FlixChatter Review: The High Note (2020)

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I’ve never seen any of the 50 Shades movies, but I’ve seen quite a few of Dakota Johnson‘s films and I quite like her as an actress. So she’s the main draw for me to see this one which reminds me a bit of Cloud of Sils Maria, where Kristen Stewart (another talented young actress famous for being in a huge, lucrative franchise) plays a dedicated personal assistant of a famous celebrity.

I enjoy this movie thoroughly and I find it engaging from the start. Both Tracee Ellis Ross as the superstar singer Grace Davis and Dakota as her overworked assistant Maggie fit the characters nicely. Obviously Tracee channelled her very famous mom Diana Ross for the role, but I think she made the role her own and she also has a wonderful singing voice. Dakota has a certain charm & cool factor that makes her so watchable, and she’s proven herself to be quite a versatile actress.

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Just like Nisha Ganatra‘s previous movie Late Night, this movie also explores the power dynamic of two talented women, but tackling it with wit and humor. At the same time, it’s also not afraid to tackle important subject matters such as sexism AND ageism in the music industry. Despite her fame and success, Grace still can’t break free from the expectations of her manager and music label. She wanted to record new music (as does Maggie), but her manager wants her to just ‘cash it in’ by doing residency like other big name singers like Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, etc. There’s a conversation between Maggie and Grace in a bathroom is a memorable one and I find it inspiring that Grace doesn’t want to play it safe despite what the record label thinks she should do because of her age. 

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Maggie herself is an aspiring music producer herself and despite her demanding boss, somehow found time to discover a new talent in David (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) at a party. Dakota really sells it as someone who’s absolutely passionate about music, and the scene of her in a studio recording session is a memorable one. Ice Cube is always fun to watch though he gets to be a bit over the top here as Grace’s manager. There are two amusing cameo roles here, there’s Bill Pullman as Maggie’s radio DJ dad who instills the deep love of music in her; and Eddie Izzard as a music star Maggie reach out to for Grace’s album release party. Too bad we don’t get to see Izzard perform though, would’ve been cool if he’d done a Glamrock-style number.

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The movie does feel rather formulaic in parts. I feel the romance between Maggie and David is so unnecessary and the film would’ve been more intriguing without it. There’s also a twist at the end that really came out of left field, and a serendipitous moment that feels all too convenient. Still, this movie hits mostly the right notes. Tracee’s performance feels authentic in that you believe her as a bonafide music superstar, and Dakota brings Maggie’s own personal journey in a believable way. You could do much worse than a feel-good movie with likable characters and wonderful music.

3.5/5 Reels


Have you seen THE HIGH NOTE? I’d love to hear what you think!

TCFF 2017 Reviews: Little Pink House + The Ballad of Lefty Brown

There aren’t enough days in TCFF to post all the reviews. In fact, I still have a few more TCFF reviews coming your way next week, which will be interspersed with new release reviews such as Only The Brave, The Foreigner and The Snowman.

Thanks to TCFF blog contributor Andy Ellis for these reviews. Definitely something to check out when it’s released near you.

The Ballad of Lefty Brown
review by Andy Ellis

If there is one thing that makes The Ballad of Lefty Brown stand out from other westerns it’s Bill Pullman‘s performance. The story itself is a different take on the revenge-type western, because the underdog takes center stage. Lefty Brown (Pullman) witnesses his partner get murdered in front of him, and vows to find the men responsible.

For a western it’s great. There’s plenty of gun fights and suspense to go around. And there are definitely scenes that allow the supporting cast to shine. Peter Fonda plays Edward Johnson, Brown’s partner, and does a great job with the limited screen time he has. Kathy Baker is great as his wife Laura playing a woman is suddenly dealing her husband’s death, keeping the farm going, and finding out who killed her husband. Tommy Flanagan shines as the hardened Federal Marshal Tom Harrah and a longtime friend of Johnson and Brown, who is still trying to overcome a tragedy from his past. Jim Caviezel and Diego Josef also have great supporting parts that make for very memorable scenes.

This, however, is Pullman’s film. If there ever was role that would should garner him some sort of acclaim from critics and awards voters, this would be it. He transforms into Brown, a sidekick with a who no one sees as someone who is capable of successfully avenging his partner’s death. He’s got a bad limp so he’s not always the smoothest at moving, may be mentally slow, and other peculiarties as well.

He overcomes all of that, with a few missteps along the way, with a determination to get justice for his friend. Even with everyone telling him someone else will take care of it, he’s going to get it done or die trying. Everyone can come along for the ride if they want.

Yes, the story is about revenege. But it’s also about one man with a really big heart. And despite all the obstacles in his way won’t even let the possibility of death get in the way of getting justice for his partner, a man who gave him everything.


Little Pink House
Review by Andy Ellis

Academy Award-nominated actress Catherine Keener (Get Out, 40-Year-Old-Virgin) may find herself in the running again with Little Pink House. Adapted from the book Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage by Jeff Benedict, it’s centered around Susette Kelo (Keener) and the events that led up to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the Kelo vs. City of New London. The decision allowed the government to bulldoze neighborhood property for the benefit of a multibillion-dollar corporation.

The story consists of many characters, but there are two that stand out the most: Keener and Jeanne Tripplehorn who plays Charlotte Wells. She’s hired by the governor of Connecticut to convince the citizens of New London to let the government buy their homes. Tripplehorn delivers a great performance as Wells who is undeterred by any obstacles put in her way, but you still really hope she fails.

Keener, who resembles the real-life Kelo pretty well, delivers a great performance of a woman starting over. She just wants to be able to live in her home, but when Wells and the government try taking that away she’s determined, passionate, and rarely loses her composure.

These two women lead a talented supporting cast including Aaron Douglas, Miranda Frigon, and Callum Keith Rennie. They and many others all contribute special moments to the film.

The fact that this is a true story makes it that much more powerful. It’s a story about defiance, courage, and hope. Despite its outcome, this is a movie that have you cheering from your seat.


Have you seen these films? Well, what did you think?

 

Weekend Roundup and Bottle Shock review

Happy Monday all!

Hope you enjoyed your weekend. Mine is relatively good, though I spent a good portion of my weekend at an orthopedic center for my swollen knee joint 😦 It might’ve been spurred on by an extra intense Zumba-jam on Saturday morning. The physician said it could’ve been a torn cartilage which may require surgery and ordered an MRI done that day. I’m going to have to return to the clinic Tuesday, so please pray that it’s nothing serious!

Anyway, suffice to say I didn’t make a trip to the cinema this weekend. Did any of you see The Avengers again? Seems like it’s still enjoying repeat business and is mighty enough to sink the Peter Berg’s Battleship, ehm. This is the second movie starring Taylor Kitsch that would likely never make its $200 mil back, ouch! I’m not saying it’s his fault but that’s gotta put a dent in his career.

Anyway, I’ll post my full review of Chronicle tomorrow, but here’s my mini review of:

BOTTLE SHOCK (2008)

I’ve been wanting to see this in a while as I’m a big fan of Alan Rickman. I also love films that are set in a wine country, despite my distate for alcohol, ahah. I even saw Letters To Juliet for that very reason.

The story takes place in the gorgeous Napa Valley, which my hubby and I visited just last year. The cinematography makes it look like an extended commercial for the place, full of stunning aerial shots of the winery and beautiful close-ups of the branches and grapes. I didn’t know it’s based on a true story until the opening credits, but apparently it’s loosely based on the Judgment of Paris event spurred by Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant and an advocate for French wine. Played by the always excellent Alan Rickman, Spurrier carried out two blind taste tests that set the California-produced wines against the then superior French wine.

It starts off rather slow as the scenes alternates between Spurrier and his American businessman friend (Dennis Farina) and the scenes at Chateau Montelena where Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) perfects his chardonnay. But as soon as Spurrier flies to Napa, the story picks up rather quickly and becomes quite interesting.

Jim and his mischief-maker son Bo (Chris Pine with Thor‘s hair cut) didn’t always see eye-to-eye, and thrown into the mix is a free-spirited intern Sam (Aussie Rachael Taylor) and his BFF Gustavo (Freddy Rodriguez), the son of a Mexican farmworker who’s got ‘wine in his blood.’ Now this movie wish I actually like wine and if you are a big fan of them, it certainly makes you want to open up your best bottle as you enjoy this movie.

Even though the story is quite predictable, the film maintains its charm from its actors and the dynamics between them. Rickman is pitch perfect as a British snob who’s about to get the biggest surprise of his life, and Bill Pullman is always convincing as a kindhearted everyman who gave up his law practice to follow his dreams. I like the scene when he first arrives and is helped by Jim when he gets a flat tire, it shows the contrast of two very different people whose lives are about to collide in a way neither could ever dreamed of.

The best scene in the movie involves Rickman and Pine as Spurrier is about to fly back to Paris and is told he could only carry one bottle of wine on board. His inventive way to solve this problem is quite entertaining to watch. Rickman doesn’t disappoint as always, I know he’s got comic timing and sense of irony on top of being a great villain. Chris Pine has this affable, goofball vibe about him that goes with his heartthrob good looks, and the sort of love triangle between his character and Taylor and Rodriguez aren’t over the top.

Final Thoughts: I quite like this one, it’s not brilliant storytelling or anything, but it’s got a heartwarming message about family, friendship and following — and not giving up on — your dreams. It’s worth a watch just for the Napa Valley scenery alone.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


So what did you see this weekend, folks? Anything good?

Five Memorable American Movie Presidents

Happy President’s Day!

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In celebration of American presidents in the past 234 years, here are five actors who’ve played the role of U.S. Commander in Chief in the past couple of decades:

Michael Douglas – Andrew Shepherd in The American President (1995)

This movie is full of great scenes between Douglas and his love interest played brilliantly by Annette Benning, but this telephone banter that ends up with the prez asking her out is absolutely endearing. Of course there’s also the rousing speech that’s arguably one of the best movie speeches ever, and one that’s worthy to be in one of my top 20 favorite scenes list.

Morgan Freeman – Tom Beck in Deep Impact (1998)

Cool and collected even in a major crisis. With a regal stature and deep, soothing voice, Mr. Beck is the kind of leader we all wish to have suppose a giant meteor threatens to wipe out the entire humanity. ‘We will prevail. Life will go on,’ he said in the movie, and as implausible and absurd as the circumstances seemed to be, we’re somehow inclined to believe him.

…..

Kevin Kline – William Harrison Mitchell in Dave (1993)

One minute Dave Kovic is just a regular guy who does uncanny impersonation, the next he’s in the same bedroom in the White house with the First Lady (Sigourney Weaver). Kline’s brand of mischievous humor is perfect for this role, and this scene where he sings the entire chorus of Anne in the middle of a traffic stop is a real hoot! Equally memorable in this flix is Frank Langella as Chief of Staff Bob Alexander. A decade and a half later, he scored an Oscar nomination playing a historical president Nixon in Frost/Nixon.

Apparently isn’t the only time he plays the prez, he played the role of the 18th US President Ulysses S. Grant in the Western action-comedy Wild Wild West with Will Smith.

Bill Pullman – Thomas J. Whitmore in Independence Day (1996)

Whitmore’s freedom speech is unabashedly mawkish, sure, but hey, if some giant aliens were about to annihilate the entire earth population, I think one’s allowed to get just a tad sentimental, no?

….….

Donald Moffat – President Bennett in Clear and Present Danger (1994)

The confrontation between President Bennett and an infuriated Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) in the Oval Office remains one of my fave scenes of the movie.
….
The President:
How dare you come in here and lecture me!
Jack Ryan:
How dare *you*, sir!
The President:
How dare you come into this office and bark at me like some little junkyard dog? I am the President of the United States!

….
Of course my favorite line comes from the heroic CIA analyst himself after Bennett’s spiel on who gets punished for ‘Reciprocity’ (from IMDb quotes page): “I’m sorry, Mr. President, I don’t dance.” Bennett’s expression as Ryan walked out is priceless! The 80-year-old Brit has played a US president twice, the other time as historical prez Lyndon B. Johnson in The Right Stuff.


Hmmm, I just realized all of them on this list are from the 90s. It’s pure coincidence really, I guess I can’t really remember one memorable movie prez of the last decade. They all seem to be the daft caricatures: the doofus version Dennis Quaid played in American Dreamz, the sleazeball one in Love, Actually (Billy Bob Thornton), and Tim Robbins in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Any other movie president(s) stick out to you?