Friday, May 17, 2024

IF

My View:  IF  (2024)  PG  Bea (Cailey Fleming) has gone through some tough times but has discovered a secret power: She can see everyone’s imaginary friends. With help from Cal (Ryan Reynolds), Bea embarks on a magical journey to reconnect forgotten ‘IFs’ with their long-lost kids. I was excited for this film. John Krasinski has given us a funny family film in The Hollars (2016), a great horror film in A Quiet Place (2018), and a good, if not quite great, follow-up film in A Quiet Place Part II (2020). So I had high hopes for this film, especially hearing that he had lined up a stellar voice cast for the Imaginary Friends, including Steve Carell, Louis Gossett Jr., Phoebe Waller-Bridge, George Clooney, Awkwafina, Bradley Cooper, Matt Damon, and more. Unfortunately, a stellar cast can’t overcome a script that doesn’t know who its audience is and a cast of animated characters that no kid in his right mind would have as an imaginary friend. IF is a film that young kids will be bored with, and the only IF character they will enjoy is Blue, a giant fuzzy purple muppet-like monster voiced by Steve Carell. Pre-teen girls may enjoy this film since the main character is Bea (played by Cailey Fleming), a twelve-year-old who has to have grown up fast, losing her mother to cancer and now her father (played by John Krasinski) and is about to go in for heart surgery. So Bea starts seeing the imaginary friends and decides to help Cal (Ryan Reynolds), who lives in her grandmother’s apartment building, find the IF gang, their long-lost kids who have grown up and forgotten them. First, it’s a little creepy that a twelve-year-old is hanging out with a grown man who doesn’t seem to have a job and sees the same IF characters she does. Then half of the IF characters are just strange, like an ice cube in a glass of water or a bubble that pops when excited. What kid would come up with these as their imaginary friends? If you hoped this would be a Toy Story or The Lego Movie, this isn’t it. Despite a spirited performance by Cailey Fleming, including a rousing musical number to a Tina Turner classic, the film falls flat and never hits the heartstrings as it should. IF isn’t a bad film, just disappointing. Be sure to stay through the credits for a lovely tribute to the late Louis Gossett Jr.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee IF Website Now playing in theatres. 

My View:  Back to Black  (2024)  R  Back to Black tells the story of the life and music of Amy Winehouse (Marisa Abela), who went from unknown singer to Grammy-winning best-selling artist. Amy burned bright, but that light died much too soon. I was not a fan of Amy Winehouse until I saw the Oscar-winning documentary Amy, and then I fell in love with Amy and her music. Now we get a bio-pic on her life, told from Amy’s point of view. I will say that Marisa Abela does a fantastic job of singing Amy’s songs, though I thought her midrange was a little off, but no one can do vocals like Amy could. We see why Amy got involved with Blake (played by Jack O’Connell), that man that she fell madly in love with and is the person who got Amy into drugs (though she was already an alcoholic by the time she met him). The film shows how thunderstruck she was by Blake and how he was the love of her life (as evident in her many songs about their relationship). I had trouble with how the film showed Amy’s relationship with her father (played by Eddie Marsan). The film whitewashes their relationship and shows how he was her hero and great supporter, which is not something I remember from the documentary about her life. Marisa Abela does an admirable job of portraying Amy. Still, it’s hard to capture the stage presence and charisma of Amy, and I never felt the power that Amy Winehouse had over her audience through her voice and mannerisms. I was heartbroken by the end of the documentary, but I didn’t have that same feeling at the end of this film. I loved the music but wanted more from this film, never connecting with the character that Abela was performing. Unlike Amy’s songs, this film felt lacking in any connection with the audience. And that’s too bad because Amy deserves more.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Back to Black Website  Now playing in theaters.

My View:  The Strangers: Chapter 1  (2024)  R  The Strangers: Chapter 1 takes place when Maya (Madelaine Petsch) and her boyfriend, Ryan (Froy Gutierrez), are on a road trip in the Pacific Northwest. Along the way, their car breaks down, forcing them to spend the night in an isolated Airbnb. Maya and Ryan are about to be visited by three masked strangers. This is a remake of the 2008 film The Strangers, written and directed by Bryan Bertino, with Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler starring. The original was a very cool and scary horror film that made horror fans squeal with delight as they were scared out of their seats. Unfortunately, this version isn’t. One of the great things about the first film was that there were a lot of scares, which were the kind that you questioned if you saw that or not. Not so in this film, which bases all its scares on ‘jump out of the dark scares’ that make the film feel very repetitive. The original was just that, original. This ‘Chapter 1’ just feels like a badly done copy. If you do make it to the end, stay through the first part of credits for a bonus scene that sets up ‘Chapter 2.’   My Rating: Cable  The Strangers: Chapter 1 Website  Now playing in theaters. 

Indiefest:  Power  (2024)  R  The documentary Power explores policing in modern American society, as its grown, originally to contain threats to social order to exploding in scope and scale. I saw this film at the 2024 Atlanta Film Festival and was riveted by a film that commands your attention from the start and brings up points that make you sad and infuriated simultaneously. This is a history lesson on how we have let police departments become militarized and given almost complete carte blanche to do anything they want, including trample on people’s rights. This is a documentary that raises a lot of questions that are direct from the headlines of today’s papers, including the right to protest without the threat of violence by police. To the film’s credit, it brings in a lot of experts to discuss and give us background into both the history of police departments and how they are set up today. This is a film that doesn’t give answers but opens the door to invite discussion and challenge what is happening in today’s America.   My Rating: Full Price  Power Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Sorry I Missed it (A film that has been out a while, and I’m just now seeing it):  Downtown Owl  (2023) R  Julia (Lily Rabe) moves from a big city to Owl, North Dakota, in 1984 to teach high school for just a semester while her husband is finishing up his doctorate. The town she has moved to would make any soap opera on TV weep with shame. The reason to see this film is Lily Rabe, as the woman who has moved to nowhere and must start her life over again, surrounded by people who know everyone’s business. Rabe is hilarious as a fish out of water, unhappy in her life and wanting more, but will this small town give her what she craves? The film is aided by an outstanding supporting cast, including Vanessa Hudgens as the town floozy who is stuck re-living her high school memories, Henry Golding as a cowboy that Julia develops a crush on, Finn Wittrock as the high school football coach who is having an affair with one of his students and Ed Harris as the one person in town who seems sane. The film meanders a bit in the middle and sometimes tries a little too hard at being strange, but the film has a sweet and funny core that makes you want to root for Julia. By the way, the film has a wonderful music track that includes a few of my favorite Elvis Costello songs.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Downtown Owl Info  Now available for rent on streaming services.

Forgotten Film: Alamo Bay  (1985) R  A fishing community on the Gulf of Mexico is torn when Vietnamese immigrants move into the area and begin fishing for shrimp, threatening the local fishermen’s way of life with the possibility of overfishing and taking away their livelihood. One of the leaders of the Texas fishermen is Shang (Ed Harris), a troubled Vietnam vet who is barely hanging on. Shang has an unhappy home life and is having an affair with Glory (Amy Madigan). To complicate things further, Glory’s father is the one who is supplying the boats to the newcomers. Directed by Louis Malle (Pretty Baby, Atlantic City) and written by Alice Arlen (Silkwood), the film works when it focuses on the relationship between Glory and Shang, buoyed by outstanding performances by Harris and Madigan. The film begins to fall apart a bit near the end when the KKK comes to town, and the ending is disappointing. But it’s worth a watch to see two actors work together so well on the screen.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Alamo Bay Info  Now available to rent on streaming services.

Weird Credits: From the credits of IF:  Lens Mapping Grip Operator

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You:  It Ends With Us  (2024)  R  Lily (Blake Lively) has overcome a traumatic childhood and has moved to Boston to open her flower shop. There, she meets the man of her dreams, a neurosurgeon, Kyle (Justin Baldoni), and falls in love. However, she starts seeing a pattern in Kyle that brings up the mistakes of her childhood. Then Atlas (Brandon Sklenar), Lily’s first love, reenters her life and Lily will have to rely on her own strength to make some tough decisions. Based on the best-selling book by Colleen Hoover and starring Blake Lively, this could be a hit.  It Ends with Us Website  The film is scheduled to be released in early August.





Friday, May 10, 2024

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

My ViewKingdom of the Planet of the Apes  (2024)  PG-13  Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes takes place many years after Caesar’s reign when a young ape goes on a journey that will make him question everything he’s been taught about the past, especially the history of humans. A human woman (Freya Allan) becomes the key to the young ape’s quest, though he learns she has her own plans. I am a big fan of the Planet of the Apes trilogy that started with the 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes. They were well written, the acting was top-notch, the special effects were terrific, and the stories were captivating. It took us back to a world I had discovered along with Charlton Heston and a certain leather bikini-clad woman, making the story new and compelling. Now comes along a new film, one that takes place 300 years or so after our adventures with Cesar. What we get is a mess. We have a new ape to follow, a young chimp named Noa (Owen Teague), who is trying to be an ape like his father. But there are some bad guys that, for some reason, invade Noa’s family’s camp, kill a bunch of apes, and take others for hostages. Noa then, for some reason, becomes involved in saving the life of a human, and the adventure begins. This is a film that is two and a half hours long, and almost nothing happens. Sure, there are a few fights, a few chases, and lots of walking/talking, but it doesn’t accomplish a lot other than possibly setting up another film in the future. So I suggest you go back and watch the trilogy, or even Chuck Heston yelling at those ‘dirty apes’ instead of seeing this film. Just don’t watch the 1971 film Escape from the Planet of the Apes. It’s pretty bad, and no Heston.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide. 

My ViewMother of the Bride  (2024)  TV-PG  Mother of the Bride begins when Lana (Brooke Shields) is given the happy but shocking news that her daughter Emma (Miranda Cosgrove) is getting married. Things get complicated when she arrives at the destination wedding and discovers that the man her daughter is marrying is the son of a man (Benjamin Bratt) who broke her heart in college. This is your pretty ordinary rom-com with lots of shenanigans that you can see coming a mile away. We all know that by the film’s end, everything will work out alright, and everyone will be happy and dancing. Brooke Shields and Benjamin Bratt have some nice chemistry going, but not enough to overcome a script that takes no chances, making this film seem too sweet for its own good.   My Rating: Cable  Mother of the Bride Website Now playing on Netflix.

IndiefestThe Last Stop in Yuma County  (2023)  R  A traveling salesman (Jim Cummings) is out of gas and stranded at a rural Arizona rest stop restaurant, which isn’t due for a gas delivery for a few hours. A bad day gets worse when two bank robbers walk into the restaurant and have no qualms about using violence to get what they want. However, the robbers are about to discover that the locals aren’t afraid of a little violence. Have you ever had one of those days when nothing goes right? Well, for this cast of characters, this is a day that is filled with bad luck and even worse decision-making. As you watch this fun and tense film, you realize that something bad is going to happen, you just don’t know how bad. Jim Cummings plays a traveling salesman who isn’t very good at his job. Jocelin Donahue is the waitress who has to man the diner by herself but seems up for the job. In walks two bank robbers who just want to get gas and get back on the road but can’t until the gas truck comes by. Here’s the rub. We, the audience, know that the gas truck isn’t coming; it’s been in an accident that no one knows about. So, while more and more people arrive at the diner, we know no one is probably going to leave without something big going down. I loved this film from the moment the first song played over the scene of the gas truck on its side in a ditch to the last frame (which I won’t describe). It’s a fun film filled with funny moments, but there is drama too, and the tension keeps ratcheting up as the time keeps slipping away. Full of wonderful characters and a storyline that keeps you guessing, The Last Stop in Yuma County is a time well spent at a dinner that has the slogan ‘Rhubarb Pie You Will Die For.’    My Rating: Full Price  The Last Stop in Yuma County Website    Now playing in select theaters. 

Forgotten Film: Mountains of the Moon (1990) R  The story of Capt. Richard Francis Burton (Patrick Bergin) and Lt. John Speke (Iain Glen) go on a perilous expedition to find the source of the Nile. This is a story of two men who find companionship and friendship in the lust for adventure and glory, only to have that friendship fall apart because of jealousy and miscommunication once they return to civilization. The two actors are perfect in their roles, and the story is full of adventure and intrigue. They are two men who were best friends when times were rough and scary but became enemies when things got back to where matters were no longer life and death, just who got the credit.    My Rating: Full Price  Mountains of the Moon Info  The film is available on disc. 

My View: Poolman (2024) R  Poolman is the story of Darren Barrenman (Chris Pine), a man who loves his hometown of LA and fights to protect it while caring for the pool in his apartment complex. Darren is hired to uncover the truth behind a shady councilman, and he enlists his friends to help him get the dirt on the politician. Darren is about to uncover a hidden truth about his beloved city. Poolman is a film that needed about ten rewrites before they started filming because the script/plot is incredibly weak and meanders around a story that never comes to life. I think that Chris Pine (who wrote and directed the film) thought that if he created a wild and wacky character, the film would fall into place. Unfortunately, nothing works in this film, which is sad because the cast is stellar, with Jennifer Jason Leigh playing Darren’s girlfriend, Danny De Vito playing his friend helping Darren make a documentary, and Annette Bening as his not-so-great therapist. But nothing works in this film as the jokes fall flat, the mystery is confusing and not very creative, and Pine, as a director, has no sense of pace. So, if you want to see a long-haired, slightly confused hippie, watch The Big Lebowski instead. Because the pool should be closed, at least for the season.   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again Poolman Website   Now playing in theaters.

Indiefest: Evil Does Not Exist (2023)  Takumi (Hitoshi Omika) is a widowed dad to Hana (Ryô Nishikawa), living in the woods outside an isolated village in Japan. Takumi is a self-labeled ‘jack of all trades’ kind of man who helps his fellow community members while trying to live as simply as possible. Takumi and the rest of his village’s life are disrupted when a company comes into their community and tells them they are building a ‘Glamping’ compound so the city folk from Tokyo can experience outdoor life while having all the comforts of home. Takumi and his village realize that if the company builds a compound, the environmental impact will ruin their way of life, especially destroying the local water source that they so dearly value. The film is from Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, who brought us the two-time Oscar-nominated 2021 film Drive My Car, one of my favorite films of 2022. Evil Does Not Exist is a film, like Drive My Car, that won’t answer all the questions that it poses. When two company representatives (Ryuji Osaka and Ayaka Shibutani) try to hire Takumi as a consultant to win him over, we never find out if Takumi sees through their ruse or if he will take the bait. This is a film about relationships. The relationship between Takumi and the rest of his fellow villagers. The relationship between Takumi and his daughter, who adores her father, and is a willing student learning all that her father can teach her about the wonders of the forest. And it’s about the relationship between man and nature. The forest is a character in this film, often dominating the lens, as we frequently lose sight of Takumi or his daughter because of the forest. Evil Does Not Exist is a film that, when you leave, you will have more questions than answers, but isn’t that the way with nature? Often it’s a mystery that can’t be solved.  My Rating: Full Price  Evil Does Not Exist  Now playing in theatres.


Weird Credits: From Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes:  Apes Vocals Editor


Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Strangers: Chapter 1 (2024) R  The Strangers: Chapter 1 takes place when Maya (Madelaine Petsch) and her boyfriend, Ryan (Froy Gutierrez), are on a road trip in the Pacific Northwest. Along the way, their car breaks down, forcing them to spend the night in an isolated Airbnb. Maya and Ryan are about to be visited by three masked strangers. This is a relaunch of The Strangers film series, the first of three films shot consecutively and directed by Renny Harlin.  The Strangers Website   The film is in theaters on Friday, May 17th. 

Until Next Time!




Friday, May 3, 2024

The Fall Guy

My View:  The Fall Guy  (2024)  PG-13   Colt (Ryan Gosling), a former stuntman, comes out of retirement after discovering his ex, Jody (Emily Blunt), is directing a big-budget movie. It’s not a joyful reunion, but Colt is needed when the enormous star of the film has gone missing, and he must find him before the picture is shut down. Sometimes a movie works because an actor’s star power elevates it beyond what the script or the director can provide. This is the case of The Fall Guy, as Ryan Gosling shows us why he has become a major star who has charisma to burn. Gosling is perfect as the burned-out and battered Colt, who was injured doing a stunt on a movie, just as his romance with Jody, a camera person in the film, was just blooming. He takes the job because he finds out that Jody has asked for him and wants to see her again, possibly making amends for disappearing and leaving her behind. Gosling does an outstanding job of playing the lovesick stuntman who will do anything to try to get Jody back, even if it means becoming a bounty hunter, trying to hunt down a missing lead actor, one whom he doesn’t like or respect. Blunt is perfect as the headstrong woman who is getting to do something she has dreamed of for so long, directing a major motion picture, and is still hurt by Colt’s actions, so much so that she is willing to torture him a bit on the set. There is a great scene where, in front of everyone, Jody, using a bullhorn, lets everyone know just how angry she is with Colt while making him do a stunt that sets him on fire, over and over again. The film flies by as the action is fast and the stunts are out of this world amazing. There are shootouts, car chases, fights, and explosions, and those aren’t from making the movie but from Colt’s adventures of trying to find the missing actor. You will have a blast (pun intended) as Colt tries to stay alive long enough to win Jody back, or at least apologize to her. By the way, stay through all the credits. You will see that almost all the stunts in the film were actually done and not through green screens. Also, there is a bonus scene you will not want to miss at the end of all, and I mean all, the credits.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  The Fall Guy Website   Now playing in theatres nationwide. 
My View: Unfrosted  (2024)  PG-13  It’s 1963, and bitter rivals in Battle Creek, Michigan, Kellogg’s, and Post are rushing to create a breakfast cake that could change how the world eats breakfast. While watching the Seinfeld TV series, you knew Jerry wasn’t a very good actor, but that was some of the series’ charm. He was a guy who was really a standup, moonlighting as an actor on a series where he was playing himself. I had high hopes for this film, primarily because the cast was a who’s who of comedy. I mean, you get actors like Rachael Harris, Christian Slater, Hugh Grant, Amy Schumer, Melissa McCarthy, and more, and it’s got to be good. Right? Right? Sadly, this film is already in the running for the worst film of the year. Painfully unfunny, with a script that keeps throwing jokes up against a wall where nothing, and I mean nothing, sticks. Put Hugh Grant in a Tony the Tiger outfit as an out-of-work Shakespearian actor who has to moonlight as a breakfast cereal mascot, and that’s funny? Nope, as the jokes lay there like the flop sweat of Grant’s character in the costume. Halfway through this film, I just wanted it to end. Instead, we get an hour and a half of unfunny jokes after unfunny skits. I swear I thought the film was over two hours long and was shocked when writing this review that it was only 93 minutes long. That’s 93 minutes, and I will never get back.   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   Unfrosted Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform. 
IndiefestI Saw the TV Glow  (2024)  PG-13  Two teenagers, Owen (Justice Smith) and Maddy (Brighter Lundy-Paine) who bond over a TV show called The Pink Opaque. As their bond grows, things start getting weird. This is a film that you will either fall in love with or hate it. I don’t think there will be a lot of opinions in the middle. It’s a film where, almost from the start, you question what is real and what is imagined. The blending of real and imagined continues throughout the film, keeping you off center and guard as we follow Owen as he grows up. He meets Maddy in a chance encounter. Owen doesn’t fit in with his fellow schoolmates and sees that Maddy might be someone who doesn’t either. She tells him about the TV show and begins secretly giving him tapes of the show. He becomes a huge fan of the show and wrangles an invitation to see the show with her in her house. I won’t give any more of the plot away, but let’s say it gets stranger and stranger as we follow Owen into adulthood, with Owen’s first thought almost always to run away. The film reminds you of how TV shows can become incredibly important to you, even in this day of binge-viewing and streaming. The film got me thinking of past shows like Buffy and Stranger Things, but also shows that I fell in love with and were canceled, sometimes heartbreakingly so. I guess I’m in the fall in love with side on this film, because this was such an interesting and complex film to watch.   My Rating: Full Price  I Saw the TV Glow Website  Now playing in theatres 
My ViewThe Idea of You  (2024)  R   The Idea of You takes place after a chance encounter at the Coachella Music Festival, Solène (Anne Hathaway), a 40-year-old single mom, begins an unexpected romance with 24-year-old Hayes Campbell (Nicholas Galitzine), the lead singer of August Moon, the hottest boy band on the planet. It’s not long before Solène discovers that life in the spotlight might be more than she bargained for. I am a big fan of Anne Hathaway, and she doesn’t disappoint in this winning rom-com that pares a 40-year-old single mother who owns an art gallery with a 24-year-old who has been in a huge boy band since he was a teen. This is a fun rom-com that has two dynamic leads with tons of charisma and sparks that fly every time they are on screen together. The film puts together two people who are looking for love and have been burned before. I thought that by making Hayes a vet of the boy band scene, where he has been in the spotlight for years, was wise. Yes, he is 24, but because of his life in the spotlight, it’s an old 24, making the attraction between the two seem natural and not at all creepy. I was surprised by the amount of music in the film, as we get a lot of songs that Hayes is singing with his bandmates, as well as his exploring creating music on his own. I enjoyed this film and wanted the two to enjoy their time together, even if it, like a good song, will eventually end. Although, there is always that 'repeat' function.   My Rating: Full Price  The Idea of You Website  Now playing on the Amazon Prime platform.
IndiefestWildcat  (2023)  R    Flannery O’Connor (Maya Hawke) is determined to be a writer. We follow her as she works on her craft and commits to deeply personal writing, so personal that it will haunt her until she can get the words on paper. I saw this film last year at the Rome International Film Festival, right here in Georgia, the birthplace of Miss O’Connor. Ethan Hawke was at the festival and told us he wrote the film because his daughter, Maya, wanted to play Flannery before she got too old for the role. The film takes place as Flannery is visiting her mother (Laura Linney) when she finds out she has Lupus, the same disease that took her father’s life. As Flannery struggles to become a writer, she starts writing stories that blend reality with fiction. Wildcat is a film where we see the day-to-day struggle of Flannery trying to become the writer that she knows she can be while we are transported into her stories, with Maya playing a character and her mother another character, as Flannery tells tales that weave her experiences in the south with her fiction. This film doesn’t always work, as Flannery’s real life and fiction blur too much, and it’s hard to tell where reality ends and the fiction starts. I like Maya Hawke as O’Connor, but we spend too much time in the fictional stories and not enough time in the real world, where we would get to see what makes this interesting writer tick.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Wildcat Website  Now playing in select theatres.
IndiefestThe Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed  (2023) R The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed is about Ann (Joanna Arnow), a woman going nowhere fast. She is stuck in a low-level job she hates, has been in a long-term BDSM relationship with a man who barely remembers her name, and her family loves to argue at the drop of a hat. It’s time to change things, but that won’t be easy. This is one of those films that will never be a big hit, so when you see it, you feel like you are part of its fan club. It’s a very funny and sometimes a little strange, centering around a mid-thirties woman who loves being a sex slave to an older man, is good at her job even though it looks as though she isn’t even trying, and loves her parents, who happened to be some of the most boring people on the face of the earth. Joanna Arnow, who not only stars in the film but wrote and directed it, spends about half the film naked, mostly lying on a bed with one of her lovers, who are also her master, as Ann gets off by being made to do repetitive things or just being made to wait for a command that may never come. Ann is a woman who seems to be happy just being in the moment, whether it’s with a lover or with her parents. The film is little slices of life, as we go from her naked on the bed being ignored by her ‘master’ or sitting with her parents as her mother complains that Ann isn’t spending enough time with them. This film reminded me a bit of some of Woody Allen’s films, where we just got little slices of life, bits of weird and funny moments that suddenly move on to the next moment. The sum of the moments makes for an enjoyable film that stars a very strange but lovable character who we want to be happy, just not too happy.   My Rating: Full Price The Feeling That The Time Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Forgotten FilmThe Indian Runner  (1991) R  Joe (David Morse) has made a good life for himself and his family as the deputy sheriff in a small country town. His younger brother, Frank (Viggo Mortensen), has decided to return to town after having had some bad times. Frank tells his brother that this time will be different, and he just wants a fresh start. However, Frank is a man with a temper, and seemingly, his only skill is getting in trouble. Sean Penn directs the film and has an outstanding cast that includes Patricia Arquette, Sandy Dennis and Charles Bronson, who gives one of his best performances of his career. The Indian Runner is a film where the good guy isn’t always good, and the bad guy has some good qualities. We don’t know until the end if good will win out over bad.   My Rating: Full Price  The Indian Runner Info Available on various streaming services. 

Weird Credits:  From the credits of The Fall Guy:  Art Runner

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Dead Don’t Hurt  (2023) Right before the Civil War, Vivienne (Vicky Kreips) meets a Danish immigrant, Holger (Viggo Mortensen), who convinces her to follow him to his ranch outside of a small town in Nevada, where they start their life together. The outbreak of the Civil War happens, and Olsen joins the Union Army to fight for his newfound country, leaving Vivienne to fend for herself on their homestead. It’s a decision that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. The film is written and directed by Viggo Mortensen. The Dead Don't Hurt Info  The film will be in theaters on Friday, May 31st.

Until Next Time!




Friday, April 26, 2024

Challengers

My View: Challengers (2024) R   Challengers tells the story of Tashi (Zendaya), who was a tennis prodigy about to set the tennis world on fire before she suffered a devastating injury she couldn’t recover from. Now, years later, she is a coach and married to a former champion (Mike Faist) who is on a losing streak, and the question is how far Tashi is willing to go to get him back on his winning streak with her husbands best friend (Josh O’Conner). Challengers is a movie that appears to focus on sexual relationships, but actually revolves around who has the upper hand and how they can maintain it. This is a film that has so many twists and turns that you almost become dizzy as the three leads vie to land that winning serve, only to have someone else return the serve just as hard. If Zendaya wasn’t a lead in a film before this, she is now. Zendaya is breathtaking as a woman who was at the top of her game, only to have it taken away in an instant, and now is playing through her husband (and he’s not dominating as he should be). It’s a powerful performance that gives you chills it’s so good. I hope this film isn’t being released too early for Academy Award members to forget about this performance because it deserves to be nominated. This is a film in which you will not like any of the characters (ok, maybe the daughter), and you will still be enthralled by all the head games that are being played (keep an eye out for a certain t-shirt that makes a few appearances as an example). For a film that is based on sex, there isn’t a lot in it, which surprised me. Instead, this is about three people who act as they are caring but inside they are all out for themselves. How fragile they are when the stakes are so high, and all the participants are there to win. So take a few practice swings with your racquet and be sure to do some stretching because you will need to be warmed up and limber to handle this film.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Challengers Website Now playing theaters nationwide

Indiefest: We Grown Now (2023) PG  We Grown Now is set in 1992 Chicago, where a mother named Dolores (Jurnee Smollett) is raising her 12-year-old son Malik (Blake Cameron James) in one of the most crime-infested parts of the city. Malik must grow up fast, but he has help from his best friend Eric (Gian Knight Ramirez) and his grandmother Anita (S. Epatha Merkerson). Dolores will have to make some tough choices if Malik is going to survive in this environment. We Grown Now is a beautiful and moving film about friendship, family, and how children see the world in a different light from adults. First, the performances of the two best friends are magical and, at times, a little breathtaking. We Grown Now is their film as we see what is happening to their neighborhood through their eyes. From the ever presence of violence to the clamping down of the rights of the people who live in the housing community, the world of these kids is filled with danger and the feeling of being almost caged by their surroundings. The two kids try to stay positive and hopeful, even taking a day to skip school and go on an adventure to an art museum because they are bored at school. I can’t tell you how much I loved this film, going on adventures with Malik and Eric while knowing that their parents are dealing with some tough times and hard choices that will affect their children’s future. We Grown Now is a film that is full of kids being kids, but like life itself, it's also about injustice and heartbreak. The kind of heartbreak that won't leave you. So, join the two best friends and maybe join in when they do some shouting from time to time.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again We Grown Now Website  Now playing in select theaters. 

Indiefest: Boy Kills World (2023) R  Boy (Bill Skarsgård) saw his family murdered, and he was rendered deaf and mute. Since then, Boy has been training with one mission: to kill the person responsible, Hilda Van Der Koy (Famke Janssen), the evil leader of a televised game of survival called The Culling. They saw Boy coming, but could they stop him? When I saw the trailer for this film, I thought, ‘This will be a fun ride.’ However, sometimes the trailers are better than the actual film; in this case, this is one of them. Fans of tight combat will enjoy the plethora of fights in this film. And Mr. Bill Skarsgård does a fine job as an action hero. But, the film never can find the story it wants to tell, relying too much on lame jokes and over-active camera moves during the fight sequences. The plot twists of the film are excessive, as the script assumes it's more clever than it actually is. Boy Kills World loses steam about halfway through and never quite recovers. Anyway, can we go back to that trailer?   My Rating: Cable  Boy Kills World Website    Now playing in theatres. 

Forgotten Film: Conversations with Other Women (2005)  R   A man (Aaron Eckhart) and a woman (Helena Bonham Carter) start flirting with each other at a wedding reception. They are getting along so well that they decide to carry the conversation to a hotel room. They will soon learn about each other and may have known each other when they were younger. While some reviewers have compared this film to the Before Sunrise/Sunset films, this is very different because the whole movie is shot on a split screen. Sometimes, it’s just to show the two reacting to things simultaneously, but it also gives us the characters’ perspectives on what is being said or what they thought was said. This is a film to watch for the performances, and Carter and Eckhart are brilliant in this film, where the characters go from flirty to serious in a matter of minutes and then back again. Conversations with Other Women is one of those films you will want to talk to someone about after seeing it.   My Rating: Full Price  Conversations with Other Women Info   The film is available on multiple streaming platforms. 

Weird Credits: From the credits of Boy Kills World: Second Unit Sparks

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: IF   (2024)     Bea (Cailey Fleming) has gone through some tough times but has discovered a secret power: She can see everyone’s imaginary friends. With help from Cal (Ryan Reynolds), Bea embarks on a magical journey to reconnect forgotten ‘IFs’ with their long-lost kids. Written and directed by John Krasinski and with a voice cast that includes Steve Carell, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Jon Stewart, Awkwafina, and more, this will surely be a film that people will want to see. The film releases on Friday, May 17th.


Until Next Time!



Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The 48th Annual Atlanta Film Festival and Creative Conference April 25 - May 5, 2024


It’s time for my favorite event in Atlanta, the Atlanta Film Festival! Chosen from over 10,000 submissions, the festival brings both feature and short films to Atlanta. This year’s lineup of 142 selected films will feature diverse filmmakers who continue to uplift voices and stories from around the world, representing 118 countries. As always, there is an emphasis on films from the local area, with over 24% of films at the festival with ties to Georgia filmmakers. The Atlanta Film Festival is an event film lovers won’t want to miss. ATLFF is presenting some of the best upcoming films that Hollywood has to offer, including movies from top studios and films, along with films from around the world.

The 48th annual Atlanta Film Festival and Creative Conference will take place Thursday, April 25 - Sunday, May 5, 2024, at the Plaza Theatre and Tara Theatre in Atlanta and virtually. 

The long-running festival has always been a distinguished event, recognized as one of the “Ten Best Film Festivals in the US” by USA Today readers and one of the “50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” by MovieMaker Magazine.

The Opening Night Presentation of Amazon Studios’ “The Idea of You” will take place at the Plaza Theatre on Friday, April 26. The Idea of You takes place after a chance encounter at the Coachella Music Festival, Solène (Anne Hathaway), a 40-year-old single mom, begins an unexpected romance with 24-year-old Hayes Campbell (Nicholas Galitzine), the lead singer of August Moon, the hottest boy band on the planet. It’s not long before Solène discovers that life in the spotlight might be more than she bargained for. Director Michael Showalter is expected to take part in red-carpet interviews and will receive the Atlanta Film Festival’s “The Rebel Award” in an on-stage presentation before the start of the film. There will be a Q&A with Michael Showalter immediately after the screening.


The Closing Night Presentation film is “Sing Sing” on Saturday, May 4th, and will take place at the Plaza Theatre. “Sing Sing” is about Divine G, imprisoned at Sing Sing for a crime he didn’t commit. He finds purpose by acting in a theatre group alongside other incarcerated men in this story of resilience, humanity, and the transformative power of art. Filmmaker Greg Kwedar and cast members Clarence ‘Divine Eye’ Maclin, John ‘Divine G’ Whitfield, Sean ‘Dino’ Johnson, and Jon Adrian ‘JJ’ Velazquez are expected to take part in red carpet interviews and a Q&A after the film.

The festival is also known for its short film categories and is one of the few festivals in the country that offer Academy Award-qualifying for all three short categories: Narrative, Documentary, and Animated.

The 14th annual Creative Conference, ATLFF’s popular educational programming extension, returns Tuesday, April 30 - Friday, May 3. The Creative Conference offers educational programming for upcoming filmmakers, festivalgoers, newcomers, and members of the greater community to learn from industry experts. The Creative Conference features workshops, panels, talks, and demos that will delve into the world of filmmaking, focusing on topics such as screenwriting, pitching, acting, producing, casting, funding, and distribution and how they all come together to make a film or television episode. Thirty-two in-person panels and twelve virtual panels are planned during the 11-day festival.

The full schedule of films and events is available at  www.AtlantaFilmFestival.com and through the ATLFF 2024 app. Festival passes are on sale now on the site. Tickets for individual events will be available online.



Friday, April 19, 2024

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

My ViewThe Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (2024) PG-13   The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is the story of the first-ever special forces organization formed by Britain during WWII. Gus March-Phillips (Henry Cavill), a man with a bad reputation, is given the job of recruiting a rag-tag group of misfits, whose job will be destroying as much of the German U-boat forces as possible. And we do mean any means necessary. It is safe to say that while this film is based on a true story, the words ‘loosely based’ should be used. A lot of film critics are comparing this film to Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 film Inglourious Basterds, but I think it’s more of a 2024 version of all those war films of the 60s/70s like The Dirty Dozen, Kelly’s Heroes, or even Where Eagles Dare, where an unlikely group of not so innocent killers go on an impossible mission and kick some German butt. I haven’t been a fan of Guy Ritchie’s films lately, but this is a fun ride that never takes itself too seriously. The entire cast is a lot of fun, with Cavill leading the group with a devil-may-care attitude and an eye for expensive alcohol and cigars. Fans of Alan Ritchson, hot off his Reacher TV series, will love his off-the-wall character who loves to kill in very interesting ways. Eiza González has a lot of fun with the part of the sexy American who is sent in to seduce the evil German commander. The action is fast-paced (I would love to know the final kill count), and the story will keep you on the edge of your seat. There is a lot of humor in the film, as our heroes seem to enjoy that they can do just about anything they want, as long as it kills a few Germans along the way.   My Rating: Full Price  The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Abigail (2024) R  A group of kidnappers abduct a 12-year-old girl named Abigail (Alisha Weir) and are instructed to hold her hostage overnight in an old, luxurious manor until her father pays the ransom of 50 million dollars. Watch a little girl overnight for such a big payday? No problem, right? The kidnappers think they have trapped Abigail in the manor; instead, they are trapped with Abigail, who turns out to be a vampire. I liked the first 45 minutes of this film. It’s fun getting to know all the kidnappers and how they deal with the little girl. But the film starts to fall apart when they discover they are trapped with a vampire. Abigail wants to be a horror film with some humor thrown in, but I got very tired of the ballerina vampire who thinks she is smarter than her victims (she’s right about half of them). Alisha Weir, as Abigail, doesn’t consistently deliver her lines in the right way, never finding the right tone, making her vampire feel less threatening. I did enjoy Melissa Barrera’s performance as the one kidnapper, Joey, who tries to be nice to Abigail before she turns all vampy. Still, we are asked to see Joey as a badass, and when we find out she was in the army as a medic, it just doesn’t translate. Fans of the late Angus Cloud will enjoy his performance as a not-so-bright wheelman who wants to have a good time. Abigail gets very gory and tries too hard to make every death seem like the world is coming to an end. I was ok with the ending, but man, it took a long time (an hour and fifty minutes) to get there.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Abigail Website  Now playing in theatres. 

My View: Rebel Moon - Part Two: The Scargiver (2024) PG-13  The saga of Korea (Sofia Boutella) and her surviving warriors, as they prepare to fight alongside the brave people of Veldt to defend their village against the invaders of the Motherworld. In this rebellion, bonds will be forged, heroes will emerge, and legends will be made. Rebel Moon - Part One was a disappointment for me, as I felt that it was all set up with little actual storyline. Furthermore, I didn't care about what happened to any of the characters. So, what does Zach Snyder do? Give us more of the same, but at least this time, we have a big battle that has a victor. To explain how much time is wasted in this film, we get an incredibly long sequence where each of the gang of heroes explains why they were wrong and how it went down. I've only seen Part One once, but shouldn't that have been part of that film? Or maybe it was, and I just wanted to forget it? You have the usual Snyder action sequences where our heroes fight in slow motion, and you have an enemy army with such poorly designed transportation ships that they blow up incredibly easily. The film ends with the promise of more, but I think we all hope that there won’t be. And by the way, Snyder has a ‘director’s cut’ coming for both films. Oh boy, more sitting around and recounting war stories. I can’t wait. My Rating: Cable   Rebel Moon - Part Two Website Now playing on Netflix.

Indiefest: Sasquatch Sunset (2024) R The film is a year in the life of a unique family that captures the daily trials and tribulations of a group of Sasquatch. I know what you’re thinking after seeing that Jesse Eisenberg and Riley Keough are starring in the film. Hey, that Eisenberg guy was funny in Zombieland, and Riley was great in that TV show, Daisy Jones and The Six; this should be a blast. Well, what if I tell you that the film is about a family of four Sasquatch that don’t talk (unless you count grunts and hoots), there isn’t any narration, and there are no other actors in the film? We experience up close and very personal a year in the life of these four Sasquatch as they forage for food, look for shelter, and have to deal with a world that is quickly changing around them. I am going to warn you that this is a movie where one of the first scenes we see is the leader of the group having sex with the female as two other Sasquatch look on (patiently waiting for it to stop). Some of the film is funny, and a few times goes a little too far with the gags (they pee and poop a lot). However, the longer I watched the film, the more I got involved with the four as they deal with some rough times. Sasquatch Sunset is a film about survival, family, and the will to keep going, no matter the obstacle. Once you get over the attempts at gross stuff (primarily for humor), the film is full of quiet, tender moments and, at times, sadness. Sasquatch Sunset isn’t a film for everybody, but if you give it a chance, it might surprise you with how you feel at the end.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Sasquatch Sunset Website  Now playing in theaters. 

Indiefest: Girls State (2024)  The documentary Girls State follows 500 adolescent girls from all over Missouri as they gather to learn about the democratic process and tackle some of the most contentious issues of the day. This documentary is from the same directorial team of the Emmy Award-winning 2021 film Boys State. Boys State was one of my favorite films of 2021, and this film is even better. Like the first film, there are some of the girls that, at first, you love and some you are sort of on the fence about. The remarkable thing is that as the film goes on, I started to root for some of the girls I didn’t like initially. Just like politics in the real world, hearts are broken, campaigns are mismanaged, and some candidates who are well-spoken and have great ideas are left behind when better and more passionate speakers appear. What sets this apart from the Boys State documentary is that this one is shot at a perfect time, six days before the Supreme Court overturning the ruling of Roe vs Wade. The other fact that makes this film work better than the boy’s version is that for the first time, both the boys and the girls are gathering on the same campus at the same time, and we get to see how each side treats the issues and how the organization treats the two sides unequally. There is a brilliant scene in which a group of girls passes a group of boys, and some of the boys start flexing their muscles to impress the girls (big-time fail). Girls State is a fascinating film that will keep you on the edge of your seat to see who wins and how the winners and losers deal with the game of politics. Let’s hope that these bright young minds keep their interest in politics. The world will be a better place.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Girls State Info   Now playing on the Apple TV+ platform.

Sorry I Missed it (A film that has been out a while, and I’m just now seeing it): Hundreds of Beavers (2022)   Set in the 19th century, our hero Jean Kayak ((Rylland Brickson Cole Tews), a drunken applejack brewery owner loses his business (because of sabotage by beavers) and has to become a fur trapper. His biggest problem is that both the beavers and the rabbits are out to get him. While there is no dialogue (except for one word uttered for full comic effect) but you can’t call this a ‘silent film’. I mean, would you call the Looney Tunes films of the Coyote and the Roadrunner silent films? This is a live-action cartoon that piles on the gags so quick and furious that if one doesn’t work, don’t worry; there is another one right behind it that does. For the first hour of the film, our hero, or should I say our idiot, is constantly bested by rabbits, birds, and beavers. By the way, the rabbits and beavers are portrayed by actors in costumes, making the absurdity go beyond the almost believable. Hundreds of Beavers is an absolutely crazy film that has fun with the premise and keeps pushing the boundaries. Does our hero figure out how to defeat the beavers and maybe impress the cute trader’s daughter? You will have to see about a thousand gags to get there, but it’s worth it.   My Rating: Full Price  Hundreds of Beavers Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Forgotten Film: Purple Noon (1960) PG-13 This is the French version of The Talented Mr. Ripley. Tom Ripley (Alain Delon) is an American who is a mimic, moocher, forger, and all-around bad guy who thinks he can get away with anything through charm and wits. Tom has been sent to Rome to find his longtime friend Philippe (Maurice Ronet) and bring him back to America. Instead, Tom begins a quest to seduce Marge (Maire Laforet), Philippe’s girlfriend. Things start to go bad from there, but Mr. Ripley always thinks he can escape from any trouble. Purple Noon is a thrilling movie where you have a love/hate relationship with Tom. Being 1960, a few things aren’t explored, and the ending is a little weak, even so, it’s a movie that takes the beauty of Italy and, because of one character, almost makes it ugly.   My Rating: Full Price   Purple Noon Info   The film is available to rent/buy on Amazon. 


Weird Credits: From the credits of Abigail: Hair Juniors


Coming Soon a Screen Near You: Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024) As the world falls, a young Furiosa is taken by a biker horde led by the warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth). Years later, Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) tries to escape and find her way home as two tyrants wage a war. From filmmaker George Miller, this is the origin story of Furiosa, who Charlize Theron played in the 2015 film Mad Max: Fury Road.  Furiosa Website   The film will be released in theatres on Friday, May 24th. 

Until Next Time!