Review: Brawl in Cell Block 99

Starring Vince Vaughn

Review: The Foreigner

Starring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan

Review: Marshall

Starring Chadwick Boseman and Josh Gad

Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin

Starring Domhnall Gleeson and Margot Robbie

Review: The Florida Project

Directed by Sean Baker


Meet The Grandmaster In New Clip From 'Thor: Ragnarok'

Each clip from Thor: Ragnarok gets funnier, and it's safe to say bringing in Taika Waititi as director was a smart move by Marvel. If nothing else this should be the first Thor movie to make an impression. The latest clip focuses on Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster, and as you probably expected it's a pretty offbeat performance. Not only is the ruler of the gladiatorial world of Sakar kind of jerk, but for an immortal god he still has issues talking about his age. Goldblum playing a total weirdo? Yes please.

Thor and Loki...never on the same page, are they? Can't even get their lies straight.

Thor: Ragnarok opens November 3rd.

This Week In DC TV: It’s All About Adjustment For Our Heroes

Last week marked the season premieres for all the DC CW shows within the Arrowverse.  It was a little rocky as most of the shows were heading in a new direction.  Supergirl had Kara dealing not only with the trials of being both “Kara” and “Supergirl” but she is still dealing with the fallout of losing the love of her live Mon-El forever as he has to leave earth (mostly due to her making it toxic for her race) and the guilt and sadness that comes from it.  On The Flash, Barry has returned from his prison within the Speed Force.  At first, he was a wreck with his mind scrambled.  Leave it to true love to help snap him out of it and become the hero we all know he is.  Plus, we got to see a new supervillain, who it’s a speedster (for once)!  Legends of Tomorrow probably had the most fun season premiere as the Legends had to “retire” after causing major problems in the timestream, only to once again be needed and work in parallel with the newly created Time Bureau.  Of course, Arrow showed us the aftermath of the confrontation with Adrian Chase on Lian Yu and all the consequences of the island’s explosions.  Plus, Oliver has been outed at the Green Arrow.

So how did the Arrowverse go this week?

Supergirl: “Triggers”

Thank goodness Kara is less mopey this week.  Her problem with the loss of Mon-El still is on the surface, but it’s less in your face this week and as a result, not so melodramatic.  I am hoping that this season wouldn’t be all about her need to get over her man.  Glad they didn’t go that route and let her just be Supergirl with or without his presence.  The show has had her have to have some sort of love life as a part of her character, defining her, instead of letting it be organically a part of the story.  Maybe just let Kara have a little bit of “me” time to function properly, and that’s what it looks like she’s doing.

The episode begins with a nice monologue showing how some of the core characters go through their mornings.  Maggie and Alex are still in their pre-wedding bliss and go about their morning routines of waking up together, snuggling, enjoying breakfast, and then going to work.  It’s good that this show is showcasing an LGBT going through “normal” things just like anyone else does.  In contrast, Kara is waking up alone as the idea of her without Mon-El still lingers, but like I said, it’s not so in your face as last week.  Meanwhile, the new character from last week Samantha also wakes up.  She goes through her morning routine with her daughter.  Samantha exerted some sort of super strength last week to save her daughter.  We still don’t know much about her, but since she’s on front street, that’s sure to change over the next few episodes.

This episode also has Lena Luthor arrive as the new big boss at CatCo.  This sets a few things in motion.  For one, James has been running things his way, and now he has a new boss a new boss that not only runs things her own way, but seems to constantly be undercutting his leadership within the company.  What makes it more frustrating for James is that Lena doesn’t even seem to realize what she’s doing.  Take it as a very subtle form of white privilege if you will.  The two of them no doubt will be butting heads over how to run CatCo this season.  Lena also doesn’t know that Kara is Supergirl, even though it’s painfully clear) and Kara’s constant running out “on assignment” in the middle of the day not only creates a brief conflict with her friend-turned-boss, but Lena’s bound to find out the truth sooner or later as her mother predicted it will.

This week introduces a new villain for Kara to deal with as well.  The new supervillain Psi has the ability to trigger people’s deepest and darkest fears at will.  As a result, she has been going on a bank robbing spree throughout National City.  After all, there’s no way to stop her.  As soon as she’s confronted, she makes you see your worst nightmares.  That goes for everyone.  From the bank security to the shoppers, to the superpowered Supergirl.  No one is a match for her.  Not even J’onn can use his psychic powers to stop her.  Not only does she leave with the dough on multiple occasions, but she causes Kara to relive some trauma that she thought was long buried.  The best villains for characters like Supergirl and her cousin are always the ones that don’t have physical powers that can match them, but mental powers that rival them in another way.  Psi proves to be a formidable foe for Kara throughout the episode. 

Meanwhile, Samantha is dealing with her own issues.  Her daughter is convinced that she is a superhero and goes through all sorts of shenanigans as a result.  First, her daughter gets into a fight at school when some kids accuse her lying about what her mother did.  Then she runs away from home and gets caught in a battle between Supergirl and Psi, wanting her mother to save the day.  Before Samantha is even given the chance to do so, Supergirl does it instead.  Towards the end of the episode, Samantha seems to believe her own hype and tries to bend a crow bar, only to be unsuccessful, meaning this super strength is probably brought on by adrenaline.

The final confrontation between Kara and Psi wraps up rather neatly.  After a brief pep talk with her sister, she’s able to simply remove her fear and able to take down the supervillain.  It’s a little too easy.  I’ve been scared in life, you don’t just say ‘no” and it’s all good.  But hey, it’s TV.  Hopefully, Psi will return as her type of bad guy is one the show needs, not just the usual “alien of the week, is she even an alien or a metahuman?

The episode ends with J’onn enjoying a drink alone at the alien bar when M’Gann, his favorite White Martian appears telling him he’s needed on Mars.

The Flash: “Mixed Signals”

As per their writers, The Flash has always prided themselves on “heart, humor, and spectacle.”  This week’s episode completely gave the right amount of each, essentially saying The Flash is getting back to basics.  This week gave us yet another “meta of the week” but probably some of the best stuff this week involved the love lives of both Barry/Iris as well as Cisco/Gypsy.

The episode begins with Barry doing his best rendition of Tom Cruise’s famous dance scene from Risky Business as he is going through his morning routine of making breakfast for himself and Iris.  Using his speed powers, he goes coffee shopping while his pancake is in the middle of being flipped.  He’s also catching up on Game of Thrones as he can watch TV sped up thanks to Cisco.  He’s also taken care of a lot of wedding planning for Iris, something that she doesn’t appreciate.  After all, since he’s been in the Speed Force, she’s been the leader of things, now Barry’s returned to do what he does best.  This is bound to cause conflict between the two of them.

Meanwhile, a new metahuman comes forward.  Kilgore has the ability to control all forms of technology, and he’s enacting revenge against those who have wronged him, primarily his business partners who squeezed him out of a billion-dollar deal.  The first person suffers a terrible elevator accident.  The second person’s care gets taken over and intentionally crashed and would have died if not for Barry coming to save the day.  The third person gets an “accidental” overdone from their dialysis machine.  Needless to say, Kilgore is dangerous as well. 

Barry has been butting heads with Iris not only in their love lives, but also in the field for Team Flash.  At Caitlin’s advice, Iris recommends that the two go to therapy.  This serves as both a funny scene as they try their best not to say he’s the flash when talking about their activities, but it also is an emotional scene as finally erupts at Barry with her anger for choosing to enter the Speed Force.  I understand her pain, but it’s a little unfounded.  It was either leave her, or allow all of Central City to be destroyed.  It’s a little selfish on her end, but it allows Barry to see her pain and promise to work through it.

With Barry back, the writers need to figure out what to do with Wally.  Speaking of Wally, a little warning about actor Keiynan Lonsdale’s new conk do next time!  Last week, he had a full head of the hair we are used to, now he looks like he’s on the set of Malcolm X before the conversion to Islam.  Wally is sort of wasted this episode as he is back to the reduced role of “Kid Flash” and providing backup to Barry.  He needs to either branch out on his own in his own city, or the show needs to figure out how to use him in a better way.  All he does this week is sit in a car with Joe waiting for something to happen, and then get knocked out by Barry’s “repulsor ray” after Kilgore takes over his suit.  Speaking of Barry’s suit…

Cisco gives Barry his own “Iron Man” upgrades to the suit that it looks like Marvel might want to get their lawyers involved in.  from the heads up display to the arm blasts, it was unnecessary for him to have all that.  The floatation gag was funny, but he can already run on water.  Plus, he can already create his own lightning.

Cisco had his own adventure this week as well.  He’s now a consultant for the police department and helped investigate Kilgore’s elevator murder from a technical side.  He also has his new bae coming to see him from Earth-19 for a date.  She wanted to celebrate “1-1-1” day, which is her Earth’s version of Valentine’s Day with him.  This also gives Cisco the idea on how to stop Kilgore by using binary language to deactivate his powers.  It also brought up different customs between the different earths.  She thinks the idea of Christmas, while Cisco is still perplexed at the idea of a “Saint Shaquille O'Neal” and even a day celebrating one of our favorite NBA centers.

In their confrontation, Barry’s mechanical (Iron Man) suit has been taken over by Kilgore and the self-destruct on it has been activated.  Iris comes up with the idea of using the flash lightning powers (see he doesn’t need a repulsor ray) on the suit so he can regain control of it, electrocuting himself.  Barry has to trust Iris and her leadership to do this and he survives.  After he stops Kilgore, they save the day.  

Meanwhile, the new big bad guy, the Thinker has been monitoring everything.  Turns out, Kilgore did not receive his powers as a result of the Particle Accelerator explosion, he was “Subject One,” meaning the Thinker can now create his own metahumans!

Legends of Tomorrow: “Freakshow”

Legends of Tomorrow, which probably had the most entertaining season premiere last week, continues its streak of cosmic, time-traveling fun with our band of misfits.  As the show is the only one not bound by true comic book canon (as there’s no Legends of Tomorrow official comics book, except for last years’ adaptation of the show), so it’s really free to do whatever they want, as long as it’s within the Arrowverse’s rules.  With all of space and time for them to help fix, where do they go this week?  The circus!

They had the option of fixing a time anachronism on the Titanic (which Martin Stein Actor Victor Garber actually started in), they opt instead for going to 1870 to solve a problem at P.T. Barnum’s circus, which happens to have some sort of prehistoric animal there.  The team discover that it’s a saber-toothed tiger there.  They have to figure out a way to safely (and discretely) get the animal back to its own timeline.  

After infiltrating the timeline and discovering the tiger, Ray opts to use his shrinking technology to miniaturize the beast for safe travel.  Of course, Ray’s tech isn’t all the way up to snuff and instead of shrinking the beast, it enlarges it.  Now instead of a normal-sized carnivorous prehistoric predator, they now have one that is even larger, and more dangerous.  Even with their powers, it’s going to be a tall order to stop the beast.  They need some assistance.

The Legends travel to Zambesi in 1942 to pick up Amaya.  After all, with her Vixen powers, she will be able to tame the beast and stop it.  While most of the team is happy to help her, Nate is still upset with her as she left him without explanation to head back to her own timeline, on his birthday.

This causes Nate to go on a drunken bender to drown out his sorrows when dealing with her back in his life.  When people get drunk, they tend to say too many things truthfully when they shouldn’t.  he reveals to all the local folks that his team is full of people with superpowers, catching the ear of PT Barnum, who’s always ready to collect more freaks for his circus.  Barnum then manages for Nate, Jax, and Ray to become kidnapped, causing all sorts of new problems for the Legends.

Even though Amaya and Sara manage to capture the tiger (thanks to her Vixen powers and Ray’s shrink powers working correctly), Mick loses the shrunken tiger on the Wave Rider.  Also, with some of the Legends being kidnapped and now a part of the circus, this has the attention of the Time Bureau.  Sarah notices Gary, a member of the Time Bureau spying on her and quickly subdues him.  As he is check-in in with his superiors under duress, agent Sharpe knows something’s up and goes to the Wave Rider and confronts Sarah.  As the two engage in a brutal fist fight (Sarah has a match), the two notice that the ray shrinking the miniature tiger has worn off and it’s grown back to full size

Nate and Amaya quickly get captured as well.  This allows the two of them to finally have that heart to heart chat they’ve been needing to have.  Amaya leaving him was not to break his heart (on his birthday), but because she happened to see her granddaughter, the current day Vixen, on TV being a superhero in Detroit.   She opted to drop everything and head there to meet the current day Vixen.  After meeting her and seeing how wonderful she was, she realized that she needed to go back to her rightful time to ensure that her bloodline survives and her granddaughter Mari McCab is born.  Meanwhile Stein and Mick manage to infiltrate the circus to free their fellow Legends.  During the struggle with Barnum’s goons, Amaya uses her powers and almost kills the goons.  Turns out, the animalistic side of her is winning and she cannot control what she does, even if it means killing.  

In the aftermath, the Legends tell her that they will help her with this as she is one of them.  However, a new villain is emerging, one that even the Time Bureau is afraid of.  One that is connected to Amaya as well, who will probably prove to be this season’s enemy.

Arrow: “Tribute”

Last week on Arrow we got to see who survived and how life is going for Team Arrow.  The episode ended with a bombshell, Oliver has been outed as The Green Arrow, forcing him to face yet another enemy, The Press.

Oliver has to go into defensive mode as the episode begins.  As soon as he heads to the Mayor’s Office, he’s flocked by the press as he’s been outed as the Green Arrow.  There is a clever throwaway to Batman/Bruce Wayne and he makes the suggestion that maybe Bruce Wayne is the Green Arrow, a nice nod to fellow DC vigilante (and who most of Arrow’s storylines “borrow” from).  It also lets us know that even though Gotham is a Fox show, Batman exists in the Arrowverse.

Oliver needs to figure out who leaked the image.  Was it Adrian Chase’s swan song?  Or is there a new player?  Before he can even get on the case, he has a new nemesis, FBI agent Samanda Watson.   She’s on the case and will stop at nothing to confirm if he was, in fact, The Green Arrow.  Oliver has to watch his back, but he also has to carry out his vigilante activities.  Some Markovian businessmen have been kidnapped by none other than Oliver’s best frenemy Anatoly.

Anatoly knows that Oliver just received $20 million in insurance payouts for the recent damage caused by Siren (Earth-2’s Laurel Lance) when she attacked last week.  Boy, insurance pays quickly in the Arrowverse!  Oliver is angry at Anatoly and will not pay one dime.  However, he has yet another problem, this time a personal one.

Sure, he’s The Green Arrow.  Sure, he’s Mayor of Star City.  But now Oliver is also a father.  A father of a traumatized child who needs his help and attention.  This proves to be probably one of Oliver’s greatest conflicts on the show.  Being a father is tough on its own.  Now try being a father, a politician, and a superhero.  This episode shows that there is so much that he can do and so many hats to juggle.  Something has to give.

As Team Arrow tries to look for a local Bratva restaurant in search of Anatoly, Diggle continues to have problems with his arm.  This time, it almost gets Dinah killed.  She confronts him and he tells her that has an injury as a result of the explosion on Lian Yu.  She tells him that he needs to tell Oliver before something bad happens.  Team Arrow manages to rescue all but one of the hostages.  The last one Anatoly has.

Oliver is drawn back home to deal with his son.  William knows his father is the Green Arrow, but he also knows that his son is worried about his life.  Any day in any situation, he may die, and as a result, the child will completely be an orphan.  Oliver lies to his son saying nothing will happen to him.  But knowing it’s a lie, this causes some concern for him.

Later on, Oliver catches up with Anatoly and the final hostage.  Anatoly reveals that his friendship with Oliver has made him appear weak in the eyes of his compatriots.  Anatoly has to now do a 180 as a means of survival in the criminal world and launches a personal attack against his former friend.  Anatoly maintains that he is still an honorable man, even after he kills the remaining hostage in front of Oliver.  Oliver cannot bring himself to stop Anatoly because of their friendship and allows Anatoly to escape.  Before he leaves, Oliver asks him if he leaked the image, which Anatoly says he did not do it because he’s “honorable.”  We’re back to square one with who leaked the image.

Lucky for Oliver, Curtis and Felicity used their tech skills to figure out the photo was actually a fake and leak this to the press, just as Oliver is doing an interview with the FBI agent.  She assures Oliver that she will still pursue her investigation.  Oliver then realizes he has to make a big decision.  After assuring his son William that he will not lie to him anymore, he meets with Diggle.  Oliver tells his friend that he can no longer put himself in danger (from death or exposure) and is going to pass the mantle of The Green Arrow on to him.  Diggle is to become the new Green Arrow (even though he still has the tremor in his arm.

Box Office: Madea Scares Up the Top Spot?

1. Tyler Perry's Boo 2! : A Madea Halloween- $21.6M
Sadly no, that is not a real's a simple fact. Tyler Perry's Boo 2! : A Madea Halloween has beaten Happy Death Day from the top spot just 9 days from Halloween. Not just a Madea movie, but a Madea movie sequel. God Bless Tyler Perry, say what you will but the man knows how to capture the box office every time he releases one of these flicks. I respect his ability to put out box office winner after winner, but being a Halloween fanatic it really hurts on a personal level when a true horror movie isn't winning the month. I guess it could be worse, we could have another holiday-centric rom-com winning the day.....just imagine, Halloween Day starring Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, Anne Hathaway, and Josh Duhamel, this Halloween scare up your soulmate! God help us.
2. Geostorm- $13.3M
Nothing surprising to see here. The Gerard Butler starring weather gone crazy flick did not fair well. Though the chance of recovering it's budget is as far fetched as the films plot, it still managed to take the number 2 spot. Honestly....I thought it would do worse.
3.  Happy Death Day - $9.3M/$40.6M
Happy Death Day, last week's top grosser slid down two spots to #3 being a Blumhouse film the drop isn't hurting the films business as it's already made it's budget back four times over. Jason Blum really needs to teach a class, it's ok to put out original films Hollywood you just need to learn to stop overspending on things that don't increase the quality of the film!
4. Blade Runner 2049- $7.1M/$74M
While much has been made of it's initial failure the follow up to the iconic sci-fi cult classic has managed to rake in close to 75 million domestic. Just about half it's budget which usually would not be a good thing, but seeing as how it's over-performing overseas they could just get out of the red on this one still.
5. Only the Brave- $6M
Barely making the top 5 the Josh Brolin, Miles Teller true story based on the Granite Mountain Hotshots failed to take hold, cashing in just $6 million dollars on 2,500 screens
6. The Foreigner- $5.4M/$22.8M
7. IT- $3.5/$320M
8. The Snowman- $3.4M
9. American Made- $3.1M/$45.5M
10. Kingsman: The Golden Circle- $3M/$94.5M

Middleburg Review: 'Last Flag Flying' Starring Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, & Laurence Fishburne

From the title Last Flag Flying, it's clear this will be a considerably more somber film for Richard Linklater than his riotous Everybody Wants Some, and the change in tone may shock some of his fans. For there is a melancholy throughout this road trip story, following three Vietnam veterans, all still coping with memories of the past in different ways, some healthy and some not so much.  It's especially timely given the recent fervor over the treatment of gold star families to have Linklater's film bring that discussion into sharper focus.

A belated sequel to 1973's The Last Detail, the film unites the talents of Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne, and Bryan Cranston, revisiting those same Vietnam vets 30 years later. Carell is Larry "Doc" Shepherd"(originally played by Randy Quaid), no longer the angry kid being escorted to the brig. There's sadness radiating from him when he enters the bar owned by Sal Nealon (Cranston, formerly played by Jack Nicholson), who is just as loud, vulgar, and disruptive as ever.  After the surprise reunion, they swing by the church overseen by Richard "The Mule" Mueller (Fishburne, formerly Otis Young), the gruffy, hard-partying 1st Gunner now a conservative pastor (Which actually mirrors the career path Young's life took). He's not so happy to see this reminder of his dark past literally come walking through the door, and is reluctant to help when Larry makes of them a gut-wrenching request: accompany him to pick up the body of his young son recently killed in Iraq.

The request brings memories of the past rushing back to them all, and the film, which Linklater co-wrote with original author Darryl Ponicsan, draws parallels between the two military quagmires. There's still anger boiling within Larry for many of the same reasons. Why was his son sent to fight in this meaningless war against an enemy that was no threat to us? What did his son give up his life for? As a road trip movie, the downbeat tone can be a drag, but it's also rewarding as these characters ponder their pasts, the regrets of their prior misadventures, and ruminate on the bruises their service has left on their souls.

But it's not all gloom and doom. Linklater is a master wordsmith and he finds humor in their solemn observations, mostly from Cranston in the most visibly comic role of the film. Set in 2003, right around the time of Saddam Hussein's capture, it's a time when so much feels familiar to the aging trio, like George W. Bush on TV making the case for war, and yet it's also like time is passing them by. Yes, there is "grumpy old men" humor, as Sal is repeatedly amazed that you can "find anybody on the World Wide Internet". His obsession with cell phones is momentarily chuckle-worthy, but goes on for too long, adding to a runtime that feels padded by a good 30 minutes. The humor doesn't always jibe with the film's tone, though, and it too often feels forced.

While comedy isn't the film's strength, its depiction of the treatment of gold star families is both fascinating and possibly a little thorny. While much of Larry's anger is understandably over the price he has paid personally, it's also in the rigid military traditions that consistently put their own requirements ahead of his needs as a grieving parent. By the same token, what do fellow soldiers owe to the families of the fallen? There's a terrific scene featuring the great Cicely Tyson as a grieving mother, the film's most honest and heartfelt moment actually, where the guys must wrestle with telling her the truth or living with a happier fiction.

Tyson's cameo is a definite standout, but all of the performances are strong in different ways. While Cranston is occasionally a little too over-the-top at times, he also shows nuances in Sal's conflicted feelings towards the military. I wish Fishburne had a little more to do, but he gives a strong powder keg performance. You keep waiting for him to toss aside the conservative values that have been oppressing his wild side, so when it happens, briefly, it's a treat.  But it's Carell who devastates as the grieving Larry, in particular at the moment when he first sees his son in the flag-draped coffin. If there's an Oscar-worthy performance to come out of this film it belongs to him, and I'd be surprised if he doesn't at least get a nomination out of it. 

“We were all something once. Now we’re something else,” says Sal at one point during the film. Last Flag Flying embodies these simple words as it examines the lives irrevocably changed by war.

Rating: 3 out of 5


Middleburg Review: Greta Gerwig's 'Lady Bird' Starring Saoirse Ronan & Laurie Metcalf

Even if you didn't know Lady Bird was the directorial debut of effervescent indie darling Greta Gerwig, you would still know. Everything about it rings true with her voice, the one that brought such energy and spontaneity to Frances Ha and Mistress America, the two films she co-wrote with Noah Baumbach, who had never made movies like them before. Gerwig put so much of herself into creating those characters that just seem like extensions of her personality. And so it's no surprise that Gerwig is the main reason why the semi-autobiographical Lady Bird rises to the top of the coming-of-age genre, a field that is increasingly difficult to separate from.

From the tone, which veers from dramatic to screwball at the drop of a hat, to the clever turns of phrase, to the funny, pinpoint observations about city life, everything about this feels like your classic Greta Gerwig movie. And no, it's not too early to start calling Greta Gerwig movies classics...okay, maybe it is, but it won't be for long. The only difference is that Saoirse Ronan is in the lead role of Sacramento native Christine, who is eager for the senior year of Catholic School to be over. She wants to get out of town as fast as possible, off to an expensive school anywhere but there, even though it's probably out of their price range. Her pitbull of a mom (Laurie Metcalf, a treat to see her on the big screen) would rather she go somewhere closer to home, while dad (Tracy Letts) just wants to see his daughter happy.

There are little rebellions, like having pink hair, nicknaming herself Lady Bird, and spray painting "Just Married" on the car of a friendly nun (Lois Smith). And of course, there are boys, like Danny (Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges), the lead in the school play Christine joins along with her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein), who turns out to be a better actress; and the local bad boy Kyle (Timothee Chalamet), who also turns out to be more than he appears.

It all sounds so familiar, doesn't it? While there's comfort in the tropes we've come to recognize, what makes Lady Bird special are the touches that are uniquely Gerwig's. The lessons Christine comes to learn are what we would expect, but not how she learns them. First love goes in the wrong direction, as it so often does, however Gerwig puts a spin on it that is both surprising and, later, turns out to be heartbreaking. When a character refers to Sacramento as "the Midwest of California", its implications are more than just the boredom compared to the rest of the state. Christine has to figure out her ideals, and whether those ideals are best served where she is now or someplace else. I think it was a novel approach by Gerwig to set the film in 2002; it allows her to look back while her characters move forward. So many of these movies do it the other way around, with a character who has already left returning home, and remembering the details that they had taken for granted. Gerwig's approach is better; it allows for Christine, and for us, to discover many of those details ourselves. In that way, it reminded me a lot of another of my favorite films this year, Columbus. A hometown can always be a place of new surprises if we just open ourselves up to it.

It's the relationship between Christine and her mother that feels so fresh. The fights between mother and daughter are tense, and they sometimes boil over, but they're always rooted in love, even when it doesn't always look that way. And as it becomes clearer that this may not be where she calls home forever, the moments Christine shares with her friends and family take on a much richer quality.

Lady Bird would have been a very different movie with Gerwig in front of the camera. I think Ronan is perhaps the most naturally gifted young actress working today. She just makes everything seem so effortless. That may also be why she is frequently upstaged by Metcalf in the best role she's had since Roseanne went off the air. Together, Ronan and Metcalf are dynamite and complement one another so well. The entire cast shines, with Gerwig giving everyone enough room to let their characters breathe. Nobody is short changed here.

Most of all, the audience is left with a wonderfully fulfilling experience. Gerwig has a way of making her personal experiences resonate with others, and Lady Bird may leave you with fond memories of home.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Middleburg Review: 'I, Tonya', Margot Robbie Takes The Gold As Tonya Harding

Olympic figure skating can be exciting, but it's not supposed to be as exciting as it was in 1994. And it had little, if anything, to do with who had the best short program on the ice. It was about who had bashed poor Nancy "Why!?! Why!?" Kerrigan's knee just before the U.S. Championships, and the ensuing scandal became the hottest criminal kerfuffle of the '90s. OJ Simpson who? For that brief moment in time it was all about Kerrigan's rival, Tonya Harding, a powerful but unpolished skater from the wrong side of the tracks, surrounded by a bunch of bumbling goons right out of a Coen Brothers movie. Harding, whose actual involvement in the attack is in dispute, paid the price anyway, but her story has only ever been a punchline. Well, it still kind of is in the pitch black, wildly enjoyable I, Tonya, but at least Harding is getting to have her say.

She really wants you to know that it wasn't her fault.

More on that later, because so much of I, Tonya rests on the shoulders of Australian star Margot Robbie, who gives a perfect 10 (or 6.0 in ISU scoring) performance in the first role that doesn't demand her sex appeal. In fact, Harding's lack of grace and femininity is what makes her such a pariah in the sport of figure skating, which trades on outdated ideas of what a proper woman should look like. Harding, from whitest of white trash corners of Oregon, can probably fix your car better than you can. Her mother, LaVona (Allison Janney), a soul-crushing dictator who snuffs out cigarettes as much as she does dreams (but she loves parakeets, apparently), introduced Tonya to skating at a young age, simply to get the girl to shut up about it. When her eventual teacher Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson) balks at the idea, LaVona won't take no for an answer. That stubbornness would become ingrained in Tonya, as well, which would cause her further problems, especially when she starts dating Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), a local tool and the dimmest of dim bulbs.

Based on the “irony free, wildly contradictory” interviews with the major players in Harding's life, you begin to think these people escaped from an episode of Ripley's Believe It Or Not. In the best work of Craig Gillespie's (Fright Night, Lars and the Real Girl) career, the film is done in mockumentary style, not only examining the colorful, utterly ridiculous characters Harding was surrounded by, it also highlights all of the ways in which figure skating is an absurd sport. Tonally, it invites you mock them and figure skating in the way Drop Dead Gorgeous crushed beauty pageants, or Christopher Guest's movies skewered...well, everything.  And there is plenty to laugh at, but not the way the sport's strict guidelines and ancient morals helped keep Harding down when she already had enough to contend with at home. Certainly, Gillooly turned out to be no less abusive, both physically and mentally, than LaVona had been.

It's a balancing act as risky as attempting a triple axel, but Gillespie lands it beautifully, embracing the silliness of the story and the sadness at its edges. Even when cartoonish figures like Gillooly's delusional wannabe secret agent pal Shawn Eckhardt (scene stealer Paul Walter Hauser) take the spotlight they feel organic to the crazy world Gillespie has us in, one where tabloid TV rag Hard Copy (fronted by an oily Bobby Cannavale) takes the lead introducing us to the 24-hour news cycle.

As for the attack on Kerrigan (played in brief glimpses by Caitlin Carver), the film does eventually get around to it, painting the whole thing as one big comedy of errors. Whether Harding really knew anything about what her husband and his band of idiots were planning..well, if you hear it from her she didn't know a thing, but the script smartly treats everybody as unreliable witnesses. The only problem is when it gets too cute for its own good. That Gillespie and screenwriter Steven Rogers managed to make the flashback/interview style work is practically a miracle, but they go overboard when Harding starts addressing the audience directly. It's a distraction in the few times it happens, and yet it's doubtful the film would've worked at all if it happened more often.

So was the attack on Kerrigan, and the eventual fallout that led to convictions and an eventual banishment from figure skating all Harding's fault?  While Harding spends most of the movie deflecting blame, and the film goes some way in excusing her a little bit, she makes a lot of really terrible choices that let it happen. It can't all be blamed on her crappy childhood, and she's at fault for letting idiots like Gillooly and Eckhardt into her life. But does that make her the villain she was so frequently portrayed as, and is still portrayed as, in the media? I, Tonya may not change your mind whether she was complicit, but that's not really the point. Tonya Harding was often called a rebel, simply for daring to be herself and not what the powers within the figure skating community wanted her to be. And isn't that the kind of lesson we'd expect from a champion?

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Middleburg Review: 'Hostiles' Starring Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, & Wes Studi

Hostiles director Scott Cooper introduced his film at the Middleburg Film Festival last night with a speech, about how he hoped it could help heal the wounds of divisiveness that have plagued our country in recent weeks. It was a heartfelt message, to be sure, but right in the middle of it he also had a complaint. About film criticism. About how it had become "bloodsport", and that too often movies are ripped apart from the moment they are released. Perhaps, he's still feeling the stings of lukewarm reviews for his previous two movies, Out of the Furnace and Black Mass.

Cooper may want to prepare himself for another polarizing response, because Hostiles, good as it often is in highlighting the brutality and prejudice that has always been part of this country's soul, is going to take a lot of heat.  Gorgeously shot by cinematographer Masanobu Takayanag, the Old West has never been quite so gorgeous, the dusty plains mingling with the twilight to strike an indelible image. It strikes a stark contrast to the violence in America circa the late 19th-century. The film begins with such violence, as a frontier family is mericilessly slaughtered by a band of Native Americans. The only one to survive the deaths of her husband and two daughters is Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike), but the things she saw haunt her, driving her to the brink of sanity.

The film centers on Christian Bale as retiring Army Captain Joseph Blocker, who has built his career on being just as ruthless as the Natives he's come to despise. With sentiments towards them changing, Blocker finds himself in a world he no longer understands. He's spent so much time hating and killing them that he outright refuses an order to escort dying Cheyenne chief Yellow Hawk (the great Wes Studi) and his family (Adam Beach, Q’orianka Kilcher and Xavier Horsechief) to Montana, where they will be left to live in peace. Deciding to be a good soldier, Blocker takes the assignment, his final one, and rounds up a team of loyal soldiers (Timothee Chalamet, Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane, Jonathan Majors) to accompany him. Their journey is soon joined by Quaid, and eventually by a former soldier (Ben Foster) who has been sentenced to death for his violent crimes.

So this is your classic Western "point A to point B" movie, with the threat of attack looming at every step. Attacks happen on a regular basis, with Block's party dwindling it seems by the day. Soon it becomes clear Blocker can't complete his mission without Yellow Hawk's help, but he'll have to overcome his personal prejudices and learn to trust the Native Americans. The bulk of the film isn't so much about Yellow Hawk, which is disappointing, but instead about Blocker and his transformation from a murderous bigot into a man of understanding. It's a familiar story, but with so many Native American characters along for the entire journey it's a shame we don't get to see things from their perspective. If you're using the mistreatment of Native Americans to make a point about racial division, it shouldn't just be the white characters who have a say. And to be frank, it's damned hard to believe Blocker could make such an evolution given how he is for so much of the movie.

That said, Bale does a tremendous job depicting Blocker's many demons, done with the barest minimum of dialogue. Along with Pike, who is always terrific at portraying women on the edge, they give the film a steady foundation that lasts through some of the slow patches. While the supporting cast are uniformly excellent it's Rory Cochrane as a career soldier haunted by his memories that will leave the greatest impression.

Hostiles is as poetic as it is ferocious, and entertains while being thought-provoking. The conversations it sparks may not be exactly what Cooper hoped for, but if it gets people talking then has to be considered a victory.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Middleburg Review: 'Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool' Starring Annette Bening & Jamie Bell

As the era of the classic movie stars comes to a close in Internet celebrities or whatever, our fascination with the romantic lives of those Golden Age stars is endless. The latest, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, focuses on the brief romance between Oscar winner Gloria Grahame, and her young lover Peter Turner, from whose memoir the film has been adapted. Grahame, best known for her role as Violet in It's a Wonderful Life and for her award-winning performance in The Bad and the Beautiful, is the perfect example of how we shouldn't assume every celebrity's life is exciting, because hers wasn't, and the film struggles to compensate.

What makes Grahame's story eminently watchable, and even fascinating in spurts, is the magnetic performance by Annette Bening, who always seems to shine right around awards season. If there are classic old school stars left, Bening is certainly one of them, and she tackles the role of Graham like she was always meant for it. When we first meet Grahame she's in her dressing room before a show, meticulously applying her makeup, working on her diction..., like someone who has done this thousands of times before. But just before she's to go on stage, she collapses and is rushed away. Grahame had been a huge star in the black & white era, not so much with the move to color. It's 1979 and now she lives in a tiny London flat, which is where she first meets Peter (Jamie Bell), a struggling actor who stays next door. "She always played the tart" the landlord says as a means of introducing her to him. What's funny is that Grahame still seems to be playing that role, flirting with the much-younger Peter shamelessly in their first encounter.

But it's now 1981, and when we see them in that context things are very different. She's arrived at his home, where he lives with his mother (Julie Walters), father (Kenneth Cranham), and brother (Stephen Graham) looking very sickly. She wants to stay with them and recover, with her and Peter in denial about the seriousness of her illness. The film leaps back and forth between 1979 and 1981, reflecting back on their relationship which looked a lot like love, but was perhaps more of a performance for them both. Grahame had been through multiple marriages, and a scandal in which she was accused of having an affair with her 13-year-old stepson. That ended in disaster, the utter destruction of her career, and psychological therapy. All of that baggage crowds the room whenever Peter is there, and the clueless young man is often at a loss when she suddenly stops acting like a breathless teenager and turns ugly. 

There is affection and love there, though. Clearly they care for one another, and director Peter McGuigan luxuriates in their happy moments. Oftentimes these blissful memories bleed over from scene to scene, literally, as if we are walking through Peter's daydreams, creating quite the surreal effect. But far too often the screenplay by Matt Greenhalgh fails to make Grahame's story unique, especially once her sordid past has been revealed and promptly papered over. Whatever her issues were, Grahame lived a life far too exciting for any film to try and gloss it over it. Bening gives another wonderfully complex performance, depicting Grahame as a woman stuck playing a role because her reality is too tough to endure. She does Grahame justice, but Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool is merely watchable when it could have been so much more.

Rating: 3 out of 5

'The Dark Tower' TV Series May Be A "Complete Reboot"

The Dark Tower turned out to be an epic-sized dud last summer, and we thought it would spell doom for Sony's plans for a cinematic universe spanning the big and small screen. But they soldiered forward with the TV series, landing The Walking Dead's Glen Mazzara to spearhead the whole thing. And while it's still moving forward, it sounds like the series will be used to wipe the slate clean. Stephen King told Vulture...

The major challenge was to do a film based on a series of books that’s really long, about 3,000 pages. The other part of it was the decision to do a PG-13 feature adaptation of books that are extremely violent and deal with violent behavior in a fairly graphic way. That was something that had to be overcome, although I’ve gotta say, I thought [screenwriter] Akiva Goldsman did a terrific job in taking a central part of the book and turning it into what I thought was a pretty good movie. The TV series they’re developing now … we’ll see what happens with that. It would be like a complete reboot, so we’ll just have to see.”

Sounds like a good idea. The Dark Tower is too popular to just fade away, and a series is undoubtedly the best format to give fans everything they want to see.


'Gotham' Recap Season 4, Episode 5 - 'The Blade's Path'

It’s Solomon Grundy time! Gotham laid down a huge Easter Egg at the end of last season when we found out Butch’s real name is Cyrus Gold. I was super excited when that happened and lo and behold, a few weeks into the new season and the Grundy story arc gets going. The episode begins with two hospital workers taking Butch’s body out of the hospital and to a swamp outside of Gotham. Butch has been in a coma for 6 months after getting shot in the noggin courtesy of Barbara. Butch gets dropped into the swamp where apparently some radioactive chemicals have also been poured - anyone and everyone knows that all you need is a little radioactive material for some comicbook fun. Later on in the episode Butch slowly rises out of the swamp with his newly grown hand glowing green. He slowly lumbers off and runs into a few people camping nearby. After disposing of them, he hears the music they were listening to – the old nursery rhyme about Solomon Grundy, and his new persona is born.

After the death of Alex, Jim wants to make sure that Ra’s al Ghul’s status as a Minister of a foreign county doesn’t allow him to get away with murder. Harvey unfortunately doesn’t seem to share in Jim’s passion that Ra’s needs to stand trial for what he has done. A reoccurring theme of this season has been the continued friction between Jim and Harvey – let’s hope these two can get their problems sorted out!

Bruce is having a hard time dealing with Alex’s death, despite Alfred’s continued insistence that it is not his fault. Bruce is turning this pain into an obsession with Ra’s and his dagger. Based on the translation of the writing on the dagger, Bruce believes that the dagger is the only thing that can kill Ra’s. Alfred reminds Bruce of his vow – “no killing” – and enforces the idea that Alex’s death cannot change this ideology. At Alex’s funeral, Bruce overhears Alfred and Jim arguing about Ra’s and the fact that he may get away with the murder because of diplomatic immunity. Bruce decides to take matters into his own hands, takes the dagger, and is off.

In the meantime, Barbara goes to see Ra’s with the intentions of breaking him out of prison. Ra’s has other ideas in mind and says goodbye to Barbara. Barbara demands that Ra’s give her what he promised her, which was apparently a “gift beyond her imagining.” Ra’s passes some mystical light from his hand into Barbara’s and lets her know she will understand what the gift was in due time. As Barbara leaves the room, Ra’s stares after her with one of his ominous, and creepy, looks that we’ve come to expect. 

Sophia visits Cobblepot and suggests that they get lunch in a public place. Being seen with a Falcone will show Gotham that Cobblepot has the family backing and increase his standing with the criminals of the city. While Cobblepot is entertaining this idea, Nygma is desperately trying to get his mojo back by looking for drugs that increase brain function. After an unsuccessful heist at a pharmacy, he runs into Solomon Grundy who quickly knocks him out and takes him with him. Nygma wakes up and finds out that Grundy doesn’t remember who he is and what happened to him. Grundy wants Nygma’s help and it becomes clear that they are both in similar situations - struggling to try and get back to what they once were.

As soon as Alfred realizes that Bruce is gone, he knows exactly what he is planning and goes to get Jim’s help. By this time, Bruce is already breaking into the prison to confront Ra’s. Bruce enters Ra’s cell and stands over him holding the dagger – clearly contemplating whether killing Ra’s is worth breaking his vow. Everyone but Bruce knows that this is far too simple and that Ra’s must have other tricks up his sleeve. Bruce decides to spare Ra’s life and turns to leave. As he does so, Ra’s calls him weak and foolish and begins to lay the smack down on Bruce. Three guards show up and as Bruce pleads for them to stop Ra’s, they turn out to be Ra’s men and kidnap Bruce.

Jim and Alfred show up to the prison and the same guards tell them that Bruce hasn’t been there. Jim asks to have a look around and after a hilarious scene that shows Alfred armed from head to toe, they are granted access. Underneath the prison, Ra’s tells Bruce about the dagger and the story of his resurrection. Ra’s lets Bruce know that Bruce is his heir and is the only one that can end his suffering. Ra’s gives Bruce the dagger and begs him to kill him – which would set him free. Upstairs, Jim and Alfred realize that the guards are imposters and give them a good ole fashioned Gotham ass kicking. Jim remembers there is a basement level to the prison and that must be where Ra’s has Bruce. Underground, Bruce refuses to kill Ra’s so Ra’s lays out what he will do to Bruce. He says that he will disappear and let Bruce live his life, and then one day in the future he will return and kill everyone Bruce loves. As Ra’s is describing this horrific series of events, Bruce snaps and stabs him twice with the dagger, killing him.

Bruce immediately regrets his decision to take a life. He begins questioning himself and everything he stood for. Alfred walks in on Bruce getting ready to burn his new fancy “bat” suit as he proclaims that he is “not the hero that Gotham needs.” Alfred convinces Bruce to just use some time to reflect and get back on the right path instead of completely abandoning hope. Bruce's growth has been  pivotal to this season and it will be interesting to see where this will go next. Bruce has taken a huge step forward in his development this season compared to season's past. I do not expect that killing Ra's will derail him for too long, Gotham (the city and show) needs him. 

The episode winds down with Nygma taking Grundy to an underground wrestling match. Nygma may be dumber than before, but he is still smart enough to realize that Grundy is a powerful weapon he can use. His ultimate goal is to make money so he can make himself smart again, and with Grundy’s strength, that seems possible. Nygma enters Grundy into a wrestling match, but before he can fight – he needs to get his wounds patched up. The underground doctor comes to see him, and what do you know, Lee Thompkins is still in Gotham after all!

Next week’s episode introduces another new villain on the scene. It seems that a lunatic that goes by Pyg is targeting GCPD’s finest. From the preview it looks to be another dark episode and I cannot wait. This season of Gotham has been top notch so far, and I think it will only get better. Don’t forget, a possibly mutated Poison Ivy is still lurking somewhere!