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SPIDER-MAN: Far From Home Brings Early Fireworks to the July 4th Holidays

Spiderman cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres just in time to help celebrate the 4th from director Jon Watts, Marvel Studios and Columbia Pictures is our friendly neighborhood SPIDER-MAN: Far From Home.

It is after the Endgame as Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is still dealing with the loss of Tony Stark and looking forward to a school trip to Europe. His hope is that he can finally tell MJ (Zendaya) how he feels and enjoy some time away from his spider suit. His Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is happy for him as well.

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On the trip is best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), Betty (Angourie Rice), Brad (Remy Hii), Flash (Tony Revolori) and teachers Mr. Bell (J.B. Smoove) and Mr. Harrington (Martin Starr). They are ready to explore Italy first but there is a creature under them with other plans. When it rises to the surface, Peter must do his best to protect as many people as possible.

That is until he sees Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), fly in and lend a hand. When it’s all over, his friends give the superhero a name – Mysterio. Later Peter is visited by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) because he needs Spider-Man’s help and gives him something special. Yet Peter can only think of MJ, their trip and being a kid.

Trying to explain his feelings to Fury, he goes back to his classmates only to discover that their itinerary has changed to go, oddly enough, where Fury wants Spider-Man to be. A plan is set in motion with Mysterio and Spider-Man working together to save even more people.

That is when Peter makes a decision that may cost far more than he could have imagined!

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Holland as Spider-Man has to be one of the best choices ever made for the Marvel Universe next to Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man. He is funny, insecure, fearless and fearful at the same time, has teen angst and most of all – just plain adorably charming. He has made the role of Spider-man his and fans love it.

Gyllenhaal as Mysterio is, and lets be honest here, so cool to watch. Here he works with Spider-Man and befriends him which helps Peter with the loss of his good friend. Gyllenhaal fits into his costume as if it were always destine to be his.

Jackson is back as Nick Fury who doesn’t mind guilting Spider-Man into getting a gang back together. Zendaya as MJ is still her dark self and occasionally has an eye on Peter, Batalone as Ned is there for his web weaving friend but has his eyes drawn in an unexpected way. Tomei as May is happy with her life and to have Peter in it but may have a surprise of her own.

Hii as Brad returns a little older and crushing on MJ. Revolori as Flash once again plays the tourist except he spends more time trying to get social media friends than actual friends.

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Shout out to Favreau for returning as Happy Hogan! I have come to love his character and am thrilled to see him be there for Peter Parker.

Other cast include: Toni Garrn as The Seamstress, Michael Mando as MacGargan, Numan Acar as Dimitri, Hemky Madera as Mr. Delmar, and Cobie Smulders as Marla Hill.

SPIDER-MAN: Far From Home is going to delight fans because Holland has done such an amazing job of portrayed the young webbed one. There is something for everyone in the film with action, story, twists, turns and – well, a teen love story that has been trying to break free.

Being a superhero has its price and it is a talk between Happy and Peter that helps the young man decide how to continue being a hero people can look to. I honestly believe that’s what makes this incarnation of the Spider-Man franchise more believable than it has ever been. Holland brings it all together with a tender and emotion filled performance that is so relatable.

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The film is fast paced, full of cgi eye-candy and warmth that lets us know that AVENGERS: Endgame is just a beginning for the webbed one. Of course I’m being evasive in my description of the film because, as with most fun films, the fun is absolutely seeing it with the least amount of spoilers possible. I want everyone to have just as much fun as I did!

So as you prepare for the 4th of July holiday, make sure you start it off with a visit from your friendly neighborhood (both in country and out) Spider-Man!

In the end – he is more than your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, so much mor

THE AFTERMATH

 

The Aftermath Bluray

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray/DVD and Digital from director James Kent and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is war and THE AFTERMATH.

It is 1946 and the war with Germany is over. Colonel Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke) of the British Forces has been assigned to Hamburg and brings wife Rachael (Keira Knightley) as well. Col. Morgan has been assigned with helping to rebuild the city while also handling the problem of German insurgents who aren’t happy about their presence.

The home of architect Stephen Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård) has been requisitioned for the Morgan’s. Trying to keep the peace, Lubert moves himself and teen daughter Heike (Anna Schimrigk) into the attic of the house after Col. Morgan allows them to stay.

Rachael is furious about the Lubert’s continuing to stay as she believes her reasons are sound. Having lived through the Blitz bombings in London, not everyone in her family was as lucky.

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Heike is also angry feeling that no one has a right to be in their home. Her anger causes a few missteps that are based on the same anger as Rachael’s. Little does each family realize, but their pains are not so dissimilar. Col. Morgan is sent all over to deal with city problems and while gone, Rachael and Stefan start a dangerous relationship.

Every bit of what is happening is because Rachael can not find her way, can not get through the pain and can not understand why her husband doesn’t see it.

Knightley as Rachael is a woman who isn’t happy about being in Hamburg, isn’t happy about the Lubert’s stay and isn’t happy about the state of her marriage. Continuing to put on a brave face, it becomes more and more difficult as Col. Morgan refuses to see what is in front of him. Knightley gives a performance that is strong but slowly melts into another kind of strength. This is a character she is known for, keeping it all together until a moment of self discovery.

Clarke as Col. Morgan has managed to hide everything from his wife. Making decisions in Hamburg that go against her wishes, he shows compassion for the German people and wants Rachael to do the same. What she doesn’t know is that his work is dangerous which he needs to hide his own pain. Clarke portrays his character with a steel grace that begins to crack.

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Skarsgård as Lubert is a man who doesn’t want to make waves and is willing to surrender his home to Col Morgan. Dealing with his own losses and a daughter who feels betrayed, Skarsgård keeps his character centered and doesn’t give much away. Personally I wouldn’t be thrilled if someone took my home all the while forgetting that not all Germans were Nazi’s.

Schimrigk as Heike is a young girl who doesn’t want to be comforted about her home and the life that was once hers. Not understanding why her father takes everything in stride, she finds herself tempted to go against the grain of everything post war.

Other cast include: Jack Laskey as Wilkins, Kate Phillips as Susan, Martin Compston as Burnham, Rosa Enskat as Greta, Frederick Preston as Michael, Flora Thiermann as Freda Lubert and Fionn O’Shea as Barker.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment brings award-winning global product and new entertainment to DVD, Bluray, and Digital HD. There amazing collection offers fans an opportunity to expand their own home libraries with the best films. To discover what other titles they have please visit www.fox.com.

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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 Bluray and DVD Special Features include Deleted Scenes, VFX Progressions, First Look, Audio Commentary by Director James Kent and Gallery.

Rhidian Brook wrote the book The Aftermath as well as The Testimony of Taliesin Jones, Jesus and the Adman and The Killing of Butterfly Joe. He has also dabbled in television with the 2005 broadcast of Mr. Harvey Lights a Candle, the series Silent Witness and the drama Atlantis.

THE AFTERMATH is the story of people after tragedy. If you scrape away the war from the surface of the story, what you see is the lives of people on a deeper level. Personal pain is universal and the four people in the Lubert’s home are all dealing with that with the added strain of post war in a torn up Hamburg.

The paths that are taken by each character are based on the confusion of their lives. Everything has been shattered and it is difficult to remember what life was like before war and what to do with life after.

In the end – the city isn’t the only thing shattered!

ROCKETMAN Takes Off into the Stratosphere

Rocketman

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director Dexter Fletcher and Paramount Pictures comes a ride lead by a ROCKETMAN.

Reginald Dwight is a young music prodigy who lives with a father Stanley (Steven Mackintosh) who has no heart for the boy and mother Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard) who only has a heart for herself. Supporting him is Grandmother Ivy (Gemma Jones) who sees musical potential in the boy.

From a music conservatory to playing at the local bar, Reggie (Taron Egerton) is still trying to figure out this thing called life. Then he meets Ray (Charlie Rowe) who introduces him to songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and magic happens.

Ray and music man Dick James (Stephen Graham) send the newly renamed Elton John out on the road including a show at the Troubadour in California. Bernie is thrilled with their windfall but Elton is still trying to figure it all out.

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Help comes in the presence of John Reid (Richard Madden) who sweeps Elton off his feet. Reid also ingratiated himself into the performers life and home which doesn’t sit well with everyone.

In the meantime the world has become his oyster with sold out performances that allow him to be as wild as he wants. Then, success turns sour as Elton finds himself in the world of drugs, alcohol and the past turn him inside out.

There comes a time when you either ignore the world crashing around you or change the direction of life.

Egerton as Elton John is absolutely stunning. He is in it from beginning to end and by that I mean playing the life of a legend that, for the most part, isn’t pretty. Whether by his own hand or the craziness that comes with fame, Edgerton portrays the naïve, sensitive, longing and angry side of Elton John. He is mesmerizing to watch and cements his talent as an actor as well as a singer.

Bell as Taupin is thrilled to be working with Elton and takes off along side his friend with the sparkle and thrill of a kid. It doesn’t take long for Taupin realizes that he, and the man he considers a brother, is headed for disaster. Bell gives his performance everything filled with friendship, loyalty and a bit of tough love. I truly enjoyed Bell’s performance as it was truly heartfelt and strong.

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Mackintosh as father Stanley seems to have an almost distain for his son and it is the young Reginald who feels every piece of that. Even as the young Reginald grows up, the shadow of that relationship is with him daily. Howard as Sheila is a woman who clearly isn’t happy in marriage or motherhood. When there are moments of motherly love and Reginald grabs onto it, he is almost instantly swatted away with added pain.

Madden as Reid is a piece of work for sure. He gives Elton hope that he deserves to be loved but it comes at such a high and debilitating cost. Jones as Ivy is the sole hope for young Reginald, she is strong, compassionate and keenly aware of the situation with Reginald’s parents.

Other cast include: Jason Pennycooke as Wilson, Jimmy Vee as Arthur, Rachel Muldoon as Kiki Dee, Celinde Schoenmaker as Renate Blauel and Tate Donovan as Doug Weston.

ROCKETMAN is a film that is to be experienced on so many levels. Yes, it is filled with Elton John’s music and the placement of each memorable song is perfection. The choreography is thrilling to watch and the moments in the story where his life is seen through song and dance is toe tapping and engaging.

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I also have to say that there were moments that kleenex is needed. Lets be honest, John’s life as we are shown is only moments of heartbreak that are hidden with music, flashy outfits and smiles induced by drugs and alcohol. Believing the worst in himself by the stinging comments of those who profess to love him, if your heart doesn’t feel it on the screen then might I suggest hanging out with Sheila and Stanley!

It must also be said that Egerton’s outrageous and colorful performance is everything for this film. He had the audience laughing at times, sniffling a lot, and toe tapping if not trying to sing out loud to the songs we all know so well.

This is a film that brings us everything, tells us the tale of an icon and how thoroughly lucky that he went beyond the yellow brick road to stay with us. Elton John is someone in my own life who seemed to sing the words filled with emotion that floated around in my own head. Taupin didn’t hesitate to bring the words that we have been singing for the past twenty-five plus years.

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From Sacrifice, Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, Your Song, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, I’m Still Standing, Candle in the Wind, Daniel, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and my favorite, I Want Love.

For those of us who love Elton John, ROCKETMAN is the film that embraces the reasons why and lets us all into a life that explains so very much.

In the end – the only way to tell his story is to live his fantasy!

RIVER RUNS RED Seeks Revenge on Bluray

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Jeri Jacquin

On 4K UHD, Bluray and DVD from Cinedigm Entertainment Group and writer/director Wes Miller comes a story of justice and revenge with RIVER RUNS RED.

Charles Coleman (Taye Diggs) is a man who has worked hard for a career in law and becoming a judge. Married to medic Eve (Jennifer Tao) and raising son CJ (Joseph Belk), he is seeing all of his life dreams come true.

When Coleman and CJ have a friendly bet, it is CJ who drives away in his fathers expensive car! On his way to school, he is pulled over by Officer Rory (Gianni Capaldi) and Officer Von (Luke Hemsworth) and while reaching for his wallet the officers open fire.

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Coleman and Eve are devastated and can not understand how such a thing can happen. They are angry and even more so when they are told that CJ had a gun leading to the officers shooting him. They know this isn’t true but the pain of their loss has them trying to cope the best they know how. Coleman enlists the help of Detective Horace (John Cusack) to find out more about the officers who shot his son.

Javier (George Lopez) is a mechanic who with his wife Marilyn (Briana Evigan) have spent the last two years avoiding the thoughts of their sons death. Coleman goes to see him when he realizes that there is a connection between them. Javier wants nothing to do with speaking about the death of his son; that is until Coleman shows him something that changes his mind.

Motivated by anger, rage and sadness, the two fathers make a plan to take matters into their own hands.

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Diggs as Coleman is a husband and father who has worked hard to become a judge and to provide for his family. Enjoying his life it all changes in the flash of gunfire. Diggs portrays a father mired down in the hurt and rage at the unfairness by the same system that he has spent years being a part of. Turning to all those that should be helping him, he finds that they don’t seem to take the situation seriously. This is a tough role but Diggs gives it all the twists and turns up to the shocking ending.

Lopez as Javier is another father who can’t seem to get past the death of his son. Pushing down his feelings he thinks he finally has his life bearable. That is until he gets a visit from Coleman with his suspicions about the officers who killed CJ and shows father Javier a reason to join him in a plan to get justice for both of their sons. Lopez gets a chance to show serious acting chops.

Hemsworth as Von knows almost immediately that what has happened with the judges’ son isn’t something that is going to go away. Trying to move forward, he immerses into his own home life and that of his young son. Capaldi as Rory is a hot headed cop who seemed to be looking for any reason that day to shoot someone. Keeping an eye on his partner Von and believing they are in the clear is his first mistake. Both of these actors played off of each other’s character in a chilling way.

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Tao as Eve lashes out at her husband when ever she thinks about the death of their son. She also wants justice and feels that Coleman isn’t doing enough to make that happen. Evigan as Marilyn watches her husband become withdrawn but when Coleman shows up she fears what he will do.

Cusack as Horace is a detective that realizes what Coleman is up against. Wanting to help his friend discover what the two officers are hiding, he begins to see a change in the judge and fears for him.

Other cast include: RJ Mitte as Officer Thomas, Steve Berrebi as Brass One, Jaqueline Fleming as Professor Lawless, Tshombi Basemore as Diego, Michael Clofine as Officer Mike, John D. Hickman as Officer Tom and Spencer Kingsley as Carter.

Cinedigm is a leading distributor of amazing content in storefronts, digital platforms, Internet and Demand platforms for cable television. With an extensive library of over 52,000 films and television shows, Docudrama films, next-gen Indies and Independent films. At its inception, Cinedigm has played a pioneering role in transitioning movie theatres from traditional film prints to digital distribution to advance worldwide cinema modernization. For more on what Cinedigm has to offer please visit http://www.cinedigm.com.

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RIVER RUNS RED is a film that speaks about the times we live in and the way the justice system handles cases of officer involved shootings. Even when the young man killed has a father who is a judge, there seems to be a thin veil that no one wants to push through.

Writer/director Wes Miller jumps in without any hesitation in pointing out the inequalities both Coleman and Javier face. There isn’t any mincing of words or emotions bringing it all straight out into the open. The ending is staggering, shocking and emotional showing that everything doesn’t wrap up as neatly.

The cast led by Diggs and Lopez brings a strong intensity to the story and once the film begins, there aren’t to many moments to catch your breath.

In the end – vengeance is the only justice!

Testing Your Ability to Live in A QUIET PLACE

quiet cover

Jeri Jacquin

Silently making its way into theatres this Friday from director John Krasinski via storytellers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck is Paramount Pictures directions to A QUIET PLACE.

Living in a world built on survival by being silent, Lee (John Krasinski) and wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) along with sons Beau (Cade Woodward), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and daughter Regan (Millicent Simmons) are in a drugstore looking for medications. Young son Beau sees a toy he wants but Dad Lee explains that it makes noise. He does this by use of sign language as Regan is deaf.

The whole family communicates now using sign language because the creatures that hunt them have uber hearing and any sound will bring them within seconds. On the way home to their farm there is an incident that changes the family and makes survival even harder. Evelyn is pregnant and the family finds clever ways to prepare for the new arrival.

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Lee takes Marcus out with him to find food and Regan isn’t happy that she isn’t asked to go. Feeling that her father doesn’t care about her, she takes off down the road. Evelyn is alone taking care of the house when the first sign that the baby is coming and a cry out brings the creatures. She has only moments to send a signal to the others that there is danger and it all sends each in another direction trying to redirect the creatures.

From the house to the field, they each use what they have learned to try and save one another from the creatures that can’t see but most certainly can hear … every … sound.

Krasinski as Lee is a man who is continually trying to find ways to keep his family safe. When there is a moment to breathe, he is working on a way to help his daughter or showing Marcus how to survive in the creature infested world. Blunt as Evelyn is in total Mom-mode and certainly takes a quiet childbirth to a whole new level. This is not the world she ever intended for her children to live in but knows it’s the one they now must survive in.

Simmonds as Regan deals with this world a little differently than the rest of the family. She doesn’t hear the screeching and the loud presence of the creatures but knows what they are capable of. Jupe as Marcus is rightfully petrified of the creatures but his father teaches him what he needs to survive and a secret that might just have given him more courage than he imagined he had for such a young kid.

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So, A QUIET PLACE is truly scary in the sense that there are only fractions of moments where you hear the actors actually speak, the rest is sign language and pure adrenaline with every bit of acting on the faces of the characters. I absolutely loved every second of watching this cast because of that very reason.

I loved jumping, actually yelled and didn’t realize it was me that yelled, held my breath and didn’t realize I was doing it, and felt amazingly sad for this family. The storyline doesn’t start out with any explanation as to what happened leaving that to the newspaper headlines that are about in Lee’s workshop which means my mind was free to fill in the blanks.

This is actually a yarn spun in such a way that I was intrigued when the film first sent out the trailers. A film done mostly in silence? Wow, I knew then it was a film I had to see for myself. The audience for the screening was totally into every moment of the film and I had an extra jump as the lady next to me grabbed my arm! The scariest part of the film is actually seeing the fears that are totally believable by everyone in the audience unfold on the screen.

Let me make it clear – I would not survive in a silent world purely because, as I learned during the teen years, trying to be quiet meant the pressure to make that happen would definitely produce noise (just ask my sister Ellen!). That being said I also cringed at ever little creak, every little muffled sound and held my breath with every footstep the family took. That’s what makes an amazing movie going experience – when you unknowingly become physically invested.

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The story didn’t give me a moment’s peace and I couldn’t work on my bag of popcorn because I didn’t want to be jumped by any creatures! In the midst of all the silence and insane creepy creatures – the writers and director Krasinski manages a moment of beauty between Lee and Evelyn and it made my heart melt. Of course I had to snap out of that quickly and walking out of the theatre my first thought was that I wanted to see A QUIET PLACE again.

John Krasinski took the story by Woods and Beck and directed right where it needs to be, straight into our fears. Well played sir, well played.

In the end – if they can hear you they can hunt you!

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is a Full on Oscar Winner on Bluray!

Three

 

Jeri Jacquin

This week on Bluray/DVD and Digital from writer/director Martin McDonagh and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is the story of a mother who isn’t giving up using THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI.

Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) is a woman dealing with a lot in her life. The painful loss of a murdered daughter, ex-husband Charlie (John Hawkes) who has anger issues and chief of police William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) who she believes doesn’t care about catching her daughter’s killer.

Driving home on a small stretch of road are three dilapidated billboards and Mildred gets an idea. Responsible for the billboards is Red (Caleb Jones) who takes her down payment on all three billboards with a message to the chief of police. The first to see them is deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell) who immediately tells Willoughby.

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Everyone soon learns of the billboards and son Robbie (Lucas Hedges) is feeling the impact of what his mother is doing. Worried how this will all affect her chief of police husband, Anne (Abbie Cornish) is assured that it will all pass. Wanting to protect Mildred is James (Peter Dinklage) who Charlie takes a pot-shots at. Instead of it passing, things get out of hand as the insanity of Dixon and Mildred’s anger start a town war.

Small town living just got a little dicey!

McDormand as Mildred is spectacular, amazing, brilliant, moving, shocking and every bit of a woman tired of the b.s.! Feeling unheard by the police and thrown away by an abusive husband, one idea gives this character the remarkable strength to say, without a word, ‘I will be heard or else!’ Every moment McDormand is performing I am completely riveted and engrossed with anticipation as to what she would do next. The Oscars are this Sunday and with McDormand up for Best Actress I will be cheering for her every step of the way.

Harrelson as Willoughby is an understanding and tolerant man. He knows that Mildred is still riddled with grief and now feels the pressure even more that he hasn’t found the killer. He is also dealing with Dixon who is making matters worse with his antics. Spending time with his wife and kids is becoming more important as his secret hasn’t been a secret for quite some time. Harrelson is endearing and is impeccable with his character humor. This is the second time in the last few months that Harrelson has impressed me as his film LBJ should also be seen!

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Rockwell as Dixon gets to bring out the inner complete douche bag of this character. Feeling he has the right to do what ever he wants to who ever he wants because he has a badge is an embarrassment to pretty much everyone in town. Deciding he isn’t going to stop being a jerk, Dixon once again takes matters into his own hands and it’s nothing but disaster. It sure doesn’t help that Momma Dixon (Sandy Martin) is stoking the fires.

Hedges as Robbie is a young man who understands what his mother has been through but doesn’t agree with how she handles things. Living the same pain about his sister every day as well, he watches her actions and can’t seem to make Mildred understand that nothing good can come of it all. Jones as Red is a laid back kid who sees everything the town is about and when it comes to his door a choice has to be made.

Dinklage as James is a good hearted guy who seems to have a soft spot for Mildred. He wants nothing more than to protect her – oh and date her. Hawkes as Charlie thinks that he can be as abusive as possible towards Mildred and the ex in ex-husband isn’t going to stop him and is certainly is a different role for Hawkes.

Other cast include Zeljko Ivanek as the Desk Sergeant, Amanda Warren as Denise, Kerry Condon as Pamela, Riya Atwood as Polly, Selah Atwood as Jane, Christopher Berry as Tony, Jerry Winsett as Geoffrey, Kathryn Newton as Angela, Samara Weaving as Penelope, Clarke Peters as Abercrombie, Malaya Drew as Gabriella, and Darrell Britt-Gibson as Jerome.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment brings award-winning global product and new entertainment to DVD, Bluray, and Digital HD. There amazing collection offers fans an opportunity to expand their own home libraries with the best films. To discover what other titles they have please visit www.fox.com.

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TUBS OF POPCORN: THREE BILLBOARDS IN EBBING, MISSOURI deserves without a doubt five tubs of popcorn out of five. This film has every range of human emotion possible and isn’t shy about making you feel it. A combination of the darkest of comedy mixed with jaw dropping twists and drama that is engrossing is what makes this film from start to finish.

There isn’t anything apologetic in this film and each character has a life of its own. McDormand is powerful and doesn’t skip a beat in leading the film to its chuckling conclusion. Harrelson and Rockwell are polar opposites, which is what makes their characters work and there is no surprise in what these two actors accomplish in this film.

The film does a dance with the viewer’s emotions and even sets of a shock or two but after seeing director McDonagh’s previous work such as IN BRUGES and a personal favorite SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS could anyone not expect this film from him? I met McDonagh during his press junket for SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS and I knew after speaking with him that I’d love anything he did. His sense of humor and way with characters comes out in every second of the film.

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Writing the screenplay with McDormand in mind for the lead role, I am equally thrilled that he did so because she rules the screen as Mildred. This is a powerful film with exceptional performances that can not and should not be missed. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI has been nominated for seven Academy Award Nominations including Best Picture.

The Bluray/DVD include the Special Features Deleted Scenes, Crucify ‘Em: Making Of, Six Shooter – The Academy Award Winning original short film by Martin McDonagh as well as a Gallery.

This film is the reason I go to the theatre and even more so the reason I believe in having it as part of any home entertainment library.

In the end – welcome to Ebbing, Missouri!

VICTORIA & ABDUL is Perfection

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Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Stephen Frears and Focus Features 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 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.

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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.

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.

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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.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give VICTORIA & ABDUL five tubs of popcorn out of five. 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 the film 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 – this is a friendship based on a true story…well, mostly.

WIND RIVER Brings a Winter Chill to a Dark Story

 

Wind River

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this Friday from writer/director Taylor Sheridan and The Weinstein Company is the mystery and murder on WIND RIVER.

Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a Fish and Game Agent who sometimes must hunt down animals that kill ranchers’ herds. While following the tracks of a mountain lion, Lambert comes across human tracks. Following them he finds the body of a young girl.

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On Native American lands, Lambert calls Ben (Graham Greene) the local law enforcement who also calls federal officer Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen). Clearly not ready to take on a case like this, she asks Lambert to assist in finding out who is responsible.

Lambert agrees but only because the young girl, Natalie (Kelsey Asbille) is the daughter of his dear friend Martin (Gil Birmingham). He understands his pain all to which makes him promise Martin that the murderer will be caught. Banner looks to Lambert who begins to put the pieces together but in an unconventional way.

What becomes clear is that the truth with far more shocking than anyone could imagine.

Renner as Lambert is an introspective person but that’s brought on by tragedy of his own. His character finds solace being a tracker and Renner gives Lambert a stoic disposition that keeps him focused. The scenes between Renner and Birmingham are absolutely stunning, moving and their relationship becomes even clearer to the audience taking my breath away. Renner always brings something memorable to his characters and in WIND RIVER it is heart.

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Olsen as Banner is a young FBI officer who isn’t prepared for the case or the weather. This is a character that is tested in every way and isn’t very welcomes by the indigenous people on the reservation. Their trust in the outside world has been filled with disappointments and lies which puts Banner immediately at odds with them.

Greene as Ben is the law enforcement that has a wicked and biting sense of humor. Feeling as if the case is going to get mishandled, he is with Lambert almost every step of the way to ensure justice is done – even if that justice is tribal. I love that Greene is in this film and with a face that doesn’t give anything away, he adds to the mysteriousness of it all.

Birmingham as Martin has another fantastic role of a father dealing with not only the death of his daughter but feeling helpless about their situation all together. He knows that Lambert understands him and knows between his friend and Ben – something will get done. This isn’t Birmingham’s first go around with a Taylor Sheridan film playing Alberto Parker in HELL OR HIGH WATER, another amazing role.

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Other cast include Julia Jones as Wilma, Teo Briones as Casey, Apesanahkwat as Dan Crowheart, Tantoo Cardinal as Alice Crowheart, Eric Lange as Dr. Whitehurst, Althea Sam as Annie, Tokala Clifford as Sam Littlefeather, Martin Sensmeier as Chip, Tyler Laracca as Frank, Blake Robbins as Tim, Norman Lehnert as Dale, James Jordan as Pete, Matthew Del Negro as Dillon, Hugh Dillon as Curtis, Ian Bohen as Evan, Austin Grant as Carl and Jon Bernthal as Matt.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give WIND RIVER four tubs of popcorn out of five. First of all, the cinematographer is amazing set up in the wilderness and harsh setting of winter. It sets the stage for the harshness of the story that is being told drawing you in completely. There is an innate sadness in it and once the story takes off, it becomes clear that there is another story wrapped in.

Renner and Olsen are in it completely character wise and it is such a pleasure to see Greene, Apesanahkwat and Crowheart brought to the screen. Portraying Native American characters called for one thing absolutely – that they should be portrayed by Native American actors to which I give Sheridan much appreciation.

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That story is Native American women are attacked so much more than anyone has ever been made aware of. That becomes clear by the end of the film along with the injustice and hopelessness those living on the reservations live with. From drugs to the taking of their land by, in this case, an oil company, Sheridan makes it clear that none of this should continue to be ignored.

WIND RIVER has a few bumps here and there but nothing that bothers me in the slightest. The performances stand out and the story is harsh and believable from start to finish. Capturing it all in the rough setting gives the film another character that doesn’t need to say a word – it is quite clear.

In the end – nothing is harder to track than the truth!

 

 

A MONSTER CALLS is a Story that Moves

monster

 

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director J.A. Bayona and Focus Features is a story of a boy who finds an unlikely ally when A MONSTER CALLS.

Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is a young boy living a life filled with heartache. As his ill Mum (Felicity Jones) becomes bedridden, he struggles daily to deal with being himself. Dealing with the other school kids either pushing him around or feeling sorry for his situation, Conor just takes it all in.

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That is until he is pushed to the very limits and a tree Monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) crashes into his life. The Monster demands that Conor tell him stories in an effort to help the young boy come to terms with everything that keeps him from living.

Grandma (Sigourney Weaver) takes Conor into her home when Mum goes into the hospital. The two must become acquainted which is hard to do as they both carry the same anger. Even a visit from Conor’s Dad (Toby Kebbell) isn’t enough to help the bottled up emotions he is carrying.

It is what happens between Conor and the Monster that might give the young boy the ability to accept life and all its uncertainty.

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MacDougall as Conor is an amazing find in this role. His ability to portray every emotion by not showing emotion just gave me the chills. This character brings out the childhood memories we all have of love, loss, not knowing who is friend or foe and relatives that should be a source of comfort but are not. MacDougall is absolutely and simply superb!

Weaver as Grandma is very cold toward Conor and the young boy feels it. Even her home is perfection putting Conor even more out of his comfort zone. The two characters have more in common than they realize. Jones as the young boy’s Mum is loving and has made sure to cement memories for Conor. That doesn’t mean being ill isn’t also a memory for him.

Neeson as the voice of the Monster is also brilliant. Of course he has done this before as the voice of Aslan in the film NARNIA but as the Monster he is cold, straight forward and emotionally brutal but in an honest way. I have to say there are moments where this CGI created character could be quite frightening but the reasons become clear and smart. Of course Neeson could read a phone book and most of us would be pretty happy with that.

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Other cast include Ben Moor as Mr. Clark, James Melville as Harry, Oliver Steer as Sully, Dominic Boyle as Anton, and Jennifer Lim as Miss Kwan.

TUBS OF POPCORN: Welcome to 2017 as A MONSTER CALLS is my first five tubs of popcorn out of five. This is an emotionally charged film with brilliant performances, a story that reaches into hearts and memories along with fantastic CGI (and when was the last time you heard me say that!). Every moment of this story on screen is amazing due to the work of Patrick Ness.

I should have realized that this would be an emotional journey since director J.A. Bayona is also responsible for the 2012 film THE IMPOSSIBLE which was on my Top Ten list of 2012 and a serious box of Kleenex film as well. Bayona has now reached down deep twice into an audience and made us be honest with ourselves and the emotions we don’t want to either talk about or deal with.

The accolades for A MONSTER CALLS are just beginning from the Critics Choice Awards to the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association voting a win for Best Voice Performance for Liam Neeson.

In the end – stories are wild creatures!

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