REVIEW: ‘New Era’ at Downton offers enjoyment, despite shortcomings

I didn’t always know what was going on in the 2019 “Downton Abbey” film since I didn’t watch the series. That was true again here.

However, like its predecessor, it’s still fairly enjoyable.

“New Era” has two main stories unfolding. One revolves around a new film being shot at the Downton estate, where Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Violet (Maggie Smith) are keeping watch of things. While the family is hesitant about the film industry using the building, they allow it as it will provide funding to do needed roof repairs.

Meanwhile, the characters Robert (Hugh Bonneville), Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), Edith (Laura Carmichael), Herbert (Harry Hadden-Patton), Tom (Allen Leech) and Lucy (Tuppence Middleton) travel to southern France to explore a villa Violet inherited. The inheritance was included in the will of a man who Violet met decades ago in her youth.

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REVIEW: ‘Worst Person in the World’ is a well-made Norwegian feature

“The Worst Person in the World” is far from the worst movie in the world.

This film, from Norway, stars Renate Reinsve as Julie, a young woman who’s having trouble deciding what to do in life. The movie starts with Julie studying to become a doctor, before switching majors to psychology. Early on in the movie, she does this again, deciding to pursue a career in photography.

Her romantic life is fairly similar. Early in the picture, she meets and begins a relationship with Aksel, a successful comic artist. As their relationship is humming along, though, she meets another man, Eivind (Herbert Nordrum). Like her academic career, Julie feels herself being pulled in more than one direction romantically.

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REVIEW: ‘Cyrano’ is a sensational musical

Peter Dinklage should’ve been an Oscar contender.

Based on a 2018 stage musical, which itself was based on the 1897 play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” the film “Cyrano” tells the story of the titular character portrayed by Dinklage. Cyrano is a writer, poet, performer and even a cunning swordsman. Despite his talents, though, he can’t bring himself to confess his love for his friend from childhood, Roxanne (Haley Bennett). This is because of his own self doubt related to his appearance.

His complicated romantic situation is only compounded when Roxanne, who’s expected to marry the duke De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn), announces her love for a soldier named Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Wanting to make his love happy, Cyrano decides to help Christian write letters to Roxanne, as the solider is also in love with her.

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REVIEW: ‘The French Dispatch’ is a delightful dramedy

Rock Chalk meets French culture in this new film from Wes Anderson.

“The French Dispatch” refers to an insert section for the Evening Sun newspaper in Liberty, Kansas. In the movie, a situation happens where the French dispatch will have to suspend production.

For the last publication, the paper republishes three important articles written by a trio of reporters. The film from there with an anthology approach, following how each reporter researched and interviewed for the stories.

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REVIEW: ‘Bliss’ breaks down due to story, pacing issues

During my viewing of “Bliss,” I was starting to have flashbacks of 2019’s “Serenity,” another January release. At the very least, “Bliss” is better than that feature, but only slightly so.

Owen Wilson plays Greg in “Bliss,” a man who seems to be lost in thoughts of a dream home while at work. Unfortunately, his lack of attention ends with him being fired from his position. Not long after, he finds himself in a bar with Isabel (Salma Hayek), a woman who informs him that she can manipulate reality around them.

She’s able to do this because, according to her, the world they’re living in isn’t actually a real one. Basically, Isabel says the simulation theory is real and what she and Greg are in is an artificial reality. With this new information, Greg begins being pulled in two directions, and has difficulty in determining what’s real and what’s not.

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REVIEW: Repetitive dialogue makes ‘Malcolm and Marie’ mediocre

Zendaya and John David Washington do verbal battle in this new romantic drama on Netflix.

Washington stars as the titular Malcolm in this feature, a director who’s just coming home from the premiere of his first big movie. After getting home, with his girlfriend Marie (Zendaya), Malcolm begins talking about how his movie will be interpreted by the public as well as his thoughts and feelings about being a filmmaker.

As Malcolm continues, Marie interjects into the conversation, and the two begin talking about the film and its influences. Eventually, the talking turns to debating and as a result, their relationship is explored, along with their backgrounds.

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REVIEW: ‘Sylvie’s Love’ lacks romantic spark

Tessa Thompson trades the superhero genre for a romantic drama in this new Amazon film.

Thompson stars as the titular main character in “Sylvie’s Love.” At the start of the movie, Sylvie is working at her father’s record store where she meets Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha), a member of a jazz band in which he plays the saxophone.

The group is still looking for their big break so Robert decides to work at the record store to make extra money. After a short while,  Robert and Sylvie grow closer and a romance develops. However, their career ambitions and other personal commitments keep them from fully coming together for several years.

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REVIEW: Romance in ‘Ammonite’ has a spark, but never ignites

Two Oscar caliber actresses lend their talents to the screen in “Ammonite,” but what they have to work with doesn’t live up to their abilities.

“Ammonite” is the sophomore feature directing effort by Francis Lee. Taking place in the 1840s, the film follows the fossil researcher Mary Anning, who works along the shores to find preserved animals, like Ammonites. It’s quickly shown that Anning mostly keeps to herself, as the only company she has is her mother played by Gemma Jones.

However, one day a man fascinated by Mary’s work visits her office. After the’re introduced, he suggests his wife Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan) observe Mary’s work and research as a way to alleviate the young woman’s depression. As the two spend more time together, Mary and Charlotte begin to form a relationship.

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A Minnesota-made movie: ‘Hearts Want’ review

In July I founded the Minnesota Film Critics Alliance and one of the best parts of doing so has been connecting with really talented people.

One of them is Ruth Maramis, who reviews films at FlixChatter. Her movie-related work doesn’t end there, though.

Maramis was also an executive producer and the writer for the short film “Hearts Want.” Since its release, the picture has picked up recognition from several film festivals.

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REVIEW: ‘Chemical Hearts’ hindered by screenplay

OK, I can handle the teenage angst, but when pseudo-intellectual babble is poured on top, it becomes too much.

“Chemical Hearts” centers on the character Henry (Austin Abrams), a senior who becomes the editor of the school newspaper in his final year. As the fall semester gets started, he meets a new student, Grace (Lili Reinhart), who joins the newspaper team.

Grace walks with a cane, as she has an apparent leg injury and keeps to herself for the most part. Henry, though, wants to get to know her and as time goes on, begins to form a relationship with Grace. However, she’s still dealing with trauma from an event in her past.

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