Every year that I pay my union dues in a timely manner, I receive DVD screeners in the mail for films that are nominated for some SAG Award. These are often the same films that are up for an Oscar or Golden Globe, too, and if we haven't had a chance to see them in a theatre, it's a great way to expand our visual horizons. Screeners are always imprinted with a "This is a screener" watermark, so they don't really add to our collection, but if we're impressed enough with something we didn't see before the screener arrived, we are more likely to buy a Blu-Ray than we would have been without the screener. So the "perk" for us is seeing movies for free, and the perk for the industry is more people buying Blu-Rays or DVD's or streaming copies than had seen the film when first released. The actors earn more residuals when people BUY the film, so I'm supporting my compatriots by paying my dues in time to receive screeners! WIN!
There's also a season of attending screenings, which is happening right now. This is to get the films into the eyeballs, earholes, and brainpans of the members of the Nominating Committee for the specific SAG Awards, but the perk of paying dues in a timely manner is that I also get invited to those screenings. Now that you know how this all works, I'll review for you the stuff I've recently been privileged to see, none of which had I had any knowledge of beforehand, other than the "blurb" on the invitations:
Lion A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.: We signed up to see this one because the Q&A that followed was with Nicole Kidman, and who wouldn't sign up for that reason alone? Dev Patel and Rooney Mara also star, so we "knew" three faces, going in. I already like Dev Patel, not necessarily from Slumdog Millionaire, but I love the Exotic Marigold Hotel movies, and he's great in them. Don't have an opinion of Rooney Mara; I know I've seen her work, but she's not really done anything to "ping" my radar.
The storyline for this one is compelling and heart-wrenching, and they don't rush to get through the five-year-old's experiences. We want to reach out to protect him, to help him get back home. The kid is pretty brilliant in his performance. When we meet Nicole, she's VERY 1980's, which is only a minor distraction. Had to be done, though. This film is based on actual events. Dev appears as the grown-up lost boy, with an Australian dialect, which is, again, only a minor distraction. When his friends persuade him to remember his roots and go searching for his biological family, we go back to our instinct of wanting to reach out to protect him.
I was on the edge of my seat watching this. I laughed, I cringed, I cried. Before the screening, the moderator of the Q&A reminded the audience to have tissues ready. I know that by the end of it, there was not a dry eye in the house, and that is no exaggeration. There were some surprises, and even the end credits were incredibly well done. We will absolutely own this movie on Blu-Ray. If I get to attend a screening with Dev at the Q&A, I'll be doubly blessed. It goes into wide release on November 25th. See it. Highly Recommended
Bleed For This The inspirational story of World Champion Boxer Vinny Pazienza who, after a near fatal car crash, which left him not knowing if he'd ever walk again, made one of sports' most incredible comebacks.: Okay, it's a boxing film, and based on actual events, and I'm neither "here" nor "there" regarding boxing films. I liked Cinderella Man and Real Steel; I honestly do not care for any of the Rocky franchise. But this one had Katey Sagal, Aaron Eckhart, and Miles Teller lined up for the Q&A, and I told Stephen going in that the only thing that would cause me to leave early was if this was another "torture porn" like Whiplash (I had a really hard time watching Whiplash, but I was watching it on my computer, so I could pause when it got too intense). I honestly thought that maybe Miles Teller just likes to go for the roles where he's getting cut up, bruised, and broken. I did not know anything about the real Vinny Pazienza, a.k.a. "The Pazmanian Devil".
So we first see Vinny preparing for a weigh-in for a title fight. He's got to be UNDER a certain weight, and he's working to get there. Pretty funny sequence, and it sets a light mood for the whole film. That's good news, because there is some brutality to come, and we all know it, but at least we're able to laugh with and at all of them as we go, so that when the brutality does come, it rips us out of any complacency we may have built up. Again, this movie is edge-of-your-seat. I did not love the camera work; almost 100% of this movie was handheld, which I find jarring, to say the least. I was grateful for the handheld work in the boxing ring, though, because it meant I didn't actually have to "see" blows land.
I never left my seat, because Aaron Eckhart as the trainer is a polar opposite to JK Simmon's character in Whiplash. There's a lot of care and tenderness expressed in Vinny's recuperation and training. All of the performances are phenomenal, and we learned in the Q&A that the entire thing was shot in 24 days, which is unheard of for a "real" feature film. It's typical for a low-budget independent feature, of course, but we were stunned at the quality that they found and put together in that short time. It's a great picture; I'd be happy to add it to my wall. It's in wide release as of the 18th of November; you should try to see it, if you can. Recommended
The Fall (television) Two hunters, one cold, deliberate and highly efficient and the other, a strong, athletic man with a wife. One is a serial killer, and the other is a cop.: Okay, I'll be completely honest here. Had I seen this blurb before I attended the screening, I wouldn't have attended the screening. Nevermind that Gillian Anderson is someone I'm willing to watch; that blurb doesn't indicate that she's a central figure. Jamie Dornan was in attendance for the Q&A.
The episode that they screened was apparently the season (and possibly series) finale. If you haven't been watching a show, it's not usually a good idea to start at the end. I had a bad seat in the screening room, so I stood against the wall for the hour, which may have been a distraction for other viewers (not that I wasn't as still as I would have been in a seat; I was). #SorryNotSorry
I didn't know who anyone was, or their relationships, or why I should care about any of them or root against the serial killer, because I didn't know who the serial killer was. It was a very "talky" episode; I imagine the series is very "talky", so unless you've started at the beginning and know who they are, it'll get boring very quickly... and then jump into some insanely brutal action sequence... and then slide back into talking.
Gillian didn't maintain her British accent; Jamie was creepy but not compelling (you may have seen 50 Shades of Grey and stayed for the Q&A because you think he's hawt or something; I did none of the above). As soon as the credits began rolling, I booked it outta there. It's available for viewing on Amazon, if you're interested at all in a British/Irish crime drama with weird pacing. Zero Stars
This is Us (television) A group of people with the same birthday, including Jack, whose wife, Rebecca, is expecting triplets in Pittsburgh, Kevin, a handsome television actor growing bored of his fly bachelor lifestyle, Kate, his funny and sweet heavyset twin, and Randall, a successful businessman in search of his biological father.: I had seen the bus posters and billboards, and I honestly thought this was a film, not a television show. It airs on NBC, and It Is Amazing. I have only, so far, seen the episode that was screened, but I had a moment to speak to Milo Ventimiglia after the Q&A, to tell him that I was looking forward to the Gilmore Girls reunion episodes (he plays Jess), but that also, I'd known nothing of this show prior to the screening but would now be starting at the beginning to binge-watch it. I don't really know how to do that; probably Netflix or Hulu or something, but I've asked Stephen to add it to the queue, so once he has, we WILL be watching this show!
To say anything at all about the plot in the episode I viewed would be spoilery for you, so suffice it to say that the above blurb is all you need to know, going in. Phenomenal performances; phenomenal writing; great editing (from what I can tell, based on one episode). I look forward to discovering the central conflicts that will allow this show to last several seasons. Highly Recommended
Sully The story of Chesley Sullenberger, an American pilot who became a hero after landing his damaged plane on the Hudson River in order to save the flight's passengers and crew.: This movie was released on September 9th, but I'm only just now getting to see it. Apparently, it's good enough to hold special screenings for the SAG Awards Nominating Committee. It's on my agenda to see TODAY, so I'll just post this much, and after I see whatever's on the schedule for tomorrow (I've forgotten), I'll review it in a separate post.
Will you be seeing any of the above? Because of my recommendations, or just because you were going to see them anyway?