Flag Day – Film Review

Director: Sean Penn

Writers: Jez Butterworth, and John-Henty Butterworth

Starring: Dylan Penn, Sean Penn, and Josh Brolin

Rating: ★★★

Flag Day is the sixth film directed by Sean Penn, and the first that he also stars in. Penn’s daughter, Dylan Penn, also joins him in this sombre story, which is based on the memoir Flim-Flam Man by Jennifer Vogel. The film focuses on Jennifer Vogel, played by Dylan Penn, and her relationship with her father, John Vogel.

The story takes place over two decades, following Jennifer as she’s growing up and coming to terms with her father. John is described as someone so charming he can get away with the dangerous things he commits. He’s someone who is always looking for new get-rich-quick schemes, no matter how many times things go wrong. At the centre of the story is the strained father/daughter relationship.

When Jennifer is still a child, her father leaves home and doesn’t keep in contact with his children. Life at home because rough and Jennifer seeks out her father, thinking he’s a changed man and for a short while things seem to be going well, until he gets arrested. The scene where Jennifer confronts her father in jail, questioning him on what happened without getting a straight answer, is the standout moment of the film. John is completely trapped on one side of the glass, police officer behind him, and he still can’t be truthful. She’s asking what the mark on his forehead is, and John can’t answer, deflecting her questions that he can’t see it. It’s the perfect summary of their relationship. John pushes Jennifer’s limits for forgiveness but still things he can push further.

Sean Penn and Dylan Penn are both excellent in the film, their real-life father/daughter relationship helps create the on-screen bond they share. You can completely understand why Jennifer is so willing to believe he’s changed, and why she can’t give up on him completely. The digital effects to de-age Sean Penn throughout the story is phenomenal, and seamless in the film. Equally great is the soundtrack, which features great new music from Eddie Vedder, who previously worked with Penn on his 2007 film, Into the Wild.

Sadly, the film doesn’t always connect on an emotional level. While the film is fast paced, you really feel the length and it starts to get tedious as the film reaches its conclusion. The story jumps from year to year, giving snapshots of Jennifer’s life and never settles long enough for you to really get an idea of who she is. There are moments where it becomes very hard to stay engaged with it.

Flag Day is a decent film, that’s heightened by the performances of Sean Penn and his daughter. It’s very close to being excellent, but it’s not something that will stay with you for a long time once the credits have rolled.  

Flag Day is in cinemas and on digital 28 January from Vertigo Releasing

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The Book of Boba Fett, Chapter 5: Return of the Mandalorian – Review

The Book of Boba Fett, Chapter 5, Return of the Mandalorian review: Star  Wars show finally finds its way | Entertainment News,The Indian Express

Director: Bryce Dallas Howard

Writer: Jon Favreau

Rating: ★★★★½

Like the name of this episode ever so subtly suggests, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), The Mandalorian himself, is back. This episode feels like it’s actually the third season opener for The Mandalorian, rather than a follow-up from last week’s episode of The Book of Boba Fett.

The episode is set after the season two finale and follows Djarin after his parting from Grogu. He’s back to bounty hunting and trying to find his way to a Mandalorian hideout. There’s some great action sequences as he learns to use the Darksaber. Alongside Djarin are some other returning characters, and a new ship, following the destruction of the Razor Crest.

It’s sad to say, but despite how good The Book of Boba Fett has been, this is the best episode of the series so far. It’s sad because Boba Fett doesn’t even make an appearance. The Mandalorian was created by Jon Favreau, and he knows this character inside out, so it just feels so perfectly natural as the story plays out. It doesn’t even add that much, if anything at all, to Fett’s storyline, but it’s more exciting than any other episode in the series.

In this episode we get to see parts of the Star Wars galaxy, that we haven’t seen before. There’s more information given about the Mandalorians, more growth in the world around Djarin, and most importantly what feels like a great set up for season 3 of The Mandalorian. It’s one of the best episodes of live action Star Wars TV so far and it’s going to be very hard for next week’s episode to follow this up.

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Scream 3 – Film Review

Scream 3 (2000) - IMDb

Director: Wes Craven

Writer: Ehren Kruger

Starring: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Lance Henriksen, Matt Keeslar, Jenny McCarthy, and Patrick Warburton

Rating: ★★★★½

The original Scream rejuvenated the slasher genre, bringing it to a whole new generation, with bigger stars and a more polished production. It’s full of jokes and nods towards the genre, both working as a genuinely funny parody and an amazing slasher film. It’s also unique for the slasher genre in that the sequels live up to it. Scream 2 is an excellent follow up that expands the story, doing exactly what you’d expect it to, while also commentating on that expectation. Scream 3 then takes this to another level, by having it mostly take place on the set of Stab 3, the in-universe films that adapted the events of the first and second Scream. It owes a lot to Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, the metareferential entry to the Nightmare on Elm Street series. At the time Scream 3 was the final part of series, finishing the trilogy and doing what a finale should, and at the same time being filled with clever comments on horror, sequels, and the Hollywood system.

Unlike the first two entries to the series, which were written by Kevin Williamson, Scream 3, was penned by Ehren Kruger, who had just written the excellent Arlington Road. Even with the new writer, the same love for horror and referential humour is found in this film. Most of the principal cast return as well, although Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has a reduced role due to scheduling conflicts. Sidney is still a major presence in the story, with the conflicts being hidden by her story mostly being separate from the main cast until the final act, where’s it’s all brought together. Instead Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Dewy (David Arquette) take centre stage to investigate the new killer. Joining the cast is a very young Patrick Dempsey and Patrick Warburton, as well as Lance Henriksen. There’s even cameos from Kevin Smith and Jason Mews, as Jay and Silent Bob, cementing the film in time at the turn of the century.

The Scream series is so well loved because of the way it plays with the conventions of the slasher film. Randy (Jamie Kennedy), who died in the second film, reappears through a pre-recorded video explaining the rules of the final part of a trilogy in horror, fulfilling the same role he performed in the first two films. It’s one of the best scenes in the film, because almost everything he says comes true. We all know what to expect with slashers, the kills, the twists, and the big reveal of who the killer is and their monologue explaining it.

What makes Scream 3 so great is that it’s really having a conversation about horror films. Stab 3 is about how some horrors are based on true events, and how that exploits real life tragedy. One of the strongest moments of the film is Sidney revisiting her old bedroom through the recreated set, the flashbacks that gives her. It’s haunting. There are also moments where it’s commenting on exploitation women in horror, both in front and behind the camera.  A scene where one of the actors on Stab 3 is talking about her role, she questions why she must be in a shower scene, one of the staple moments of the slasher genre. It’s not played off as a joke, it’s a genuine comment on the genre that was way ahead of it’s time. There’s also a main plot point about how a young female actor is exploited behind the camera in exchange for parts in films. The seediness of Hollywood is laid out almost twenty years before the #metoo movement, and this was a film that the Weinstein Brothers were very active in making happen. They were the two people who wanted to make a third Scream film, and that plot thread is a major turning point. The fact that it’s such a major part of the plot is a testament to how untouchable they thought they were. At the same time, it’s another example about how Hollywood and the wider world knew what was going on, and it wasn’t being stopped.

It’s not just the references and subversions of expectations that makes this film so good. The characters are developed in a really meaningful way. They’re haunted from the events in the previous films and their growth from the previous one to this one is subtle, and not exaggerated at all. Sidney is struggling with what happened, but she’s also stronger because of it. It’s not full-on Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, but the impact is felt with how the character is portrayed. It’s a more mature character arc than you’d expect from a slasher film.

Scream 3 is an almost perfect sequel to one of the best slasher films ever made. It hasn’t dated in anyway, in fact the opposite has happened, it feels like it’s more relevant today. It’s a smartly written and all-round excellent slasher.

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A Journal for Jordan – Film Review

A Journal for Jordan (2021) - IMDb

Director: Denzel Washington

Writer: Virgil Williams

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Chanté Adams, Jalon Christian, Robert Wisdom, Tamara Tunie, Jasmine Batchelor, Marchánt Davis, Susan Pourfar, Vanessa Aspillga, Grey Henson

Rating: ★★★★

Denzel Washington’s latest film as director is A Journal for Jordan, which is based on the memoir written by Dana Canedy. It’s about Dana’s, who is played by Chanté Adams, relationship with 1st Sergeant Charles Monroe King (Michael B. Jordan). It’s framed as a journal that Charles wrote for his and Dana’s son, Jordan, along with the memoir that Dana wrote. Charles died overseas in Iraq and the journal he left behind is how his son has grown to know him.

The film is split between scenes after Charles’s death and flashbacks showing his relationship with Dana from meeting in the late 1990s until his death. Just before Charles is deployed overseas, Dana gives him a journal to write a few words of wisdom for his son to read, in case anything happens to him. He wrote as much as he possibly could, and the film sticks to it as closely as possible. Dana Canedy was involved with the film, visiting set and has been quite close with Denzel Washington for a number of years. It’s an incredibly personal story and their love shines through the screen.

Both Michael B. Jordan and Chanté Adams give incredible performances, giving everything, they’ve got to their roles. The chemistry between them is tangible, and it really gets to you, especially knowing what’s coming right from the start. You get a real send of who Charles and Dana were as people and as a couple. The film is a series of snapshots of their life together and it’s incredibly gripping from the first scene. It’s a heart-breaking story.

It would be possible to watch this film and feel that it’s a little overly sentimental at points. They are real people and you can feel that, but this does gloss over some of the difficult moments of their relationship. At one point, when Charles makes it clear that he won’t be home to see the birth of his son, Dana is scared and angry, but cut a couple of scenes and it’s all forgotten. While there are moments that feel like a ‘Hollywood’ version of the events, it’s easy to overlook it. It’s still a gripping and engaging drama. A truly fitting tribute to 1st Sergeant Charles Monroe King.

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Nomadland – Film Review

Nomadland (2020) - IMDb

Director: Chloé Zhao

Writer: Chloé Zhao

Starring: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Swankie, Bob Wells, Peter Spears

Rating: ★★★★

2021 best picture winner at the Oscars is an intimate and authentic character study of a modern-day nomad in America, fuelled by one of the best performances of Frances McDormand’s career. It’s a deeply moving story about life and makes you question your own life along the way, and whether you would be able to live on the road and if there are things you want to achieve that you haven’t yet.

Frances McDormand delivers a phenomenal performance as Fern, a nomad who was forced out of her home in Empire, after the local mine and the town itself closed down. Still grieving the loss of her husband, Fern buys a van and decides to live on the road, taking temporary work where she can get it and not settling down in anyone place.

The film is inspired upon a non-fiction book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century. Fern isn’t a real person, but a log of the supporting characters are based upon people in the book, and some of them are played by real nomads. Everything about the film is completely natural and authentic, to the point that it almost feels like a documentary just capturing real life. There’s no attempt to say this is the best way to live, or that nomads should settle down, it’s just capturing a way of life and understanding a way of thinking that can leave you reflective on your own life.

There’s a moment where a nomad tells a story about why she chose the life, because of a co-worker who had a boat on their driveway for years, waiting for their retirement. Before they could use the boat, they were diagnosed with cancer and died, leaving the wisdom of don’t waste any time. The fact that you could die without getting the time to do what you’ve wanted to is real, and something that we all have to deal with, and that’s one of the central themes of the film that really resonates throughout. There’s another heart breaking story about a father who outlives his son, and the effect that had on his life. It’s not just the dark times that the film is reflecting on, it’s also celebrating the good times, messing about with co-workers, meeting new people and the good times that are on the road. Not everyone living ‘houseless’, as the film puts it, is doing it out of grief, but to find happiness in the world, capturing the joys of life and everything associated with it.

While the film is about the lifestyle, it is presented through a deeply personal character study of Fern, who is struggling with the loss of her husband. You learn about their life through snippets of conversation, and stories. It’s a beautifully told story about love and loss that is deeply moving. McDormand is absolutely phenomenal in the role. Just the smallest thing, from a glance to a pause in speech, says everything you need to know about the character.

Nomadland is an odd film, in the sense that at times it feels very directionless, but it’s always engaging. It captures a way of life in a fascinating way, using real nomads to tell their stories, and it also works on the level of being a drama about grief. It’s a powerful story.

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