THE GREAT WALL
Rating: About Ratings
Opens: 02/17/2017
Running Time: 123
Rated: PG-13
Cast: Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe and Andy Lau.
Crew: Director: Yimou Zhang. Producers: Yong Er, Eric Hedayat, Alex Hedlund, John Jashni, Peter Loehr, Charles Roven and Thomas Tull. Executive Producers: Alex Garter, La Peikang, Jillian Share, E. Bennett Walsh and Zhao Zhang. Screenwriters: Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, Tony Gilroy, Max Brooks, Edward Zwick and Marshall Hewskovitz. Cinematographers: Stuart Dryburgh and Xiaoding Zhao.
REVIEW: By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

A movie about China’s Great Wall makes an interesting story, but when you throw a group of ravenous monsters into the mix, now you have a really riveting creature feature.

Such is the case with director Zhang Yimou’s visually stunning new movie, “The Great Wall.” The film is Yimou’s first predominate English-language production. His other films include: “Hero,” (2002), “House of Flying Daggers” (2004) and “Curse of the Golden Flower” (2006).

A lot is riding on “The Great Wall,” which costs nearly $150 million to make. But it has a lot going for it too like its lead star Matt Damon—ethnicity controversy aside--who has plenty of box office appeal both domestically and internationally.

In “The Great Wall,” Damon stars as William Galin, a mercenary and trader, who along with his partner Tovar (Pedro Pascal, TV’s “Narco”) and 20 other hunters, are searching in 12th century China for a rare black gun-powder.

Their mission is dangerous as they are pursued by Khitan bandits. That’s just the beginning of their plight. Just when the men think they have escaped from the bandits by hiding out in a cave, out of nowhere, they are attacked by this huge beast.

William and Tovar are the only ones who manage to survive the ordeal thanks to Williams quick thinking and skilled fighting which results in him slashing off the monster’s hand.

They decide to hang on to the arm so they can find out what exactly the creature was. The next day, they stumble upon the Great Wall and are taken prisoner by Chinese soldiers of a secretive military sect called the Nameless Order who are led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau).

Naturally the Nameless Order doesn’t look kindly on William and Tovar and sense they are up to no good. That’s until they discover that the guys have gotten closer than most anyone to the legendary Taotie monsters which originated from a green meteor that crash-landed onto the Gouwu Mountain nearly two thousand years ago.

The Taotie are scary creatures. They are like a hybrid of a Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurs. The Chinese believe the Taotie were sent from the Gods to punish the Emperor for abusing his authority over the Middle Kingdom and the people. These beasts come out every 60 years and wreak havoc.

When William convinces the powers that be that he did indeed slay the beast, the Nameless Order and their Commander Lin Mae (Jing Tian, “Kong: Skull Island”) opens up and soon welcomes them into the fold. They hope they’ll help them fight the menacing creatures.

Now Williams and Tovar are prisoners with a purpose. Still, that doesn’t set well with Tovar and he wants to bust out the place. He makes a deal with another hostage the soldiers have captured named Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe, “Finding Dory”). He’s been holed up for 25 years.

But William seems to have taken a liking to Commander Lin Mae and truly wants to help them battle and not leave. William discovers that he has a precious metal that tames the Taotie.

He also has a plan to bring one inside to find out more about it. Over time William’s patience allows him to learn some of the Nameless Order’s fighting techniques and he meshes them with his own skills.

Although the monster sequences in “The Great Wall” are CGI, they’re thoroughly convincing and thrilling to watch especially in 3-D.

At times, “The Great Wall's ”fight scenes are reminiscent of the swords and sandals epic movie, “300.” What I like most about the film is the lightweight humor that Damon and Pascal bring to it.

“The Great Wall” is a campy, effective, fantasy adventure that really soars.

Editor's Note: Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays at 6:40 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530...
 

Rated: PG
Opens: 02/17/2017
The Red Turtle

Rated: R
Opens: 02/17/2017
Fist Fight

Rated: R
Opens: 02/10/2017
John Wick: Chapter 2

Rated: R
Opens: 02/10/2017
Fifty Shades Darker

Rated: R
Opens: 02/10/2017
Toni Erdmann

Rated: PG-13
Opens: 01/20/2017
Split


OLD SCHOOL VIDEO PICK OF THE MONTH

Lady Sings The Blues Title: Lady Sings The Blues
Year Released: 1972
Running Time: 144
Production Company: Paramount Pictures
Director: Sidney J. Furie
Director of Photography: John A. Alonzo
Screenwriter: Suzanne De Passe
Author: By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

REVIEW: When you’ve watched a movie so many times that you basically know the dialogue verbatim, that movie really means something and resonates with you.

The 1972 autobiographical drama, “Lady Sings the Blues” is the one for me. No matter how many times I see it, it never gets old.

Directed by Sidney J. Furie (“Iron Eagle” and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace”), “Lady Sings the...
NEW ON DVD

Nocturnal Animals <b>(Feb. 21)</b> Title: Nocturnal Animals (Feb. 21)
Year Released: 2016
Running Time: 116
Production Company: Focus Features
Director: Tom Ford
Review By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

"NOCTURNAL ANIMALS"

Director Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals”flew under the radar during its theatrical run. But then word of mouth regarding Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler” and “Demolition”) and Michael Shannon’s (“99 Homes”)
mesmerizing performances came about and “Nocturnal Animals” slowly developed into a serious awards season contender.

Ford, the famous fashion designer whose first film was “A Single Man,” has upped his game and crafted a sizzling and creepy romantic thriller that is as every bit suspenseful as any horror film.

The story takes place in Los Angeles. We meet a wealthy but unhappy middle-aged art dealer named Susan (Amy Adams, “Arrival”) who is fascinated with the novel, “Nocturnal Animals.”

The book is set in Texas and features characters like Laura Hastings (Isla Fisher, “Keeping up with the Joneses”) and a man named Edward (Gyllenhaal) who resembles Susan’s ex-husband and who is also portrayed by Gyllenhaal.
For Susan, the novel is crazy violent, but irresistible.

This movie within a movie plays out in a haunting fashion especially when Edward, his wife Laura and daughter are violently forced off a road by three psycho rednecks. Edward tries to talk some sense into the guys when they ask him to get out of the car. He has no idea of the nightmare that he’s about to experience at the hands of one of the guys named Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, “Avengers: Age of Ultron”).

What these guys put Edward and his family though is beyond sickening. And when Edward seeks help from a cop (a terrific Michael Shannon), things start to get even weirder.

“Nocturnal Animals” is so involving and intense that it’s hard not to become swept up in its strange allure.

Adams, Shannon, Taylor-Johnson and Gyllenhaal truly light up the screen. While the ending of “Nocturnal Animals” may disappoint some, everything leading up to this riveting movie is incredible.
(Highly Recommended).

Hacksaw Ridge <b>(Feb. 21)</b> Title: Hacksaw Ridge (Feb. 21)
Year Released: 2016
Running Time: 138
Production Company: Summit Entertainment
Director: Mel Gibson
Review By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

“HACKSAW RIDGE”

With “Hacksaw Ridge,” director Mel Gibson has a great shot at getting back into the Hollywood fold.

The bloody and outstanding World War II drama is the first movie Gibson has directed since “Apocalypto,” 10 years ago. It’s also a vivid reminder of what a powerful, terrific storyteller and filmmaker he is.

The faith-based, “Hacksaw Ridge” is based on the true story of Desmond Doss who is played magnificently by Andrew Garfield (“99 Homes” and “The Amazing Spider-Man”). Garfield received a “Best Actor” Oscar nomination for the role.

Desmond Doss was born and raised in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Doss’s mother Bertha (Rachel Griffiths (“The Little Acorns”) and father Tom (Hugo Weaving, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the five Armies”) raised him as a devout Seventh-day Adventist.

Even as a young boy and into adulthood, Doss held strong to his religious beliefs. So, it shocked his parents, particularly his father, when Doss tells them he’s going to enlist in the military as a medic, but that he’s also going to be a Conscientious Objector and not even touch, much less carry a gun.

Doss’ father (Weaving), a World War I veteran is still haunted by the war and the loss of his closest friends. He drinks to try and ease the pain. He’s angered when Doss and his brother Hal (Nathaniel Buzolic, TV’s “The Originals”) defy his orders and enlist anyway.

Even before Doss heads off to the frontlines, he is wowed by Dorothy (a terrific Teresa Palmer, “Lights Out”), the strikingly beautiful, young nurse at the local hospital. Doss works hard to win Dorothy over and finally does. Their corny courtship is delightfully charming and really a heartwarming aspect of the movie.

Doss enlists in the 307th Infantry shortly after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. His introduction to military life hits him hard and in many ways.
For starters, he must endure the intimidating Sgt. Howell (Vince Vaughn, TV’s “True Detective”) who is embarrassed to have Doss in his unit. Vaughn is so good in this role too that you wish he would consider doing more dramas instead of comedy.

Sgt. Howell believes Doss is useless, a distraction and worst of all a liability that could get his men killed because of his decision to not carry or use a weapon.

Doss is also ridiculed by members of his unit and even physically beaten by a bullying solder (Luke Bracey, “Point Break”). Both Sgt. Howell and the fellow soldiers do everything they can to break Doss and make him quit the Army.

He doesn’t crack even when they attempt to court-martial him, but his dear old dad (Weaving) comes to his son’s defense in a big way. This too is one of many superb scenes in the film.

And while the story is moving and touching, Gibson doesn’t hold back on the horrors of the war. The film’s battle scenes are immensely brutal and graphic with carnage flying everywhere particularly when the soldiers embark up the Hacksaw Ridge slope before taking Okinawa.

All those brazen comments from the soldiers about Doss’ cowardliness is quickly squashed when the skinny kid rushes in to rescue many of his severely wounded comrades as bullets zip by him.

There were 75 men in all including Sgt. Howell (Vaughn) who Doss rescues by using a rope method, which ironically was the same one his sergeant admonished him for doing during their training.

Gibson really brings the inspiration and courageousness of “Hacksaw Ridge” home by showing some amazing archival footage and stills of the real-life Desmond Doss and Dorothy Schutte during the film’s end credits.

“Hacksaw Ridge” is an amazing movie.
(Highly Recommended).

Manchester By The Sea <b>(Feb. 21)</b> Title: Manchester By The Sea (Feb. 21)
Year Released: 2016
Running Time: 137
Production Company: Roadside Attractions
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Review By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

“MANCHESTER BY THE SEA”

The “Best Actor” category at the 89th Annual Academy Awards is stacked. It will be interesting to see just who will walk away with the coveted Oscar award on Feb. 26.

Casey Affleck is one of the “Best Actor” nominees for his gritty performance in “Manchester by the Sea.”

Despite Affleck’s star turn in the riveting, 2007 crime thriller, “Gone Baby Gone” and him receiving a “Best Supporting Actor” nomination for the 2007 movie, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” Affleck now appears ready to break free from the shadow of his older brother Ben.

Directed and written by Kenneth Lonergan, (“You Can Count on Me” and “Gangs of New York”), “Manchester by the Sea” is an engaging and emotional juggernaut of a movie. It grows on you frame by frame, character by character.

And while Affleck’s performance is dark, brooding and captivating, the film is also bolstered by fine work from its supporting cast of C.J. Wilson (TV’s “House of Cards” and “The Characters”), Gretchen Mol (TV’s “Chance”), Kyle Chandler (TV’s “Bloodline”) and a scene-stealing Lucas Hedges, (“Kill the Messenger”).

Affleck shines in roles where he’s gets caught up in situations beyond his control. In “Manchester by the Sea” he stars as Lee Chandler, a blue-collar, hard-working Boston janitor who gets by cleaning toilets, repairing leaking sinks and doing other little household chores for most anyone who needs it.

Lee isn’t a cheery kind of guy. He doesn’t smile much and is easily agitated. He has no problem starting or ending bar fights just because someone looked at him the wrong way.

There’s a reason for Lee’s pent up anger, but the less we initially know about his past is really a good thing. The movie plays out in flashbacks.
Lee’s demeanor changes for the better whenever he spends time with his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) who has a commercial fishing boat in his hometown of Massachusetts, Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Joe’s young son Patrick is played by Ben O’ Brien, (“Letting Go”) and later as lanky teen, Lucas Hedges.

But the joy that Lee was able to wrestle from spending time with Joe and Pat comes to a screeching halt when Lee learns that Joe has died of congestive heart failure.

Lee’s life takes an unimaginable turn when he also discovers that Joe has left a will requesting that he become Patrick’s legal guardian. Joe knew that Patrick’s alcoholic mother, Elise (Gretchen Mol) wasn’t capable of giving his son a proper upbringing.

Yet Lee, can barely take care of himself. To raise a teen boy certainly wasn’t how he envisioned his life.
Then again, Lee, who was once a family man and married to a young woman named Randi (Michelle Williams, upcoming “Janis” (Joplin) movie) and a father of three kids, never imagined their life would be filled with such horrific pain and tragedy.

“Manchester by the Sea” isn’t fault-free. There are moments that the movie, which runs 137 minutes, drags a bit mainly because of some of its repetitive and cumbersome flashbacks.

But, watching Lee being suddenly thrust into this world that he didn’t see coming, is where Affleck really takes charge and ignites “Manchester by the Sea.”
(Highly Recommended).

The Edge Of Seveenteen <b>(Feb. 14)</b> Title: The Edge Of Seveenteen (Feb. 14)
Year Released: 2016
Running Time: 104
Production Company: STX Entertainment
Director: Kelly Fremon Craig
Review By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

“THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN”

Hailee Steinfield received some critical acclaim after starring in the 2010 movie remake, “True Grit” with Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon as well as 2013’s “Begin Again” with Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo.

However, Steinfeld’s latest movie, “The Edge of Seventeen” has truly catapulted her career.
And while teen, coming of age dramas are a dime a dozen, “The Edge of Seventeen” isn’t cut from the same stereotypical cloth like most others..
Director/screenwriter Kelly Fremon Craig deserves much of the credit for this. That Craig is a newcomer having written the 2009 movie “Post Grad” with Alexis Bledel, (TV’s “Mad Men”), is even more impressive.

Craig certainly seems to have her finger on the pulse of teen angst in today’s social media, driven society.
In the movie, Steinfeld plays Nadine, a 17-year-old who has never been popular at school and feels totally withdrawn from everyone there. She does finally make friends with Krista (Haley Lu Richardson, TV’s “Recovery Road”) and they become nearly inseparable.

Nadine’s mother Mona (a terrific, Kyra Sedgwick, TV’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) is stressed out from her job and hates that she’s getting old and flabby.

Nadine’s dad, Tom (Erick Keenleyside TV’s “Once Upon a Time”) kind of keeps a low profile and is usually the voice of reason. He sees to it that Nadine and her older, high school jock brother, Darian (Blake Jenner (TV’s “Supergirl”) stay in check.

But when their father dies from a heart attack, it sends the entire family reeling. Nadine seems hurt the most.

She has no desire to even go to school. When she does, she tells her English teacher Mr. Bruner (a very funny Woody Harrelson, “Now you See Me 2”), that she plans to commit suicide.

While that might elicit a sharp charge from most any other teacher, Mr. Bruner doesn’t seem the least bit fazed, especially since Nadine is “interrupting his break time.” He also tells her that her plan is interesting and that he’s just put the finishing touches on his own check out note and even pretends to read part of it to her. What on earth? Nadine can’t believe this guy’s insensitivity.

So now where can she turn?

She thought Krista (Richardson) would always be there for her too. But after a few rounds of drinking together one night, Krista winds up in the arms and the bed of Darian. It’s beyond awkward when Nadine walks in on them. It’s her brother and her best friend.

Even worse for Nadine, Krista and Darian start seriously dating. Nadine makes Krista choose between her and Darian. Well, Krista goes for Darian. So much for that BFF stuff.

Nadine finds true friendship and even a bit of flirtation from an adoring classmate named Erwin. He’s played by Hayden Szeto (TV’s “Days of our Lives”) and is absolutely sensational and steals nearly every scene.

Does Nadine find true happiness after suffering a humiliating sexting incident involving a hottie who works at Petland?

Is she able to turn her life around?

Well, the joy and beauty of “The Edge of Seventeen” is it doesn’t play out like one of those predictable TV after school specials. Things are messy.

Things stay a bit messy. There’s anger still brewing within her family but there’s also a realistic sense of control and acceptance that Nadine discovers and embraces.
(Highly Recommended).
  MOVIE TRIVIA
 
BERRY GORDY INITIALLY CONSIDERED WHAT OTHER MOTOWN ARTIST TO PLAY BILLY DEE WILLIAMS' LOUIS MCKAY ROLE?
MARVIN GAYE
LEVI STUBBS
SMOKEY ROBINSON
DAVID RUFFIN
 
  "REEL" MOVIE NEWS
mellisa By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs:

“CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?” IN PRODUCTION

Principal photography on “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has begun in New York City.

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” is directed by Marielle Heller (“The Diary Of A Teenage Girl”) from a script written by Nicole Holofcener (“Enough Said”) and Jeff Whitty (“Avenue Q”) based on the novel of the same name by Lee Israel.

The film stars Academy Award nominated Melissa McCarthy (“The Boss”), Richard E. Grant (“Jackie”), Jane Curtin (“The Heat”), Dolly Wells (“Bridget Jones’s Baby”), Anna Deavere Smith (“Black-ish”) and Jennifer Westfeldt (“Kissing Jessica Stein”).

“Can You Ever Forgive Me? tells the true story of best-selling celebrity biographer (and friend to cats) Lee Israel (McCarthy) who made her living in the 1970’s and 80’s profiling the likes of Katherine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Estee Lauder and journalist Dorothy Kilgallen. When Lee is no longer able to get published because she has fallen out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception, abetted by her loyal friend Jack (Richard E. Grant).

"I'm overjoyed to be starting principal photography on this film, with this fantastic group of collaborators,” says Heller. Working with Melissa, Richard E. Grant and the rest of our tremendous cast, Searchlight and Anne Carey and all my wonderful producers is a dream come true. Now, more than ever, it is imperative we tell the stories of women and all people who have gone unnoticed by society. I'm honored to be helming this very special film."

"For Archer Gray to be working with Marielle Heller again is absolutely thrilling,” says Carey. “She has assembled a fantastic cast and crew. We also couldn’t ask for better partners than Fox Searchlight. Bringing Lee's story to life has been a long journey with support from so many people along the way. Knowing Lee as I did, I am certain she would be delighted by this incarnation.”

The film will be overseen by Co-Heads of Production Matthew Greenfield and David Greenbaum and Director of Production Taylor Friedman.

Editor’s Note: Some information used in this report obtained from publicity department press releases.


step By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs:

SUNDANCE SENSATION “STEP” ACQUIRED BY FOX SEARCHLIGHT

Fox Searchlight Pictures Presidents Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula have acquired worldwide distribution and remake rights to director and producer Amanda Lipitz’s inspiring documentary “Step” featuring Blessin Giraldo, Cori Grainger, Tayla Solomon, Gari McIntyre and Paula Dofat.

“Step” documents the senior year of a girls’ high-school step dance team against the background of inner-city Baltimore. As each one tries to become the first in their families to attend college, the girls strive to make their dancing a success against the backdrop of social unrest in the troubled city. “We are excited to share this inspiring experience around the world,” said Gilula and Utley. “This film was made as a tribute to the bravery and conviction of the young women in the film and to the courage they demonstrated in their willingness to share their story."

Director and producer Amanda Lipitz said she is thrilled to partner with Fox Searchlight on the release of the film throughout the world. “We are very grateful for their enthusiasm and passion. We hope that the heroes of “Step” will inspire girls everywhere to do what they have done, which is to prove that nothing is impossible when you surround yourself with a group of powerful women.”

The production also received generous support from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Baltimore Ravens. The film world premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to sold out screenings with show-stopping performances by the team, who were greatly supported by the local Park City community.

Fox Searchlight Pictures is a specialty film company that both finances and acquires motion pictures. It has its own marketing and distribution operations, and its films are distributed internationally by Twentieth Century Fox. Fox Searchlight Pictures is a unit of 21st Century Fox.

Editor’s Note: Some information used in this report obtained from publicity department press releases.


STEP, PATTI CAKES, FORGIVE ME By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs:

DIRECTOR GEREMY JASPER’S “PATTI CAKE$” ACQUIRED BY FOX SEARCHLIGHT

Fox Searchlight Pictures has acquired worldwide distribution rights to first-time writer/director Geremy Jasper’s infectious hip hop debut film “Patti Cakes” starring Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Cathy Moriarty, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, McCaul Lombardi, Sahr Ngaujah, Wass Stevens, and MC Lyte.

“Patti Cake$” introduces Australian native Danielle Macdonald (pictured) in a breakout role, as aspiring rapper Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$. Fighting an unlikely quest for glory in her downtrodden hometown in Jersey where her life is falling apart, Patti tries to reach the big time in the hip hop scene with original and affecting music.

Cheered on by her grandmother (Cathy Moriarty) and only friends, Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay) and Basterd (Mamoudou Athie), Patti also shoulders her mother's (Bridget Everett) heartaches and misfortunes.

“Geremy Jasper has created a personal and specific story which resonates universally and is very entertaining. Patti Cake$, brought to life by Danielle Macdonald, is a singular, lovable, and highly talented character for whom we root hard. We are proud to bring this beautiful film to the world,” said Utley and Gilula.

“Patti Cake$ is a true labor of love made by a team of people with so much creativity, care, and passion,” said director Geremy Jasper. “Sundance finally got to meet Patti AKA Killa P AKA Danielle MacDonald and now Fox Searchlight will make sure the world does too.”

“We could not be in better hands,” said producer Michael Gottwald. “We knew from our experience with “Beasts of the Southern Wild” that Fox Searchlight was the perfect place to introduce the world to an incredible heroine like Patti, and a fiercely talented filmmaker like Geremy.”

The film is an RT Features, Stay Gold Features, Maiden Voyage Pictures presentation of a Department of Motion Pictures production. It is the new company’s first feature film. “Patti Cakes” is produced by Michael Gottwald, Noah Stahl, Rodrigo Teixeira, Dan Janvey, Daniela Taplin Lundberg and Chris Columbus, with Lourenço Sant’Anna, Sophie Mas, Eleanor Columbus, Josh Penn, Jonathan Bronfman, Lon Molnar, Fernando Fraiha, and Bill Benenson serving as executive producers.

The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and will be released in 2017.