To the Stars (2019)

Director: Martha Stephens

Writer: Shannon Bradley-Colleary (Screenplay)

Starring: Kara Hayward, Jordana Spiro, Tina Parker, Shea Whigham, Lucas Jade Zumann, Quinn Gasaway, Liana Liberato, Malin Akerman, Tony Hale

Plot: Under small town scrutiny, a withdrawn farmer’s daughter forges an intimate friendship with a worldly but reckless new girl in 1960s Oklahoma.

Runtime: 1 Hour 49 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Easy Watch Coming of Age

Story: To the Stars starts as we meet the shy high school girl Iris (Hayward) whose father Hank (Whigham) is very controlling, with the school bullies seeing her as an easy target, this changes when new girl Maggie (Liberato) arrives in town, she is filled with confidence, even though she has her own problems as home.

As the two girls become friends, they learn they have finally found someone they can reveal the secrets they have been hiding in life and set out on their own adventure to discover who they really are.

Thoughts on To the Stars

Final Thoughts This is a coming of age tale told in the 1960’s with the setting being Oklahoma, it shows us a certain way of life the girls have been trapped in, with them both needing a friend that will help them out of their problems and set them on their way to a brighter future, the fact both the girls react differently works well, showing us how opposites can learn to work together. The cast all give strong performances through the film, with Kara Haywood and Liana Liberato standing out from the rest of the cast. The film does give us everything you would imagine from a coming of age movie, without being on the peak of the genre, leaving it with a sweet feeling by the end.

Overall: Coming of Age 101.

Finding Grace (2019) Movie Review

Director: Warren Fast

Writer: Warren Fast (Screenplay)

Starring: Erin Gray, David Keith, Bo Svenson, Paris Warner, Jasen Wade, London Grace, Lacy Hartselle

Plot: A struggling family, already on the verge of disintegration, faces new challenges that will test their faith in God and each other.

Tagline – There comes a time in each person’s life… to make a choice.

Runtime: 1 Hour 46 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Touching Drama

Story: Finding Grace starts as 18-year-old Alaska Rose (Warner) finds herself facing a judge after breaking the law, giving community service or facing jail, her father Conner (Wade) wants Alaska to learn responsibility before it is too late, with her desire to party still coming through.

Alaska must do her community service at a nursing home with Amanda Wheeler (Davenport) watching over, here Alaska meets lonely resident Julianna Foster (Oglesby) who acts strangely around her, as the time in the home continues, Alaska learns she can help, she doesn’t want the shallow life her friends seem to b pushing her towards, all while dealing with her own pain of losing her mother, becoming the big sister her brother always needed.

Thoughts on Finding Grace

Characters – Alaska Rose has just turned 18, she has found herself in trouble with the law and given a suspended prison sentence with community service at a nursing home. Alaska starts of as a self-centred teenager, who is more interested in partying with friends, that facing the future coming her way, she needs to learn responsibility before it is too late. Alaska is also haunted by the death of mother when she was younger, which does show the strain in her relationship with her father. Alaska is the focal point of the arc in this story, her transformation through the film is excellent. Conner is Alaska’s father, he struggles with work with a business that isn’t as successful as he had hoped and he has become distant from his children in his own way of grieving for his wife, he looks to find God once again, in a hope to move on with his life. Julianna Foster is the elderly resident at the home that Alaska strikes up an unlikely friendship, she has lived a colourful life that not enough people have heard about until Alaska listens to her story and finally finds somebody to open up to.

PerformancesParis Warner is wonderful in the leading role, we see how she shows the change in her character over the two month spell, as well as showing the pain she carries with her. Jasen Wade does bring the distance required for his character through the film. Kisha Sharon Oglesby brings the heart needed for the film, her performance does everything to show Alaska how important change will be.

StoryThe story here follows an 18-year-old that is facing prison if she doesn’t clean up her act, where she does community services to hopefully turn her life around and learn to open up about her own pain in her life. This story does use the faith side of life to get the message across, while this might well be the key motivation for change, it does show, how the right people in life can put you on the right path, change you for the better and those around you. We do sometimes focus on Alaska’s father in a mix of either not enough or too much, where he does have arc to go through, though it doesn’t seem like it gets the attention desired, or whether we needed his complete arc running next to hers. This is a very touching drama that does show everything it needs too, to pull on the emotions.

SettingsThe film uses the settings to show how Alaska would find herself in places she wouldn’t have planned on being, with these being helpful in her change.

Scene of the Movie – Second court

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Too much focus on Conner’s arc.

Final Thoughts This is a drama that plays on the emotional chords that shows us that change can make lives better and finding the right path will always set you free.

Overall: Emotional Drama.

ABC Film Challenge – Oscar Nomination – P – Pain and Glory (2019) Movie Review

Director: Pedro Almodovar

Writer: Pedro Almodovar (Screenplay)

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Nora Navas, Julieta Serrano, Cesar Vicente, Asier Flores

Plot: A film director reflects on the choices he’s made in life as past and present come crashing down around him.

Runtime: 1 Hour 53 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Brilliant Life Drama

Story: Pain and Glory starts as we meet film director Salvador Mallo (Banderas) whose most famous film ‘Sabor’ is being honoured, it is one of his films he never truly enjoyed until recently, which makes him start to look back at his life as a children in near poverty, where is mother Jacinta (Cruz) did everything she could to keep him happy and now Salvador must rebuild the bridge with the star of the movie Alberto (Etxeandia) after they fell out after the film was made.

Salvador’s latest work is must more personal story form his younger years, with his own former lover Federico (Sbaraglia) being the man that helped him become the star he would, understand why he was always more against the drug lifestyle that Alberto was involved in.

Thoughts on Pain and Glory

Characters – Salvador Mallo is a director who has lost his motivation, he is questioning the decisions he once made, even though his films are held in high regard, add in the illness and wear and tear his body is going through, he is wondering if his legacy is what he wants it to be, be it the relationship he once had with his lead, his mother and many other parts of his life. Alberto Crespo was the star of the hit movie, the two fell out because of his addiction, which caused the rift between the two, now he gets a chance to make up with Salvador who understand his own errors of the way. Federico is the former lover of Salvador, somebody who motivated him to create the work he has become famous for. Jacinta is Salvador’s mother that has always encouraged him to improve himself in life.

PerformancesAntonio Banderas is fantastic in the leading role and you can see why he got nominated for an Oscar. Asier Etxeandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia and Penelope Cruz are excellent in the supporting roles too.

StoryThe story here follows an aging film director that is looking back at his own career and life, wondering if he made the right decisions, which sees him looking to write his own story. The idea that we jump between different moments in his life and the ones he sees being important from his childhood, to making up with his former co-star, shows how you can always reflect on certain moments in life. It does show us how an artist might not always be happy with his work too, which shows us just how you can often be your biggest critic in life.

SettingsThe film does show us just how far Salvador has come in life, from his poverty like raising to his celebrity status.

Scene of the Movie – Final shot.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Sometimes the time jumps happen too often.

Final Thoughts This is a brilliant drama that shows how difficult looking back on your life can always make you question what you did, despite not being able to change it.

Overall: Wonderful Drama.

The Mouse and The Bread (2018) Movie Review

Director: Sharisse Zeroonian

Writer: Sharisse Zeroonian (Screenplay)

Starring: Eric Cober, Rachel Gordon, Alexander Hauck, Louise Mara, Michele Mortensen, Emily Pattison, Patil Roupelian, Bob Tourangeau, Miguel Velazquez, Sharisse Zeroonian

Plot: An experimental film that touches upon the changes in dynamics between members of a family when one of them commits a crime.

Runtime: 1 Hour 6 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Promising

Story: The Mouse in the Bread starts as young woman Lili (Zeroonian) is starting to try and figure out her own future, her parents John (Hauck) and Miriam (Mara) always support her, while the family starts to focus on a bigger problem, one they want to keep quiet from Lili.

Lili does see the dynamic between her parents slowly start to fall apart, while she still needs both of them in life, she is left in the dark to the problems they are facing.

Thoughts on The Mouse in the Bread

Final ThoughtsWe need to start by pointing out that this is a micro budget project from filmmaker Sharisse Zeroonian, who writes, directs and stars in this film. We do see the family dynamic that is always changing away from the children, whatever the age, as they both want to protect their children and have their own happiness, which see the strain coming. We have a cast which isn’t the most experienced that don’t do anything wrong and we are left to see just how much potential everyone in this film has, both behind and on front of the camera. Most of the film is kept in one central location within the house that helps show us just how close the family is despite the troubles they are facing.

Overall: Nice Family Drama

Just Mercy (2019) Movie Review

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Writer: Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham (Screenplay) Bryan Stevenson (Book)

Starring: Michael B Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall, Marcus A Griffin Jr, O’Shea Jackson Jr

Plot: World-renowned civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson works to free a wrongly condemned death row prisoner.

Runtime: 2 Hours 17 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Eye Opening

Story: Just Mercy starts when Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) learns the struggles of the poor, mostly black men on death row for crimes they didn’t get proper representation in court. Gaining the funding to start helping these men, one case Walter McMillian (Foxx) takes centre stage.

Bryan must battle a legal system that doesn’t seem to want to let a black man have a fair trial, to prove that Walter never committed a murder that was convicted on just one witness statement, no evidence was false, to save a man’s life and change the system forever.

Thoughts on Just Mercy

Characters – The characters here are based on real people, which shows the incredible work they went through, Bryan has just qualified as a lawyer and is willing to give up massive paydays to help the men trapped on death row, to get a fair trial and save lives. He will risk his life, reputation and career on proving, fairly that Walter isn’t a murderer. Walter McMillian has worked hard his whole life, his one mistake made him an easy target for the police who wanted to frame a black man, now on death row, he doesn’t have much faith of getting out, until he meets Bryan who shows him that somebody is willing to fight for him, even though he has always claimed his innocence and helped keep the fellow inmates believing they could get out. Eva Ansley works with Bryan, she leads more of the campaign, while helping study the law side, not fighting in the courtroom, she is the person that keeps Bryan going through it all, though not seeing her involved more in the courtroom, is slightly disappointing.

PerformancesMichael B Jordan steps up here to prove he will be able to take leading roles in a more serious environment once again, he shows all the calm his character needs during the testing times. Jamie Foxx is wonderful as the wrongly convicted killer, showing how the system has beaten him down more than anything else. Brie Larson gets great scenes, but it is a mix of her character not getting enough scenes and seemingly more we don’t learn about her character which leaves us wanting more.

StoryThe story here follows the young lawyer that wants to fight for the rights of the men on death row, with his first major case being defending Walter McMillian, a man believed to be wrongfully convicted a crime he could never have committed. This is an important story, it shows how hard the people worked to campaign to give people a fair trial in a system which has shown countless cases of corruption, he shows all the struggles they would face and how the law will always hold people back from getting the truth out there fairly. We focus on one major case, while it does feel like we could watch many cases this man worked on, just to show us how unfair the law can be on the poor.

SettingsThe film uses a few settings, the prison for the interviews, the courtroom, which as you all know is one of my favourite settings in film, offices and homes which show how hard everybody worked to get this story out there.

Scene of the Movie – The supreme courtroom.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The law being this bad.

Final Thoughts This is a wonderful important look at how the law works, not always as fairly as it should do, we have a massive story and brilliant performances from the cast.

Overall: Important.