Tag Archives: apple tv+

Review: ‘Tetris,’ Video-Game Cold-War Thriller

Taron Egerton stars in a nostalgic film that gradually becomes a thriller. 

Who knew falling blocks can be so much fun? And serve as building blocks for a retro cold-war thriller? 

The opening scene establishes Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) in a high-rise office building, making a sales pitch to a Japanese bank executive (Rick Yune) who looks bored as Henk tells what sounds like a slight variation on his usual sales pitch. The difference is that Henk is genuinely enthusiastic about the true potential of what he’s selling. 

As Henk makes his pitch, his globe-hopping is dramatized as he narrates his introduction to an instantly-addictive video game at a trade show, followed by his relentless pursuit of the sales rights. Frankly, even though the narrated sequences are handsomely produced and propulsively sown together —  Colin Goudie, Ben Mills, and Martin Walsh are credited as film editors —  the ceaseless globe-hopping of what appeared to be a video-game origin movie was starting to wear out my patience. 

Then, as Henk arrives in Russia, sometime around 1988, director Jon S. Baird slows the pace down. Written by Nick Pink, the opening portion of the film is merely a prelude to what happens to Henk when he seeks the sales rights from the game’s creator, Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov), stumbling into a hornet’s nest, where Communist Party security officials, the Russian beauracracy, Japanese interests, a software salesman, and Nintendo all compete against each other to acquire the rights to publish a video-game that would become a worldwide smash. 

After one viewing, I could not decipher the many layers of legitimate business dealings, as opposed to those cloaked in duplicitiy and criminality. How much of this “inspired by a true story” movie is, in fact, true, and how much is pumped-up artifice?

By the end of the movie, I did not care. 

Taron Egerton is very convincing as a good-hearted family man, married to a loving and supportive wife (Ayane Nagabuchi), with multiple adorable children, and doing his very best to pull off a deal to ensure their financial future. He’s the owner of a small software copmany in Japan, where he met his wife, has a working knowledge of the language, and also wants to keep his company viable for the sake of his devoted employees. 

Multiple other colorful supporting characters populate the film, which moves at a pace that slowly picks up speed and resembles a video game. 

But it’s a good video game, and one that is irresistible. 

The film opens Friday, March 24, in select theaters nationwide. In Dallas, it opens at Alamo Drafthouse Lake Highlands. It will be available to stream March 31 on Apple TV+. For more information about the film, visit the official site. 

Review: ‘Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me’ Reflects Deeply Upon the Perils of Stardom

The musical star and actress talks about her many serious, personal challenges in a documentary directed by Alek Keshishian, now streaming on Apple TV+. 

Born and raised in Grand Prairie until she was seven, Selena Gomez became an instant star on Disney, which meant that she moved to Hollywood as a child and came of age under the magnifying glass of ever-increasing fame.

Some seven years ago, Alek Keshishian, (Madonna: Truth or Dare, 1991) helmed a music video for Gomez. Shortly thereafter, Gomez began experiencing crisis-level personal problems that threatened to derail her career. As documented in Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me, her eventual diagnosis for lupus and its effect upon mental health struggles she was already experiencing distinguish her troubles from those self-inflicted wounds that have plagued many, many other young stars over the years. 

Gomez’ honesty also marks the documentary as different from other confessionals, although the film as a whole makes me wonder if anyone connected to a young, rising star ever stops to watch any of them. If so, I’d think they would question whether they can afford the price of fame and its attendant disastrous consequences, which are too frequently fatal. 

As those of us who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex know, Grand Prairie is a lovely community, with a large portion of the residents being Hispanic/Latino. Gomez, whose return to the city is showcased in the film, never appears to stay far from her roots; her genuine engagement with friends and former neighbors, and her desire to give back by visiting young school students, is genuinely touching. 

So is her willingness to discuss her mental health struggles, exacerbated, it seems, by her diagnosis with the serious condition of lupus. None of these struggles are over for her; she will have to deal with them for the remainder of her life, so her struggle will never entirely cease. It’s more a matter of coping with these gigantic challenges. 

Of course, she could end her musical and performing career any time she wishes to do so, but says in the film that she feels that her entertainment talents have gifted her with an enlarged opportunity to help others. Keshishian keeps the pace moving at a brisk pace, so that even if you’re not necessarily a fan of Gomez’ music or other work, the documentary works effectively, in large part because of its emotional intimacy. 

The film is now streaming on Apple TV+.

Review: ‘Lincoln’s Dilemma,’ Bringing History to Life, For Good Reasons

What do we really know about Abraham Lincoln? 

(Picture above: depiction of Abraham Lincoln as featured in Lincoln’s Dilemma on Apple TV+.)

The 16th President of the United States has been widely hailed, widely vilified, and widely misunderstood. His role in history is assured, though what role, exactly, is yet to be determined, even more than 150 years after his death. 

The four-episode mini-series Lincoln’s Dilemma endeavors to provide a comprehensive overview of Abraham Lincoln’s four years as U.S. President, and largely  succeeds, with brisk and pointed insights drawn from deep considerations by a range of historians, mostly. Directors Jacqueline Olive (episodes 1 and 4) and Barak Goodman (episodes 2 and 3) tell a story that is consistently compelling, even if you think you know it already. 

Scripted by Barak Goodman, based on David S. Reynolds’ book Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times, the documentary series initially touches on why it’s still relevant to plunge once more into the subject, ably summarizing events that led up to his presidency, both from his own personal history as well as key events in the history of the nation that point to the long-established roots of slavery. 

Revolving around pointed ‘talking head’ interviews as it is, Lincoln’s Dilemma moves at a steady pace that is never too quick, by which I mean that it allows time to think about what has just been said. Letters, speeches, and book excerpts are read by a talented cast of voice actors, including Bill Camp as Lincoln and Leslie Odom, Jr. as Frederick Douglass, who are more invested in bringing meaning to what they are reading and bringing the writers to life. 

Briefly utilizing animation to dramatize events from time to time, along with a copious supply of well-chose archival photographs, allows the viewer to put a face to the people cited, when appropriate. Every element is woven together with deep care and respect for Lincoln and his legacy, while still allowing plenty of space for a measured view of the man, his accomplishments, and his shortcomings. 

It’s a lot to take in, yet it never felt like I was living in a history textbook. I learned things I had never heard before, and was reminded of things I learned decades ago. 

Lincoln’s Dilemma brings history to life, raising new points for discussion, and suggesting why so many people in this nation are still not united over the basic fundamental rights that all people should enjoy.  

All four parts of the documentary series premiere globally on Friday, February 18 on Apple TV+.