Geek For E!

TwiView: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil picks up 5 years after the events of the first movie, Maleficent. We find Aurora (Elle Fanning) Queen of the Moors and still madly in love with Prince Phillip of Ulstead (Harris Dickinson). When Prince Phillip finally asks Aurora for her hand in marriage it becomes time for both families to finally meet. Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is still feared throughout the land, but Prince Phillips’s mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), isn’t scared and has her own devious intentions.

Family relationships are tested on both sides, and we finally find out who Maleficent really is. Filled to the brim with action Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is funnier, darker, more violent, and far better than the first movie. Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer both give great performances, and provide tons of one-liners and deadpan humor. The animation and cinematography are beautiful and worth seeing on the big screen. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is rated PG, but really stretches the rating to the max so it might not be suitable for some ages. I give Maleficent: Mistress of Evil a B. Grab the popcorn and see it in theaters on 10/18/19. (R. Barry)

TwiView: Joker (2019)

We all knew about the Joker, but we all didn’t KNOW the Joker. Until now. Joaquin Phoenix gives a commanding performance, possibly his best performance to date, as Arthur Fleck the man who would later become the Joker. Arthur Fleck is an unhappy man. He suffers from mental illness and uncontrollable fits of laughter. He works as a clown for hire in Gotham City, and lives with and takes care of his mom, Penny Fleck (Frances Conroy). When hospital funding is cut Arthur loses access to his therapist and his medication. Arthur does have dreams though and aspires to become a standup comedian, but Gotham City is a cruel place and one subway ride changes the direction of his life.

Directed by Todd Philips Joker gives us a look into the mind, and making, of the man who would become Batman’s greatest nemesis. Joker also stars Robert De Niro (Murray Franklin), Zazie Beetz (Sophie Dumond), and Brett Cullen (Thomas Wayne). It is a fantastic movie and a true representation of the Joker character. It is rated R due to violence, language, and brief sexual and disturbing images. Not for children. I give it an A+. A must-see if you are a DC Comics fan. Joker opens in theaters on 10/4/2019. (R. Barry)

TwiView: Abominable (2019)

If you are looking for a heartwarming movie the whole family can watch then you have found it in DreamWorks Abominable. When a teenage girl, Yi (Chloe Bennet), finds a hurt young Yeti on her roof it sets her off on a magical adventure of a lifetime. Naming him Everest (Joseph Izzo), Yi decides to help get him home even though there are people, Mr. Burnish (Eddie Izzard) and Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson) looking to capture him at all costs. Joining her quest to get Everest home are her neighbors Peng (Albert Tsai) and Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainer). Their wild adventure teaches them about each other, the importance of family, and that maybe Everest wasn’t the only one who was lost. The story, music, and animation of Abominable are beautiful. While it does have a couple of slightly tense scenes humor is placed just right to relieve any tension almost immediately. The characters of Peng, Jin, and Nai Nai (Tzai Chin) are the standouts for this film and will have you laughing till the end. Abominable is rated PG, but it is a movie for all ages. I give Abominable a B+. Opens 9/27/2019. Whoop! (R. Barry)

(from left) – Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), Peng (Albert Tsai) and Yi (Chloe Bennet) with the Yeti, Everest, in DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio’s Abominable, written and directed by Jill Culton.

29Rooms: Expand Your Reality is Headed to D.C.

29Rooms: Expand Your Reality is headed to D.C. in October. What is 29Rooms? It is a traveling immersive art installation by Refinery29. We had a chance to interview Olivia Fagon, the creative director of 29Rooms, to get a sneak peek into the makings of 29Rooms.

Can you explain the concept of pop-up art installments like 29Rooms?

When 29Rooms launched in 2015 it was a first of its kind experience; our hope then was to create an event that didn’t make our audience just spectators but actually invited them to feel, see and touch our very digital brand. That idea of centering your audience in a space that is immersive and visually-inspiring but not hands-off is at the heart of how we approach the event.  That obviously dovetailed with the how our audience is using social media, making spaces and experiences that give them a stage to capture and make their own content. 

So, we all know it’s called 29Rooms, based off of Refinery29, but are there really 29Rooms?

Yes, within 29Rooms, there are 29 unique experiences. We’ve pushed past defining a room as just a literal four-walled space. Here a room can mean an installation, stand-alone artworks, workshops, performances – that together act as a tasting menu of the conversations and culture our audience cares about across art, entertainment, activism, style and technology — all housed under one roof. 

Which room has been your favorite over the years?

I’ve loved so many of the rooms we’ve brought to life. There are a few that have stood out because they’ve changed the way we thought about what 29Rooms is and what it could be. “Inner Beauty Ball” a recreated phoneless nightclub we popped up in the middle of our venue with New York’s House of Yes confirmed how much our guests were looking to get off their phones and self-release. A lot of my favorite rooms have been collaborations with underrepresented voices or rooms that have give our audience artful and accessible ways-in to difficult but real pro-social conversations. For example, creating our own LGBTQIA+ Pride float in collaboration with artist Marina Fini at 29Rooms San Francisco and collaborating on a commemorative alter to Chicago gun violence with artist Shani Crowe at 29Rooms Chicago. 

And then I’m always excited by our celebrity collaborations that have real insight or cultural commentary at their center. A 360 video installation we created with Lena Waith last year documenting the black experience in the United States is a great example. 

What has been your biggest challenge putting together 29Rooms?

The main challenge is making space for the very unique and very different visions of so many artists and creatives while keeping one cohesive theme and the Refinery29 POV across the entire event. It’s a balancing act. We have to be flexible in our process of developing each artist’s experience, working around very different skill sets and often working with artists who maybe haven’t brought their work to life three-dimensionally or in a physical space before. And secondly, the challenge of continuing to reinvent and evolve the experience. We pioneered a new event concept when we launched 5 years ago, bringing our audience a snapshot of our brand and culture in a totally unique way, and we want to continue to innovate while still keeping what our audience and fans have loved about 29Rooms.

How do you choose the room themes?

The 29Rooms team is made up of a wide range of very talented creatives, designers and producers who develop the overarching tour for almost a year. We start by looking outward, working with our team of editors and creatives who speak to our audience daily, to capture the most relevant and forward thinking conversations across fashion, art, beauty, politics, etc. in one cohesive vision for the event, our theme. We also consider ways we want to evolve the event based on the event landscape (How can we innovate experiential?), our audience’s feedback (What did our guests love from last year’s 29Rooms?) and our own internal ambitions for the event (What’s next for 29Roomst?). We then start assembling our individual room experiences through our collaborator search, reaching out to a diverse list of always incredible talent with a specific vision or topic for a room that we want to create with them. It’s a lot of moving pieces but those key components of research, inspiration, feedback and collaborators always sets the foundation.  

How do you choose room sponsors, and do they work with Refinery29 to come up with a room theme, or do they design them themselves?

We look for partners who see real value in having a more direct, one-on-one conversation with our audience. Whether it’s a product launch with Reebok or a new campaign with Bare Minerals, we want our branded rooms to enhance the design, atmosphere and narrative of the event, so our creative approach is to build their experiences FOR the audience versus marketing to them. 

We collaborate directly with our partners to bring their own dedicated rooms to life, which our in-house creative, design and production team co-creates with them. 29Rooms is not an event where guests will see big logos plastered everywhere. Instead, we give our brands a heartbeat and apply the same creative and design principles to their spaces that we do across the event to ensure that they show up in a way that’s artful, authentic and meaningful. 

How do you go about finding the local artists for the different tour stops?

It’s important to us that we make space for the amazing creative communities that are in each city so we continue to collaborate with local artists on rooms and experiences at each tour stop. For example, we’re working with Trap Bob and Jamea Richmond-Edwards for the Washington DC stop of the Expand Your Reality tour.

Once we confirmed our tour schedule the team did a month-long search for emerging artists at each city, tapping our own networks, talent teams, Instagram and wider online research into the cultural spaces of those cities to find a long list of artists who reflect their city and share the forward-thinking Refinery29 spirit. Our creative partnership with those artists is then always a two-way dialogue; we bring a very clear vision of what we want the final experience to be (whether it’s the interaction, the visuals or the final takeaway for our guests) and then work with them collaboratively, across creative, design and production, till it’s live at 29Rooms. 

Are you concerned people are too focused on getting that perfect shot for social media that they end up missing the messages behind the rooms?

We’ve seen so much of the event’s impact come through our guests being able to use 29Rooms as a stage to comment, express a POV or share a personal story through the content they capture inside. Because the messages behind our rooms, whether we’re talking about spirituality or body image or voting rights, are directly inspired by what matters to the R29 audience, we’ve always seen a lot of harmony between what they take away on-site and what they end up posting.   

For Expand Your Reality tour though we’ve pushed a lot of experiences to be exclusively interactive and hands-on. With experiences that invite introspection like writing a letter to your inner child or hands-on art making, live dance performances and phone-free experiences we’re also challenging our guests to open up and engage with themselves and strangers in new ways in real time at the event. 

29Rooms will have a 15-day stop from October 18 – 27 at DC Armory. You can learn more about 29 Rooms’, or purchase tickets, on their website HERE.

TwiView: Ready or Not (2019)

Ready or Not is a gruesomely funny thriller that will have you rolling with laughter from start to finish. Grace (Samara Weaving) is set to marry the love of her life, Alex (Mark O’Brien). From the start, she has the inclination his family really doesn’t like her. From his creepy Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) to his alcoholic brother Daniel (Adam Brody), Grace hopes to win them all over and be a part of the Le Domas family.

Little does she know that her new husband’s gaming tycoon family has a little secret. At midnight on her wedding night, Grace learns she has to play a game to be inducted into the family. It could be anything chess, old maid, checkers, but the game Grace draws, hide and seek, is the worst of all. Grace slowly learns this game of hide and seek is like no other, and that she must do ANYTHING to survive her crazy new in-laws till dawn.

(L to R) Kristian Bruun, Melanie Scrofano, Andie MacDowell, Henry Czerny, Nicky Guadagni, Adam Brody, and Elyse Levesque in the film READY OR NOT. Photo by Eric Zachanowich. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Even though Ready or Not has some amazing actors such as Andie MacDowell as Becky and Henry Czerny as Tony, Samara Weaving, and Nicky Guadagni are the standouts in this movie. Ready or Not is pegged as horror, mystery, thriller, but it really isn’t scary. Yes, a few things go bump in the night and there is a lot of gore, but the writers (Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy) and directors (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett) do such a great job interjecting comedy into just the right places that all tense moments are alleviated in seconds. Ready or Not will leave you rooting for the heroine and possibly never wanting to play hide and seek again. Haha! Ready or Not is Rated R. It has a lot of violence, blood, language, and some drugs. Not for children. Great movie all around. This non-horror film lover would see it again. I give it an A. Ready or Not opens on 08/21/2019. (R. Barry)

TwiView: Angry Birds 2 (2019)

The birds are back and they are no longer angry. After saving the eggs of Bird Island from the Pigs in the first movie, Red (Jason Sudeikis), Chuck (Josh Gad), and Bomb (Danny McBride) spend their days feuding with the Pigs from Pig Island. Their job is never done and Red basks in the glory of being a hero.

That is until one day the leader of the Pigs, Leonard (Bill Hader), asks for a truce. Having discovered another Island whose inhabitants don’t have the best intentions in mind for Bird or Pig Island, Leonard asks Red for his help to stop them. Cue Red getting the bird band back together including Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage) and reluctantly adding Chuck’s sister, Silver (Rachel Bloom).

Funnier than the first Angry Birds 2 has a ton of laughs, and if the late ’90s and early 2000s was your jam a lot of the humor is right up your alley. (Especially if you loved Dawson’s Creek.) Some amazing actors join the cast for Angry Birds 2, Leslie Jones as Zeta, Awkwafina as Courtney, Sterling K. Brown as Garry, and Tiffany Haddish as Debbie. Angry Birds 2 is rated PG. It does have some adult language and rude humor. I give Angry Birds 2 a B. Angry Birds 2 opens on TUES 08.13.19 (R. Barry)

(L to R, front to back) Courtney (Awkwafina), Chuck (Josh Gad), Silver (Rachel Bloom), Red (Jason Sudeikis), Leonard (Bill Hader), Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage) and Bomb (Danny McBride) in Columbia Pictures and Rovio Animations’ ANGRY BIRDS 2.

Hair Love Short Film (2019)

There is an animated short film that shows before Angry Birds 2 called Hair Love. It is about a little girl who wants her hair done so badly and her father who tries to do it. It is one of the cutest and most heartwarming short films I have seen in a while. I give Hair Love an A. (R. Barry)