ALEXXANDAR MOVIE REVIEWS: 'The 355': Movie by the numbers – Valdosta Daily Times

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Updated: January 14, 2022 @ 10:43 am
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Robert ViglaskyThis image provided by Universal Pictures shows Jessica Chastain as Mason ‘Mace’ Brown in a scene from ‘The 355,’ co-written and directed by Simon Kinberg.

Robert ViglaskyThis image provided by Universal Pictures shows Jessica Chastain as Mason ‘Mace’ Brown in a scene from ‘The 355,’ co-written and directed by Simon Kinberg.
“The 355” (Action/Crime: 2 hours, 2 minutes)
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger, Penélope Cruz and Bingbing Fan
Director: Simon Kinberg
Rated: PG-13 (Sequences of strong violence, strong language, and suggestive material)
Movie Review: Mainly a producer-writer, Simon Kinberg directs his second movie as director following “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” (2019). Kinberg and cowriter Theresa Rebeck create neat characters but they allow their story to teeter on unimpressive action movie tropes.
A powerful weaponized computer program resides with ruthless mercenaries. Mason “Mace” Brown (Chastain), a freewheeling CIA agent, joins forces with British MI-6 agent Khadijah Adiyeme (Nyong’o), German agent Marie Schmidt (Kruger), Chinese intelligence agent Lin Mi Sheng (Fan) and Graciela Rivera, and a Colombian psychologist (Cruz) to retrieve the device which contains the program.
The cast consists of five major actresses. Each brings something to “The 355.” They are a group of women in a progressive plot. They are convincing, but this clichéd narrative is not. It takes recurrent themes seen in other action movies and applies them here in a manner that does not match the talent of its cast.
Grade: C+ (The 411 on The 355: it is an unimaginative motif.)
Playing at Valdosta Stadium Cinemas
“Poupelle of Chimney Town” (Animated/Adventure: 1 hour, 40 minutes)
Starring: Masataka Kubota, Mana Ashida and Shinosuke Tatekawa
Director: Yusuke Hirota
Rated: PG (Violence, action and thematic elements)
Movie Review: An adaptation of Akihiro Nishino’s book, “Poupelle of Chimney Town” is an energetic adventure. It is impressive animation with cute characters. While these good characteristics exist, the story’s disjointed chronological execution detracts.
Chimney smoke covers the sky of a factory town and the townspeople have not seen the sky in centuries. The citizens believe stars do not exist. Lubicchi, a chimney sweeper and a friendly garbage monster named Poupelle live in the factory town. Lubicchi and Poupelle decide to prove stars exist beyond the smog ceiling.
A visual masterpiece exists with this animated adventure. Each scene brings about new eye candy. Three types of animations exist, abstract beautiful colored scenes of the two exist when viewed from an afar perspective. The parts of the city where the main characters interact with it are sharper, defined details. 
Conversely, the characters are simpler by comparison, yet it and the other styles are eye candy. They are sweet imagery.
This movie is in Japanese with English subtitles, but if you have a chance to see the dubbed version the voices are richly gratifying. Tony Hale, Antonio Raul Corbo and Stephen Root voice their animated selves well.
The nifty characters are on an adventure to discover the stars. Along the way, audiences can easily travel along with this star trek. The story is inviting, even when the narrative has clumsy delivery periodically.
Grade: B- (Chimney Town delights enough to whether to smoke.)
“Licorice Pizza” (Romantic Drama/Comedy: 2 hours, 13 minutes)
Starring: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Bradley Cooper and Sean Penn
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Rated: R (Pervasive language, sexual material, violence, some drug use, underage drinking and smoking)
Movie Review: “Licorice Pizza” is an engaging love story. The cast is a well-known group of new and seasoned faces. They are all a part of a young couple’s adventures in a coming-of-age romance with built-in natural comedy.
That couple is Alana Kane (Haim) and Gary Valentine (Hoffman). Alana is about 10 years older than Gary, who is a 15-year-old in high school and an actor. Yet this does not stop them from exploring love in a 1973 San Fernando Valley.
Alana Haim plays her role with a certain nonchalant attitude. Her character brushes off Gary at first, calling him a mere child. Haim is cold and plays her role well and comically. Cooper Hoffman’s Gary is relentless in his pursuit of her. Hoffman is the son of late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, and he, like his father, gives an everyday appeal often missing in leading men.
Despite these characters’ off-putting first meeting, they form a relationship that spans a short amount of time but is a potent association. They should not date but they do. Audiences get to tag along for the bumpy ride. Albeit, one must question whether this movie’s popularity would exist if this screenplay were about a man age 25 pursuing a high school teen.
Along the way, audiences encounter a vast array of people: actors, business people, media, police and movie studio execs. Big names and talented people play the secondary characters, each providing noteworthy turns.
One of the standouts is Bradley Cooper, whose character needs anger management counseling. He constantly reminds people he is the boyfriend of Barbra Streisand. Sean Penn plays a well-known older actor who is still prone to youthful shenanigans. Harriet Sansom Harris as a smooth-talking Hollywood agent, and Christine Ebersole as Lucy Doolittle, a popular television actress based on Lucille Ball.
Paul Thomas Anderson manages to maintain his large cast while keeping attention on his main stars Haim and Hoffman. No matter how outrageous the characters, Anderson manages to keep attention on his young lovers.
Anderson knows how to craft nifty characters. The notables are from movies such as “Magnolia” (1999), “Boogie Nights” (1997), “Punch-Drunk Love” (2002) and “There Will Be Blood” (2007). These movies rest on energetic, thought-provoking and sometimes shocking character relationships.
“Licorice Pizza” is similar. Like his previous movies, Anderson’s writing and direction are superior. His story maintains focus, holding steady even when supporting characters overshadow his leads.
Grade: B+ (A young love creates a groovy movie)
“Red Rocket” (Drama: 2 hours, 10 minutes)
Starring: Simon Rex, Bree Elrod and Suzanna Son
Director: Sean Baker
Rated: R (Profanity, nudity, drug usage, sexual content and violence)
Movie Review: Art meets real-life pornography in “Red Rocket,” a well-done follow-up movie to Director Sean Baker’s acclaimed “The Florida Project” (2017). It features actor Simon Rex, a former MTV VJ and once an adult film actor. Rex and others make this movie feel too real at moments, which is a welcome treat for moviegoers.
Rex plays Mikey Saber. He is a washed-up porn star who returns to Texas City, his small Texas hometown. He arrives on a bus, bruised from a recent violent altercation. Saber left a troubled life in Los Angeles only to find his hometown just as unwelcoming. Yet, he manages to mend past relationships such as the ones with his estranged wife and former porn star, Lexi (Elrond), and mother-in-law Lil (Brenda Deiss). He also finds new relationships like his romantic interest, a teenager named Kaylee calling herself Strawberry (Son) who works at a local doughnut restaurant. However, dysfunctional habits return for Saber.
“Red Rocket” appears too real at points. This is because Sean Baker uses real people in his movies with a few actors and one big named star, Simon Rex. Baker also uses settings that are tangible for audiences. The Texas scenes could very well be a coastal city in Georgia, a town in Florida’s panhandle or someplace in southern Louisiana. No matter where, Baker creates a sense of realness unmatched.
Simon Rex is perfect for this role. He once acted in the adult industry. He is award-worthy for his candid portrayal.
In a pivotal set of scenes, an employer asks Mikey Saber about the 17-year gap on his résumé. The character struggles to answer. It appears he has been to prison but he finally concedes telling the employer the truth. He says, “I’m going to be straight with you. I’m an adult film star. Porn. I’m a porn star.”
Saber does not stop there. He tells the people he meets to Google his screen name, Mikey Saber. “That’s me,” he relays with a sense of accomplishment and pride. Simon Rex portrays that satisfaction with a keen demeanor that works for him.
Rex shows every part of his body in this movie but he also shows he can deliver a good performance. He can act convincingly, although this should be easy considering the character’s life bears some resemblance to his own.
This photoplay has scenes that go overboard to press a point. The moments cause laughter sometimes, yet the “Red Rocket” is solid drama even with those bits of intentional comedy. Those comical scenes offer needed levity, a break from the hardcore reality expressed.
Sean Baker is a talented moviemaker. He creates another masterpiece. “Red Rocket” is a bold movie that resembles real life in a manner most movies miss.
Grade: B+ (From Texas to the beyond …)
Adann-Kennn Alexxandar has been reviewing movies for more than 20 years with The Valdosta Daily Times.

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