Friday, March 20, 2020

Watch at Home - Movies Available for Rent or Purchase

As we all deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic by staying home, when we can, while many businesses and public gathering places are forced to close, Hollywood is also looking for a way to deal with the shutdowns while hoping to keep audiences entertained. Many studios are now making recent and current theatrical releases available on digital platforms much sooner than usual. These titles are now available, or will be soon, through our affiliate partner FandangoNow. Any rental or purchase through the provided links will help support Hotchka at no extra cost to you. We'll update this page as more titles are announced. Click on the image for more information. Thank you!

NOW AVAILABLE FOR RENT OR PURCHASE

EMMA. The Invisible Man

The Hunt Cats

Onward Frozen II

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Just Mercy

1917 Dolittle



The Call of the Wild Downhill

Sonic the Hedgehog Bad Boys for Life

Impractical Jokers: The Movie Never Rarely Sometimes Always


AVAILABLE APRIL 10

Trolls World Tour

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Netflix review: Always Be My Maybe


Always Be My Maybe hits familiar notes bolstered by the strength of its leads
by Jeremy Fogelman

When I saw Crazy Rich Asians last year, I wondered if it was finally a step in the right direction of mainstream acceptance of romantic leads of Asian descent. I still feel it was a case of the “elevated” rom-com, with the strengths the three primary female characters and the well done production design. The plot itself was fairly thin, but it showed promise for something “next” to come.

Always Be My Maybe isn’t exactly that. The movie comes from director Nahnatchka Khan, creator of my beloved Don’t Trust the B-- in Apartment 23 as well as the Constance Wu and Randall Park sitcom Fresh off the Boat. It is co-written by the two leads, Ali Wong and Randall Park, along with TV writer Michael Golamco. One thing that permeates the film is a sense of personality, and the chemistry between the Wong and Park feels sharp, like a close friendship of many years.

© Netflix

Which naturally, they have in real life. Unfortunately I didn’t really feel the romantic chemistry so much, which also makes sense given their history. Wong plays Sasha Tran and Park plays Marcus Kim, two childhood friends who move into a quick romance and breakup in their teenage years. After this, we catch up years later where Sasha is a famous chef and restaurateur, often referred to as an “Asian Oprah”. In contrast, Marcus works with his father in their HVAC business and is an underachiever with mild dreams as a musician.

There’s an interesting thematic element there, the high achiever versus low achiever, each with a sort of pride in their choices in life. It is even slightly touched on, but eventually the movie also dips into the negative perspective many men have about women more successful than they are. That part feels more regressive instead of progressive.

Of course the primary story of the movie is the cut and paste reconnection between Marcus and Sasha as they start a new friendship and maybe romance? After that, the beats are all fairly predictable, starting with the throwing aside of the old “wrong for you” significant others -- like Marcus’ hippie girlfriend Jenny played by Vivian Bang, or Sasha’s cold, handsome jerk of a boyfriend Brandon, played by Daniel Dae Kim. Then there’s the inevitable hook up, the escalation, the big moment of “this is a big deal for me” with the contrasting “I’m insecure thus we’ll break up” and the inevitable reconciliation.

© Netflix

The movie is at its best when it focuses on the little, authentic touches of the lifestyle of Asian Americans often ignored by most movies. There’s also a heavily promoted scene with Keanu Reeves that indeed lives up to expectations. Ali Wong is a talented stand up comedian, and Randall Park is a great comic actor -- their co-writer is mainly known for mythic dramas like Grimm, and it’s hard to say what impact he had at all.

Nahnatchka Khan as a show-runner? Great. But as a director, she plays it very safe. The DP is industry veteran Tim Suhrstedt who’s done everything from The Wedding Singer to 38 episodes of Silicon Valley. Maybe that’s something that’s made a difference here, but the movie does feel very small and “television” looking.

The weird thing about the movie to me is that although there’s a lot to like about it, it isn’t nearly as funny nor as sexy as I’d hoped. Instead it simply feels like another step in the long road of making these sorts of movies with Asian leads. We’re a long way from the days of Romeo Must Die where the scene with Jet Li kissing Aaliyah was cut out of the movie. If we must go through the “better than average but not great” set of movies to get to the great movies, that’s a sacrifice we should all be willing to make.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Crisis on Infinite Earths Parts 4-5

© The CW
A Brave New World!
by Brandon Coulson

Be sure to check out the Crisis on Infinite Earths Parts 1-3 recap!

Part 4

After a month long hiatus, The CW’s giant crossover event returned for a two-part one-night capper. Starting it off we got the origins of The Monitor ten thousand years ago on the planet Maltus. Finally seeing him as a person instead of a godlike being was interesting. It let us see the wife he lost and even had him comment on the suit design she chose for him and how ridiculous it looked. A scientist traveling back to the dawn of time to see creation but as these things do so often go wrong … yeah he unwittingly created the Anti-Monitor and started this whole mess to start with.

After that origin story we jump back to The Vanishing Point where our paragons have been trapped for months together, all except Barry who has been missing after running into the Speed Force. We get a quick update on how everyone has been coping through a nicely done montage that includes Kara paying tribute to the comic version's iconic dead Supergirl moment but with her holding her cousin's cape instead of Superman holding her.

But Barry soon returns and after his unnecessary exposition Oliver shows his ashen face now as The Spectre. It’s here that we get the main thrust of the episode in our heroes' last ditch effort to undo the end of all things in a two pronged attack. One team going to the dawn of time to fight the Anti-Monitor while Kara, Lex and Ryan go to Maltus and try to prevent The Monitor and his counterpart from ever being created.

© The CW
Getting to their destinations prove to be much harder than expected however as the gang gets lost in the Speed Force and Barry has to track them down using memories as connections and bonds. What this ends up meaning is a trip through the greatest hits, much like Avengers Endgame did but on a much smaller and cheaper scale.

During this little trip though we get the last and biggest cameo of the entire crossover - Ezra Miller’s Flash!! How in the world did they keep this one under wraps?! And the way it’s played, very simply, with the two Flashes face-to-face both shocked and then admiring each other's suits and their differences, a very funny and overdue acknowledgement of the shows by the film side in a way that even Marvel hasn’t done yet. Ezra fades away and the journey through crossovers past and pivotal show moments continues.

Ryan Choi is quickly becoming a fun new character for the CWU as he is being slowly set up to take Brandon Routh’s place as the new Atom on Legends of Tomorrow. When he arrives with Kara and Lex on Maltus, his remark about the alien forest not looking so alien was a very Legends type of line, calling out the budgetary restraints and most certainly just another Vancouver location. Soon after the inevitable happens as Lex double-crosses them intent on becoming the greatest power in the universe, he even gave himself powers with the Book of Destiny. This doesn’t do much as The Monitor has easily shown that Lex isn’t to be trusted. Thus The Monitor is convinced not to time travel and all should be well.

The build up of the two stories here felt a little bit like filler. The saving grace being the chemistry and nostalgia of the classic scenes revisited carrying it until the inevitable big fight in a rock quarry against the Anti-Monitor. Yes, even though the Monitor we’ve known never came to be, an alternate version somewhere still did and so we still have a big bad to deal with.

The fight looked silly and it's so obvious they're all fighting nothing on set. Even their directions and action seem like the director just said go fight the air however you want and we'll fix it in post. But after that silly display, Ollie and the Anti-Monitor face off, well basically just grapple, and Oliver gets one last catchphrase in as “You failed this Universe” might be one of the cringiest bad lines ever in the Arrowverse. But Ollie dies and a new Universe is born. Yay, but Ollie’s death feels a bit undercut as it’s really like the third time he’s died in this crossover. And what of this new Universe? That was all explained in...

© The CW
Part 5

Okay, so this episode had a lot of issues. It’s clunky and there are a ton of cheats. But I loved it! Kara and the other Paragons wake to find the world has no memory of what happened. This also means they don’t know about the massive changes to their world as they did the one thing every fan has been asking for: the CW heroes are all on the same Earth finally!

Yes, much like the comics version they used this to bring Kara and Black Lightning to Earth Prime as it’s now called, streamlining things but also raising a ton of questions. The set ups for all the shows moving forward have me super excited as big things are introduced.

Lex is good! Yes, in another Luthor like twist Lex used his influence to make the new world’s history look at him like a hero. What this does to the current story with Lena and Kara is anyone's guess but it lets the show do the classic dynamic of Lex being beloved while the Kryptonians know how terrible he truly is. Oh and that wink he gives Kara at the medal ceremony is just the right amount of smarmy. We even got a cameo from Marv Wolfman, one of the brains behind the 'Crisis' comics and countless other comic projects, as a rabid fanboy.

The cheat I mentioned was a sort of necessary but all too easy catch up from J’onn as he psychically fills in all the other heroes on what happened and what's changed. I get why that doesn’t mean it isn't cheap. Also speaking of cheap, J’onn shows off a new look as I’m guessing budget concerns have pushed them to let the human side of J’onn wear his Martian suit and fight now, cutting the CG bill in half, though he still changed to fly so we’ll have to see how much they use his new look.

The episode really felt like a victory lap, having Mick be at a book signing and bringing back giant Beebo however brief was very fan-servicey. This of course before we found out the Anti-Monitor is still alive and sends swarms of his ghouls to attack. This time though they have a plan to have him shrink supposedly forever into the Microverse also cementing Palmer and Choi’s bond before the hand-off hero duties later this season.

Kara got to be scary again as she did what looked like a death charge at the Anti-Monitor, before being told she throws like a girl, again a cheesy but oh so satisfying silly end to the whole crossover. It was the final moments that really showed how much has changed and how much got fixed. The big one, something that never sat right with me was after Flashpoint Diggle’s child went from a girl to a boy showing the timeline was altered. Now Diggle has both children fixing one of Barry’s biggest mistakes. Also Lois tells Clark their sons, plural, are with her. We’ll see how this shakes out especially as they got a series order. And in a big and final send off to Ollie (his eighth one by now), the President gives Oliver credit for saving the world … or actually worlds as we see that a new Multiverse is established, acknowledging the DC Universe shows including the upcoming Stargirl, Titans, Doom Patrol and what looks like a sneak peak at HBOMax’s Green Lantern project, ending the montage on a perfect note as Brandon Routh’s old, weary Superman lives and looks happy finally.

In an episode with what seems like every piece of fan service possible, we got another cherry on top as the hangar from the first big crossover is established as the base for this world’s Justice League and yes it is the Hall of Justice. We even get a hint at Fleek the super monkey being loose in the world, though I doubt we’ll see that pay off ever.

This crossover was a giant, ambitious, messy, cheesy, uneven, gloriously nerdy pile of callbacks and references that is as dorky as it is fun! I could have done with some better action sequences but it more than made up for that with the fun and chemistry from the cast. Well done! The aftershocks of this event will surely be felt in the seasons to come of all of the CW series and exciting things look to be on the horizon.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The 92nd Academy Awards Nominations

© AMPAS
It's a record setting year, but not without controversy
by Chuck Duncan

Probably the least interesting thing about this year's Oscars ceremony will be that for the second year in a row, there will be no traditional host. What should be of great interest is the completely open races there are in several categories, including Best Picture. The reason: this is the first time in Oscars history that FOUR films have earned ten or more nominations. That means four films will be duking it out for Best Picture with a possible fifth as a real spoiler. Among the Best Picture nominees, Joker scored 11 nominations while The Irishman, Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood and 1917 racked up 10 each. Of course, nominations don't always matter. In 1977, Star Wars had 10 nominations including Best Picture, and Julia and The Turning Point scored 11 noms plus Best Picture. The winner was Annie Hall with just five nominations ... and four wins.

But in the Best Picture race, the nominees in the Editing category seem to predict what film will win Best Picture. Only ten films since 1934 have won Best Picture without winning in the Editing category, the most recent being 2014's Birdman, but that was promoted as a 'single-shot' movie so no Editing nomination was expected. The same holds for 1917, also billed as one continuous take. Before Birdman, Ordinary People in 1980 was the last Best Picture winner with no Editing nomination. And of the four top nominees, Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood joins 1917 without an Editing nomination. The spoiler here could be Parasite, which is also up for Director, Original Screenplay and International Film as well as Editing. That film has been a critical darling, scooping up awards left and right, so it very well could go on to win both Best Picture and International Foreign Film and upset everyone. 1917's Golden Globe win for Best Picture - Drama is not a guarantee of an Oscar.

Where it gets a little less crazy is in the acting categories. You can almost bet on DiCaprio, Zellweger and Pitt to take their categories, and Laura Dern may have a lock on Supporting Actress.

Like it or not, Netflix is a major player this year with three Best Picture nominees -- The Irishman, Marriage Story and The Two Popes -- as well as two of the Animated Feature nominations for I Lost My Body and Klaus, icing out Disney's expected Frozen II nomination. The Mouse House scored just one in the category with Toy Story 4, only one of two sequels in the category.

Where the Academy stumbled this year was in its representation of women and diversity, at least in the major categories. Everyone held their breath during the Directing nominations, hoping to hear the name of at least one of the three women directors eligible in the category -- Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Lulu Wang (The Farewell) and Melina Matsoukas (Queen & Slim). Gerwig did get notice with an Adapted Screenplay nomination as well as Best Picture, but the directing omission that was carried over from the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs is causing some uproar. Cynthia Erivo represents the only real diversity in the major nominations with her Best Actress nod (as well as Best Song), while many expected and hoped Awkwafina would score for The Farewell, and Eddie Murphy would have seen a nomination for Dolemite Is My Name. One may think the Academy is still congratulating itself for egregiously awarding Green Book the Best Picture Oscar last year.

Say what you will, it should all make for a very interesting ceremony come February 9. Below is a complete list of this year's Oscar nominees. Did your favorites score or get snubbed?

BEST PICTURE

  • Ford v Ferrari
  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Joker
  • Little Women
  • Marriage Story
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
  • Parasite

 

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
  • Adam Drive, Marriage Story
  • Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
  • Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

 

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
  • Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
  • Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
  • Charlize Theron, Bombshell
  • Renée Zellweger, Judy

 

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  • Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
  • Al Pacino, The Irishman
  • Joe Pesci, The Irishman
  • Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood

 

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
  • Laura Dern, Marriage Story
  • Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
  • Florence Pugh, Little Women
  • Margot Robbie, Bombshell

 

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

  • How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
  • I Lost My Body
  • Klaus
  • Missing Link
  • Toy Story 4

 

CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • The Irishman
  • Joker
  • The Lighthouse
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood

 

COSTUME DESIGN

  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Joker
  • Little Women
  • Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood

 

DIRECTING

  • Martin Scorses, The Irishman
  • Todd Phillips, Joker
  • Sam Mendes, 1917
  • Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
  • Bong Joon Ho, Parasite

 

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

  • American Factory
  • The Cave
  • The Edge of Democracy
  • For Sama
  • Honeyland

 

DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

  • In the Absence
  • Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone
  • Life Overtakes Me
  • St. Louis Superman
  • Walk Run Cha-Cha

 

FILM EDITING

  • Ford v Ferrari
  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Joker
  • Parasite

 

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

  • Corpus Christi
  • Honeyland
  • Les Misérables
  • Pain and Glory
  • Parasite

 

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

  • Bombshell
  • Joker
  • Judy
  • Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
  • 1917

 

ORIGINAL SCORE

  • Hildur Guðnadóttir, Joker
  • Alexandre Desplat, Little Women
  • Randy Newman, Marriage Story
  • Thomas Newman, 1917
  • John Williams, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

 

ORIGINAL SONG

  • 'I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away', Toy Story 4
  • '(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again', Rocketman
  • 'I'm Standing With You', Breakthrough
  • 'Into the Unknown', Frozen II
  • 'Stand Up', Harriet

 

PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
  • Parasite

 

ANIMATED SHORT FILM

  • Dcera (Daughter)
  • Hair Love
  • Kitbull
  • Memorable
  • Sister

 

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

  • Brotherhood
  • Nefta Football Club
  • The Neighbors' Window
  • Saria
  • A Sister

 

SOUND EDITING

  • Ford v Ferrari
  • Joker
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

 

SOUND MIXING

  • Ad Astra
  • Ford v Ferrari
  • Joker
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood

 

VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Avengers: Endgame
  • The Irishman
  • The Lion King
  • 1917
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

 

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Joker
  • Little Women
  • The Two Popes

 

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Knives Out
  • Marriage Story
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
  • Parasite

Monday, January 6, 2020

Movie review: Chained for Life

© Flies Collective
Chained for Life takes a unique approach to define beauty
by Justin Moore

Chained for Life opens up with a quote from Pauline Kael that discusses how actors and actresses are more beautiful than ordinary people and how they have an advantage over everyone because everyone loves to look at beautiful people. This quote represents the film, directed by Aaron Schimberg, which offers a unique look at how actors and actresses with disabilities may be treated differently than others and what defines beauty. Chained for Life feels different than most movies that attempt to send a message like this. The film is about a German director (he may not be German and he may have been raised in a circus) who is shooting a horror film about a scientist who operates on disabled patients. One of the stars of the film is Mabel, who plays a young woman who is blind. She meets her co-star, the man she is supposed to be in love with in the film, Rosenthal, who is played by Adam Pearson. Pearson was born with neurofibromatosis, a condition that causes tumors to grow on his face. Mabel struggles with working with her co-star but opens up when Rosenthal asks her for acting lessons.

Their relationship builds on and off screen which features some charming moments amongst the two as well as some deep conversations. Rosenthal is very comfortable with himself, despite his condition, and considers himself shy even though he talks to everyone around him. Mabel is written as someone who worries about what other people say about her. Mabel is a beautiful actress and Pauline Kael would say that she landed her role because of her beauty. Rosenthal and Mabel are completely different characters and director Aaron Schimberg uses that to his advantage.

He is able to tell a story about how people with disabilities are treated while filming a movie or even out in public. The film the German director is shooting features other actors and actresses with disabilities and he makes them sleep in the hospital that they are filming the movie at while everyone else spends the night in a nice hotel. Schimberg uses subtle moments to capture how disabled people are treated poorly but making those moments feel heavy.

Towards the end of the film, it is hard to determine what is part of the movie being filmed or not. Many moments in Chained for Life has a scene starts off with intriguing dialogue that captures the viewers, but is quickly revealed to be a scene within their film. I found it frustrating at times because I found the scenes that were being filmed to be powerful, but it turned out to be part of a movie within a movie. This happens quite often at the end of the film with no transition into the crew getting together to set the scene.

One of my favorite aspects of the film is how often there are long conversations that are part of the horror movie that is being filmed as well as off-screen. There are a lot of conversations about beauty, dreams, and what people would do if they didn’t look like they did. Chained for Life had a lot to say about beauty and what defines it. Schimberg was able to convey his message well with a unique style of directing. Schimberg often utilizes long takes to allow for the actors and actresses to have deep meaningful conversations.

Chained for Life took a unique approach to tell its story. I loved Adam Schimberg’s directing as well as the message behind the film. I also would be interested in seeing the movie that was being filmed within Chained for Life. That seemed like a good movie too!

Chained for Life is released on DVD and Blu-ray by Kino Lorber on January 7, 2020. Click on the image below to order.

Chained for Life
 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Blu-ray review: Yesterday

© Universal Pictures
Yesterday brings the music of the Beatles home on Blu-ray
by Justin Moore

I saw Yesterday over the summer when it was released and enjoyed most of the film. The Danny Boyle directed film about a world without The Beatles was heartwarming and I couldn’t wait to explore it again on Blu-ray. Yesterday centers around Jack Malik, a struggling musician who wakes one day after a crash and learns that the Beatles were never a thing. He is the only one that knows who the Beatles are and uses that to his advantage to get popular. Himesh Patel stars as Jack who finally catches his big break after his crash. In a world of superhero movies, sequels, and remakes, it is nice for original films to come along and present an appealing story.

Review

Yesterday had such an interesting concept that made the film intriguing to watch. One of my issues the first time I saw it and it is still a gripe of mine the second time around is that Danny Boyle creates a generic film as it moves along. The movie explored what it is like to live a life of stardom and what you must give up for it. Lily James also stars in the film as Ellie Appleton. With having her in the film and exploring their relationship, the film unfortunately falls into the cliché moments despite having a unique plot. Every single time that Jack is performing a Beatles song, I loved it. The Beatles are a band that are widely popular, and the use of their songs makes the film fun to watch.

Video

The video presentation looks crisp and bright. The moments where Jack is performing live is stunning to look at with the large crowd. I was impressed with the presentation because it was a night concert, which could have been dark and hard to see, but it was presented clearly. All the settings that Jack visits throughout the movie capture stunning details and are colorful and warm.

Audio

The audio in Yesterday is superb. The musical moments feel grand, which works since a lot of those moments are presented in front of a large crowd. The smaller musical moments of Jack playing a guitar are clear and personal. The audio is the highlight of the film since it is a movie featuring the music of the Beatles and the Beatles deserve the best.

© Universal Pictures
Special Features
The Blu-ray release of Yesterday is packed with special features ranging from alternate endings, deleted scenes, and more. A DVD and digital copy are included in the Blu-ray release.

  • Alternate ending (3:10)
  • Deleted Scenes (23:29 Total runtime)
  • Live at Abbey Road Studios (9:50) -- Three songs that Himesh Patel sang at Abby Road Studios live.
  • Alternate Opening (4:47)
  • Gag Reel (2:04)
  • A Talented Duo (3:25) -- A look at the collaboration of director and writer.
  • Playing for Real (5:35) -- This offers an inside look at the casting choice for the film and what it was like for Himesh Patel to learn how to sing, play, and perform the Beatles songs.
  • Soul Mates (4:47) -- This special feature takes a closer look at the relationship between Jack and Ellie.
  • Ed Sheeran: From Stadium to Screen (3:09) -- A look at Ed Sheeran’s role in the film.
  • Agent of Comedy: Kate McKinnon (3:17) -- A look at Kate McKinnon’s performance in the movie.
  • A Conversation with Richard & Ed (3:22) -- The writer of Yesterday and Ed Sheeran talk about the film.
  • Audio Commentary – Director Danny Boyle and writer/producer Richard Curtis talk about the production of the film in depth.
Overview
Overall, I enjoy the premise of Yesterday and all the moments involving songs from the Beatles. You can tell that Jack really was into the Beatles and it was impressive that he was able to remember all their songs when no one else couldn’t. The film does feel a bit cliched at times, which is unfortunate, but I am able to look past that and enjoy the film for what it was.

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Yesterday - Target CD

Movie review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

© Sony Pictures
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood proves the necessity of Mr. Rogers even now
by Jeremy Fogelman

Of course I need to start with a confession: I never liked watching Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood as a kid. Perhaps I was already too old by the time I was even watching TV at six years old, but I do remember Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow being my jam back then. Mr. Roger’s was pleasant but often too slow and I didn’t really appreciate the show. It’s easier to appreciate what he was in retrospect, especially after last year’s emotional documentary. But did we need a Mr. Rogers biopic? Not really, and thankfully that’s not what we got.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood comes from director Marielle Heller, written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, inspired by the real life article written by Esquire writer Tom Junod in 1998 called "Can You Say ... Hero?" I recommend the article as an interesting bit of context for the movie, although I wouldn’t read it until you’ve seen the movie. Some elements are explicitly connected to the film, others are invented wholecloth.

The movie is framed as though it’s an episode of the television show, with Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks at his most sincere yet) introducing us to the story of his friend Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), the Esquire writer loosely based on Tom Junod. As we cut between scenes in different cities, the movie cleverly shows us various cityscapes in model form like the credits of the show, lending a feeling of unreality to Lloyd’s journey.

Lloyd is a new father, raising his son Gavin with his wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson), and a writer for Esquire magazine. His typical articles are take-downs of public figures and celebrities, but that leaves him unpopular with potential interviewees. He also has a fraught relationship (or lack thereof) with his father Jerry (Chris Cooper), who abandoned Lloyd and his mother. Jerry shows up at Lloyd’s sister’s wedding, and it doesn’t go well. Lloyd is completely uninterested in Jerry’s requests for forgiveness or insistence that he’s changed after a long term relationship.

© Sony Pictures
Then Lloyd gets a writing assignment to interview Fred Rogers, and there is a concern that the grim, cynical writer will “ruin people’s childhoods”, including his wife’s. Over the course of the movie, Lloyd’s continued interview and conversations with Mr. Rogers digs deeper and deeper into the lessons that are difficult to hear. Lloyd has difficulty believing that anyone can be so nice, but the movie reveals that it is and isn’t that simple.

The lesson here is that Mr. Rogers wasn’t a saint, but someone that worked to push back on his negative emotions and temper, and tried to spread good lessons to people, mainly children. Eventually in a scene of real emotional depth that is a truly wonderful moment of acting and directing, things begin to sink in.

The movie is unafraid to get weird, delving into hallucinatory images as Lloyd’s mind tries to get a hold of itself. Here Matthew Rhys, late of The Americans, shows off his perfect hangdog emotional complication, the self-proclaimed broken man that has an arc of healing. Chris Cooper is great like he always is in these problematic older man roles, while Susan Kelechi Watson gives depth to the “supportive partner” character type. And of course, Tom Hanks is wonderful, the driver of the movie but not the star, embodying Mr. Rogers in style and feeling without aping or impersonating him.

Ultimately this is a movie uninterested in hagiography of person but romanticism of personality. The lessons of Mr. Rogers sound so treacly and childish when you’re not in the right space to hear it, but he was always so connected to empathy and effortlessly communicative. It shows a way for anyone to get better, if they try, and that’s radical enough to praise in the slew of feel bad movies we’re getting these days.

Pre-order A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood today from FandangoNow!

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood - FandangoNow
 

Monday, December 23, 2019

FandangoNow Holiday Deal!

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Friday, December 20, 2019

Blu-ray review: Blinded By the Light

© Warner Bros. Pictures
Blinded by the Light is for any fans of The Boss
by Justin Moore

Blinded by the Light was released in theaters over the summer and was met with positive reviews. I missed the movie then, but thanks to Warner Bros., the Blu-ray copy they sent me to review will allow me to finally see what people were so excited about over the summer. Blinded by the Light was directed by Gurinder Chadha, who directed the 2000 sports film Bend it Like Beckham. This is inspired by the life of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor and his love for Bruce Springsteen. The film stars Viveik Kalra as Javed, a British-Pakistani Muslim teenager whose life is changed after he discovers the music of The Boss. The movie also stars Haley Atwell as a creative writing teacher, who pushes Javed to continue writing. Javed feels out of place at his new school. He struggles in his writing class and is rejected from the school’s writing paper. He feels that he is going nowhere with his writing, but once he discovers Springsteen, everything changes. Blinded by the Light takes a deep look at the power of music. When someone discovers an artist, they start to relate to them and it's all they think about. Viveik Kalra gives a fantastic performance as someone who struggles with the fact that they may not be the best writer they can be. The beginning of the film offers a realistic look at that struggle, but the film picks up and becomes jubilant once he discovers Springsteen. He starts to feel better about life, asks a girl out, starts writing more and everything just seems to fall in place for him. Music has that power on one’s life and Blinded by the Light and Kalra capture that well.

Video

One of the things I found most impressive about Blinded by the Light and its presentation was the use of shadows. When Javed first listens to the Boss and runs outside, the use of shadows behind him provide excellent detail and offer a nice bonus to the movie. Chadha also utilizes lyrics on the screen, which has become popular lately, but they were done in an effective way that captured the lyrics that resonated with Javed.

Audio

This is a movie where the audio needs to shine. If the audio wasn’t at least decent, we wouldn’t be able to feel Springsteen’s lyrics the same way that Javed felt about them. Luckily, Warner Bros. put a lot of effort into this release. The moments with Springsteen’s music feel grand and the pop music soundtrack sounds so clear

Special Features

  • Memoir to Movie (6:09) – Blinded by the Light was adapted from 'Greetings from Bury Park – Race, Religion, Rock n Roll' by Sarfraz Manzoor (who also co-wrote the screenplay). This special feature takes an inside look at adapting the source material as well as shooting in Luton.
  • The Most Crazy Thing (6:54) – Sarfraz Manzoor talks about his love for Bruce Springsteen, writing his memoir, and what it was like to have the film approved by Bruce Springsteen himself.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (9:19)- There are two deleted scenes provided for the film as well as one extended scene.
  • Digital Copy – A digital copy code is provided with the movie to download on Movies Anywhere.

Overall

Blinded by the Light was a very surprising film. I enjoyed how heartfelt it was. Springsteen’s music was powerful within the movie and the use of the lyrics on the screen were able to capture how Javed felt. At its core, it is a film about how an artist can change someone’s life and if anyone listens to music, they can relate to this movie. I also fell in love with Bruce Springsteen a little more with this movie!

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment generously provided Hotchka with a Blu-ray version of the film for reviewing purposes.

Blinded by the Light is available on Blu-ray/DVD from Target.com and the WBShop.com and on Digital from FandangoNow. Make any purchase through the links and help support Hotchka!

Blinded By the Light BD - TargetBlinded By the Light DVD - Target

Blinded By the Light - FandangoNowBlinded By the Light BD - WBShop

Blinded By the Light soundtrack available from Target.com.

Blinded By the Light CD - Target

Greetings from Bury Park – Race, Religion, Rock n Roll by Sarfraz Manzoor available from BN.com.

Greetings from Bury Park - B&N


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Movie review: The Report

© Amazon Studios
I don’t care for political movies, but I liked The Report
by Justin Moore

I’m not one for political movies. I mostly ignore politics, which is hard nowadays since it is all over social media. Whenever there is a new political movie, I often skip it, but I wanted to check out The Report solely because of Adam Driver. Driver has three films coming out in the span of a month. His two films in December (Marriage Story and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) are a perfect way to cap off the year.

Adam Driver stars as Daniel Jones, an FBI agent who is tasked with investigating the CIA’s use of torture on suspected terrorists. After the 9/11 attacks, the CIA adopted new interrogation techniques. With not paying too much attention to politics, I was not too familiar with this report and investigation, so I went into the movie with an open mind.

The movie presented the argument of why the report needed to be made and why it should be destroyed. Throughout the film, many people were trying to convince Daniel Jones that his report should be destroyed since the CIA was trying to stop future attacks by interrogating suspected terrorists. On Daniel Jones side, he believes that no human should be interrogating people the way the CIA was. By having both arguments present, it makes the report more urgent and the film more gripping.

Adam Driver has shown throughout the years that he is a talented actor. He can balance comedic and dramatic roles. He is very believable in his role and truly is invested in his character. The report Jones is writing up is a very long document, which requires hours and hours of hard work, and Driver easily convinces the audience that Jones was motivated to finish the report.

I was surprised with the large cast that is in this movie. The cast includes Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Corey Stoll, Michael C. Hall, and Maura Tierney. Everyone has an important role in the film, big or small, and makes the report feel important all the way till the last few minutes when Senator John McCain read the report.

Scott Z. Burns hasn’t directed a movie since 2006 but has spent most of career writing films that are directed by Steven Soderbergh, who also serves as the producer for The Report. He keeps the movie feeling quick and rarely slows down. As someone who isn’t into politics, I appreciated the quick pace for the film since I always remained interested.

I was surprised with how much I liked The Report. If I scrolled through my favorite films of recent years, there wouldn’t be a political thriller in there. The Report won’t crack my top ten of the year, but I am glad I sat down and watched it. And hey, I learned things about the CIA and FBI!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Movie review: Honey Boy

© Amazon Studios
Honey Boy is the most daring film of 2019
by Justin Moore

Shia LaBeouf has enjoyed a lengthy career since his days on the Disney Channel show Even Stevens in the early 2000s to his most recent summer movie, The Peanut Butter Falcon. I think Shia LaBeouf is an underrated actor and most of his recent films have great performances from him. His newest film, Honey Boy, which he also writes, is probably his best performance ever and a daring film as well.

Honey Boy is inspired by Shia LaBeouf’s upbringings with his father and his childhood fame. Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges both play Otis, who is essentially LaBeouf and Shia LaBeouf plays his own dad, whose real name is Jefferey, but goes by James in the film. There aren’t many movies that have an actor play their father in a film. Straight Outta Compton had O’Shea Jackson Jr. play his father in the movie. It is a unique approach that can bring authenticity to the role. Shia LaBeouf witnessed first-hand how his father treated him, so he is able to bring a realistic performance to the movie.

LaBeouf easily could have written his father as a disgusting human, but he decided to mix what he loved about his father and what he hated. LaBeouf has described his father as a “tough as nails kind of person” but he loved his father and his father loved him. He brought heartwarming moments to the role of his father, but also presented moments that made LaBeouf’s life so hard. We get to see the effects his father had on him as an adult, played by Lucas Hedges. Both Jupe and Hedges give such a surreal performance as the same character, who is struggling to connect with his father. Lucas Hedges picks his roles wisely and only appears in films when it is award season. Besides appearing in Honey Boy this year, he will also be starring in Waves later this year. With films like Lady Bird, Manchester by the Sea, and Boy Erased, Hedges is proving to be strong presence in Hollywood.

At times this movie is heartwarming when you are witnessing Otis interacting with his father and how he is helping him, but as the movie progresses we witness a harsher side to Otis’ father. The film quickly becomes a devastating, heartbreaking film that shows how a father can affect your life for the good or bad. The film started off with an older Otis as he was filming a movie, and during breaks drank alcohol and was constantly putting himself and others in harm. As the movie jumps back and forth between an older and younger Otis, we get to witness why he acts the way he does.

Honey Boy is a film that is daring but paid off in the end. The idea of this movie first threw me off, but it ended up being a powerful film with strong performances. A lot of people don’t like to talk about their childhood if they had one similar to LaBeouf’s but I thought it was brave of him to write a screenplay that put all of his hard upbringings on the screen for everyone to witness. At times he can make this film relatable with how his father is treating him, which makes the film realistic, even if Otis is a childhood star.

Honey Boy trailer
© Amazon Studios