL BELIEVE caters to the spiritual and faith-based films that have become popular in recent years. This film is about Jeremy Camp who deals with the death of his wife and through it comes to write the song by the same name.

Jamie Lee Curtis takes the stage and just when I thought she couldn’t be any funnier than she was last year pushing HALLOWEEN, she proved me wrong. The film is KNIVES OUT which is about a family that caught everyone’s attention. Also staring Daniel Craig, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Christopher Plummer and the ever amazing Michael Shannon, the film is directed by Rian Johnson and will be out later this year.

And just when you think you might have a moment to slip a dollar in the slot machine or grab a sandwich or a Starbucks…it’s time for the 2019 BIG SCREEN ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS with host Natalie Morales from Access Hollywood. Here are a list of the winners and their categories!

Male Star of Tomorrow:     Henry Golding

Female Stars of Tomorrow: Kaitlyn Dever & Beanie Feldstein

Directors of the Year: Anthony & Joe Russo

International Star of the Year: Kevin Hart

Breakthrough Director of the Year: Olivia Wilde

Action Star of the Year: David Harbour

CinemaCon Spotlight Award: Octavia Spencer

CinemaCon Ensemble Award: The cast of TERMINATOR: Dark Fate – Linda Hamilton, Natalia Reyes, Mackenzie David and Gabriel Luna.

Comedy Stars of the Year: Seth Rogen & Charlize Theron

CinemaCon Vanguard Award: Jamie Lee Curtis

 

There you have it! Four days of everything that Hollywood has to offer for this years CinemaCon 2019. Jenise aka Film Brat and I are always surprised at what we see and experience as well as who we meet and become reacquainted with. We love what we do in general but CinemaCon is our chance to dive into what we love morning, noon and night.

Now that you’ve had a look inside the slates of these remarkable studios, keep up to date with us at http://moviemaven.homestead.com for the reviews and so much more. It’s time to hope in the car and take the long drive home. We have so much to talk about that I don’t think five hours will be enough for us. Of course we are both willing to try.

Until then – see you next year from CinemaCon!

THE MUSTANG

MUSTANG cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to limited release from director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre and Focus Features comes a story of self-redemption with the help of THE MUSTANG.

Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) has been in prison for twelve years. Mainly keeping to himself in solitary, his temper flares in a second bringing him even more problems. Transferred to a new prison, he refuses to help anyone understand how to get through, not even daughter Martha (Gideon Adlon).

Outside the prison walls are horse stalls and a man named Myles (Bruce Dern) who teaches inmates how to prepare horses for sale. These are mustangs captured by the government and land management and all sale proceeds go back to them. At first Roman has no interested until he hears continual banging from a stall away from the corals.

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Then he comes face to face with a very angry mustang and Roman is captured in another way. Myles sees that there is something between the two and brings the convict into the prisons program. Put in the hands of inmate Elijah (Keith Johnson), Roman gets a lesson here and there about how to reach the untouchable horse.

Newly named Marcus, Roman works his new ward daily and something happens to them both. So much so that when daughter Martha comes to visit, Roman confesses what brought him to jail and hopes there can be something between father and daughter once again.

Roman has other worries as well when top inmate Dan (Josh Stewart) decides he wants something from his cell mate and is willing to hurt Martha to make that happen. Both Roman and Marcus become a mixture of emotions and just when they are in sync – one sudden jolt forces them both to come to terms with who they are and where they are meant to be.

It is all in how you define love and freedom!

Schoenaerts as Roman gives absolutely everything to this role. There is anger, confusion, heart, soul, rage, revenge, and confession – just a gambit of where he once was to where we meet him. Strong willed from the film’s beginning, Schoenaerts character is broken down slowly and surely by a beautiful animal that has so much in common with Roman. I could not take my eyes of this actor who portrays a man who slowly comes to terms with a mistake brought on by anger that just can’t seems to subside.

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Dern as Myles is a horse trainer who sees something click between Roman and Marcus. He puts a skittish faith and sees it pay off daily. Even when the unthinkable happens, Dern is strong in character and lends it to Roman when he needs it the most. Dern has always been on my list of amazing actors and it is satisfying to see him continue to jump in and lasso a role that suits him.

Aldon as Martha has just as much anger as her father but she is less physical about it. Instead hiding it in the way she speaks as bits of anger seep out with anger at being left alone growing up. Johnson as Elijah is very happy working with horses and takes a keen interest in seeing that Roman succeeds. The problem is that is outside the prison, what happens inside is something else.

Other cast include Jason Mitchell as Henry, Thomas Smittle as Tom, Noel Gugliemi as Roberto, George Schroeder as Officer Peters and Connie Britton as the Psychologist.

THE MUSTANG has a storyline that tugs every fiber of a being. From the beginning of the film and the horses are captured, it plants the seed of emotion wondering why these beautiful creatures can’t just be left alone. In that instant, the film becomes personal to watch.

It is personal in regards to the horses and everything after that. There is a mental encouragement that happens as the film goes on – encouraging the horse to let go of its anger but not let go of its spirit and encouraging Roman to stop hiding from the world. The final encouragement is that they both realize they are cut from the same universal cloth.

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There is also a constant shift in the film that takes the two steps forward and five steps back in both Roman and Marcus yet there is no way as the viewer to lose hope. Schoenaerts and the lovely mustang we know as Marcus invite us into a story that only the two of them can possibly tell.

The film is cinematically beautiful with the surrounding wilderness and plopped in its center is a brick building holding men. Between the wilderness and the prison is a place of hope that, at times, makes you forget about the other two worlds. Unfortunately, the other two worlds are very, very powerful.

In the end – they are both untamed souls and kindred spirits!

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS

Mary Queen cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming this Friday from director Josie Rourke and Focus Features is the story of a woman who would be more with MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS.

Mary (Saoirse Ronan) is returning to Scotland from France after the death of her husband King Francis. Taking up her crown as Queen of Scotland, she is met by her half-brother James (James McArdle) the Earl of Moray who doesn’t seem pleased to see her.

He isn’t the only one as John Knox (David Tennant) makes it very clear that he isn’t about to change faiths to accommodate her. Mary makes it very clear that he his council is no longer welcome at her court. James tries to tell Mary that she has started something that could hurt her along the way.

The one thing Mary wants is to seal any breach with her cousin Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie). Elizabeth is being told repeatedly by her advisor William Cecil (Guy Pearce) that Mary is a danger and only wants to take the throne. Trying to find a middle ground, Elizabeth suggests that Mary marry an Englishman and offers up her own lover Robert Dudley (Joe Alwyn). Mary has other plans and marries Lord Darnley (Jack Lowden).

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Realizing she may have made a mistake, the only way to solidify her position is by having a child before Elizabeth. When she has a son, it changes her feelings and she shares with Elizabeth asking her to be the child’s godmother. Elizabeth believes that this may just be the tie that binds the two women.

Mary is having a difficult time as well when Darnley has no problem showing his disregard for her position as Queen. When her own council tries to take the throne, Darnley is talked into being part of the conspiracy. Intrigue continues to plague Mary as the men around her lay claim, force marriages and don’t understand the fierceness of the Queen.

Seeing one last hope, Mary asks to meet with her sister-cousin Elizabeth in hopes to get support in fighting back those who would take the Scottish throne. Although Elizabeth feels for her cousin, it becomes clear to Mary that she may be at the end of her reign.

Two queens who want the same thing in different ways.

Ronan as Mary is remarkable but then again she is a remarkable actress. The first movie I ever saw her in was the intense and emotionally draining film ATONEMENT followed by the equally intense film THE LOVELY BONES. Since then nothing has stopped her from honing her craft in every way possible and with characters that have obviously taught her more and more about choosing roles and defining who she is as an actress. MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS is another example of why I will see every piece of filmmaking she is in – always. This is a character driven by a woman up against men who see her as a trophy to be one and then disguarded because she is, after all, only a woman. Well done Ronan, well done!

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Robbie as Elizabeth doesn’t hesitate to put every little bit of her Queen out there – from her lovers, illness and inability to be told who to marry and what children to have. Robbie presents a strong force of a woman that shows moments of private struggle but when push comes to shove Robbie helps Elizabeth straightens her spine and her crown. The scene between the two queens is one of the most poignant and double-edged I have seen in a while on film.

McArdle as James is clearly a man who has been led by the nose at the hands of the council and happily so until Mary comes back. Then his little hurt feelings are put out for all to see and he wants justice for it all. McArdle is an actor on a mission and playing the role of a spurned brother isn’t easy. Lowden as Lord Darnley is just another man in Mary’s life that believes he is owed something at the cost of everything else. Tennant as Knox is a religious zealot who barks a good game hoping others will do the fighting for him.

Pearce as Cecil is a part of the pack on the other side of the pond who wants what he wants and thinks whispering in Elizabeth’s ear means he will get it. Alwyn as Dudley is a man who love Elizabeth the woman but takes orders from Elizabeth the Queen. Not easy being told to go be your enemy’s husband and Dudley is only saved by Mary’s hot headedness.

Other cast include Gemma Chan as Elizabeth Hardwick, Brendan Coyle as Matthew Stewart, Ian Hart as Lord Maitland, Adrian Lester as Lord Randolph, Maria-Victoria Dragus as Mary Fleming, Alex Beckett as Walter Mildmay, Ismael Cordova as David Rizzio and Simon Russell as Robert Beale.

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS is a film about two women in a man’s era fighting for their crowns. They should never have had to make that choice between the two of them but with so many men whispering in their ears, I don’t know how they lasted as long as they did with each other.

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Mary clearly didn’t know what Elizabeth did and that is you practically have to give up being a woman to hold onto the throne. Clearly having more time to learn that lesson than Mary, Elizabeth wanted to embrace their sisterhood-of-crowns but hard headedness got in both of their ways.

The film is beautifully done and the costuming is breathtaking. I have a weakness for period piece films and when they are done as well as MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, well I can’t help but find no fault in it.

There have been other films that have touched on the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth, and even a television show called Reign that gave viewers a glimpse of her life in France. MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS is a look at what happened once she left France and before the infamous and shocking red dress. From a young woman married to a French king to becoming a widow and returning queen of her own country – there is nothing about her life that is easy or without intrigue and betrayal.

In the end – bow to no one!

THE LITTLE STRANGER

The Little Stranger cover

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this Friday from director Lenny Abrahamson and Focus Features comes a story of twists and ghost with THE LITTLE STRANGER.

Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) is the local town doctor who has a strange affinity for a place called Hundreds Hall. His mother was a housemaid in the employment of the Ayres family when Faraday was a child. Now, it is 1948 and the Ayres family calls upon Dr. Faraday to take care of one of their own.

Arriving at Hundreds Hall, he meets Roderick Ayres (Will Poulter) who was hurt in the war and still suffers horribly. Roderick tells Faraday that he keeps the family books and is responsible for making sure there is a family income – even if it means selling parcels of Hundreds Hall. Sister Caroline (Ruth Wilson) wants to help her brother and when it is suggested that there might be new methods to help, she is on board. Mrs. Ayres (Charlotte Rampling) still keeps airs about the hall that was once a beacon of another time.

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Also in Hundreds Hall is something eerie that Roderick seems to be keenly aware that something resides in their home. No one listens believing that it is part of Roderick’s state of being and after an incident; Faraday believes it is in the best interest to send him away.

In the meantime, Faraday strikes up a relationship with Caroline seeking a kindred spirit. They are both needing moments away from Hundreds Hall and their talks are something both look forward too. Faraday begins to see that he is needed at Hundreds Hall to keep Mrs. Ayers and his beloved Caroline safe from what ever lurks in the shadows.

Slowly, the relationships begin to become strained and change because everyone has their own fears and secrets which are about to change the destiny of them all.

Gleeson as Faraday once again proves why he grows more and more bold about the roles he takes. Becoming widely known as Bill Weasley with the HARRY POTTER franchise, his career began ten years earlier in the television series Rebel Heart. In the following years he has put his stamp on such films as CALVARY, UNBROKEN, EX MACHINA, THE REVENANT and taking on the role of General Hux in STAR WARS: The Last Jedi. I have come really enjoy each and every thing he does from drama to comedy and everything in between. Here, Gleeson as Faraday is staunch, gripping and isn’t going to let anybody in on anything – not for any frame of the film. All of it is a set up for a great conversation after the film.

Wilson as Caroline is a young woman who seems to be a fixture in Hundreds Hall instead of a resident. Clearly dealing with family issues and secrets of her own, Wilson gives her character vulnerability wrapped up in a front that is almost as crumbly as the walls surrounding her. Wilson was recently seen in the drama The Affair and in THE LITTLE STRANGER has the same stoic appearance and ability to hide within herself. The film also puts Wilson and Gleeson together again as they both can be seen in the 2012 film ANNA KARENINA.

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Poulter as Roderick is absolutely stunning and I mean stunning in his role. He completely captured my attention and although the role might not be a large one, its impact caught me. Yes, the role is that of a disfigured person but Poulter could have put a bag over his head and I’d have loved his portrayal of Roderick.

Now, Ms. Rampling as Mrs. Ayers – I am a huge fan of Ms. Rampling’s and to see her in this role just reminds me (as if I needed it) that she is a jewel that only remains bright. I find her to be amazing and riveting to watch and in THE LITTLE STRANGER she reinforces my belief that the actresses I grew up admiring deserve every bit of it.

Other cast include Kate Phillips as Diana Baker-Hyde, Anna Madeley as Anne Granger, Camilla Arfwedson as Young Mrs. Ayers, Dixie Egerickx as Gillian Baker-Hyde, Amy Marston as Mrs. Blundell, Sarah Crowden as Miss Dabney and Loren MacFadyen as Dr. Calder

THE LITTLE STRANGER is a slow moving film but has all the nuances of a genre that wants to invest in your time. There is no hurry in bringing you along for the ride because it is 1948 in an era that has a lot of secrets in a society that prides itself on those secrets.

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Surrounded by the walls of Hundreds Hall, the characters play out family secrets, pains best kept unspoken and realities that each of them don’t want to face. There is time to get to know each character yet with the time restrains you feel as if you have to believe what’s being told – even though there is an itch that says not to.

I love that about this film as well as the cinematography, the era clothing, cars and attitudes that play into the storytelling. Of course I am a little partial to films like THE LITTLE STRANGER in that I don’t want to know everything because it takes away from the great after film chats that I get into.

In the end – from small acorns dark mysteries grow!

TULLY is an Amazing and Relatable Story

Tully

 

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman along with Focus Features is the stunning story with TULLY.

Marlo (Charlize Theron) is a pregnant mother of two making it one day at a time. Taking care of eight year old Sarah (Lia Frankland) and six year old Jonah (Asher Fallica) is taking it’s toll. Jonah also needs special attention and Marlo is immediately informed that perhaps her son needs a different school.

Husband Drew (Ron Livingston) does a lot of traveling on business and not noticing that Marlo is starting to feel the stress of – well – everything. Craig (Mark Duplass) is Marlo’s brother who is well off and sees that his sister is not herself. As a well-meaning gift, he has paid for a night-nanny so that she can get some rest.

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Having the baby seems to make Marlo even more tired and out of sorts. She finally agrees to have a night-nanny and meets Tully (Mackenzie Davis). A little on edge at first, one night of sleep and waking up to a clean house gives life a brighter outlook thanks to Tully.

There is so much more to this young life saver as Marlo begins to find a friend who comes to her home every night and just listens. They talk, laugh and try to figure out this complexities of life. Tully becomes Marlo’s life cheerleader of sorts and she starts to find her way back to the family and Drew.

But there comes a time when Tully explains to Marlo that she must be moving on. Dismayed and confused, Marlo is caught up in what she will do next – and that’s when a realization hits her like a car into a tree.

Life is like that sometimes.

Theron as Marlo is absolutely incredible and shows us once again why she is an iconic actress who can bring a character such depth. Last year we saw her as a total badass in ATOMIC BLONDE and here she is, 50 lbs. heavier, playing a woman more than a few of us can relate to. Hair a mess, dropping off kids here and there, breastfeeding, going to school functions and meetings, making dinner, trying to keep house and forgetting what it’s like to be desirable to a husband, the character of Marlo is so much deeper. I love every second of this film.

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Davis as Tully is energetic, wild, lovely and sees the world as many of us either can’t remember anymore or do but won’t admit it to ourselves. From the moment this character steps into Marlo’s life, Davis brings everything she has and does so with an ease that is remarkable. The final scene between Tully and Marlo proves my point on so many levels so be prepared for tissue time!

Livingston as Drew is a husband who just wants to keep things status quo. He loves being a husband and a dad but has disconnected in ways that he doesn’t know how to fix. Duplass as Craig is a brother who seems unaware that inviting his sister over to his very wealthy surroundings doesn’t help matters much. In the midst of that it is clear that he loves his sister very much.

Frankland as Sara is smarter than her young years and she knows that something isn’t quite right at home. Fallica as Jonah is a young boy who is trying to find his place and I personally think he is smarter than given credit for.

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Other cast includes Elaine Tran as Elyse, Maddie Dixon-Poirier as Emmy, Colleen Wheeler as Dr. Smythe, Joshua Pak as Dallas, Gameela Wright as Laurie and Bella Star Choy as Greta.

TULLY is a film that is going to blow people away, absolutely drop jaws. This film runs the emotional course that, as a mother, I totally felt every bit of her predicament. The emotions portrayed here are done in a way that is funny, head smacking and heart breaking.

Diablo Cody has once again written a script that is real, solid and life capturing. Director Reitman takes that script and brings the only woman I can imagine being Marlo and letting her run with the story.

This is a tale of a life that is messy, unpredictable, regretful and not regretful, disconnected and yet it all makes sense squished together to bring a beauty that I will not soon forget. TULLY is the kind of film that I miss seeing and hope Ms. Cody won’t wait so long to write another script about life and what we do with it.

In the end – this is how the mother half lives!

Las Vegas Once Again Hosts CINEMACON 2018

Cinemacon 2018

Jeri Jacquin

Every year I look forward to one of the most amazing events that the city of Las Vegas hosts and this year was no exception as CINEMACON 2018 brings the best in what the studios have to offer theater owners.

CINEMACON is a fascinating gathering of people who have the chance to be a part of what is up and coming by seeing the trade show and demonstrations of all things that make their way into theatres. From the latest innovations in theater sound to the eye catching and stunning capabilities of the next generation of projection equipment, CINEMACON is a feast for those of us who love everything that goes behind and in front of the big screen.

Also part of CINEMACON is the anticipated presentations by the studios that come each year to share with theater owners what will be coming by way of entertainment for movie lovers of all kinds. For four days, the excitement builds with each presentation and the studios do not disappoint.

VENOM

The studios of SONY begins the four day event with their slate of films that include SUPERFLY with Trevor Jackson and Jason Mitchell, SICARIO: Day of the Soldado with Benicio Del Toro, THE EQUALIZER 2, WHITE BOY RICK with Matthew McConaughey and Jeff Robinov, the highly anticipated VENOM with Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams, THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB with the Queen herself Claire Foy and Fede Alvarez, SPIDER-MAN: Into the Spider-Verse, HOLMES AND WATSON with the beloved Will Ferrell breaking out into song and finally, MISS BALA with Gina Rodriguez and Anthony Mackie due in theaters January 25, 2019.

On day two, Disney brings in their line up that includes many live action stories. Also celebrating the 10 year anniversary for Marvel Studios beginning with IRON MAN, it is 14.8 billion dollars later and here we are with AVENGERS: Infinity War. Also coming to theaters is ANT MAN and the WASP bringing Paul Rudd back to his tiny role in a huge film. Disney also announced that Brie Larson is the new CAPTAIN MARVEL with a story set in the 90’s and will be on the big screen in March 2019.

The live action CHRISTOPHER ROBIN stars Ewan McGregor as Christopher all grown up and forgetting what it is like to be a child but with the help of some old friends he might just remember once again. THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS brings McKenzie Foy of TWILIGHT fame now playing Clara. Rounding out the cast is Morgan Freeman, Kiera Knightely and Helen Mirren.

This December is the return of a beloved nanny as Emily Blunt dons the cap and umbrella for MARY POPPINS RETURNS. Jane and Michael are now grown and seem to be in need of help that only Mary Poppins can provide. Look to see a few familiar faces in the cast as well as we all travel once again to the house on Cherry Tree Lane!

Tim Burton is bringing a live action DUMBO to the 2019 Disney slate starring Danny DeVito, Michael Keaton, Colin Farrell and Eva Green among others to tell the story of an elephant who can fly. ALADDIN is Guy Ritchie’s vision of the live action story of a peasant from Agraba who meets a princess looking for more excitement in her life and Will Smith is the Genie.

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From Pixar and Disney Animation comes the one film I have been waiting for. Writer and director Brad Bird brings a family of supers back to fight for us all once again as INCREDIBLES 2 will fill theater seats this summer on June 15. Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson returns as Frozone! Wait until you see what Jack-Jack has been up to!

WRECK IT RALPH 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet comes swinging into theaters for the whole family this fall and you can be sure that the story will be as epic as the first.

Lucas Films brings the next film with the anticipated SOLO: A Star Wars Story this May. Ron Howard along with Lawrence and John Kasdan bring the story of our favorite scruffy-looking-nerf-herder to life. Hopefully we will get all the answers to Han Solo’s life and with Ron Howard at the helm I am absolutely looking forward to the film.

The future of Disney includes director Kenneth Branagh’s telling of the Eoin Coifer book ARTEMIS FOWL starring Dame Judy Dench, Josh Gad and Lara McDonnell. Anna and Elsa return in FROZEN 2 in the fall of 2019 and finally THE LION KING will bring the return of James Earl Jones as Mufasa to this live action film.

WARNER BROS. pictures bring Will Arnett out to introduce their coming films starting with AQUAMAN as Jason Mamoa, Amber Heard and Patrick Wilson join director James Wan to talk about the underwater thrill ride to come. Also announced is the coming of SHAZAM and the next installment of WONDER WOMAN.

Melissa McCarthy

Melissa McCarthy is set to be the LIFE OF THE PARTY hitting theaters May 11th, OCEANS 8 brings its bevy of beauties with Sandra Bullock at the helm, TAG has Ed Helm, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Jake Johnson and Hannibal Buress playing the adult version of the game and Jason Statham prepares for what swims big in the water with THE MEG. If frights are what you are looking for then this fall beware of THE NUN or perhaps you’d like something a little more clownish with the return of IT: Chapter 2 due in theaters September 2019.

In animation, Arnett was more than happy to talk about the upcoming TEEN TITAN GO! TO THE MOVIES and for more animated fun, Channing Tatum, Zendaya and Common bring SMALL FOOT to families.

CRAZY RICH ASIANS is a film based on the best selling novel and it proves that perspective mother-in-laws are pretty much the same all over the world. Andy Serkis brings the live action story of MOWGLI with the voices of Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch and Matthew Rhys. Bradley Cooper retells A STAR IS BORN starring himself and Lady GaGa.

FANTASTIC BEASTS: The Crimes of Grindelwald starring Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law and Johnny Depp is going to make the month of November one of the most anticipated. Newt Scamander is back at Hogwarts and once again there is trouble afoot in the wizarding world. That’s all I need to say because the line around the theater is going to be endless!

The studio STX brings Chairman Adam Fogelson center stage to introduce a film I am excited to see with ADRIFT starring Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin coming this June. On the water two people in love find that the elements aren’t always on their side. PEPPERMIND with Jennifer Garner is about a Mother who refuses to see injustice go unpunished, SECOND ACT has Jennifer Lopez back on the screen as a woman looking to change her life one more time.

BRADLEY COOPER

My granddaughter is thrilled to know that UGLY DOLLS will be making its debut May of 2019 and Melissa McCarthy with husband Ben Falcone are part of the human-puppet experience with the HAPPY TIME MURDERS.

Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg are together again bringing Lauren Cohan and Ronda Rousey along for the action thriller MILE 22. It is clear that Wahlberg and Berg have a partnership that makes for fantastic story telling as they succeeded in showing us just that with last years films DEEPWATER HORIZON and PATRIOTS DAY.

Entertainment Studios will be bringing the animated feature ANIMAL CRACKERS to the entire family voiced by John Krazinski, Emily Blunt, Danny DeVito and Sylvester Stallone. Also GOD BLESS THIS BROKEN ROAD and BOSS LEVEL with Mel Gibson. Finally, the return of a guilty pleasure as the sharks have another go at 47 METERS DOWN 2.

UNIVERSAL PICTURES brings Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish together for a little NIGHT SCHOOL. Hart also says he will be returning as Snowball in SNOWBALL: THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2. Founder of Illumination Chris Meledandri promises the return of our favorite overhaul wearing little people in MINIONS RETURN and another SING film. Benedict Cumberbatch will be the voice of THE GRINCH in this telling of his life again.

Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy and director Damien Chazelle bring the story of Neil Armstrong in the film FIRST MAN. Jack Black, Eli Roth and Cate Blanchett bring the Amblin Entertainment film THE HOUSE WITH THE CLOCK IN ITS WALLS. It looks to be quite the story! Director Gerard McMurray return to bring another Fourth of July chapter of THE FIRST PURGE. Peter Jackson brings his next epic story with MORTAL ENGINES this December.

Laurie Strode is back forty years later as Michael Meyers isn’t quite done with Haddonfield in HALLOWEEN. Jamie Lee Curtis says the film is ‘hella scary’ with the promise that it will scare us all beyond belief. Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan is bringing Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and James McAvoy together for a final showdown in the film GLASS. Jackson is fairly thrilled that he finally has a film names after his character.

For Toothless fans out there of which I’m sure there are many, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: The Hidden World will be dazzling us with all things dragon from DreamWorks in March of 2019.

Dwayne Johnson brings another high intensity action film reminding us all what fun those can be in a theater with SKYSCRAPER. He says that SKYSCRAPER will be an experience that audiences will remember and also says that when fans love it, “I’m going to take complete credit” in a joking way that only Johnson can do.

MAMA MIA

MAMA MIA! Here We Go Again brings the sites of the Greek Isles along with the music of Abba in this next installment. The story brings Sophie, played by Amanda Seyfried, on a journey to learn about her mother Donna in her younger years played by Lily James. Mixing the present with the past, MAMA MIA! Here We Go Again will have audiences cheering once again as well. I will admit I went full on squeal-fan when Cher came to the Colusseum stage and performed the Abba song Fernando. It was an experience that the audience will never forget – ever!

Finally, JURASSIC WORLD: Fallen Kingdom brings Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard center stage to talk about the film. Pratt promises that it is going to be a good summer but I have to say that anytime dinosaurs are around, it’s going to be epic! I’m sort of thrilled that Blue comes back in this film; I always like a dinosaur that makes that kind of impact in a film.

Focus Features brings Charlize Theron in a film that I know should be seen by any woman who gets the chaos of family life in the film TULLY. I absolutely love this film. Also coming from the studio is POPE FRANCIS: A Man of His Word and a film about a man we all know as Mr. Rogers in WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR.

Domhnall Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Ruth Wilson and Will Poulter star in THE LITTLE STRANGER and Rowan Atkinson is back with JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN. Felicity Jones and Mimi Leder talk ON THE BASIS OF SEX as Ms. Jones compares her character to Rocky! Joel Edgerton and Lucas Hedges star in BOY ERASED. Finally, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie are two fierce queens in the film MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS. I personally am looking so forward to seeing these two actresses go all out regal.

Paramount Pictures brings it’s slate and talent beginning with Hailee Steinfelt and John Cena in BUMBLEBEE directed by Travis Knight. His resume is pretty impressive with the films CORALINE, BOXTROLLS, PARANORMAN and my favorite KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS.

THE BOOK CLUB

When these four women come to the stage, you know the film has got to be epic! Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen and Diane Keaton are lovely ladies deciding if there are more chapters to their lives in THE BOOKCLUB. Also coming from Paramount is the film ELI, DORA THE EXPLORER and ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?

Taraji P. Henson thinks she knows WHAT MEN WANT, director Sean Anders brings Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne together to make an INSTANT FAMILY, Will Smith is the GEMINI MAN and Linda Hamilton along with Arnold Schwarzenegger return for another TERMINATOR. In animation there is WONDER PARK with Ken Jeong and Mila Kunis, MONSTER ON THE HILL, LUCK, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG and THE SPONGE BOB SQUARE PANTS MOVIE: The Wonderful Sponge.

Also in the works from Paramount Pictures is TOP GUN 2, PET CEMETARY, and ACTION POINT with Johnny Knoxville as an amusement park owner with a business that is disturbingly amusing! Also J.J. Abrams brings the first R-rated film from the company Bad Robot with the title of OVERLORD. Abrams calls the film ‘batsh*t crazy!’

Tom Cruise is back with Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: Fallout. Also, Cruise received the PIONEER OF THE YEAR Award at a dinner.

deadpool

20th Century Fox knows how to start out a presentation as dancers with the Deadpool theme give the audience a morning of song and dance, Chris Aronson get caught between the sheets because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. ALITA: Battle Angel is a James Cameron and Jon Landau works with director Robert Rodriguez. The director says that his process is keeping the heart and soul of his protagonist keeping her strong and relatable.

THE HATE U GIVE and THE DARKEST MINDS bring the YA film genre front and center. BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE stars Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth and Dakota Johnson in an eerie tale that I have just got to see. WIDOWS brings together four women and the only thing they have in common is death and debt starring Viola Davis.

THE PREDATOR is back in the hands of director Shake Black starring Olivia Munn and Sterling K. Brown. Rami Malek has a chance to bring back one of the most iconic performers in music history as Freddy Mercury in BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY.

Amazon Studios brings their slate and the story of John Callahan as Joaquin Phoenix, Jack Black and Jonah Hill bring Gus Van Sant together for DON’T WORRY HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT. The documentary GENERATION WEALTH might have a few people’s jaws dropping as director Lauren Greenfield surmises that ‘No matter how much people have, they want more’ PETERLOO brings a story of the 1819 massacre by British forces against a peaceful pro-democracy rally in Manchester.

Also, Pawel Pawlikowski’s work COLD WAR, Rosamund Pike as Madame Curie in RADIOACTIVE, PHOTOGRAPH, Viola Davis and Allison Janney in TROUPE ZERO, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones in THE AERONAUTS, and Luca Gudagnino’s retelling of SUSPIRIA starring Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson. Steve Carell and Timothy Chalamet bring director Felix Van Groeningen’s story of a troubled but BEAUTIFUL BOY.

rami malek

The final presentation of CINEMACON 2018 is Lionsgate’s offering beginning with UNCLE DREW starring Lil Rel, Tiffany Haddish and Shaq, BLINDSPOTTING, Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon in THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME, KIN starring Dennis Quaid and James Franco, HELL FEST, A SIMPLE FAVOR and the retelling of OVERBOARD with Ana Faris and Eugenio Derbez.

It was an adventurous, exciting, enlightening, fun and entertaining four days of CINEMACON 2018 and I expect no less. Every year the gathering of industry and theater owners brings so much that it really is a whirl wind to experience it all. I’d like to thank everyone responsible for putting this convention together for all their hard work and dedication to making the yearly trek into the desert something to always look forward to.

Every year I have the opportunity to see amazing friends I have made over the years and meet new people who bring ideas, creativity and technology all wrapped up in entertainment.

There are so many films coming this year and a slew more in 2019! We will be in the seats to see them all because that is where great experiences and great adventures are meant to be seen – in your local theater! Enjoy it all with a huge tub of popcorn and an ice cold beverage with your friends, family or just a big theater full of people who go to the movies for the same reason you do!

See you in 2019!

VICTORIA & ABDUL is Perfection on Stunning Bluray!

Victoria and Abdul

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray/DVD and Digital from director Stephen Frears, Focus Features and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is the story of an unlikely friendship between VICTORIA & ABDUL.

Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) is a clerk in a prison in India and his life is about to change. Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) is to be given a tribute coin and Abdul is the tall man for the job. Along with a shorter Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar), they sale toward England and Abdul is very excited.

There is no time for looking around much as Abdul and Mohammed are given a crash course on how to present to the Queen. Sir Henry Ponsonby (Tim Pigott-Smith) lets the two men know that everything is to be precise and quickly.

During the dinner, Abdul and Mohammed make their way toward Queen Victoria and after a quick nap the presentation is made. Walking backwards, Abdul does the unthinkable and makes eye contact and gives a smile to the Queen and what turns into one moment becomes an unlikely friendship.

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Much to the horror of Sir Ponsonby and Lord Salisbury (Michael Gambon) as well as her ladies Lady Churchill (Olivia Williams) and Miss Phipps (Fenella Woolgar), the Queen begins to prefer the company of Abdul. They inform the Queen’s son Bertie (Eddie Izzard) and a plan is formed.

Queen Victoria asks Abdul about his land, language and his story as they share walks and private times. It is clear that Abdul cares very much for the Queen and she for him, especially discovering he is married and demanding he get his family and return. That doesn’t stop the Queen’s staff, along with Dr. Reid (Paul Higgins), from looking into Abdul’s past. Believing they can stop him with what they know, it only manages to infuriate the Queen in Abdul’s favor.

Including a knighthood which sends the entire palace into a tizzy and a decision that will not only put their loyalty in question but show how Queen Victoria wasn’t napping any longer.

This is a friendship that is filled with understanding, forgiveness and even unspoken love.

Dench as Victoria once again proves why she is a queen in her own right. She is smart, strong, delicate, wistful and a woman who sees so little to move forward for. Once the Queen’s inner light is ignited, Dench shines every moment of the film. I quite honestly could not take my eyes off her performance and the ending brought me to tears.

Karim as Fazal is a man who doesn’t see the world in such an aggressive way as those around him. A simple jail clerk who happens to know how to write is sent across the world to do one simple thing and it turns into a friendship. Fazal delivers his lines with the innocence I see in Abdul in that how one sees the world is clearly different than the Queen. There are moments where he is clearly confused, moments of profound joy and deep sadness and Fazal gets every drop of emotion out of the audience who is just as enraptured as the Queen.

Vic 3

Izzard as Bertie is just the worst that a son could possible be. Instead of being happy for the emotional reviving of his mother, he sees Abdul as an interloper and acts like a spoiled child instead of a future ruler. Izzard just pours it on and gets the reaction he wants!

Akhtar as Mohammed just wants to go home, and when he sees that the Prince and others want to use that against his friend Abdul – his response is epic! Pigott-Smith as Ponsonby is confused by the relationship between the Queen and Abdul but at the same time has a faithfulness to the way things ought to be done. Higgins as Dr. Reid is just another lackey who isn’t happy about Abdul’s presence and finds himself faced with the wrath of the Queen. Gambon as Salisbury wants one thing only – for Abdul to be gone and the crown to go back to normal.

Williams as Lady Churchill isn’t happy to have the Queen’s ear and convinces Miss Phipps to do the extortion deed. Woolgar as Phipps has a moment in front of the Queen that is nerve wracking to watch but awesome to experience.

Other cast include Julian Wadham as Alick Yorke, Robin Soans as Arthur Bigge, Ruth McCabe as Mrs. Tuck, Sukh Ojla as Mrs. Karim, Kemaal Deen-Ellis as Ahmed and Simon Callow as Puccini.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has just added an amazing film to their library and making it available for us all to experience and re-experience in our own home theatres. There are films of every genre available from scary to drama to family films. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.uphe.com.

The Bluray includes the Bonus Features of Judi & Ali and The Look of Victoria & Abdul. Included in the pack, DVD and Digital HD along with theatre quality sound. The Digital means you can enjoy VICTORIA & ABDUL on television, computer, Tablet and Smartphone!

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VICTORIA & ABDUL is absolutely Oscar worthy in every sense. There is nothing about this film that goes wrong with me. The story between Queen Victoria and Abdul is delightful, funny, testing, sad, misunderstood and heartbreaking.

Mixed in with that is the ugliness of those around the Queen with their jabbing, back biting, underhanded, and horrible treatment of Abdul and Mohammed. Instead of embracing the cultural differences of these two men, they found ways to cut them to the quick – and right to their face in some cases.

The cinematography is amazing and it is a period piece which is going to grab me from the word go. I absolutely adore the costuming which is always an important part of a period piece because it adds such a richness to the storytelling.

I’m warning anyone who sees this film on Bluray to keep a Kleenex handy because for the ending you are going to need it. The chemistry between Dench and Fazal is everything I wanted for this story to be told – thank you both for making me laugh, smile and shed a tear.

In the end – an extraordinary true story of a queen and her new best friend!

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