Film Review: MANDY (USA 2017)

Mandy Poster

Mandy is set in the primal wilderness of 1983 where Red Miller, a broken and haunted man hunts an unhinged religious sect who slaughtered the love of his life.

MANDY a futuristic horror is director Panos Cosmatos second feature after his ultra-pretentious futuristic drama that I absolutely hated THE BLACK RAINBOW.  RAINBOW was exceptionally slow moving, like the beginning of MANDY as if the director wanted everyone to remember the comatose, rhyming with his last name.  Panos is the son of Greek director George Pan Cosmatos, whose films I also generally dislike.  His most successful film is one I hated THE CASSANDRA CROSSING that starred Sophia Loren.

Panos Cosmatos reaches one step higher in MANDY that it has well-known actors Linus Roache (PRIEST, THE WINSLOW BOY) and Nicolas Cage.

MANDY begins really slowly, so one must be fully attentive as it is easy to doze off.  Consider the inane dialogue.  “Are you ok?”  “I am not ok.”  “Is it my fault?”  “it is totally your fault.”  The dialogue goes on and on without making much sense.  

Cosmatos’ horror movie MANDY pals like an art house horror flick.  Art and horror do not not go well together, as this exercise and Cosmatos’ devious film THE BLACK RAINBOW have proven.

The film is set in at futuristic looking 1983. But this story is a little more steeped in demonic myth than microchips.  

 Red Miller (Cage) lives with his enamored girlfriend, artist Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough), in a cabin near the lake. Red works as a logger, while Mandy has a day job as a cashier at a nearby gas station in the woods. She creates elaborate fantasy art, and Red admires her work greatly. They lead a quiet and reclusive life, and their conversations and behaviour hint at a difficult past and psychological hardship. Red appears to be a recovering alcoholic, and Mandy recounts traumatic childhood experiences.

The film shifts to a weird guy (Ned Dennehy) lying on a bed yelling at his mother , Mother Marene (Olwen Fouere) (with the inane dialogue above)  followed by his brother assuring him “consider it done” to a request he has made.  The film then follows Brother Swan as he tries to kidnap Mandy with the help of the Black Skulls, a demonic biker gang with a taste for human flesh and a viscous, highly potent form of LSD.  Red Miller saves the day.  Watch out for the duel the chainsaws.

Cosmatos loves to play with visuals.  A lot of his scenes are coloured bright red and accompanied with a thundering soundtrack like from an electric guitar.

MANDY’s story is incredibly difficult to follow and really frustrate got try.

Nicolas Cage appears only after nearly half the movie has transpired.  Once he appears everything picks up.  He is at one point stabbed with a sharp knife through his sides with a crazy woman yelling: “Now you will legalize the the cleansing power of fire.”  Cage is so over the top, he adds the campiness that is seriously needed to life the film’s dreariness.

MANDY is not for everyone and it is also safe it is not for many.


Film Review: MOM & DAD (USA 2017) ***1/2

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Mom and Dad Poster

A teenage girl and her little brother must survive a wild 24 hours during which a mass hysteria of unknown origins causes parents to turn violently on their own kids.


Brian Taylor


Brian Taylor


MOM & DAD is a black horror comedy in which parents go on a rampage turning violently killing their children.  It is not the first time films have pitted parents against their children.  The very clever PARENTS was one of them, way back when, when the son had to deal with his human flesh eating parents.  Black comedy is the best way of dealing with this subject matter.

MOM & DAD imagines a 24-hour nightmare where parents worldwide succumb to a mysterious mass hysteria that turns them violently against their own children.  It is a macabre and inspired conceit, and works mainly because writer/director Brian Taylor (CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE, CRAMER, GHOST RIDER) knows how to play the genre right and keeps his film funny and smart.  Though one might think this one idea premise might run out of steam, Taylor has fresh ideas all through the film, that runs only at 83 minutes.

Taylor use the tactic of flashbacks to inject humour to many a horror scene.  Taylor has one where Cage and son sit down talking about  his f**ked up life with a flashback on how Cage drove his dad’s car into an accident and had to work and pay him back for the damage. The same goes in the segment where Cage lets it all out in a flashback in the pool table man cave episode.

Taylor pays tribute to the great suspense and horror directors like Hitchcock, Truffaut and Argento.   The scene in which mom and dad spend ages trying to open the basement door is reminiscent of the segment in TORN CURTAIN, where Hitchcock shows how difficult it is to kill a man without a weapon.  The sealing of the air of the basement door immediately reminds one too of Truffaut’s THE BRDE WORE BLACK when Jeanne Moreau sealed off the air from the staircase locker to suffocate Michel Lonsdale.  The suspenseful scene with daughter, peeking through the keyhole where a knife is at the other end is right out of Argento’s OPERA.  There are many other classic film nods that are fun to pick out.  Taylor’s film contains a few ultra violent scenes (the dental hook), though they should be taken tongue-in-cheek.

Like Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS, Taylor does not go into the explanation how the state of affairs parents wanting to do away with their children came about.  It is immaterial.  It could be guilt or nature’s revenge, none really knows.  Like Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS, MOM & DAD has an appropriate abrupt ending.

Nicholas Cage and Selma Blair are nothing short of perfect as the killer parents.  Cage goes into his famous self-ranting rage, playing himself at his crazy best.  He is plain hilarious while occasionally being scary at the ams time.  Blair complements his performance.

MOM & DAD appropriately premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival Midnight Madness Section in 2017 last year.  It is the perfect film parents, frustrated at their disobedient kids need to see to get some steam off.  It is also the perfect anti-family day movie.


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1997 Movie Review: LEAVING LAS VEGAS, 1997


Movie Reviews

Directed by Mike Figgis
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Elisabeth Shue, Julian Sands, Richard Lewis, Kim Adams, Emily Proctor, Valeria Golino
Review by Nina Katungi


After losing his family and then his job to alcoholism, Ben decides to pack up his life, head to Las Vegas, and drink himself to death. Sera, a worn and wasted prostitute crosses paths with Ben in Las Vegas. They find solitude in one another and soon enough an unconventional relationship starts to bloom.



“Leaving Las Vegas” is based on a semi-autobiographical novel written by John O’Brian. John O’Brian was an alcoholic with the end in sight, just like his character, Ben. His fate arrived sooner than expected. O’Brian took his own life just two weeks after he found out his novel was going to be adapted into a film. O’Brian’s father believes that “Leaving Las Vegas” was his son’s suicide note. Mike Figgis adapted the novel into a screenplay and managed to maintain the dark undertones that the novel entails. Figgis succeeded in bringing this beautiful but extremely solemn tale onto the big screen. Figgis also composed the music for the soundtrack. What he put together was a rather haunting but delicately emotional sound.

Ben (Cage) works in the film industry in Los Angeles. It is a pivotal time in Ben’s life. His alcoholism has past the point of no return and his life is hastily withering away. His wife and son have left him and now, after tolerating his erratic behaviour for a while, Ben’s workplace finally let him go too. Ben packs up his life in LA, obliterates everything that is personal to him and heads to Las Vegas where he shall drink to his death. Once in Vegas, Ben stumbles upon an angel, Sera.

Sera (Shue) is a prostitute working on the streets of Las Vegas. She moved to Las Vegas with Yuri (Sands) her pimp/boyfriend and since has endured a life of using her body to make money. Sera has been in this business a long time and has experienced all the horrors she can imagine. Her body no longer seems a part of her rather a mere tool to make money. Yuri is in control of this tool, using it for his own personal needs as well as a form of income. Sera’s long lost a sense of herself but when she meets Ben things start to change for the better. In the meantime Yuri is in trouble with the Romanian mafia – it’s so far gone that a group of thugs have been sent to deal with the situation. Yuri is aware of his fate, he cuts strings with Sera and lets her go free.

Ben almost runs Sera over at a stop light and being the tough girl she is, Sera struts to the car and gives Ben a piece of her mind. This is Ben and Sera’s first encounter. Ben later finds Sera on the street. Ben’s aware that Sera’s a prostitute, he offers her money to come back to his motel. Sera is prepared for yet another with a “client” but to her surprise it turns out to be the first bearable night that she has had in a long time. Sera encounters something that she’s never encountered before. Ben simply wants her to keep him company, not for sex but just to talk. Sera realises how lonely she’s is and has been for a long time. Ben is the void that Sera’s been missing for so long. With Yuri out of the picture Sara asks Ben to move in with her. Ben is hesitant but agrees on one condition – Sera must never ask Ben to stop drinking. This promise seems easy at first but as soon as Ben’s alcoholic world becomes real to Sera and as soon as Sera’s falls for him, this promise to allow him to kill himself, well the promise is broken almost as quick as it was made.

This is he last time I’ve seen Nicholas Cage play a great role. I think he’s talented but unfortunately there hasn’t been much proof of that since “Leaving Las Vegas”. Cage’s choice in roles, up until now have been terrible, bad films which have resulted in some very poor performances. When I think of the great films he’s been in like “Moonstruck” or “Raising Arizona” I get sad because I honestly miss what he was and perhaps what he won’t ever be again. He may find himself turning another corner soon, I hope, I really do. Cage won an Oscar for his performance in “Leaving Las Vegas” and it was well deserved. Elisabeth Shue played the role of Sera so well, she was also nominated for an Oscar but regretfully she didn’t win like her co-star. Before this film Shue was only really known as Tom Cruise’s love interest in “Cocktail”. She managed to turn a lot heads in “Leaving Las Vegas” but unfortunately after this role she fizzled away, which I also think is a shame. Perhaps she too will find another role that fits her just like a glove. “Leaving Las Vegas” wasn’t only a success with its two lead actors it received a generous amount of nominations for best director, screenplay, and film as well. This is not a classic love story with a happy ending. It’s a love story that ends as quickly as it begins but what it does is it leaves you with a compellingly emotional state of mind. It’s such a great piece of work.


1997 Movie Review: FACE/OFF, 1997

FACE/OFF, 1997
Movie Reviews

Director: John Woo

Stars: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Alessandro Nivola, Gina Gershon, Dominique Swain, Nick Cassavetes, Colm Feore, Colm Feore, John Carroll Lynch

Review by Matthew Toffolo


A revolutionary medical technique allows an undercover agent to take the physical appearance of a major criminal and infiltrate his organization.


There is a creepy feeling when watching Face/Off. The main theme of this action packed drama is about dealing with loss and death as Travolta’s character is having an extremely difficult time getting over the murder of his son. Of course fiction became truth later on as Travolta lost a son in real life. So when you’re watching these scenes you can’t help but feel for the real life actor who is crying on screen for his son’s loss, even though it hadn’t happened yet.

I remember when this film came out in 1997 and how much I enjoyed it as a 20 year old kid. My friend Wes Berger and I were what you call teenage idealistic film buffs as we used to go to the movies weekly and see as many foreign and independent movies as we could living in the Niagara Region. To some we were also film snobs, looking down on all of the shoot em up blockbusters that were beginning to hit its peak. But we weren’t ashamed to admit that we both liked Face/Off enormously because it seemed to have a nice psychological edge to it while filled with incredibly unrealistic but exciting action moments.

This was also the time when both Travolta and Cage were at their peaks professionally. Cage in particular was coming off his Oscar win for Leaving Las Vegas as was considered one of the best actors on the planet. That comment seems kind of silly in present day, as Cage is considered kind of a hack, as he continues to do about 3-4 poor films a year. In 1997 Cage had his whole career ahead of him and was in considerable demand in Hollywood. So having Travolta and Cage in this action romp in 1997 caused a lot of attention for me and my friendly film snobs. Perhaps John Woo’s film was more than just blow em up!

There are some interesting moments in Face/Off as Woo sure is a fine director who makes a lot of unique choices to heighten the excitement and emotions in the film. The only thing I remember talking about with people afterwards was the key question – Was Cage better at playing Travolta? Or was Travolta better at playing Cage?

Questions like this is what 20 year olds growing up in the Tarantino generation discuss. Even though in hindsight these are wasted conversations, at the time I do remember having fun with it. My friend Wes was on team Cage as I was on team Travolta. And the circle talk of meaninglessness began for hours on end. Both actors really chew up the scene as they seem to be acting in a strange land of over-the-top-ness while the other actors around them are grounded in reality. The performance of Travolta’s wife (who became Cage’s wife but was actually Travolta – it was confusing!) in particular stands out. Joan Allen pulls off a fantastic performance in the film without anyone really realising it. I remember even at age 20 how pulled in I was by her character. Perhaps today that role would of went to some 30s supermodel who would only be capable of just playing the beats in the script and nothing more.

Face/Off is a fun film even today as I really was impressed how much it stands up. That same year Cage acted in another action film, Con Air, that really doesn’t stand up at all and is almost laughable in its action executions to today’s 21st century world.That says a lot about John Woo. In Face/Off, Woo directs all of the action sequences with the emotions of the character’s angst and inner conflicts. So when Travolta for example is involved in a boat chase with Cage, we as the audience are hooked in because we just previously saw a scene of his struggles to survive the pains of his son’s death. So there is context in the action without just having the action. So his films hold up generation after generation because we feel while the guns are a blazing across the screen.
face off

1987 Movie Review: RAISING ARIZONA, 1987

Movie Reviews

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter
Review by Andrew Rowe


When a childless couple of an ex-con and an ex-cop decide to help themselves to one of another family’s quintupelets, their lives get more complicated than they anticipated.


10 minutes, that’s how long Raising Arizona rolls until the title card hits. If this sounds odd it is, but so is everything else about the Coen Brothers’ second film. As they’ve often done throughout their career, the brothers normally follow-up a serious film with a comedy. Fargo led to The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men led to Burn After Reading. With Raising Arizona the brothers had just come from the neo-noir Blood Simple, their first ever film. Where as that film dealt with deception and murder in the shadows of Texas, Raising Arizona basks in the sun with non-stop slapstick, silly fun.

Nicholas Cage stars as Hi, or H.I. if you’re talking to his friends. He’s a petty criminal who has a thing for robbing convenience stores with ammo-less guns. Because he doesn’t use armed weapons his jail sentences are always small in length, which allows for multiple visits. During these multiple visits he meets Ed, a policewoman played by Holly Hunter. Ed’s fiance leaves her, which opens up the door for Hi to reform and win her heart. This is when the Raising Arizona title card hits.

The unlikely couple moves into a trailer in the desert and realize they need something more in their life because they have too much love to give. After multiple attempts of conception, they learn that Ed is unable to bare children and due to Hi’s criminal record, unable to adopt. Devastated, hope arrives in the form of the ‘Arizona Quints’, 5 boys that are born to a locally famous unpainted furniture storeowner, Nathan Arizona.

Hi and Ed decide that abducting one of the boys for themselves is a good idea and do so. After welcoming the child into their home, Hi and Ed are greeted by two of Hi’s friends from prison, Gale and Evelle, John Goodman, and William Forsythe. The two inmates have broken out of prison because the institution no longer had anything to offer them. Against Ed’s wishes, the two fugitives stay at their home where they begin to influence Hi.

At this same time a heavily armed bounty hunter by the name of Leonard Smalls, “My friends call me Lenny… only I ain’t got no friends”, is on the hunt for the child. Blowing up bunny rabbits with grenades, Leonard is fear itself. Gale and Evelle eventually learn of the child’s actual identity and decide to turn him in for the reward money. Everyone collides on a strip in the middle of the desert highway that involves a bank robbery, gunfire, hand-to-hand combat, screeching tires, and a large explosion.

The script, written by the Coens possesses their trademark tongue-in-cheek dialogue as well as an explosive climax and slow burn denouement. No one writes stupid characters like the Coens do. These people that inhabit the film aren’t very bright, and it’s hard to believe anyone in the world could be of this level of intelligence, but the Coens draw you in, first making the world they live in real, then the characters, then the silly things they do. Besides the charming dialogue, there are so many ridiculous sight gags that you may not even catch them all the first time around.

Raising Arizona is arguably the craziest movie the Coen Brother’s have made in their three-decade career, and that’s saying a lot. The film acts as a live-action Saturday morning cartoon. Working for the second time with cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld who had shot their debut film Blood Simple, the visuals on screen are closer to a Dr. Seuss book than any of the current film adaptations. Using his trademark wide angles, everything remains in focus allowing the viewer to fully appreciate the immaculate Art Direction. The camera also moves with the action at the right time giving certain scenes a feeling that the camera is a character in the film, namely a chase scene through a house, and a fistfight between two characters.

The actors do a tremendous job of bringing these cartoon characters to life. John Goodman who would go on to work with the Coens several more times is perfect as Gale, the harder of the two brothers and number one bad influence on Hi. Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter have great comedic chemistry and give weight to characters that otherwise wouldn’t have much soul. Hi may just be a dummy, but he’s a dummy with a large heart that wants nothing more than for his Ed to be happy. He is like Bugs Bunny mixed with Wilde Coyote, he’ll get away from Elmer Fudd only to celebrate and have an anvil fall on his head. Randall “Tex” Cobb is a towering inferno on wheels, and makes lighting a match look almost as cool as Clint Eastwood.

It’s of course the Coens that bring it all together. The characters all seem real in this colorful world they’ve created. The slapstick is done wonderfully and gives you a nostalgic feeling of when these Buster Keaton-style comedies were king. It’s just a really fun movie that’ll have you laughing and shaking your head in tandem. This film is also the Coen’s most family friendly; it is almost Disney-like in some aspects.

The film’s innocence is something rarely seen in today’s crop of comedies as well as in the Coen’s filmography. It doesn’t feature as dark of humor or the violence that comes with most Coen Brothers’ films, but here that’s a good thing. The film is a great little gem that shouldn’t be missed.

raising arizona

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1987 Movie Review: MOONSTRUCK, 1987

Classic Movie Review
Directed by Norman Jewison
Starring Cher, Nicolas Cage, Olympia Dukakis, Vincent Gardenia, Danny Aiello, John Mahoney
Review by Cheyrl Farr


An Italian-American widow, Loretta Castorini, settles for a loveless engagement, believing that she has bad luck nothing better will come along. She meets her future brother-in-law, Ronny Cammareri, and does her best to flee the hot passion that exists between them. But, under the “Bella Luna,” their romance cannot be denied. With love’s ups and downs, they all come together at the conclusion of a whirlwind courtship with a toast to family.


Loretta Castorini is a take charge kind of woman who lives and works in the Italian-American neighborhood of Brooklyn. Brilliantly played by Cher, this character is matter-of-fact, and has little joy in her life. She is resigned to the fact that bad luck has played a major role in her life, and as a widow, she accepts the proposal of Johnny Cammareri. He is a momma’s boy, and the two seem to gravitate to one another out of a sense of duty rather than any love or passion.

Johnny gives her the unenviable task of contacting his younger, estranged brother so that he will attend the wedding. Johnny flies off to Italy to the

Loretta meets Ronny (the younger brother), and tries to impose her will on him as he recounts the reason why he never speaks to his brother…he lost his hand in a bread slicer during a conversation with Johnny. As their arguing escalates, the heat between them leads to the bedroom, and as much as the level-headed Loretta tries to end the affair, the two have a deep chemistry which won’t be denied. Ronny invites her to the opera, and she undergoes a wonderful makeover for the occasion. She covers her gray hair, buys new clothes, and seems to find the light that was snuffed out of her life when her first husband died.

When Johnny returns from Italy, where his mother has a miraculous revival from near death, he decides to call off the engagement in deference to his mother. Within moments, his brother steps in and asks for Loretta’s hand in marriage. A precious moment is when the patriarch, Loretta’s grandfather, becomes confused by the quick turn of events and sobs because he doesn’t understand what is going on. The subplots are in harmony with Loretta’s own roller coaster ride with romance. Her father is having his own affair with a gold-digger, as her mother tries to understand why men chase women. Her mother has dinner with a man, but with her feet firmly on the ground, says goodbye at her doorstep. Her aunt and uncle find a fresh breath of romance under the “Bella Luna” that shines as bright as the noonday sun and seems to guide all the lovers.

Highly recommend watching this entertaining film with all of its dry humor and commentary on life and love.

MOONSTRUCK, 1987.jpg

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Movie Review: THE FAMILY MAN, 2000

Top Christmas Movie of All-Time

Classic Movie Review

Directed by Bret Ratner
Starring Nicolas Cage, Téa Leoni
Review by Russell Hill


A successful unmarried Wall Street broker wakes one morning living the life of a family man with a wife and two kids.


Very similar to It’s a Wonderful Life, The Family Man is a movie that could be forgiven for acting as a vehicle for Nicholas Cage’s talents, but is much more than that.

A fantastical tale of asking questions that everyone must ask themselves at one point in life, it is Jack Campbell’s (Cage) story we follow. Jack is a very successful and extremely rich Wall Street broker. One Christmas Eve, he finds himself on the verge of landing a deal that would make him richer beyond his wildest dreams, as well as earning major kudos with the boss. When waking on Christmas Day, a woman (Leoni) is draped across him, followed by two young children who run into the room. Freaked out to say the least, Cage overreacts. Where is the life he once had, he asks himself.

The night before, Jack had helped stop what could have been quite a horrible robbery. The person responsible for the potential robbery (Cheadle) seems to know who Jack is. What do you want Jack, he asks. I’ve got everything I need, replies Jack. But the next morning when he awakes, everything he has that made him happy such as money, a great career and top-quality suits are all gone. Due to his good deed, Jack believes he has found himself in hell. But all is not lost.

In spite of this minimalist monetary and possession existence, there are many good elements to this new life. Loving wife of thirteen years, two adorable kids and a best friend that would walk over fiery coals for him. Although his life is of a lower status than before, men want to be him and women want to have him. But to Jack, this isn’t what he wanted. Despite not possessing this in his previous affluent life, he sacrificed this exact situation for his career but, as in every situation that appears when we are presented with it, we just deal with it. Roll on. Pull your socks up. Get on with it. But, with Jack’s predicament and situation, will he actually enjoy himself or wish he was somewhere else?

For those who have not seen The Family Man, and believe me I’ve met many who know nothing of this movie, it would be too easy to class it as simply a vehicle for Cage. Although it does borrow elements from It’s a Wonderful Life, the look of the movie is a very classy one that moves along very quickly with it ending as soon as you know it. This is exactly the type of movie Cage is made for. Think of Cage’s more recent mainstream movies, and you are sure to reel in horror at their very existence. Ghost Rider was an abomination of cinema, and The Wicker Man should never have been given the green light for production. And don’t get me started on the National Treasure franchise. Cage is simply not suited for these kinds of movies, with their high-octane moments, and is more suitable to play anything but an action-hero. In The Family Man, he is an opposite character and definitely not your stereotypical leading man. As in The Weather Man, his depressive character was much more suitable for him and, as with The Family Man, harks back to the days when he started out in more independent movies as an everyday-man.

But hey, Cage wasn’t the only actor in the film. Not always a fan of Tea Leoni’s work, her performance in Deep Impact was laughable to say the least, this is by far the best role I have seen her in. Her character Kate is one of the loving wife and Leoni really pulls it off. Her girl-next-door persona fits well into the character of Kate, and is as cute as a baby seal. Cheadle is great too. Despite his talents wasted in the horrific remake of The Italian Job, which just like The Wicker Man remake should never have been made, he relishes every screen moment. At some points, his performance seems very Shakespearian in the way he recites his lines and is certainly admirable. His scenes, although minimal, is used to his full potential. Cheadle has since moved onto greater roles since The Family Man, a prime example being Hotel Rwanda, and is sure to continue being a shining example of what an actor in Hollywood should be. As long as he doesn’t take any more roles like in The Italian Job, that is.

The surprise of the film, in this reviewer’s opinion, is the role of Jack and Kate’s young daughter Annie. Played by Makenzie Vega, she was only six years of age when this film was released but acts beyond her years. In the Making of… feature on the DVD, Cage remarks how great an actress she is. Acting alongside an A-List cast might be daunting to some people, but Vega takes it in her stride and certainly matches her fellow actors in all scenes she appears in. She only had a solitary role before playing Annie, and since then has gone on to appear in such movies as Sin City and X-Men 3. This reviewer hopes for her continued success in Hollywood.

To those who have not seen The Family Man, I strongly recommend you see this. I know it may sound difficult but try to cast Cage’s recent roles out of your mind. The performances by all is of the highest quality. Tea Leoni for once gives a credible performance and the emergence of Makenzie Vega as a potentially great talent is certainly worth a watch.


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