NYFF60 review: ‘Master Gardener’ withers on the vine.


Paul Schrader’s latest film, Master Gardener, confounded me. The plot revolves around Narvel, a straight-laced, committed gardener with an oddly slicked-back haircut and a penchant for journaling. When the mistress of the grounds he cares for asks for a personal favor, he is quick to relent. The request requires him to take her estranged grandniece as an apprentice to ensure the gardens’ legacy and to fill a sense of familial responsibility. Once Maya arrives, so too does trouble from her past. 

Here is where we slowly get insight into Narvel’s background. Through various flashbacks, meetings with a witness protection officer, and some large-scale tattoos, things get complicated when attraction grows between teacher and student. 

Sounds relatively straightforward in the way I’ve described it. In reality, Master Gardener is a jumbled mess. Sigourney Weaver plays Mrs. Haverhill, a role I can only assume is meant to be an old-school Southern grandam. Instead, she is a racist elite taking advantage of Narvel, throwing a hissy fit when something doesn’t go her way. Weaver is a legend. Somehow this performance is horrendous. It’s an overblown theatrical version of a person. It’s unlikely this was her own doing. 

Joel Edgerton plays Narvel with an understated aura. His chemistry with co-star Quintessa Swindell feels bizarre, not to mention the egregious age difference. That has everything to do with Schrader’s script. I’m sure the film is supposed to be a redemption story. I’m sure of it. But the way it goes about that narrative feels half-baked. 

While watching the film in a room full of NYFF60 critics and patrons, the groans were audible. The laughs at the absurdity were embarrassing. No one seemed to understand what Schrader was thinking other than an out-of-touch attempt at tackling socially relevant themes in a tacky manner. The editing doesn’t do the film any favors, either.

The best aspect of Master Gardener is the grounded performance from Quintessa Swindell. Her raw openness reads as natural as can be. Brave to her for committing to dialogue that was all over the place. No doubt she’s a star. 

In the end, Master Gardener had me shaking my head. Bury this one in the ground. 

For more information on NYFF60 click here

Review: The Extended version of ‘CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN: REMEMBERING GHOSTBUSTERS’ is a franchise fan’s dream.


CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN: Remembering Ghostbusters is the definitive documentary charting the making of the iconic film that inadvertently changed the film industry forever. Featuring interviews with Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson and including never-before-seen footage. The documentary hallmarks the extraordinary achievements made for the era, and emphasizes just how ambitious an undertaking the making of Ghostbusters really was.

Born in 1980, my entire childhood revolved around Ghostbusters. Ecto-cooler was in my lunchbox. Ghost traps were created from tissue boxes. When I received the elusive Ecto 1 for Christmas, I was the envy of the neighborhood. The extended version of Anthony Bueno’s documentary Cleanin’ Up The Town: Remembering The Ghostbusters takes you into the minds and personalities that created the iconic film. It is overflowing with behind-the-scenes footage and stories, and it’s all to die for. When you find out who the original cast was meant to be, your head will spin.

The film utilizes animation to illustrate what these first ideas and meetings looked like. The sketches of the ghosts are insanely impressive. We’ve got the standard talking-head interviews, but it’s a franchise fan’s dream. The late, great Harold Ramis is included, in all his glory. Ghostbusters was made with a group of the most elite talents of the time. The photos of the team building the technology to create the film are pretty amazing. The FX from Steve Johnson gave us the iconic characters of The Librarian, Slimer, and The Stay Puft Marshmellow Man.

When Sigourney Weaver landed the role of Dana, it changed everything. She pushed the boys to not only be better actors, but she is also responsible for a huge aspect of Dana’s arch. Weaver and Ivan Reitman discuss her audition, which will forever remain unseen by the public. Ernie Hudson’s role looked very different from the original script to the final incarnation. He talks about the dynamics of the entire cast. Even with a runtime of 2 hrs, you won’t want the film to end. It’s a cinephile’s dream. The wealth of information, the access to cast and crew, and the sheer love that emanates from everyone involved make Cleanin’ Up The Town: Remembering The Ghostbusters a nostalgic joyride.

Extended Version In Theaters &
On-Demand Today

Directed by Anthony Bueno (Beware the Moon: Remembering An American Werewolf in London)
Produced by Claire Bueno

Featuring the cast and crew of the original Ghostbusters including
Dan AykroydHarold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts
Director Ivan Reitman
Producers Joe Medjuck and Michael C. Gross
Visual Effects Crew Members Richard Edlund and John Bruno
Creature Design Consultant Terry Windell
Editor Sheldon Kahn

Netflix News: ‘Marvel’s The Defenders’ trailer released!

Not Here to Make Friends #Defend

Check out the trailer for the highly anticipated Netflix original series Marvel’s The Defenders by visiting the show’s Facebook  and Twitter pages, or clicking here: https://youtu.be/4h3m7B4v6Zc

Marvel’s The Defenders which premieres globally on Netflix on August 18, 2017 at 12:01am PT follows Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Danny Rand/Iron Fist (Finn Jones), a quartet of singular heroes with one common goal – to save New York City. This is the story of four solitary figures, burdened with their own personal challenges, who realize they just might be stronger when teamed together.

The series follows the releases of  Marvel’s Daredevil , Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Marvel’s Luke Cage and  Marvel’s Iron Fist.

Marvel’s The Defenders stars Charlie Cox, (Matt Murdock/Daredevil), Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones), Mike Colter (Luke Cage) and Finn Jones (Danny Rand/Iron Fist).  Additional cast members include Academy-Award nominated actress Sigourney Weaver (Alexandra), Elodie Yung (Elektra), Scott Glenn (Stick), Deborah Ann Woll (Karen Page), Elden Henson (Foggy Nelson), Carrie-Anne Moss (Jeri Hogarth), Rachael Taylor (Trish Walker), Eka Darville (Malcolm Ducasse), Simone Missick (Misty Knight) and Jessica Henwick (Colleen Wing).

Marvel’s The Defenders is executive produced by Marco Ramirez and Doug Petrie along with Marvel TV’s Jeph Loeb. The series is produced by Marvel Television in association with ABC Studios for Netflix.

Step into the world of the Defenders here: http://nybulletin.com/

Marvel’s The Defenders
Twitter: @TheDefenders ( https://twitter.com/TheDefenders)
Facebook: ( https://www.facebook.com/defenders/)

Review: ‘THE ASSIGNMENT’ flips the script on your average action flick.

THE ASSIGNMENTDirector Walter Hill gives the revenge film a modern neo-noir twist with this electrifying thriller. Hitman Frank Kitchen (Michelle Rodriguez) is given a lethal assignment, but after being double-crossed, discovers he’s no longer the man he was.  Having been surgically altered, Frank now has the body of a woman. Seeking vengeance, he heads for a showdown with his assailant (Sigourney Weaver), a brilliant surgeon with a chilling agenda of her own.

The film is structured in a Sin City meets iZombie format with graphic novel transitions and narration. The premise is interesting and certainly engages your attention without pause. The Assignment has caused some stir in the transgender community, as our hero/villain’s view of his/her transition is on the rather negative side. That being said, if you woke up the opposite gender, you might be a tad peeved as well. The action is tempered with monologues from Sigourney Weaver‘s character. My only complaint there? I wish there had been more visual to back those stories up as some run at quite a length.Michelle Rodriguez does a great job with both genders, keeping the masculine edge once she wakes up a woman. Without prior knowledge of the plot, you may think that a very thin Oscar Isaac had tackled the first half of the role. It’s pretty uncanny. Her past work in action films is on full view with her natural handling of weapons and aggressive presence. `It’s a pretty fearless performance. Weaver as Dr. Kay has an eccentric air to her speech patterns and carriage, even when she’s in a straight jacket. Tony Shaloub as Dr.Galen is a perfect foil for Weaver and the appearance by Anthony LaPaglia is casting heaven. On the whole. The Assignment is different in a good way. Engrossing and lively, you can’t go wrong. Check out the trailer below.

In Select Theaters and On Demand April 7th


Directed by: Walter Hill
Screenplay by: Walter Hill, Denis Hamill
Story by: Denis Hamill, Walter Hill
Producers: Said Ben Said, Michel Merkt
Cast: Michelle Rodriguez, Tony Shalhoub, Anthony LaPaglia, Caitlin Gerard, Sigourney Weaver
Distributor Saban Films, Lionsgate
Release Date: Ultra VOD on March 3rd, in select theaters April 7th
Running Time 95 minutes




Director Walter Hill gives the revenge film a modern neo-noir twist with this electrifying thriller. Hitman Frank Kitchen (Michelle Rodriguez) is given a lethal assignment, but after being double-crossed, discovers he’s no longer the man he was.  Having been surgically altered, Frank now has the body of a woman. Seeking vengeance, he heads for a showdown with his assailant (Sigourney Weaver), a brilliant surgeon with a chilling agenda of her own.

Don’t Look Now, But the Trailer for ‘A Monster Calls’ is Lurking

A Monster Calls

Focus Features has released the trailer for A Monster Calls and we have it for you!

A visually spectacular drama from director J.A. Bayona (The Impossible). 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall), dealing with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) illness, a less-than-sympathetic grandmother (Sigourney Weaver), and bullying classmates, finds a most unlikely ally when a Monster appears at his bedroom window. Ancient, wild, and relentless, the Monster guides Conor on a journey of courage, faith, and truth. Toby Kebbell plays Conor’s father, and Liam Neeson stars in performance-capture and voiceover as the nocturnally visiting Monster of the title.

The film was written by Patrick Ness, based on upon the novel written by Patrick Ness from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd.

A Monster Calls arrives in theaters on October 21st, 2016

Michael’s Review: ‘Chappie’- This Robot Story Doesn’t Compute


South African-born filmmaker Neill Blomkamp returns for his third science fiction film in the last 6 years, Chappie, a film about a a robot who becomes the first of his kind with the ability to think and feel for himself. Like all of Blomkamp’s films, class warfare takes center stage as an underdog must rise up to fight against the high tech authoritative establishment. While with good intentions and a strong cast to support the story, Chappie is a film that starts off with a huge amount of potential, but ultimately succumbs to it’s shortcomings. A film caught in an identity crisis somewhere between Short Circuit and Robocop.

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The year is 2016, and Johannesburg’s crime has reached an apocalyptic level. The police have enlisted the help of robotics company Tetravaal and their latest creation, a robotic police forces, to help decrease the need for police activity across the city. A young scientist, Deon (Dev Patel), the chief engineer behind the creation of these robots, has his sights set on the next level of his creation, a machine with the ability to think and feel on its own. Company CEO Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) doesn’t share Deon’s enthusiasm about the next evolution of their prized technology and denies Deon’s request for more research. Former soldier and current Tetravaal engineer, Vincent (Hugh Jackman), has also created his own police robot, the “Moose”, a robot which looks eerily similar to the ED-209 from the 1987 Robocop film. Seeing Deon’s creation as a threat, Vincent aims to make the young scientists A.I appear inferior to his creation at all costs. 

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Deon decides to continue his research, without consent, and steals a decommissioned robot for further evaluation. Local criminals Ninja and Yo-Landi (played by Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser of the South African rap group Die Antwoord), along with Yankie (Jose Pablo Cantillo), manage to kidnap Deon in order to steal his access to control the robots. After realizing that Deon is in possession of a robot, the trio demand that he program the machine to do their bidding. Seeing this as an opportunity to test out his new self learning program, Deon agrees and Chappie is born. Deon, excited about the possibilities, demands to continue his work on the newly born robot but Ninja has other ideas and schemes to use the robot to pull off a major heist.

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As Chappie begins to learn, he is presented with two very different teachers in Deon and Ninja. One is educated scientist with aspirations of turning Chappie into a shining representation of what A.I could evolve in to, and one is a street raised, gangster thug with goals of wealth and power. But it is the caring voice of Yo-Landi that mesmerizes Chappie. The young woman becomes a surrogate mother to the robot and tries to help him learn and understand what it’s like to be loved, but Ninja’s influence becomes dominant and Chappie must chose between what’s right and what’s wrong. Convinced that Deon is up to something, Vincent sets out to find the answers. When he finds out what Deon has created, he sets out on a path to destroy the legacy of the young scientist and expose Chappie as a threat to society.

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Blomkamp has created a thought-provoking, yet entertaining, action film with effective visuals that has all the makings of a blockbuster success if it weren’t for it’s shortcomings. The story starts strong, but loses it’s charm somewhere around the halfway mark of the film. The transformation of Chappie from newborn robot to confused Robothug is, at times, cringeworthy. The vocal work of Blomkamp veteran Sharlto Copley loses it’s appeal after a while and the portrayal of the titular character becomes little more than a Ali-G type portrayal of a young street kid. Hugh Jackman is equally as ineffective as the films antagonist. There are glimpses in the film that the character of Vincent might offer some juicy confrontations, but the chemistry between Jackman and costar Dev Patel is nonexistent. Patel plays a similar character to his “Neil” on HBO’s Newsroom and never seems to find a way to flush out his character. The interaction between Patel and Copley’s Chappie is close to what you expect from a creator to his creation, but the two are left with few opportunities in first half of the film to gain any momentum. 

1251623 - Chappie

Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser are actually serviceable as street hardened versions of their real life selves. The caring nature from which Visser creates her character is a nice touch while Ninja depicts a loathsome, street thug with precision. Jose Pablo Cantillo has a few chances to achieve a noteworthy performance but ultimately the actor is merely there to support Ninja and Visser. The biggest let down for me is the under use of Sigourney Weaver, whose character was prime for a super villain type reveal, but Blomkamp opts for a more sterile type of performance.

Overall, Chappie will not win many audiences over this weekend and will surely disappoint fans of Blomkamp’s District 9. While not as disappointing as Elysium, this film will leave you wanting so much more from a director who has proven he has so much to give.


2 1/2 out of 5



Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Alien’ to Rewrite the Franchise


Director Neill Blomkamp wants you to forget that Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection ever happened…literally. The director broke the internet last week when he announced he was making the next installment of the Alien franchise and that actress Sigourney Weaver was planning to reprise her role as Ellen Ripley, but Sky Movies spoke with the duo while both are promoting their new film Chappie and this is what the director had to say:

“I want this film to feel like it is literally the genetic sibling of ‘Alien,’” says the director.“So it’s ‘Alien,’ ‘Aliens’ and then this movie.”

Weaver went on to say this new film will give Ripley “A proper ending.”

Considering much of the concept art that surface a few months back, the new film will see the return of some familiar faces as Michael Biehn’s Corporal Dwayne Hicks is featured, but there is no confirmation that the gritty actor will return to reprise his role. Now, the director mentions there’s a three-decade age gap between Aliens and the new film, so there are questions as to whether this new chapter continues directly after the events of the 1986 film, but one things for certain, Blomkamp has the passion for this project to make Alien fans extremely happy.

You can check out some of the concept art below:

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Michael’s Review: ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’- This One’s Not Heaven Sent

Exodus_Ver2_Wave PosterWhen I first heard of director Ridley Scott’s willingness to make a feature length interpretation of the story of Moses and his quest to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, I had my doubts of the outcome. Scott has not had a very good track record of making historically epic films with duds like 1492: Conquest of Paradise and Kingdom of Heaven in his resume. Armed with a  cast of white actors to play the lead roles of Hebrew and ancient Egyptian characters,  Ridley Scott sets out to retell the story of Moses no matter what the cost and what audience he alienates in the process. The portrayal of Moses which will no doubt leave religious audiences scratching their heads and others with little more than a visually stunning movie with little substance. Read More →