Una Great Movie (2020) Movie Review

Una Great Movie Premieres on the 14th February 2020 at Pan African Film & Arts Festival

Director: Jennifer Sharp

Writer: Jennifer Sharp (Screenplay)

Starring: JoNell Kennedy, Numa Perrier, Jake Olson, Jose Casasus

Plot: As a screenwriter takes notes from Hollywood executives, her beautiful diverse movie about a black American woman traveling to Mexico, slowly becomes a romantic comedy with an all-white cast. A quirky cerebral look into commercialism and greed, juxtaposed with a heartwarming movie that challenges stereotypes.


Runtime: 1 Hour 36 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Important Look at the Hollywood System

Story: Una Great Movie starts as Zoe (Kennedy) is trying to sell her script in Hollywood, as she is telling the story we get to watch her lead character Susan (Perrier) travel to Mexico to look for a lost love, as the story continues, Zoe is forced and suggested different aspects to the character a story to help make it easier for producers to buy, only she isn’t comfortable about making all the changes.

As Zoe learns more about the Hollywood system she must look at the ideas they are offering her, with the idea of a known star Bryan Alonsio (Olson) taking the lead role, despite the fact he isn’t Mexican, imagining what he would be like in the story next to Susan.

Thoughts on Una Great Movie

Characters – Zoe is the screenwriter that believes she has her own brilliant screenplay, she has written a script that she understands the characters and is trying to pitch it to producers, each one seems to want to change things in her script, from changing the Mexican characters, the black lead and the motivation for the trip in her work. Zoe has support from friends, a support group, but her determination means she will start to change certain parts of her script hoping it will help get it made. Susan is the main character in the script, a woman heading to Mexico to look for a lost love, as Zoe is forced to change her script, we see the changes in Susan’s story, which helps show the differences in what Zoe wants and the generic figure the studios are looking for. Luis is the character that Susan is trying to get locate, the lost love, who has started his own life, only for his life to still be waiting for her. Bryan Alonsio is the actor everybody wants in their film, he is even suggested by one of the producers that wants him to play one of the Mexican characters in the film.

PerformancesJoNell Kennedy as the screenwriter shows us the struggles she is going through to get her script made, dealing with the questions about the work, while seeing the support from others. Numa Perrier is great as the character in the script, showing how the character should come to life and will be evolving in the process. The cast does include a mix of professional actors with non-actors to highlight the true identity of the Mexican community.

StoryThe story here follows a screenwriter who is trying to get her script turned into a film, only for her to find herself facing ideas that would change the film to become the generic Hollywood film, instead of using the realism that she dreams off, while also showing how the script would be evolving through the story. The story here is trying to highlight the big problem within the Hollywood system when it comes to diversity within the casting and the stereotypes producers want to follow, while spinning the reality of everything to show how everybody isn’t what Hollywood believes them to be. If we look just at the story, the idea that the story is evolving as the script ideas were being made, it does make it entertaining, because you don’t know what is coming next with the changes. This is an important story that shows the world to be clearer than a lot of people imagine it.

ComedyThe film does use moments of comedy to make fun of the changes that are being suggested, it does help get a laugh at certain moments during the film.

SettingsThe film uses two settings, we get to see Zoe in Hollywood, going through the different offices trying to sell the script, while also showing Susan the character in the film, enjoying her search in Mexico.


Scene of the Movie – Zoe gets help from an unlikely source.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The support group.

Final Thoughts This is a clever way to highlight the problems within the Hollywood system, showing stereotypes are still controlling how movies are made and taking the dreams of people who could bring us original.

Overall: Clever Statement.

ABC Film Challenge – Catch-Up 2019 – U – Unbroken: Path to Redemption (2018) Movie Review

Director: Harold Cronk

Writer: Richard Friedenberg, Ken Hixon (Screenplay) Laura Hillenbrand (Book)

Starring: Samuel Hunt, Merritt Patterson, Bobby Campo, David Sakurai, Vincenzo Amato, Maddalena Ischiale

Plot: The next amazing chapter of Olympian and World War II hero Louis Zamperini’s powerful true story of forgiveness, redemption, and amazing grace.


Tagline – The rest of the unbelievable true story.

Runtime: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Poor Sequel

Story: Unbroken: Path to Redemption starts with Louis Zamperini (Hunt) returning to America after his time in the Japanese war camp, his brother Pete (Campo) does what he can to welcome him back to the normal life, while the army want to use him as part of the story to hopefully keep the war bonds coming in.

Louis struggles with PTSD once he returns, turning to drink, being forced into taking time off, where he meets his wife Cynthia (Patterson), but the nightmares of his experience continue to haunt him, while trying to return to the track and return to the Olympics.

Thoughts on Unbroken: Path to Redemption

Characters – Louis Zamperini returns to America as a hero after his time as a prisoner of war under the torturous Watanabe, now he returns home, trying to start a new life, he meets his wife falls in love and has a kid, but over this time he struggles to deal with his nightmares from his time in the camp turning to drink to blank out any of his problems, pushing away any chance of being around his family away. Cynthia is the wife of Louis that meets him and sees the good in him, she gives him countless chances to sort of his life knowing he does need help, trying to push him into finding his help. Pete is the older brother to Louis, he is the only one that can truly challenge him to better himself, even if he does get caught in the middle of the insults from his brother. Watanabe is the person in the nightmares of Louis, the man that ran the camp which tortured him for years during the war.

PerformancesSamuel Hunt taking over the lead role really does struggle to make the impact that was in the first film, with Merritt Patterson doing the same, this cast doesn’t really get going on the levels that made the first film so impactful.

StoryThe story here follows the next chapter of Louis Zamperini’s life after his spell as a prisoner of war, here he must overcome his own demon and nightmares to get the most out of life. While this story does focus on the very real issues of PTSD that millions of soldiers had after the war, we do seem to follow just the normal problems, struggling to adapt back to normal life after the war, turning to drink to find comfort. While this might end up being what really happened to Louis, it does seem to lose what was the most inspirational and interesting side of his battle.

BiopicThe biopic side of the film does show the next chapter of Louis Zamperini’s life that did show the consequences of the first film, though it just isn’t something that is that interesting.

SettingsThe film does use the settings that makes you think you are in the late 1940s America, with how all backdrops and social occasion mix together.


Scene of the Movie – The visit to Japan.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – It is all too generic.

Final Thoughts This is a biopic that does take the incredible survival mission to the next level, only it focuses more on the fixing, rather than the ordeal, which just isn’t very interesting.

Overall: Unnecessary sequel.

Uncut Gems (2019) Movie Review

Director: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie

Writer: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, Ronald Bronstein (Screenplay)

Starring: Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Eric Bogosian, LaKeith Stanfield, Kevin Garnett, Judd Hirsch, Idina Menzel

Plot: A charismatic New York City jeweller always on the lookout for the next big score, makes a series of high-stakes bets that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime. Howard must perform a precarious high-wire act, balancing business, family, and encroaching adversaries on all sides, in his relentless pursuit of the ultimate win.

Runtime: 2 Hours 15 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Very Loud

Story: Uncut Gems starts as we meet fast-talking jeweller Howard Ratner (Sandler) who has his own business and lock up in New York City, he does owe people money across town, with one of the loan sharks Arno (Bogosian) wanting to cash in, pressuring him into paying back now. Howard who is always out for making a big score as won big on his latest bet, which would clear his debts.

When his debt collectors get aggressive, Howard needs to relocate a priceless diamond that professional basketball player Kevin Garnett has taken, Howard loses his most trust partner Demany (Stanfield) and his girl on the side Julia (Fox) is cheating on him, his life is starting to fall apart, can he fix everything before he loses everything.

Thoughts on Uncut Gems

Characters – Howard Ratner is a fast-talking jeweller who has always talked his way in and out of problems, he owes money all over the town and believes he is about to clear his debts, only for everything to go wrong once again, he needs to clear his debts before it is too late. He isn’t a nice guy, screwing over anybody who he deals with however nice they are. Arno is the person that Howard owes money too, he wants everything back with interest and has started to send the people after Howard to collect. Julia is the girlfriend that has been taking advantage of Howard, enjoying the high life more than she is willing to admit. Demany is one of the connections that works with Howard, he brings in people for sales, people that want the secret sales on the side.

PerformancesIt is great to see Adam Sandler in a more serious role, he does prove himself as an actor once again, he does everything to make his character great. LaKeith Stanfield continues to show himself making a big impact on the industry, while the rest of the supporting cast are fine without doing much.

StoryThe story here follows a jeweller that has seen his fast talking nature that has finally started to catch up on him, with his life starting to spiral out of control in his life. This does show us how one man has always tried to screw people over will finally see everything come back to bite him in the arse, he hasn’t eery treated people with respect in life and now he learns who would actually be there if he needs help. This does show us how people can get so caught up in their own ideas that they will never want to make fix themselves with the idea of greed coming to catch up on them. It does show how mistakes you make in life can catch up on you if you don’t know what to do if you want to be honest.

Comedy/Crime/MysteryThe comedy in the film is dark comedy that shows us just what Howard says to people, with the crime involved in the film showing how Howard is always trying to get away with anything in life, the mystery isn’t as strong as it should be either, but it is mostly about the special gem he has.

SettingsThe film is set in New York as shows the secret locations that the business is operating in, while the street scenes are everything we have seen before.


Scene of the Movie – The auction.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The overuse of the ‘n’ word.

Final Thoughts This is finally a film that shows Adam Sandler’s acting abilities are still in him, only with a list of unlikable characters that you don’t care about, because they are just making their own problems.

Overall: Sandler Can Act.

ABC Film Challenge – Horror – U – Unnatural (2015)

Director: Hank Braxtan

Writer: Arch Stanton, Ron Carlson (Screenplay)

Starring: James Remar, Sherilyn Fenn, Ron Carlson, Grahan Greene, Ray Wise, Allegra Carpenter

 

Plot: Global climate change prompts a scientific corporation to genetically modify Alaskan polar bears with horrific and deadly results.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Forgettable Creature Feature

 

Story: Unnatural starts with a global warming warning and something going wrong at a research lab, we go onto meet Martin (Remar) who has bought a photographer and his models to the snow filled location in Alaskan for a photoshoot. We also get the warning of polar bears create by the locals who use them as a warning, or in this case a myth.

When a creature eats one of the models and a guide, Martin must protect the remaining members of the photoshoot including photographer Brooking (Carlson) and stranger Dr Hanna Lindval (Fenn) from the threat outside, a mutated polar bear.

 

Thoughts on Unnatural

 

Characters – Martin is the expert in the area where the photoshoot takes place, he knows the wildlife and how to deal with any threats that come his way and must protect the people who are not used to the threat. Dr Lindval was part of the research team that created the polar bear, she is desperate to survive once it is free but does know more than she is letting on. Brooking in the photographer on the shoot, he does lack the guts to defend himself from the threat. We also have the models but they are here to look pretty through the terror.

PerformanceJames Remar is clearly the biggest draw in this film and he is good without being his best, when you look into the other performance we get the mystery from Fenn and the annoying wimpy guy from Carlson hitting the marks we are expecting to see in the film like this.

StoryGroup of people in Alaska with no escape must rely on one expert to keep them safe against an unknown creature for a set amount of days, well this is easy enough to go with and stops a lot of pointless discussion about trying to get help when there isn’t any, we also have the characters getting picked off in the random order like you would expect which is fine too.

Action/HorrorThe action is mostly running from the attacks from the creature which isn’t the most impressive either.

SettingsThe setting is the highlight as we have the group trapped with nowhere to run for the 3 days before the next plan arrives.

Special EffectsThe effects look mostly practical as we barely get to see the monster apart from in the shadows.

Scene of the Movie – The first attack is a fun moment.

That Moment That Annoyed Me We don’t see enough of the creature.

Final ThoughtsThis is a forgettable creature feature that tries to ask bigger questions but doesn’t seem to want to try and answer them.

 

Overall: Not one of the best.

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – Thriller – U – Unforgettable (2017)

Director: Denis Di Novi

Writer: Christina Hodson (Screenplay)

Starring: Rosario Dawson, Katherine Heigl, Geoff Stults, Isabella Kai Rice, Alex Quijano, Sarah Burns, Whitney Cummings

 

Plot: A woman sets out to make life a living hell for her ex-husband’s new fiancée.


Tagline – For worse

Runtime: 1 Hour 40 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Another Fatal Attraction Failure

 

Story: Unforgettable starts as Julia Banks (Dawson) is getting questioned by the police, we learn about her past before jumping back 6-months to see her new promotion and moving in with her new boyfriend David (Stults), life seems perfect for the two.

With David having a child Lily (Rice) from his previous marriage Julia must get used to a new addition to the household at times, but the former wife Tessa (Heigl) isn’t letting David go without a fight as she starts to invade the personal life of Julia with devastating consequences.

 

Thoughts on Unforgettable

 

Characters – Julia Banks is hitting the high point of her, promotion and engagement to the man of her dream. She does have a past which is very secretive that even David doesn’t know about it. She does have a habit about losing stuff, well she starts too, her past can play into her downfall against Tessa. Tessa is the ex-wife of David, she is very controlling and hasn’t taken the idea of David moving on well, she wants him back and with her own demanding mother in her life she is acting the same towards her own daughter. She always feels distant from any human interaction as she is planning to make Julia’s life a nightmare. David is the man stuck in the middle of everything, he is trying to keep both women happy one for the new love in his life the other to keep his daughter part of his life.

PerformancesRosario Dawson is good in her role we needed to see more of the life falling apart around her though. Katherine Heigl has had a mixed reaction from the audience and business over the last few years, she does work in this role as you do get an uneasy feeling whenever she is on screen. Geoff Stults is fine, he never really gets too much to do through the movie.

StoryThe story follows an ex-wife that wants to make the new girlfriends life a living nightmare in an attempt to get her husband back. This does play out like all over the stalker films we have seen before and yes, we have moved along technologically making the moves against the victim more personally. This is an easy enough watch and playing into the idea that the victim has a past which could make her easier to frame does help even if the whole thing plays out just like you would imagine.

ThrillerThe film tries to give us the tension bound levels needed, only for the most part to feel like it was just being slowly building and any scenes involving Julia and Tessa feel empty for the first half of the film.

SettingsThe film puts us in high-life houses which shows how the family can cope with divorce easily, while this works, a lower class of victim would make this more intense and interesting.


Scene of the Movie –
The final showdown.

That Moment That Annoyed Me There isn’t enough tension in the early part of the film.

Final ThoughtsThis is the trademark yearly stalker ex movie, it checks the boxes well without needing to be anything special or dreadful.

 

Overall: Simple Thriller.

Rating