Coming to theatres and On Demand from writer/director Dan Krauss and A24 are events of war and the effects caused by THE KILL TEAM.
Andrew Briggman (Nat Wolff) is a young man who joins the military and immediately send to the Middle East. Settling into camp, he tries to learn the ropes from the other soldiers. His first experience with the seriousness of their work is when their leader Weppler (Osy Ikhile) is killed. The group tries to come together as the new leader Sgt. Deeks (Alexander Skarsgard) walks in with confidence.
Deeks makes it very clear what he expects from the men under him and even treats them to a cookout. He also takes Briggman under his wing a little and encourages him to be more forward in his soldiering. The young soldier appreciates the attention and begins to find his way and becomes more inclusive with the platoon.
Out on a mission, Briggman remembers what Weppler told him about ‘hearts and minds’ but Deeks doesn’t agree with this approach. In fact, while out on patrol, he witnesses something that he knows is frighteningly wrong. Unsure of what to do, Briggman reaches out to his father William (Rob Morrow) who tells his son to stand fast using his military contacts to find help.
As word begins to spread that there could be a rat in the ranks, Briggman watches everyone including Deeks for signs of danger. The days become more difficult to handle as the others start weeding out who could be the person turning on them all.
Every move brings him to a decision that will cost everyone!
Wolff as Briggman is a young man who comes from a military family and sees himself as doing his duty to country. Not as tough as some of the other soldiers he is with means if someone is going to be made to feel the outcast it is Briggman. Wolff brings a believable naivetés to his character that is shattered quickly and his reaction is fear. From beginning to the end of the film I felt with Briggman every step of the way (including feeling a big paranoid) and all of the emotions means Wolff delivers.
Skarsgard as Deeks is charming and disarming at the same time. Coming off as ‘one of the guys’ is perfect for a predator of his calibre. Of course I know Skarsgard can play a villain because I’ve seen him do it as a vampire in the HBO series True Blood, but this isn’t the same by any means. In THE KILL TEAM, he uses war and the innocence of these young soldiers to fulfill his own nasty need for destruction. Despicable yes, well portrayed – absolutely.
Morrow as William Briggman is a father who just wants his son to come home alive without physical harm or emotional scars. When his son reaches out, Dad does what dad’s do, try to fix a problem before it becomes bigger than a problem.
Other cast include Anna Francolini as Laura, Oliver Ritchie as Cappy, Brian Marc as Marquez, Jonathan Whitesell as Coombs, Adam Long as Rayburn and Ian Attard as Captain Weaver.
THE KILL TEAM is a difficult film because the idea presented is one that people have thought about but never talk openly about. War brings about actions that otherwise wouldn’t be a part of a person’s behaviors in everyday life. Not just in the recent wars but wars throughout history people have done things to one another that aren’t spoken of in ‘polite society’.
Not so much in recent years as PTSD has become prevalent in our world and with that come the stories (and even photographs/video with our technology now) that show what the men/women of the armed services endure. The leader in this film, Deeks, is supposedly one of their own that is trusted to do his job and protect his soldiers is the disturbing part. Instead he is a man that betrays that trust and does the unthinkable.
Briggman is a character but not so far removed from all the young soldiers who join the military. When the trust of a leader is betrayed, the fear is just another thing that can get one killed. Anyone in the military or family of those in the military will experience this film in a more difficult way because having a service member in the family is already difficult enough. The choices they make as soldiers is one most of us will never have to make and the film portrays that as well.
The entire film is on an emotional roller coaster for the viewer but at the same time will have the same viewer writing up a mental list of questions. That’s where the conversations come into play that need to be had regarding the realities of war. Of course my father and grandfather came from a generation where what happened in war was never discussed but that is no longer the case and, in fact, they are now speaking out for their own mental health.
In the years to come this will not be the only time we hear and see a story of this kind as writer/director Krauss gives us a based on a true story, in-depth look at a few good men brought to many bad (and sad) behaviors.
In the end – they are soldiers, brothers and enemies.
Currently on Amazon Prime is the first season of an original mystery and fantasy along CARNIVAL ROW.
Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne) is a fae who has escaped from an attack on her homeland from the Pact. Finding her way to a ship, a storm then sinks it and she is the sole survivor. The ship belongs to Ezra Spurnrose (Andrew Gower) and seeing Vignette as an indentured servant on the ship expects her to now work in his home as a maid. Knowing she must survive in this new place, Vignette visits Carnival Row and finds Tourmaline (Karla Crome). They have so much to catch up on but the biggest surprise is discovering that the man she loves, Philo (Orlando Bloom) is actually alive. Living the past seven years believing he was dead, Vignette is shocked and angry.
Philo is investigating the recent attacks on what are known as fae-folk as a police inspector. Aisling is one of the fae that is murdered and Philo continues to follow the clues. Taking it step by step he talks to everyone involved with the victims only to come up against a man warning him that a creature he calls the “dark-god” is responsible. If that isn’t freaky enough, Vignette makes herself known to Philo and she does so with a vengeance. She doesn’t understand how he could have gone all this time letting her suffer thinking she had lost him and Philo has no answers for her.
Spurnrose lives in the richer part of town with his sister Imogen (Tamzin Merchant) and both are horrified to learn that their new neighbor Agreus (David Gyasi) is a faun which is unacceptable to them. It is considered ridiculous that a creature would try to make his way into society. When Spurnrose finally confides in Imogen that their finances aren’t what they should be, a deal is struck with Agreus – his backing for a new ship for introduction into high society. Imogen agrees to make that happen.
The Chancellor Absalom Breakspear (Jared Harris) is trying to keep the peace in the city along with his wife Piety (Indira Varma) and son Jonah (Arty Froushan). He knows something is going on and advises them to steer clear of Carnival Row. That doesn’t stop Jonah from being kidnapped but they don’t know who is responsible.
It is finally revealed how Burguish soldier Philo met Vignette. Her village becomes a station for the soldiers are looking for the best location for keeping an eye out for the Pact while fixing the telegraph line. While out, Philo, Vignette and his friend Darius are attacked by wolves. When the Pact attack the village in a brutal way, Vignette is taken away but told that Philo has been killed.
Now, more people are being killed and it is becoming clear that what they have in common is knowing Philo. Vignette is trying to separate herself from him as her anger toward what has happened to her people outweighs any feelings she might have for him. To that effort Philo takes his landlady out for dinner and tries to begin something but he is still in a dark place.
The Chancellor believes that Longerbane (Ronan Vibert) is responsible for the kidnapping but after he meets with disaster, his daughter Sophie (Caroline Ford) steps in and Jonah is actually found. The young man believes he knows who is actually responsible for his capture but doesn’t want to call it out in case he is wrong. Seeing Sophie in chambers for the first time, he is captivated by her but mom Petrie isn’t as happy about it.
As more secrets are brought out in the open, Philo and Vignette realize that they must work together to find out what is killing those in Carnival Row. The landlady isn’t as happy and tells Philo’s officers a secret that she knows about him leading to his arrest for murder.
The relationship between Agreus and Imogen has her brother aggravated and wants it to stop. He understands that they may need his money but as others in town start offering to socialize with Agreus, he sees no need to keep up appearances for his sister. Chancellor Breakspear wants to help Philo and Vignette but doesn’t realize that he is about to have his life altered by a Puck, the last group that would ever be suspected.
The dominos are starting to fall and it is leading a showdown on Carnival Row that no one could have ever imagined!
Bloom as Philo has the look of a man tortured by his orphaned past, losing his love and seeing the worst of mankind in his role as an officer of the law. When Philo sees Vignette, he is reminded of so much of the past that it could interfere with what is happening right in front of him. Bloom has taken on such a dark character but it wouldn’t be the first time. In CARNIVAL ROW he has the added bonus of so many dark characters all around him and a story that is filled with twists that he fits right in.
Delevingne as Vignette is a fierce fae who isn’t about to put her people or their culture ahead of anything else, except for maybe love. Not a fan of Philo in the beginning, she begins to realize that he doesn’t mean her or the fae any harm. When she thinks him gone, it breaks her heart but not her spirit. She can easily take care of herself but once on Carnival Row, Vignette realizes that her anger at Philo is far down the list of what it takes to survive. Delevinge is quite perfect for this role in that she has the fae look and makes the role her very own and I love that about this character.
Gower as Spurnrose is absolutely yucky from top to bottom of his character and this actor plays it dripping with distain. That’s what makes it such a fantastic role! I can’t stand Spurnrose yet I also can’t wait to see how he’s going to make me dislike him even more and Gower doesn’t disappoint. Merchant as Imogen is as stuck up as one would expect from a woman of her time and station. She doesn’t care about anything or anyone but herself and her finery and yet it takes a Puck to make her see past all of that.
Gyasi as Agreus is a Puck to isn’t about to let anyone, human or otherwise, tell him how to live his life. Enjoying the fine home he purchased for himself and man-servant Jim, he also has the uncanny knack of knowing what humans are thinking. His relationship with Imogen is not one either is happy about but it does have its clever perks. Crome as Tourmaline sees what her friend Vignette is going through and it hurts her heart but for more reason that either wants to openly admit.
Varma as Piety is a woman who understands the politics that her husband is part of but also enjoys the lifestyle it provides. She also knows that something is changing on Carnival Row and wants her son to stay away. When he is kidnapped, she suspects everyone. Froushan as Jonah is a young man who is use to a certain lifestyle and doesn’t have much expected of him. Smothered by his mother and feeling like he is disappointing his father, he finds a strange solace at Carnival Row. Ford as Sophie begins to provide Jonah with another kind of distraction and no one is pleased about it. She is a strong character who doesn’t mind breaking the rules in order to get higher up in the ranks.
Harris as the Chancellor continues to be on an amazing streak of roles in the last few years. I absolutely love everything he does including the recent HBO mini-series CHERNOBYL, the AMC series THE TERROR, and the series THE CROWN. There is a presence about this actor that I’m drawn to see what role he will take next and in CARNIVAL ROW he once again is full of human frailty hidden under the robes of politics – even if it is the politics of the different.
Shout out to Alice Krige as Aoife who also is an actress that I follow because she is so multi-dimensional and in CARNIVAL ROW she is creepy yet honestly a character I was never afraid of. Of course Aoife could probably turn me into a toad if she wanted but there is something straight forward in this role that I appreciated and was fascinated by.
Other cast include Ariyon Bakare as Darius, Maeve Dermody as Portia Fyfe, Jamie Harris as Sgt. Dombey, Waj Ali as Constable Berwick, James Beaumont as Constable Cuppins, Jim High as Fergus, Erika Starkova as
Aisling and Simon McBurney as Runyon Millworthy.
This year CARNIVAL ROW made a showing at San Diego Comic Con International 2019 and the crowd couldn’t have been happier. Of course what made it even more special was that Bloom and Delevingne hid underneath costumes so that the big reveal brought the crowd to their feet with cheers. The audience was then treated to a special screening of the series and some even lucky enough to walk away with a pair of very luminescent wings. I knew then that the show was something special and am pleased to say that there will a second season.
I absolutely love the darkness of the show and I don’t mean the less than colorful costuming but the story and the characters that are wrapped up in every fiber of it all. Just when you think it’s all figured out – nope! Let’s be honest, the show starts out in a million knots and we are left, episode by episode, to unravel it like a fine chain necklace. Those who have ever tried to get knots out of a fine chain necklace know exactly what I’m talking about.
Vague in this review? Absolutely. There is no way I want to dive to deeply into the story because that is what makes CARNIVAL ROW such a draw. There is a lot going on so instead of giving it all away, I brought out some of the characters that I appreciated because something tells me we haven’t heard the last from any of them (well, maybe a few of them).
The story is based in a fantastical mythology of fae, pucks, spells, history, culture and a tale that is all too familiar in that what is different people are afraid of. By the end of the series you will understand why a second season is not only needed but necessary. I personally want to see where Philo and Vignette are going to take this journey of theirs and for reasons you will see when you binge watch the first season of CARNIVAL ROW on Amazon Prime.
In the end – they each have a story to tell!
Coming to theatres from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett and Fox Searchlight Pictures comes the usual lethal family drama in READY OR NOT.
It is the happiest day of Grace’s (Samara Weaving) life as she is marrying Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien). Even as he uses humor to warn about the Le Domas family, Grace is just happy to finally be part of one.
After the wedding, Grace and Alex take a few moments for each other but are interrupted by the eerie Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni). She announces that the family is gathering wanting Grace and Alex to join them.
Surrounding the Le Domas table are Alex’s brother Daniel (Adam Brody), his wife Charity (Elyse Levesque), mother Becky (Andi MacDowell), father Tony (Henry Czerny), sister Emilie (Melanie Scrofano), and husband Fitch (Kristian Bruun).
Tony announces that every time a new person comes into the family, they spend the first evening playing a game as a welcome. All Grace has to do is pick a card from a box which seems simple enough to her. The card ‘hide and seek’ is drawn and the entire family becomes silent and Alex gets pale.
Going along to get along Grace is given a head start and once gone the rest of the family start getting ready – by arming up. You see, the Le Domas family believes that if they don’t seek Grace, something horrible will happen to the family.
Alex sneaks away to find Grace and finally fesses up as to what is happening. Grace is about to taken on a whole family proving she can take whatever nonsense they dish out, including crazy butler Stevens (John Ralston). The in-laws are on the hunt and they aren’t about to stop!
Just another family get-together that goes crazy till dawn!
Weaving as Grace is absolutely fantastic and I loved every minute she was on screen. To go from a happy bride to Rambo-ette was very, very cool. I watched the audience when she was on screen and they shared my feelings about her playing this role. Weaving says, “We had an amazing cast to pull this off and everything just fell into place”. She made a grand entrance in white and she made an even grander exit leaving us all wanting more so that’s exactly falling into place!
O’Brien as Alex marries Grace knowing full well what is about to happen. I’m was not sure how I felt about him throughout the film. I mean your fiancé knows his family is crazy but waits till after the ‘I do’ to say something? Every bride’s worst fear right? Brody as brother Daniel has his own issues with the family but he’d rather go numb with alcohol than deal with any of it.
Czerny as Tony is just plain nutty but made me laugh a LOT. He wants to keep the family together and doesn’t mind doing it with a shotgun. Bruun as Fitch just goes along to get along because being married to Emilie means happy crazy life-happy crazy wife! mother Becky (Andi MacDowell),
Scrofano as Emilie is just a little to tender to do what her family thinks must be done and Levesque as Charity doesn’t have a problem with it what so ever. Guadagni as Aunt Helene is absolutely priceless and she cracked me up repeatedly even though I’m sure she was meant to scare me instead. Now Ralston as Stevens scared me more – well done sir!
MacDowell as mom Becky just stuns in this role. She is happy to have her son back home and thanks Grace for doing it. Hard to believe when she has a weapon in her hand right? Talking about the making of the film she says, “It’s scary to think how everyone was perfectly cast in the film, especially with the role I play. I had a lot of fun being cast in this type of role because I’ve played so many sweet characters and I’m not sweet”. She about sums it up perfectly!
Other cast include Liam MacDonald as Georgie, Ethan Tavares as Gabe, Hanneke Talbot as Clara, Celine Tsai as Tina and Daniela Barbosa as Dora.
READY OR NOT is a fabulous film filled with terror and laughs which, if you think about it, is an odd combination. That’s what makes the film a must-see for me because of the combination of terror and laughs. I mean yes it has violence but it’s by a bunch of people who are just completely out of their minds.
I love the cinematography, costuming and the interesting choices of weapons (like Clue with Fitch-in-the-library-with-a-crossbow feel to it). The story behind the family gathering is pretty interesting as well because it is never let on whether it is true or not – until it is.
Go with a group and prepare to have a good time because when you leave the theatre you might not complain so much about your own family ever again.
In the end – let the game begin!
Coming to DVD from Film Movement Classics and writer/director Philip Ridley is the stunning classic THE REFLECTING SKIN.
Seth Dove (Jeremy Cooper) is a young man living in 1950s Idaho farmland country with parents Luke (Duncan Fraser) and Ruth (Sheila Moore). The days are long and Seth spends time with friends Eben (Codie Wilbee) and Kim (Evan Hall). Three young boys together sometimes brings about mischief.
One such gathering the boys pull a prank on neighbor lady Dolphin Blue (Lindsay Duncan) and Seth feels momentary guilt. Back at home the young boy deals with a mother who treats him in almost sadistic ways and finds a bit of solace with his father who speaks rarely. Trying to talk with him, Luke introduces his son to the idea of vampires in a book he is reading.
Seth is in trouble about a frog incident and must go to Dolphin to apologize. She tells him a little about herself and in the midst of a joke that he takes wrong decides she is a vampire. Eben goes missing so Seth and Kim decide to sneak into the neighbor’s house to see what she may be hiding. After a fright, he runs home and accidentally finds his friend.
That sets his parents on edge and disaster comes from it with a town that holds a grudge on a past secret. This brings home Seth’s older brother Cameron (Viggo Mortensen) who finds himself taken with Dolphin Blue. Now that his mother is in a state, the boy finds that he needs his brother even more.
But Cameron finds solace with Dolphin and tells her of the bomb experiments he was a part of in the war while Seth peeks in on them both. When he sees that his brother may be getting ill, he is more convinced Dolphin is a vampire killing his brother. More tragedy strikes the town and there are more questions than answers.
In that tragedy Seth believes he has found a way to save his brother from a monster that lives so close to home.
Cooper as the young Seth is absolutely brilliant for a young actor to play this very disturbing role. From the way he spoke to the characters clothing, Cooper made that secondary to his performance. Disturbing is too small a word for Seth yet it was impossible to take my eyes off of him.
Duncan as neighbor Dolphin Blue is beautiful, extraordinary and holds a solemn and strangely peaceful attitude toward her life but will let out a scream with ease. Her handling of Seth is sometimes amusing and its probably there conversation on the rode that amused me the most with its disturbing content.
Mortensen as Cameron is a young man who returns from war only to find that coming home is really the last thing he wanted to do. It is Dolphin that gives him light in a dark place and he embraces it immediately. This is one of Mortensen’s first roles and had I seen this film earlier I would have said then what I believe now and that is he has a presence on screen that is a mixture of tough, charming and painful all rolled into him.
Other cast include David Longworth as Joshua, Robert Koons as Sheriff Ticker, Jason Wolfe as Cadillac Driver, Walt Healy as the Old Man, Sherry Bie as Cassie, and Jeff Walker as Adam Blue.
Celebrating its 17th year in 2019, Film Movement has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide, and last year it had its first Academy Award-nominated film, THEEB. Film Movement’s theatrical distribution strategy has evolved to include promising American independent films, documentaries, and an even stronger slate of foreign art house titles. Noted directors Film Movement brings are Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano and Ettore Scola. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com.
The DVD includes the Bonus Features of Angels & Atom Bombs: The Making of THE REFLECTING SKIN, Commentary with writer/director Philip Ridley and New Essay by Travis Crawford and Heather Hyche.
THE REFLECTING SKIN is a film with so many layers that eventually level into one. There is a strangeness, horror, mystery, intensity, beauty and a draw to go down the road of the story even if something tells us not to. Each character has fears of their own yet survival makes a convenient blinder.
Small towns have big secrets and this place has one that they use to quickly fill in the gap tragedy often leads. It isn’t important whether or not it’s the true; it makes whatever sadness permeates the people easier to serve up with their evening meals. The vampires are secondary to my way of thinking.
A film such as THE REFLECTING SKIN will leave its cinematic mark and I am thrilled to have had the chance to experience it.
In the end – sometimes terrible things happen quite naturall
Coming to Bluray from directors Francesco Cinquemani, George Gallo and Lionsgate is a story of the hazards of being a P.I. with THE POISON ROSE.
Carson Philips (John Travolta) is a self proclaimed private investigator who proclaims he ‘drinks to much, smokes to much and gambles to much’. In his office is a woman who wants Philips to investigate the nursing home Pleasant Meadows and the care of a relative. A chance to get out of town and a paid gig has him in the car driving to Galveston, Texas.
Arriving at the hospital he is met by Dr. Miles Mitchell (Brendan Frasier) who tells him that Barbara van Poole is in a therapy session. He also refreshes Philips memory that they went to school together and played a little football. Agreeing to call when she is out of therapy, he realizes the doctor isn’t exactly on the up and up.
Hitting up the local gambling joint he meets up with old poker friends Doc (Morgan Freeman), Chief Walsh (Robert Patrick) and Slide (Peter Stormare). He sees nothing has changed as the hustle and fights happen all around him. It’s back to the case however when he returns and confronts Dr. Mitchell on why he isn’t being allowed to see Barbara.
Seeing that he is going to have to take matters into his own hands, he immediately discovers that something nefarious is happening in the halls. Empty room and locked doors are everywhere but it’s the doctor’s office he needs to reach to find Barbara’s file. Now the reason behind hospital secrecy becomes even clearer.
He also meets the one person he didn’t intend to – his ex-wife Jayne (Famke Janssen) who wants to talk about a player Happy Chandler who had an accident on the football field. Daughter Rebecca (Ella Bleu Travolta) is also the players’ wife so Philips reaches out to the local coroner but Jayne reaches out to Doc.
Now Philips is looking for a missing woman, a potential murder suspect, dealing with an ex-wife, a man who has taken over the town and the secrets buried deep in a town he escaped from twenty years earlier.
Welcome home Philips!
Travolta as Philips seems to have lived his life on the rough edge. Going back to Galveston was meant to be a quick money proposition but instead turned into regret ever setting foot in the town. Travolta plays the part of a beat up P.I. with gruffness, a keen eye and a slow slang that fits the town he’s dealing with.
Freeman as Doc has the town locked up and isn’t happy that Philips is poking around. Offering to give him information about Barbara van Poole in exchange for leaving, Philips can’t bring himself to leave. That’s when they all start coming out of the woodwork to make his life even more difficult.
Janssen as Jayne is playing both ends against the middle. She wants her daughter protected and she wants any trace of suspicion taken off her daughter Rebecca. Fraser as Dr. Mitchell is absolutely creepy to the bone. He is playing his own game with Philips and he’s not exactly buying it. Fraser takes the role and runs with it in a direction that is surprising.
Patrick as Walsh is trying to get Philips out of town but he also continually drops hints to get out before it’s too late. Stormare as Slide gets to once again play the role he has become famous for, an untrustworthy, shade individual you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.
Ella Bleu Travolta as Rebecca has a smaller role in a big story. Her character is a woman who has been abused and now that the husband is dead she is the number one suspect. It’s interesting to see father and daughter on screen together.
Other cast include Kat Graham as Rose, Sheila Shah as Ashley, Claudia Gerini as Violet Gregory, Nick Vallelonga as the Bodyguard, Julie Lott as Mrs. Johnson, Ashley Atwood as Nurse Melissa, Nadine Lewington as Geraldine.
Travolta as Philips brings the film noir detective feel to this role. From the always-in-trouble-with-someone private investigator that needs to leave town but instead finds trouble in the next town he goes to. Freeman as Doc gets the chance to be the biggest rooster in the town’s henhouse. He makes it clear that no one is going to get in the way of what he wants – no one.
Janssen as Jayne needs to play both sides if she is going to protect her daughter. The problem is she is making a bigger mess than is already in front of Philips. Patrick has a small role as Chief Walsh but he seems to be on the side of Philips no matter what Doc might think. Ella Blue Travolta also has a small role but it is her scenes with her father John Travolta that are worth a watch.
The winner here is Brendan Fraser as Dr. Mitchell! This is a unique chance for him to really reach for it and he absolutely does and man does he ever. I think it is the final scene with Travolta that just blows me away.
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 it’s 16,000 motion picture and television titles you can see everything coming soon as well as available now at http://www.lionsgate.com.
The Bluray includes the Special Features of Commentary with Director George Gallo and Writer-Producer Richard Salvatore and Trailer Gallery.
THE POISON ROSE is several mysteries wrapped into one and you can’t blink or else you’ll miss the clues putting them all together. Currently On Demand, the film is based on the novel The Poison Rose by Richard Salvatore.
This is a tale of Texas murder and corruption but also of the deep dark secrets that keep a town filled with fear and those brave enough to take it all on – a target. Travolta takes his role head on and with a cast that include Freeman as a very smooth operator. It’s definitely a film that keeps you wondering who to trust.
In the end – a private eye, a public murder and a perfect crime!
Coming to Bluray and Digital from director Catherine Hardwicke and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment comes a thriller that starts with MISS BALA.
Gloria (Gina Rodriguez) is preparing to drive to Tijuana, Mexico to watch her best friend Suzu (Cristina Rodio) compete in the Miss Baja beauty pageant. Before the festivities begin, Gloria and Suzu take a night out to dance and have a few drinks. That idea is short lived when out of nowhere gunmen break into the nightclub and try to grab Gloria but she escapes.
The next morning she can’t find Suzu and begins making telephone calls. Going to the police turns into a detour when she discovers that her friend was taken by the Las Estrellas gang. Let by Lino (Ismael Cruz Cordova), he agrees to help her get Suzu back if, and only if, Gloria agrees to work for them.
That entails driving explosives that blow up a building, driving drugs and guns across the boarder and leading the DEA to Las Estrellas. In the meantime, Lino takes a liking to Gloria and shows her how to defend herself should the need arise again. No one around her, especially Poyo (Ricardo Abarca) seems to trust her but Lino and meeting Isabella (Aislinn Derbez), Gloria sees what happens to women they take.
The plans are about to get even more dangerous when Lino tells Gloria that he wants her to enter the Miss Baja pageant because it will lead him to the real target – the Mexican Chief of Police Saucedo (Damian Alcazar). Agreeing to let Gloria see Suzu, it is all a set up for the shootout that is going to change who is taking who.
Never point a weapon unless you intent to use it!
Rodriguez as Gloria puts in a stellar performance of a woman trapped in a web not of her own making. She takes her character into a place where it is safer to pay attention to even the smallest of details because they will come in handy later. Each step she takes brings her closer to even more danger but she can’t exactly step back either. When Rodriguez finally gets to let her character loose, she still keeps it together and stays one step ahead of who ever is trying to stop her. I like that about this character and Rodriguez’s portrayal.
Cordova as Lino is a smooth talking gangster who uses fear as a way to control Gloria. Even with the charm he is as ruthless as anyone can imagine. His character doesn’t get loud, doesn’t get physical but instead lets his weapon do the talking for him. There is no hesitation in distrusting anyone but there is a chink in his armor when it comes to Gloria.
Abarca as Poyo is a character you just can’t stand from minute one. As one of Lino’s “trusted” men, he keeps an eye on Gloria and tries to get Lino to turn on her every chance he gets. He definitely plays a bad guy you like to dislike immensely. Rodio as Suzu is used just as one would expect of a kidnapped woman and Gloria is determined to find her. Derbez as Isabella is also a kept woman who lives in as much fear as Gloria and manages to keep it under control doing what she is told when she is told, that’s survival.
Other cast include: Erick Urbina as Tucan, Mikhail Plata as Chivo, Jorge Mardueno as Ortiz, Lilian Robles as Dona Rosita, Oscar Estrada as Owl Man and Matt Lauria as DEA Agent Brian Reich.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment encompasses motion picture production for television, digital content and theater releases. The studios include Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, TriStar Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, Stage 6 Films and Sony Picture Classics. To see what is coming to theaters and to home entertainment please visit www.sonypictures.com.
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.
The Bonus Materials Include: Eight Deleted Scenes & Extended Scenes, Three Features including – Gina: The Unstoppable Strength of a Woman, The Bigger the Bang: Action on the Set and Making of MISS BALA, A Look into the Stunts and Costumes with Catherine Hardwicke and Feature Commentary with Director Catherine Hardwick, Executive Producer Jamie Marshall and Associate Producer Shayda Frost.
MISS BALA is a thriller that works its way into the final scenes. It allows the viewer to experience Gloria’s journey step by step and what she must do to survive. Rodriguez also has the opportunity to share her views about her role playing a strong Latina woman and having a cast and crew that is 93% Latino led.
The story weaves its way through Gloria’s smarts and Rodriguez truly does make the tale complete. I enjoyed every aspect of the film and can see how it could be possible to make more of them with the help of Jimmy played by Anthony Mackie. We shall see!
Anyone who lives in the San Diego area will recognize quite readily the scenes both in Mexico and across the United States border. I have to say that’s almost a bonus for me as I know exactly where most of those locations are – it’s a fun bonus.
In the end – who would you become to save your family?
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.
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.
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.
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!