Friday, December 3, 2021

Encounter

My View:  Encounter (2021) R   A decorated Marine, Malik (Riz Ahmed), takes his two boys (Lucian-River Chauhan, Aditya Geddada) on a journey to escape from an inhuman threat as he believes that an alien invasion is happening. Along the way, they will encounter dangers that will test their faith and their love for each other as they leave their childhood behind. I found the film at first an entertaining escape film, but as soon as I figured out where the film was headed, I soon lost interest in the characters and the storyline. You can’t fault Riz Ahmed, who once again shows us what an interesting and compelling actor he is in this role, but he can’t overcome a script that has a plot that becomes predictable and dull. Ultimately, Encounter can’t live up to its compelling and exciting start, slowing down to a crawl at the end, wasting another fine performance by Riz Ahmed.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Encounter Website  Now playing in select theatres and available on the Amazon Prime platform on Dec. 10th.

My View:  Mixtape  (2021)    It’s right before the year 2000, and Beverly (Gemma Brooke Allen) is having to grow up with her grandmother (Julie Bowen), who picks her up from school in her post office mail truck. Beverly finds a mixtape that her late parents made and decides to live her life through those songs. Along the way, she will make new friends, find a way to connect with her grandmother, and find her own identity. I loved this small, coming-of-age film about a teen who goes on a quest to understand her mother better through her love of songs and music. Gemma Brooke Allen is so much fun to watch in this film as she goes from a quiet, shy, alone little girl to a confident young woman who has friends and has found a place for herself in a world. I loved the friends Beverly makes; from the grumpy owner (Nick Thune) of a record shop to the scary classmate (Olga Petsa) to the next-door homeschooled girl (Audrey Hsieh), all of which join in on Beverly’s quest to find the songs on her mom’s mixtape. So please sit down and enjoy the rather eclectic selection of songs that Beverly is about to discover and explore as she finds out more about herself along the way to understanding her mother.   My Rating: Full Price    Mixtape Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.


Indiefest: Flee (2021)  PG-13   This animated documentary tells the true story of Amin, who is on the verge of marriage when he reveals his hidden story of fleeing his home country of Afghanistan to Denmark as a refugee. Sure to be at the top of the end of the year critic’s lists and a certain bet to be an Academy Award nominee, Flee is a masterful telling of an unbelievable story of perseverance, hardship, and guilt. Filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen interviews Amin on camera, letting Amin tells his remarkable tale but lets Amin tell it in his own way, in his own time, as the two friends slowly let us get to know Amin and the circumstances that started his long journey. I love this film because we get to see Amin’s world through his eyes, both through the animation and through old TV footage, which gives us an up-close and personal look at a life that has had incredible ups and downs. The film has so many twists and turns that at times you can’t believe one person had to go through all this, and that person kept both their sanity and sense of humor. Go on this unbelievable journey with Amin, where you will cry, laugh, and have hope when you finish this film made through love and friendship.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Flee Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Wolf    (2021) R    Jacob (George MacKay) is a teenager who has been taken to a psychiatric hospital by his parents. Jacob believes that he is a wolf, and he has been put into a place where the rest of the patients also think that they are animals. He finds love with a young woman (Lily-Rose Depp) who has lived her whole life in the hospital, and she believes in Jacob because she believes she is a cat. Wolf is a film that wants to put you into this world like someone teaching someone how to swim by throwing them into the deep end without any warning. We meet Jacob as he is being put into a psychiatric hospital by his parents because he thinks he is a wolf. Instantly we are asked to believe it's normal for patients to be led around by leashes attached to dog collars around the patient's necks as a doctor attempts to get a patient to climb a tree like a squirrel the patient thinks he is. It's hard to connect to this world that I could never figure out. I did enjoy the performance of Lily-Rose Depp as a young woman who goes by the name Wildcat, who falls in love with Jacob and accepts him for what he believes is his true self. Unfortunately, I didn’t believed in Jacob as strongly as Wildcat does, and that’s why this film never truly connected for me.    My Rating: Cable   Wolf Website  Now playing in select theatres.

My View: The Hand of God (2021) R   Fabietto is an awkward Italian teen growing up in an eccentric family. His life is upended when soccer legend Diego Maradona visits Fabietto’s town and inadvertently saves Fabietto's life. The Hand of God is a tale of family and fate, loss and love of sports and family. This is about a strange and wonderful family full of characters that are real but also could be right out of the Felinni films that the family talks about all the time. From the aunt who looks like Sophia Loren and likes to sunbathe in the nude to the parents who deeply love each other, to the Baroness who lives above the family and gets the family to respond to her by pounding on the floor above them, the film is filled with colorful characters that make up Fabietto’s world. Fabietto is a melancholy teen who doesn’t have friends, is in love with the crazy aunt from afar, and is trying to figure out what he wants to become. The Hand of God is a beautiful film, filled with scenes full of wonder and beauty, as Fabietto’s eyes are opened to the possibilities that are slowly revealed to him about a world that awaits him. It’s a magical world out there to explore, but it’s also a magical world when your family is full of life, happiness, and love.    My Rating: Full Price   The Hand of God Website   Now playing in select theatres and available on the Netflix platform on Dec. 15th.

My View: Adrienne (2021)    Adrienne Shelly was a beloved actress who starred in the Hal Hartley-directed Indie classics The Unbelievable Truth (1989) and Trust (1990). She had just written and directed the 2007 film Waitress when she was found dead, hanging in the shower of her West Village apartment. Her husband did not believe the conclusion of the police that she had committed suicide, believing Adrienne had everything to live for with a beautiful daughter and a career that was about to take off and insisted that the police investigate further. Adrienne is a documentary celebrating a life that touched so many people and continues to do so with the Broadway production of Waitress, based on Adrienne’s film. The documentary is a loving tribute to a woman who was just coming into her own as both a mother and a filmmaker. Adrienne was an actress who you would instantly fall in love with as soon as she appeared on the screen, no matter what character she was playing. Adrienne is a documentary about a woman who was determined to make movies on her terms, the daughter of that woman determined to learn more about her, and a husband who wants to explore the life of the woman he loved. Adrienne was an actress who filled a room or a movie screen with life and love, full of adventure and endless possibilities, much like the characters she created for her film Waitress. I hope this film will give people a reason to go back and discover her movies and celebrate a life that was cut way too short.   My Rating: Full Price   Adrienne Website  Now playing on the HBO Max platform.

Indiefest: The Summit of the Gods (2021) PG   In 1924, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine attempted to climb Mount Everest and were never seen again. Seventy years later, Makoto, a young reporter, encounters a climber named Habu, who may have a camera that Mallory and Irvine used in their attempt to be the first to climb Everest. Now Makoto finds himself intertwined with Habu and goes on a quest to record Habu’s own attempt to climb the legendary mountain. Part mystery, part adventure film, The Summit of the Gods is an intriguing story about two men; one on a quest to find a camera that could prove Everest was prevailed over long before Sir Edmund Hillary did and another on a quest to conquer the demons of his past and fulfill his dreams. This film is sure to not only make my list of one of the best-animated films of the year but also one of the best narrative films too. Based on a Manga series, the film follows Makoto, who at first is just about finding the camera, until he finds out more and more about the legendary climber behind the lost camera, whose story is far more interesting and intriguing. The animation perfectly captures the world of high-risk mountain climbing and the people that inhabit that world. The Summit of the Gods is a truly magical tale about what drives men to climb the impossible, even when the odds are stacked against them.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    The Summit of the Gods Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: The End of Us (2021)  Leah (Ali Vingiano), and Nick (Ben Coleman) have just had a nasty breakup, but just as they are about to separate, California issues its stay-at-home order for COVID-19, and the two exes must live together. They think it will be just a couple of weeks, but those weeks turn into months, and the two ex-lovers soon learn that it’s hard to move on without moving out. This is another Indie film made during the pandemic about the pandemic. What saves this film from some of the other pandemic relationship films is the chemistry that the two leads have. Ali Vigiano and Ben Coleman are brilliant in their performance as two lovers at the end of their relationship, tired of each other and the drama they create. Then, just as the two realize their relationship is done, they encounter a nightmare that they can't wake up from; they are stuck with each other with no escape. The film is filled with fun moments that anyone who has tired of a relationship can relate to, as the two continue to get on each other’s nerves and question what they saw in each other. It helps that the two characters are very different, with Nick as the needy, annoying actor who talks a big game about a script he may never write and Leah, who has a steady job and is the more sensible of the two, that is until she begins exploring life outside of her relationship with Nick. I loved the ending of this film, letting us see how this experience has led the two characters to find their own way out of this mess that COVID created. My Rating: Full Price    End of Us Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: The Unbelievable Truth (1989) R   Audry (Adrienne Shelly) is a young woman who is living an ordinary life in a small, ordinary town. She has a boyfriend who treats her well, and a father, though strict, is a loving and doting parent. Audry’s world changes when a strange man (Robert Burke) dressed in black comes to town and starts working in Audry’s father's repair shop. Audry soon becomes enamored with the mysterious man, but soon his past will catch up to him and change how people see him. Adrienne Shelly is the reason to see this film as she gives an unbelievable performance of a young woman who wants more than what her small town can offer her. There is also a great sense of humor that simmers under the plot that filmmaker Hal Hartley lets come to the surface at unexpected times. The Unbelievable Truth is a film filled with interesting characters that make this a film to savor.   My Rating: Full Price    The Unbelievable Truth Info


Weird Credits: From the credits of Flee: Orchestrator


Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: American Underdog (2021)  PG  The story of Kurt Warner (Zachary Levi), a man who had a dream of playing in the NFL and went from stocking shelves of a supermarket to becoming an NFL quarterback who won a Super Bowl and a member of the Hall of Fame. The cast includes Anna Paquin, Dennis Quaid, Adam Baldwin, and Bruce McGill. Baldwin and Levi starred in the wonderful TV series Chuck about another unlikely hero.    American Underdog Website

Until Next Time!




Friday, November 26, 2021

Encanto

Familyfaire:  Encanto  (2021)  PG  Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz) is a young girl who has a problem. Mirabel lives in a town, called Encanto hidden in the mountains of Colombia. She belongs to a family named the Madrigals, where everyone has magical powers except her. Mirabel learns that the magic that surrounds Encanto is in danger, and it’s up to her, the only ordinary Madrigal, to save the town and its magic. Encanto is a charming and rousing musical with beautiful songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and the animation is vibrant and captures the beauty of Colombia. This isn’t your typical Disney animated film because there isn’t a villain to root against. Instead, Mirabel is an outsider in her family, the only one who doesn’t have the ability to do magic, and that feeling of loneliness and not living up to your family’s standards is Mirabel’s own villain, the one that she has to overcome to save her family. Stephanie Beatriz gives a mesmerizing performance that provides us with the joy of being a part of a family she loves and is proud of, but at the same time, someone who longs to live up to her family's high expectations. Beatriz gives Mirabel a character that we can all relate to and root for. I applaud Disney for their continuing to expand the ‘princess’ line of characters, giving us a look and feel of a different country, with heroes from other cultures and other parts of the world. Encanto is a film that is truly magical.  My Rating: Full Price    Encanto Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide. 

My View:  House of Gucci (2021) R  Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) has fought her whole life to get ahead in life. As an outsider from humble beginnings, Patrizia marries into the Gucci family, and her drive and ambition begins to unravel their legacy and starts a downward spiral into betrayal, decadence, revenge, and finally…murder. This is a bizarre story that makes for a strange and almost campy movie. Lady Gaga is a force of nature on the screen, playing the brash, bold, and at times, fearless Patrizia, who finds by luck, her way into the life of the rich by latching on to one of the heirs of the Gucci kingdom, Maurizio (Adam Driver). Driver is brilliant as the man who at first didn’t want to be part of the glamorous life of being a Gucci but, through Patrizia’s drive and a taste of money and power, decides to go into the family business. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the off-the-wall, bizarre performance of Jared Leto as the idiot Paolo Gucci, who bumbles his way through life, thinking he is destined for greatness but is met with defeat after defeat. Leto is almost unrecognizable as the balding, paunchy Paolo, who talks and acts as if everything is a big production. It’s a strange performance that is at times brilliant and other times annoying, as Leto goes way over the top with his portrayal. Overall, House of Gucci an interesting movie that doesn’t quite know if it’s a melodrama or a play on mafia films, but it’s worth checking out for the performances. You have to see Leto' Paolo. It’s worth the price of admission.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    House of Gucci Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide. 

My View:  Bruised  (2020)  Jackie Justice (Halle Berry) used to be somebody, a mixed martial arts fighter who left the sport in disgrace. Now scrubbing toilets for a living, she has a son (Danny Boyd, Jr.), who she gave up as an infant, show up unexpectedly at her door. Jackie gets discovered by a fight league promoter (Shamier Anderson) after Jackie fights in a brutal, illegal underground fight and is given the chance to fight back in the octagon. This isn’t a second chance for Jackie; it’s her last chance. First, let me say that I admire Halle Berry for starring in and directing a film that had to be challenging both mentally and physically on her. I can’t imagine how hard it was to direct a movie that you are starring in and then have the role so physically demanding. That being said, the film is filled with too many cliches of sports films of the past. The washed-up fighter who gets a second chance. The woman who learns to stand up for herself in an abusive relationship. The mother who abandoned her child and then is forced to become the mother that child needs. And add to all that, finding love in an unexpected place. It just feels like the scriptwriter took everything in a bowl and mixed it up. Berry gives a powerful performance, as you feel the weight of her past bring her down time and time again, but Berry can’t overcome a script that is too predictable to make it tug on the heartstrings like we want it to.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Bruised Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest:  Cusp  (2021)  Documentary about three teenage girls, Brittney, Aaloni, and Autumn, growing up in a Texas military town, dealing with the trials and tribulations of growing up under the constraints of being a teenager clashing with wanting to find out who they are. This is a gritty, painful, and sometimes sweet film about growing up as teenage women in a world that forces them to become adults far too soon. All three girls are 16, which in Texas is not the legal age of consent, but all three are sexually active and are dealing with boys as old as 21. The film deals with the harsh reality that these young women, who are all military brats, have had to do a lot of growing up quickly, and without much guidance from their parents, some are gone for vast parts of time serving our country. The subject matters that the girls discuss are graphic and sometimes shocking, including the discussion of how a friend of theirs was raped by her boyfriend. The women are incredibly open and frank on camera, getting into subjects that most of us would have difficulty even talking to a therapist about, including sexual assault. It's a depressing film about three young women who are seen not as people but as sexual conquests, and these young girls will be suffering from these experiences for a long time. After seeing this film, I felt like I spent time with these girls, but I never got to know them, as if they were performing for the cameras. It’s like the camera was another person that they had to put on a show for. I don’t know if that’s just the way they are, or it's the fault of the filmmakers, but it left me wanting more from these women who have dealt with so much in such a young life.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Cusp Website  Now available on the Showtime Network.

Indiefest:  The Beatles: Get Back Part I  (2021)  The Beatles were the world’s greatest rock band, but they hadn’t performed live in two years, and in January 1969, they faced a nearly impossible deadline and created two of their greatest albums (Abby Road, Let It Be) and did their last live performance on a rooftop on London’s Savile Row. This is a review of only part one of this three-part documentary series because I didn’t have enough time to view all three components (each piece is over two and half hours long). Being a huge Beatles fan, at first, I loved this film because we get to see the guys in an element we have never seen before, in a rehearsal studio. In fact, the first film takes place not in a studio but on a sound stage that could possibly be used to film their live concert performance (we know it isn’t because of the famous rooftop concert that this rehearsal spawns). It is thrilling to see this legendary group work on songs that we all know so well. We even get to see them writing songs, exploring how they should sound, and changing lyrics. But, and this is a big one, it is just too much. Too much footage. Too much content. Just too much. Like a history book that gives you too many facts, the film becomes a bit tedious at times, because it is too much detail, we see so many songs being tried out (a lot are songs that haven’t been heard before because they are from the early days of the Lennon/McCartney writing team. The film breaks down part one into each day, as a deadline for the concert is looming over the band. The film is fascinating, as we get to see one of the greatest bands of all time figure out and practice songs. And yes, there is a lot of tension in the room. The band sorely missed their manager, Brian Epstein, who has died a few years earlier, and we see how McCartney tries to take a leadership role in the band, that doesn’t always work. There is also the ever-presence of Yoko Ono, who is ever present by John Lennon’s side, though to be fair, George Harrison has a couple of Hare Krishna guys sitting over in the corner for a couple of days of the rehearsal. Overall, this first part is too long, giving us so much that I think only a diehard Beatle fan will enjoy it all the way through. I really want to see the outdoor concert (of which I have only seen a song or two from), but I don’t know if I want to watch five more hours of the band practicing to get there.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Beatles: Get Back Website   All three parts are being released this holiday weekend starting Thanksgiving night on the Disney+ platform.

Forgotten Film: Heights (2005) R The story of five characters whose lives intersect on one day in NYC, all having to choose what kind of lives they will want to lead before the sun comes up on another day. The main story is the love affair that begins between Isabel (Elizabeth Banks), a woman who is engaged with another man, and Alec (Jesse Bradford) and an actor she meets by chance. The reason to see this film is another outstanding performance by Glen Close, who plays Isabel’s mother, Diana. Diana is an actress in rehearsals for Macbeth and finds out her husband is having another affair. Diana is afraid that Isabel is going to go down the same rocky road Diana traveled and wants Isabel to make the choices that are right for her. The film gets a little lost in all the characters but ties them together nicely in the end.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Heights Info   

Weird Credits: From the credits of Encanto: Animation Reference Dancers

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Cyrano (2021) PG-13   The telling of the classic tale of Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage), who helps Christian (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) woo Roxanne (Haley Bennett), even though Cyrano himself is in love with her. I can’t wait to see Peter Dinklage portray one of my favorite characters of all time, the brilliant swordsman and wordsmith Cyrano.     Cyrano Website

Until Next Time!




Friday, November 19, 2021

King Richard

My View:  King Richard  (2021)  PG-13   From a very early age, Richard Williams (Will Smith) thought his daughters Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) could be the best tennis players of their generation. Against the odds and due to the strong belief in their father, they became superstars. At the center of this film is a story not about how to raise two young women to be great tennis players, but how to raise them to be kind, generous, wonderful people who believe in themselves. Will Smith gives what may be an Oscar-winning performance as a man driven to keep his family alive and healthy in challenging circumstances. Williams knows he is hard on his family, but he is determined that his daughters succeed not just on the court but in school and in life. It’s a magical performance by Smith, giving us a man that we don’t always like or understand; still, we respect his utter devotion to his family, willing to do just about anything to keep his daughters normal, well-rounded and humble. It’s a remarkable story about a man with a dream and two daughters who exceeded that dream. And by the way, you just might sing along with Kenny Rodgers during a road trip with King Richard and his family like the audience I saw the film with did.    My Rating: Full Price   King Richard Website  The film is now playing in theatres nationwide and available on the HBO Max platform.

My View:  The Power of the Dog  (2021)  R  The ranch has always been a team effort between the hard-living Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his brother George (Jesse Plemons). Everything changes when Phil marries a widow, Rose (Kirsten Dunst), and brings Rose and her teenage son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), to live on the ranch. Life will never be the same on the ranch as Phil is determined to run both mother and son off his ranch, his domain. Please see this film in the theatre as the cinematography of this film is some of the finest I have seen in the last ten years and deserves to be seen on as big a screen as you can find. I can’t find the words to express just how beautiful and, at the same time, how savage the scenery in this film is. This is a harsh world that these people live in, both in the weather conditions and how others treat each person in this world. Right from the start, there is an underlying tension between the two brothers, which only gets worse when George brings his wife home, a person that Phil sees as an invader into their home and a disrupter of Phil’s very set way of life. There are some great performances in this film. Dunst is the most reserved I have ever seen her on the screen, portraying a woman who feels she doesn’t belong in this way of life and resorts to drinking to escape from it. Cumberbatch is fun to watch as the gruff and set in his ways cowboy, who delights in tormenting Rose and pointing out to his brother how she just doesn’t fit in. Kodi Smit-McPhee is given the challenging role of the young man who doesn’t conform to the cowboy way of life, knowing he is different and doesn’t care who knows it. I felt the performance that made this film was the role of George, played with aplomb by Jessie Plemons. It's a performance filled with small, subtle tells into the mind and feelings for George, who loves his wife, but doesn’t quite know how to tell her his feelings, not quite understanding who she is or what makes her tick. The Power of the Dog is a film that will stick with you long after you see it, wondering what happens to these characters after the film stops.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    The Power of the Dog Website  The film is now playing in select theatres and will be on the Netflix platform on Dec. 1st.

My View:   tick, tick…Boom!  (2021)  PG-13   Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield) works at a diner but has been trying for eight years to bring a musical that he has written for the stage, worried that he has made the wrong career choice. As he is about to turn thirty, Jonathan navigates love, friendship, and the pressure of life in the big city of NYC as he dreams of bringing his life work to life. Oh my gosh, are fans of RENT going to eat this up! It’s a beautiful musical, full of great songs, some rousing musical numbers, and a winning performance by Andrew Garfield. Garfield brings all the energy and spunk that Jonathan needs to show his passion for writing and singing. Garfield’s enthusiasm is infectious, and you root for Jonathan to succeed right from the start. The film is a celebration of a songwriter who loved life and loved making music. Now, this isn’t a film about the writing of RENT; it’s about Larson’s life before he came up with the idea of that ground-breaking musical. But the film shows us the springing forth of ideas that eventually became that musical. Larson is struggling, both in his writing life and in his personal life. He works as a waiter at a diner, writing songs on the fly, as his light bill is overdue and his friends are quickly dying from the AIDS crisis. All of this became fodder for the writing of RENT, but before that, he had to write this musical, and we are glad that he did. The musical numbers are fun and sometimes moving. The supporting cast is terrific, with Alexandra Shipp playing Johnathan’s girlfriend and Vanessa Hudgens as a friend who helps perform Jonathan’s work, standing out. tick, tick...Boom! is a loving tribute to a talented writer who left us way too early.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   tick, tick...Boom! Website  Now playing in select theaters and on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Julia  (2021)  PG-13  Documentary on the life of Julia Child, the first true cooking star who wrote a cookbook about French cooking when America was all about frozen food and quick meals from cans. Julia became a TV superstar who delighted the world with her unique style and taught that everyone can become a cook. I always was a fan of Julia Child as she brought her knowledge and enthusiasm for cooking to us through the magic of TV. I hope that this film will create a new batch of fans of the woman, who was larger than life and kept working into her 90s. Julia was the first big celebrity cook and changed how Americans viewed both French cooking and home-cooked meals made from scratch. She taught so many people, including me, how to cook in a kitchen and how to not only overcome mistakes in the kitchen but celebrate them. Julia is a beautiful look a strong, passionate woman who wanted the world to not only learn how to cook but to cook fearlessly, just like Julia lived her life.    My Rating: Full Price   Julia Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Indiefest: India Sweets and Spices (2021)  PG-13  When college freshman Alia (Sophia Ali) comes home from college to her family’s posh New Jersey home, she discovers that she has become tired of the lavish dinner parties and the gossiping that her family is known for. When she falls for a store owner’s son, she discovers that her parents (Manisha Koirala, Adil Hussain) are hiding secrets from their past. First, let me say that Sophia Ali is utterly charming as the bold and brash Alia, a young woman bristling under the strict life that her parents live for. Ali is fun to watch as she brings her character to life, a young woman determined to live life on her terms and not her parents, until she discovers that her mother has much more in common with Alia, hiding a past that has long been swept under the rug. The film is helped by the brilliant actors portraying Alia’s parents, Manisha Koirala and Adil Hussain, who give us characters going on behind their posh, polished facades. The film has a lot to say about a class system, gossip, and how our past can always catch us with us. Still, it’s Sophia Ali that makes this film work with a performance filled with energy and charisma.   My Rating: Full Price   India Sweets and Spices Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: The Pebble and the Boy  (2021)   John (Patrick Nacnamee) learns that his father, who he barely knew, has died. He decides to take a trip on his father’s scooter, a prized Lambretta, bringing along his father’s ashes to scatter them in Brighton. With his new-found friend, Nicki (Sacha Parkinson), John discovers much about his father and his love for the ‘Mod’ scene. This is an enjoyable coming-of-age film about a young man who learns that there was much more to his dad than just riding around on a scooter and listening to certain bands. The film is greatly helped by Sacha Parkinson, who is a bundle of energy on the screen, as Nicki brings life into John’s world, whether he wants it or not. The film is predictable, and we see the ending coming from a mile away, but still, the two leads are fun to watch together, and the soundtrack is a blast to listen to. So climb aboard and head on down the road with John, Nicki and encounter a few characters along the way to discover that the world you thought you knew was a bit more complicated than you thought it was.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Pebble and the Boy Info  Now available on Digital and On Demand.

Indiefest: Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time (2021)  Documentary on the life of author Kurt Vonnegut, the award-winning writer of books Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle and his friendship with filmmaker Robert B. Weide, who documented that friendship over 25 years. My dad always told me to be careful about how much you learn about your heroes, as they might disappoint you. Kurt Vonnegut is one of those writers that I fell in love with when I was a teenager, exploring the world of science fiction, looking for more than just stories about spacemen on Mars. Vonnegut wrote in a style that was both funny and depressing, about subjects that often were horrific, like Slaughterhouse-Five, with the Dresden fire bombings. This documentary is a Vonnegut fan's dream, as filmmaker Robert B. Weide, due to his friendship with Vonnegut, was given access to both pictures and home movies of Vonnegut that provides us with a great insight into his childhood and younger years. We also get to see interviews that Vonnegut made with Weide over the years, along with interviews with Vonnegut's brother, Kurts adopted children, and his own daughters from his marriage with his first wife. Vonnegut was a troubled soul. Slaughterhouse-Five was based partly on his own experience as a POW during WWII, and he witnessed firsthand the destruction of the city of Dresden and he was forever haunted by what he saw. A writer who struggled to make a living until his great success with the Slaughterhouse book, Vonnegut then abandoned his family to move in with a younger woman and seemed to love and crave the spotlight the book gave him. My only problem with this film is Weide has a tendency to turn the camera on himself, often giving us information or stories that didn’t have much to do with Vonnegut. That being said, I still enjoyed spending time with a hero of mine, even if, as I had always suspected, was a deeply flawed man. That’s ok, I still have all those books and the worlds he created to escape into.    My Rating: Full Price    Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time Website  Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.

Indiefest:  Zeros and Ones  (2021)  R    JJ (Ethan Hawke) is an American soldier in Rome who discovers that his twin brother is caught up in a plot to blow up the Vatican. JJ must try to stop the bombing, even if his brother is involved. I could watch this film five more times and still not know what the heck it is about. A film that was shot at the height of the pandemic in Europe, it's a film that fills its short 86 minutes with a lot of shots of scenery or closeups of Ethan Hawke doing nothing much other than scowling into the camera. I would love to be able to tell you what the plot is, but it’s a huge mystery to me and maybe the filmmakers themselves. I guess the Vatican isn’t blown up, or perhaps it is. I just have no clue and don’t want to try to figure it out. My Rating: Cable    Zeros and Ones Website   Now available on Digital and On Demand.

My View:  The Curse of Von Dutch: A Brand to Die For  (2021)   Documentary about the rise and fall of Von Dutch, a fashion brand of the 2000s that was a favorite of celebrities like Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Justin Timberlake. A brand that was founded and run on sex, drugs, and possibly murder. This three-part documentary is a fascinating look at how fashion brands can quickly catch fire and burn out just as quickly. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that no one can agree on who actually came up with the brand, much less agree on what happened to bring the brand crashing down. The film is filled with characters that if you wrote a fictional script about this, you wouldn’t believe it. There are drug dealers, meth heads, murderers, con-men, gang members, and celebrities who fill out the people involved in the Von Dutch brand. About every ten minutes, someone is interviewed that goes, ‘Oh, wait, maybe I shouldn't say that because it was illegal.’ I remember, at the time, seeing some celebrity wearing a Von Dutch ‘trucker hat’ on some red carpet and wondering what the heck is Von Dutch. After watching this documentary, I still don’t have a clue what Von Dutch was, but I sure had fun watching a film about a bizarre cast of characters that were right out of a Tarantino film that betrayed each other at a staggering speed, destroying a million-dollar fashion brand, and maybe killing a few people on the way.   My Rating: Full Price   The Curse of Von Dutch Website  Now available on the Hulu platform. 

Indiefest: The Feast  (2021)  A young woman, Cadi (Annes Elwy), is hired to serve a group of wealthy guests at a dinner party in a remote house in rural Wales. The assembled guests have no clue that they are about to eat their last meal. This strange and utterly captivating film slowly becomes a horror film but takes its time building up the suspense. Right from the start, you know something is up with Cadi, as she barely talks and is constantly going off on her own to explore the house and the surrounding farmland. Add to the building creepiness, the film was shot using only the Welsh language, which has always struck me as such a weird-sounding language when spoken. To say the family that Cadi will be serving has problems would be an understatement, as both sons are acting up and just give off vibes of troubled souls. I love how as the film moves along, Cadi becomes more and more attractive as she becomes bolder and more powerful in her actions. I will warn you that the film gets pretty graphic in its final act and is quite disturbing in parts, but I loved the ending and the reasoning behind it. Just remember not to have a dinner party right before or after seeing this film.   My Rating: Full Price   The Feast Website   Now playing in select theatres. 
My View:
Ghostbusters: Afterlife   (2021) PG-13   A single mom (Carrie Coon) and her two children (Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard) are forced to leave their home behind and move to a decayed farmhouse in Oklahoma, left to them by the children’s late grandfather. Strange things start happening in the town, including a series of earthquakes even though they don’t live anywhere near a fault line. Soon the kids will learn that their grandfather left behind a legacy of fighting and capturing ghosts. It’s hard to capture the magic again from a film over 35 years old, and unfortunately, this film misses the mark. It’s not a bad film but feels like a rip-off of the original and not a sequel, as there isn’t much original about this film. The film takes a long time to set everything up, and while the initial romp with a ghost that the kids chase riding the old Ghostbusters ambulance is fun, the film feels more and more like a retread of the first film. Something we have seen and done before, without much of the fun of the original. And by the way, Paul Rudd isn’t Bill Murray, no matter how hard he tries to be like him. Yes, there is a bonus scene at the end of the first credits at the end, but even it doesn't have that magic.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Ghostbusters: Afterlife Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Forgotten Film:  My Life (1993) PG-13   Bob Jones (Michael Keaton) is living a good life; he has a great job and a wonderful wife (Nicole Kidman) with a baby on the way. That all comes crashing down when he finds he has terminal cancer with four months to live. Bob goes on a journey of self-discovery and mending fences when he decides to start recording talks for his baby, who will grow up without a father. Michael Keaton is brilliant in this film, giving us a clue that he could do more than just comedy and Batman films. The film gets a little too sentimental, and the scenes where Kidman gives birth to their child isn’t great cinema, but overall the film has heart and excellent performances. Speaking of, I wish the film had given more to Queen Latifah, who comes into the final third of the film as Bob’s hospice nurse and brings a bit of fresh air to the movie in a role that needed to be better showcased. My guess is the filmmakers didn’t know that Queen Latifah could bring that much to her role.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   My Life Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of tick, tick…Boom!: Health and Safety Logistics Production Assistant

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) R   A Scottish lord (Denzel Washington) is convinced that he will be King after being visited by a trio of witches. His ambitious wife (Frances McDormand) eggs him on, and Macbeth’s act of seizing power will lead to madness and death. Shakespeare directed by Joel Coen and a cast that includes Brendan Gleeson, Alex Hassell, Moses Ingram, Matt Helm, Stephen Root, and Harry Melling, makes this a film not to be missed.      The Tragedy of Macbeth Website

Until Next Time!





Friday, November 12, 2021

Clifford The Big Red Dog

Familyfaire:  Clifford The Big Red Dog  (2021) PG   Emily (Darby Camp) is having trouble fitting in a school and at home until she brings a puppy home that she names Clifford to her family’s New York City apartment. Overnight Clifford becomes giant-sized and is wanted by a genetics company run by an evil scientist (Tony Hale). Now it's up to Emily and her uncle (Jack Whitehall), along with friends they have met along the way, to save Clifford from a life in a lab. If you can get over the fact that Clifford, right from the start, looks exactly what he is, a CGI dog, then this family film works, just don’t expect much more. I am not sure that kids will fall in love with Clifford, as the dog looks a little too unrealistic to make him as lovable as he needs to be. The storyline is pretty simple, and Darby Camp is cute and energetic in the role of Clifford’s best friend. I found that Jack Whitehall’s character is a bit annoying as Emily’s deadbeat uncle, as Whitehall tends to mug continually for the camera. Tony Hale is fun as the evil corporate executive who wants Clifford for research, and John Cleese, as the mysterious man who gives Clifford to Emily, is fun in a small part in the film. Clifford The Big Red Dog isn’t a bad film, and kids will enjoy seeing one of their favorite books come to life on the big screen. I just wish Clifford wasn’t so weird-looking.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Clifford The Big Red Dog Website   The film is playing in theatres nationwide and on the Paramount+ platform.  

My View:  Belfast   (2021) PG-13    Buddy (Jude Hill) is a kid growing up in Belfast in the 1960s. He has a loving family and a school that he adores. All that starts falling apart when unrest hits Northern Ireland, pitting neighbors against each other in what becomes an all-out war for control of the area. Buddy’s father (Jamie Dornan) decides that his family is in danger and wants to move his family to Australia, but Buddy’s mother (Caitriona Balfe) wants to stay where her family has roots. It’s funny, but when I first saw this film, I was a bit under-whelmed, but the more I think about this film and how it has stayed with me, the more I love it. It’s a beautiful film, both in storyline and in its outstanding B&W cinematography. Do yourself a favor and see this gorgeous film on the big screen and let it just envelop you. This is a personal love story of writer/director Kenneth Branagh to his town and his parents, as he tells the story of Buddy, whose family is dealing with not only his father continually out of town because of work, but with the horrible times that Northern Ireland dealt with in the late 60s/early 70s due to political unrest. I loved that the family stays together in the good times and the bad, as we see Buddy’s mother dealing alone with not only a young boy who has a tendency to get into a bit of trouble but also dealing with the fact that it’s not safe for her family to live in the neighborhood that she loves and has spent her life in. Jude Hill is brilliant as the kid who is sensitive enough to know that his family is in trouble and wants to help. Belfast is a beautiful and moving film about love, hope, and how that love can help a family survive any obstacle put in their way, as long as they stay strong together. There are great performances from the cast, but I was impressed by Jamie Doman’s performance of a man who loves his wife and family and is willing to take a chance to take his family out of danger, even if it means abandoning the life that they love.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Belfast Website  Now playing in select theatres.

My View:  Red Notice  (2021) Pg-13   Nolan (Ryan Reynolds) used to be the number-one most-wanted art thief, but he has been supplanted by The Bishop (Gal Gadot), a new and mysterious mastermind thief. Nolan teams up with FBI agent John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) to capture The Bishop to put Nolan back on top of the Red Notice, a list by Interpol of the most-wanted criminals in the world. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this romp of a film. Reportedly the most expensive film that Netflix has made, the film is a blast to watch with Ryan Reynolds stealing the movie from Johnson and Gadot. The movie is filled with lots of cool break-ins and escapes, Reynold cracking jokes right and left (mainly at the expense of Johnson’s straight-laced FBI agent persona), and Gadot gets to kick some butt. There are a few nice twists to the plot, and though a little long, the film moves at a quick pace. Red Notice isn’t a great film, but it's fun, with plenty of star power to go around, making it fun to go on a few adventures with the trio, as they try out do each other on the screen.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Red Notice Website  Now playing in select theatres and on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Mayor Pete   (2021) R   Documentary that follows the campaign of Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who went from a small-town mayor to a Presidential candidate. Pete Buttigieg is a vet who would be the youngest President ever if elected; the documentary gives us an unprecedented look at the candidate, his husband Chasten, and their election team as Pete travels across the country. Documentaries are often about people that have flaws or are brought down by events of their own undoing, making them compelling viewing. Mayor Pete doesn’t have that because its subject matter is a man who is good, honest, and well-spoken, who tries to do the right thing and follows through with actions and not just words. The film follows Pete through his rise in the crowded field (at one time, there were 20 candidates for the democratic side to take on President Trump), his brief lead of the field, and then his campaign, after early wins, go down in flames, not because of a misstep or a scandal, but just because it wasn’t his time. I came away from the film admiring Pete Buttigieg and what he believes in and the fact that he has a great husband who supported him with grace and humor throughout the year. But, like the candidate, the film fell a little flat, mainly because Pete is a nice guy who had trouble finding momentum to make him stand out from a field of more experienced candidates. My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Mayor Pete Website  Now playing in select theatres and on the Amazon Prime platform.

Familyfaire: Home Sweet Home Alone   (2021)   Ten-year-old Max Mercer (Archie Yates) is left behind at home when his family mistakenly leaves him behind due to a mix-up in tickets and flights to their trip to Tokyo. Max at first enjoys his time by himself in the house, but soon his bliss is interrupted by a married couple (Ellie Kemper, Rob Delaney) looking to steal a priceless heirloom in the Mercer household. Max now must defend his home, alone from these thieves, who have no idea what is in store for them. The first Home Alone was a good movie, written by the great John Hughes. That film had a cute kid in Macaulay Culkin who had a ton of charisma at its center, but what made the movie different was it had some secondary stories to it which gave the film heart; the old man that Kevin is afraid of but ultimately befriends and the journey that Kevin’s mom, played by the wonderful Catherine O’Hara, goes on to get back to her son who’s ‘Home Alone. Add to the film that the bad guys (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern) are truly bad guys, who are out to hurt Kevin, and it makes Home Alone work. Unfortunately, the latest version (can you believe this is the 6th film in the series?) has none of the first film's heart, and the ‘bad guys’ aren’t so bad after all. Archie Yates, who was so brilliant and funny as the sidekick in JoJo Rabbit, is wasted in this role and gives us an almost joyless performance in the role as the kid left behind. Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper’s characters have no malice towards Max; they just want to get back what is theirs and their continued attempt to get into the house becomes tiresome and pointless. And to the film is a lukewarm story of Max’s mother (Aisling Bea) trying to get back to her son, which makes it a movie that you will want to skip and watch the original instead. My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again    Home Sweet Home Alone Info  Now playing on the Disney+ platform.

Indiefest: Soulmate(s) (2021)   Samantha (Alexandra Case) and Jessamine (Stephanie Lynn) have been life-long best friends, growing up in a small town in Vermont. Their way of life is being threatened by a corporation trying to take over the local maple syrup industry, something that has been the town's pride and joy forever. Things get complicated when Mess’s new fiancé starts hogging all of Jess’s time, and what's worse, he works for that corporation. I have a feeling that this film is getting a lot of ‘Hallmark film’ talk in reviews about this movie. That’s not a bad thing because this is a predictable romantic comedy that checks off those ‘Hallmark’ plot points: two attractive leads, happy best friends whose life is turned upside down by a romantic interest by one of the two, the other feels left out and tries to break up the romance with success but with a cost, and yes, spoiler alert (not really), a happy ending. The film gives you what you expect, and because the scenery is pretty and the production is well done, Soulmate(s) doesn’t disappoint. Yeah, the plot is very predictable, and the ending is tied up in a pretty white bow, but that’s ok. My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Soulmate(s) Website  Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.

Forgotten Film: Waterland (1992)   Tom Crick (Jeremy Irons) is a high school teacher in 1972 Pittsburg. He is not doing well and senses that his class is bored with history, so he begins to tell his story of growing up in England during WWII and his romance with a woman that would change his life. This is an interesting film that moves back and forth between timelines, sometimes a bit blurred, as Tom tells a story filled with romance, intrigue, madness, and possibly murder. Irons is always an engaging actor to watch, reserved on the outside, but you know that there is something bubbling on the inside that just may escape to the surface at any moment. I love the young cast in this film, including Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. The film is a bit uneven, but the twists are worth waiting for.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Waterland Info


Weird Credits: From the credits of Clifford The Big Red Dog: Air to Ground Person


Coming Soon to a Screen Near You:  House of Gucci (2021) R   Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) has fought her whole life to get ahead in life. As an outsider from humble beginnings, Patrizia marries into the Gucci family, and her drive and ambition begins to unravel their legacy and starts a downward spiral into betrayal, decadence, revenge, and finally…murder. House of Gucci is sure to be a favorite at the Oscars next year with a cast that includes Jared Leto, Salma Hayek, Adam Driver, Jeremy Irons, and Al Pacino and directed by Ridley Scott.     House of Gucci Website

Until Next Time!




Friday, November 5, 2021

Spencer

My View:  Spencer  (2021) R  Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) is spending the Christmas holidays with the royal family at the famous Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England. Diana has decided to do the unthinkable, leave her marriage to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing). Go into this film with the idea that this isn’t necessarily the real story of Princess Di, that, as the first title card tells you, it’s a fairy tale. Kristen Stewart is brilliant in capturing the spirit and manner of Diana. It’s a mesmerizing performance that makes you believe that you are watching the sad and tragic tales of a young woman brought down by a monarchy and its strict ways of living life the Royal way. The best parts of the film are Princess Diana’s interactions with her children. There is a beautiful scene where Diana senses that her sons are not having the Christmas they wanted, and she plays a game where they pretend they are soldiers asking each other questions. It’s a moving scene that gives us insight into their relationship and just how damaging living in this ‘fairy tale’ world was. The film deals with Diana’s battles with bulimia, of now only how the Royal family handled it but also how her sons tried to help her deal with it. The film lost me a bit in the sequences where Diana goes off, in her mind into another reality, as I felt these scenes made the reality of what she was dealing with seem lesser. That being said, Spencer is worth seeing because of Kristen Stewart's portrayal of a woman living in a fishbowl filled with piranhas, giving us another reason to feel that she is one of the best actors of her generation.   My Rating: Full Price  Spencer Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide.  
My View:   
Eternals (2021) PG-13   An unexpected tragedy forces the Eternals, an ancient band of aliens who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years, to come out of the shadows to reunite against mankind’s greatest enemy, the Deviants. Growing up, comic book artist Jack Kirby was my favorite. While he worked on and created such Marvel staples as Fantastic Four and Thor, his more minor works were always my favorite. So I was excited to learn that not only would Marvel be turning one of his works into a movie, that Chloé Zhao, hot off her Academy Award for Nomadland, would be directing it. I have to say that I am disappointed with this film. It’s hard to introduce characters you know nothing about, but it took so long to meet and then understand their mission that I found the plot mind numbingly slow. I enjoyed the character Kingo, played by Kumail Najiani, who brings humor to the film (which is badly needed) as he poses on Earth as a Bollywood film star. The film seems to waste the stars in heroes that are quite boring and un-charismatic. Yeah, Angelina is pretty badass and does some butt-kicking, but Salma Hayek is wasted in the role of Ajak. In fact, I have no clue what her superpower is. Maybe great hugs? Telling other superheroes ‘It’s Time’? The film also never gives us a reason why no other Marvel heroes, like Doctor Strange or Spiderman, don’t show up to help save humanity. I mean, isn’t that their job, or maybe they are all tired from saving the world from Thanos? The finale seems too easy and the plot holes too big to ignore for this to be a film that you will enjoy from start to end. Be sure though, to stay through both the first credits and the final credits to see bonus scenes that promise us more of the Eternals and a few extra characters.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Eternals Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.  

My View:  Finch  (2021)  PG-13   In a devastated world full of sandstorms, incredible heat, and no water, Finch (Tom Hanks) decides he has to move on because of a coming storm. Finch will now take his new family, a dog and a talking robot, on an adventure in a dangerous and ravaged world. What more do you want in a film than Tom Hanks, a lovable, clumsy talking robot and a dog? OK, maybe a better thought-out plot which asks you to believe a lot in the magic of creating a robot who can think for itself would have helped. Still, you have the likability of Hanks and a dog who will melt your heart. The film doesn’t always touch the heartstrings like it wants to, but you will still need a tissue or two. The film is Tom Hanks show, and he is as good as you expect him to be, I just wish the film didn’t go down the easy road that it does, making the film feel predictable and often question its science (bad for a movie about a guy whose life is science). Still, I enjoyed Finch, Tom Hanks and a very ‘good dog’ named Goodyear.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Finch Website  Now playing on the Apple TV+ platform.

Indiefest: The Souvenir: Part II (2021) R   Still reeling from the death of her lover, Anthony (Tom Burke), Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) is trying to make her final movie for film school. She goes on a mission to understand the relationship with Anthony, a man who was a troubled soul. Julie must sort through the facts and sort the truth from the fiction of Anthony’s life. The Souvenir Part II is a film that helps if you have seen part one since it takes place immediately after filmmaker Joanna Hogg’s first film, The Souvenir. In that film, a young filmmaker, Julie, falls for an older man who becomes the love of her life, only to be dragged into his world of drugs and misery. This film is a bit lighter, with Julie trying to figure out what was real in the life of Anthony, all the while dealing with the pressure of making her final film project. Like the first film, this is Honor Swinton Byrne’s film, and she once again gives a performance that is a breathtaking journey through dealing with a life-altering event and coming through the other side. I enjoyed this film more than the first one because I loved Julie more in this film, as she becomes a person the blooms, no longer dependent on Anthony or her mother (played by the actress's real mother Tilda Swinton) for her reason for living. Swinton Byrne gives us a Julie that learns to grow and use her heartbreak to realize her dreams.   My Rating: Full Price   The Souvenir Part II Website  Now playing in select theatres.

My View: The Harder They Fall (2021)  R   When outlaw Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) finds out that his mortal enemy Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) has been broken out of a jail transport by Trudy Smith (Regina King), Nat rounds up his gang to track Rufus down and seek revenge for a killing that Rufus did long ago. I am a huge western film fan, and this film has created a world that didn’t exist, but we are glad that filmmaker Jeymes Samuel has built it for us. I mean, come on, a cast with Jonathan Majors as the hero and Idris Elba and Regina King as the bad guys makes for one exciting film. With a movie that has bits from classic films such as Once Upon a Time in the West and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, this film has put its own brand on the west in a world that looks at the Black cowboys of the past, some of which are based on real characters, that have never had the spotlight until now. Added to the star power of the film, the supporting cast is equally impressive. With outstanding performances by Zazie Beetz, as a saloon owner who has a past with Nat, her female bouncer who can best any man in a fight (Danielle Deadwyler), and the lawman Bass Reeves (Delroy Lindo), a man who is determined to bring Nat in but is more determined to see justice done. The Harder They Fall has some nice twists to it, some great gunfights, including a spectacular shootout at the end, and a cast that makes this western a movie to love, even for filmgoers that don’t like westerns.   My Rating: Full Price   The Harder They Fall Website  Now playing in select theatres and on the Netflix platform.

My View: Love Hard  (2021)   Natalie (Nina Dobrev) is an L.A. woman who has finally found her man online after a series of horrible dates. She travels to the East Coast to surprise him for the holidays only to discover that she has been catfished by Josh (Jimmy O. Yang). To make it up to Natalie, Josh tells her he can set it up to meet the man whom Josh used to Catfish her, a hunky guy named Tag (Darren Barnet), who Josh knows. You know precisely what you are getting before you even start watching this film, and that’s ok because it’s that time of the year for Christmas romance films. What you hope for in a movie like this is a fun plot and a winning cast. I really enjoyed the chemistry between Nina Dobrev and Jimmy O. Yang, making the film work. The two are cute together, and the scenes between the two are fun to watch. Is the storyline predictable and a bit obvious that Natalie isn’t meant for Tag? You bet, but isn’t that what you want in this type of film? I mean, it's a Christmas movie. And by the way, there is a friendly debate running throughout the film about a few certain movies and whether they are or are not Christmas films.  My friends know that I agree with Natalie.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Love Hard Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest:   The Beta Test  (2021) R   Jordan (Jim Cummings) has it all, about to be married to a beautiful woman and a great job as a Hollywood agent. His world changes when he gets a mysterious invitation to have a sexual encounter in a hotel room with a person who he won’t be able to see due to a blindfold. Jordan decides to take up the offer, and his life becomes one big mess of lying, intrigue, and possible murder. Jim Cummings is a filmmaker that always makes interesting films; sometimes they work, sometimes they fail, but they are always interesting (Thunder Road, The Wolf of Snow Hollow). This is a satire about the industry of being an agent in Hollywood combined with a mystery about who or what is behind those compelling invitations. The Beta Test is a film that is more about a trip into madness by a man who, right from the start, has a few screws loose. A man who will just about do anything to get a client and is also willing to cheat on his fiancé with a stranger, set up by an unknown person. I liked this film because of Cummings performance of a man, who is so high strung, he becomes undone by his inner turmoil, as he becomes obsessed with finding out not only who the woman was that he met in that hotel room but who was behind the meeting. We see him destroy not only his life with his soon-to-be wife but his job, which probably, in the end, means more to him, as his lies, which used to work so well, become a poison.   My Rating: Full Price   The Beta Test Website  Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.

Forgotten Film:   My New Gun (1992) R   This is a quirky little romantic comedy (sort of) about a married couple, Debbie and Gerald (Diane Lane, Stephen Collins), in the suburbs where nothing ever happens. Then, Gerald gets a gun for Debbie to keep around for protection. She doesn’t want the gun and starts to have nightmares about it. She lets her mysterious neighbor Skippy (James Legros) borrow the weapon on a whim, and things get messy after that. My New Gun is a fun and strange little film that, once over, you just might want to know more about these characters. The film is helped by a winning performance by James Legros and a supporting cast that includes Tess Harper (Tender Mercies) and a very early role for Philip Seymour Hoffman.   My Rating: Full Price    The New Gun Info


Weird Credits: From the credits of Spencer: Royal Protocol Advisor


Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Licorice Pizza (2021)  R  Set in 1973, the film tells the story of Gary and Alana (Cooper Hoffman, Alana Haim), who fall in and out of love as their careers begin to take off in the strange and weird world of Hollywood. Ok, any movie that sets its trailer to the music of David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’ has my attention. Then you see that Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, Inherent Vice) is the writer/director of the film and includes a cast of Bradley Cooper, Sean Penn, John C. Reilly, and Maya Rudolph, and you say ‘yes, I want to see that.’ Add all that to the fact that Cooper Hoffman is the son of the legendary actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Alana Haim is one of the members of the rock group Haim, for whom Paul Thomas Anderson has directed nine music videos for. Adding to all this fun is that even the studio didn’t quite know what the movie was about until about a year ago.     Licorice Pizza Website

Until Next Time!