Review: ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ brings us powerful performances by Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

When Chadwick Boseman passed away this summer, it cast a new light on all of his recent work. Not only did he work nearly constantly while also suffering from stage four cancer, but he also took the time to inhabit meaningful African American characters and to bring African American stories to the screen. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has a hell of a lot of expectations, being both produced by Denzel Washington and adapted from the August Wilson play of the same name, and that’s before you consider that it is Boseman’s last film.

So it’s a good thing that its a good movie then.

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Review: ‘The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two’ is another fun holiday romp for Kurt Russell

The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two

Here’s where I admit that I never watched The Christmas Chronicles. The response, at the time, was mixed and very generally speaking Christmas movies in November are not my favourite thing. Now that there is a sequel coming out I took the time to watch them both and you know what? You guys were wrong. The Christmas Chronicles is delightful, and while it definitely loses something by being a sequel The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two is too.

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Review: ‘The Life Ahead’ is a showcase for Sophia Loren and newcomer Ibrahima Gueye

The Life Ahead

It would be easy for the story of an ageing former prostitute who looks after the children of other prostitutes, and who forms a bond with a young Senegalese boy, to be a little too saccharine. In the hands of a lesser director, or a with a lesser cast, that might certainly be the case. As it stands the film toes that line but doesn’t cross it, thanks largely to Sophia Loren and young star Ibrahima Gueye.

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Review: ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ has great performances from Glenn Close and Amy Adams, but doesn’t elevate itself to being something special

Hillbilly Elegy

Appalachia is a region that has an image on the world stage that is coloured by stereotype. Poor white people. Bootlegging, moonshining, drug running, and everything that leaps to mind when you think of the movie Deliverance. It is, of course, more than that. There are good people there and culture that has a deep respect for family and loyalty.

Left behind in recent years as the industry that once drove the region gives way to resources being imported, and jobs drying up. There’s a vast amount of interesting societal issues at play in the region, and one that I am sure is fascinating to read about in the book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. Written in 2016 by JD Vance, the New York Times best-selling book has proven divisive, with fans and detractors alike claiming it either knows everything or is already out of date.

Unfortunately, much of the examination of class struggles in the region is basically ignored by this film.

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Review: ‘His House’ and the immigrant experience as horror.

His House

“Be one of the good ones.”

It sounds like a nice thing, but what it means is “don’t make trouble. Don’t make work for me.” This is the Britain that Bol and Rial arrive in, and the line they hear from Mark, the man in charge of their asylum status. Having arrived from Sudan, a country ripped apart by tribal civil war, the run-down council house they are given to stay in looks like a mansion. Nevermind the bugs, the rats, the barely functioning electrics, or the smell (“just open the window and let it air out” Mark says).

There’s little that might phase them though, having crossed two contents and a stormy ocean that claimed the life of their daughter. The cold attitude of the social workers charged with helping them is the least intimidating thing they have faced, but it’s also one of the more horrifying things in the film. It’s hard to believe that casting the immigrant experience as a horror film isn’t a well-worn trope at this point because it’s so terrifying, even when you consider the ghosts that have followed them from home.

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Home Video, Halloween Edition: 14 films and 5 binge-watches for your Halloween weekend

Halloween

Halloween Night is upon us dear readers, and on a Saturday night, no less. Any other year that would be cause for celebration, for the biggest party you can find in the most elaborate costume that you can come up with. This year we’re all stuck inside though, and what better way to spend the night with some Halloween movies.

So here are nine movies and three binge-watch suggestions for you to watch this Halloween, and which streaming services to find them on.

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Review: Anya Taylor-Joy is truly magnetic in ‘The Queen’s Gambit’

The Queen's Gambit

“There are two sides to the coin: the gift, and what it costs.” This is the lesson that the janitor tells her. The janitor, Mr Shaibel, spends his free time in the basement of the orphanage he works in playing chess. A young girl, Beth, takes an interest, and eventually, he begins to teach her. This is, in all likelihood, the closest relationship either of them has ever had. Him, a reserved man content to do his work and play chess, and her an orphan who never knew her father and whose mother suffered from severe mental health issues.

This is the beginning of The Queen’s Gambit, the new adaptation of Walter Tevis 1983 book of the same name, brought to the screen by Scott Frank for Netflix. The story chronicles the rise of a prodigy, a true genius at the game of chess. It follows her life through the 1960s as she combats sexism but also the isolation of genius and dangers and draws of alcoholism.

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Review: ‘Rebecca’ is a sumptuous romantic thriller and a great new adaptation

Armie Hammer and Lily James / Rebecca

“I don’t believe in ghosts.” This is the defiant declaration by the future Mrs de Winter as she heads toward her new life. She came to Monte Carlo as a ladies maid and is leaving as the future wife of a wealthy landowner, and her lady has warned her that she will be haunted by the ghost of her fiancés’ first wife. Ghost aren’t real in the literal sense but what she doesn’t realize is that we can be haunted by the departed none the less.

Rebecca is a new adaptation of the classic novel by Daphne du Maurier, which follows a young woman, after she spends a whirlwind summer with her handsome suitor, settling into her new life as Mrs De Winter, the lady of a large estate in 1930s England. While her summer was idyllic her new life quickly turns into something else as the memory of her husband’s first wife permeates every aspect of her new life.

Each day that passes the remembrance by all those around her –new friends, new family, and new staff– haunts her further and drives her slowly toward madness. Is that haunting simply because she was larger than life, or is it something more insidious?

The answer, of course, is something you’ll have to watch the movie to find out and that, dear reader, is something I recommend you do.

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Review: ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ uses American’s past to hold a mirror up to its present

The Trial of the Chicago 7

The topical period piece is hardly a new phenomenon. Examining our past such that we might examine our present is a function of art, and if executed well a surefire way to be on everyone’s mind come awards season.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 tells the story of the aftermath of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. During that event, several groups came to the city to protest the war in Vietnam. Thousands of people protested for days before violence broke out, and the situation devolved into what we now know to be a police riot. The film picks up the following year when eight men, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale are on trial for conspiracy to incite a riot.

Aaron Sorkin has been developing this film for years, but it’s hard to imagine a world where the timing of its release could be better.

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‘Mank’ teaser: David Fincher’s new film takes a close look at one of the greatest films ever made

Gary Oldman / Mank

Citizen Kane is widely regarded as one of the best movies ever made, and the story behind that film is the subject of David Fincher’s latest project. Mank follows the life of Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles co-writer on Citizen Kane, as the project is being written and made.

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Review: ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ is another solid entry in Mike Flanagan’s filmography

The Haunting of Bly Manor

We are, each of us, haunted. Not by ghosts necessarily, but by our pasts and the choices that we’ve made and circumstances we have endured. We not all haunted all the time, sometimes we are the ones doing the haunting. Memories of us cling to the people we love and who loved us and can drag us down as much as raise us up. 

The Haunting of Bly Manor is a story about being haunted, but as with the best of gothic romance, it is not a ghost story as much as it is a story with ghosts in it. Each of the characters is dealing with their own ghost. Whether it is an ex-fiance or bad choices, none is immune. Even the house itself, which is haunted in a more literal sense, is haunted because its past cannot let go of it. Each of them gains a way out because The Haunting of Bly Manor is a story about love.

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Poster Gallery: ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ posters reveal the episode titles

The Haunting of Bly Manor

In case it isn’t already apparent, I am pretty hyped for The Haunting of Bly Manor. The trailer released last week was good, and the deep dive we took into that trailer revealed what looks to be another effectively scary story from director Mike Flanagan.

Now posters have been released for each of the nine episodes, and each one comes with the episode’s title. Each title is that of a story by Henry James, whose classic horror story The Turning of the Screw inspires the main plot of the season.  The season also reportedly borrows pieces from other stories by James, so consider each of these posters clues.

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Let’s Take a Closer Look a the ‘Haunting of Bly Manor’ trailer (with 80ish HD Captures!)

The Haunting of Bly Manor

The first full trailer for the upcoming Netflix original series The Haunting of Bly Manor dropped a few days ago. I’m a big fan of Mike Flanagan, with both the 2019 film Doctor Sleep being one of my favourites of last year, and the 2018 series The Haunting of Hill House being one of my favourite series of that year.

Bly Manor is the second in what officially appears to be an anthology series, with the same production crew and many of the same actors, but a self-contained story with new characters. Based on the 1898 Henry James story The Turning of the Screw, this series will hopefully be creepy another great entry in Mike Flanagans incredibly effective horror filmography.

So let’s take a closer look!

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‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ Trailer is here to creep you out

The Haunting of Bly Manor

The Haunting of Hill House was one my favourite things that I watched last year (yes, I was late to the party) and Mike Flanagan is back with a follow up series, The Haunting of Bly Manor. Based on the Henry James story Ihe Turn of the Screw, it takes place in 1980s and has a young nanny being hired at the titular Bly Manor to look after two young children, and of course everything is not as it seems.

Let’s take a look!

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Review: ‘Enola Holmes’ is a joy for the whole family

Enola Holmes

Millie Bobby Brown is already a star. Her role in the Netflix series Stranger Things established her as a young actress to watch and her role in last years Godzilla: King of the Monsters cemented that she can indeed act opposite giant CGI monsters on the big screen as well as the small.

There’s always a danger in an actor taking on iconic roles at an early point in their career that they might be typecast. With the release of Enola Holmes this is, I can firmly say, not a danger that Millie Bobby Brown needs to worry about.

She’s great, and this is a good movie.

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