Friday, July 10, 2020

The Old Guard

My View: The Old Guard (2020) R   Led by a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), a group of mercenaries who cannot die, have fought evil to protect the mortal world for centuries. Now a new recruit (KiKi Layne) has joined the gang, and the gang has to regroup when their identities are exposed to the world they seek to protect. I enjoyed this film, though I will admit the almost two-hour run time made the scenes between the fighting drag quite a bit. I am a big fan of Charlize Theron as an action star ( I love both Atomic Blonde and Mad Max: Fury Road), so anytime I can see Charlize kick butt, it’s a fun film to watch. There are some cool action sequences, especially the close quarter hand to hand fighting, and the plot is creative and has a few nice twists and turns. I wouldn’t mind seeing another film with the gang from The Old Guard.    My Rating: Full Price     The Old Guard Website    Available on the Netflix website.

My View: Greyhound (2020) PG-13  Early in World War II, an inexperienced US Navy captain (Tom Hanks) in charge of keeping an Allied convoy safe crossing the Atlantic must battle the Nazi U-boats that are waiting to attack. There have been a couple of films this year that I wish I had seen on the big screen, and this is one of them. The film begs for a big screen as Hanks and his ship battle a war of wits and skill with U-boats sinking the ships he is protecting. The film’s battle sequences are exciting and full of tension as the big destroyer makes moves to avoid the U-boats torpedos while trying to maneuver into a position to try and sink the German ships. Tom Hanks gives an impressive performance, reminiscent of the captains of vessels of cinema past like John Wayne and Clark Gable, while still giving off those nice guy Hanks vibes where his men are so devoted to their captain that they are willing to die for him. Don’t you dare watch this film on a computer screen, it needs to be seen on as big a screen as you can muster.   My Rating: Full Price     Greyhound Website   Available on the Apple TV+ website.
My View:   Palm Springs (2020)  R  Nyles (Andy Samberg) is at a wedding when he meets the maid of honor Sarah (Cristin Milioti) at a Palm Springs wedding. Nyles saves Sarah from making a huge mistake, and they instantly hit it off. Little does Sarah know that she and Nyles are destined to relive the same day over and over. I am not a huge fan of Andy Samberg as he has a tendency to go over the top with his performances, but this time, Samberg is somewhat restrained and is quite enjoyable. He has excellent chemistry with Cristin Milioti, and they play off each other with great timing. Sure this film steals a bit from a few classic movies, but it makes the format its own and does it quite well. It doesn’t hurt that the supporting cast includes J. K. Simmons, Peter Gallagher, Tyler Hoechlin, June Squibb, and Meredith Hagner. Palm Springs is fun, sometimes a little twisted, and is an excellent addition to the romantic comedy genre.    My Rating: Full Price    Palm Springs Website   Available on the Hulu website.
Indiefest: Parallax (2020)   A young artist, Naomi (Naomi Prentice), wakes up to a life that she doesn’t recognize, and her dreams are haunted by nightmares of drowning in a deep black pool. This makes her question her identity and sanity as her paintings take her to a world that she doesn’t know how to deal with. It took me a while to get into this film, but I wanted to know how it was going to turn out once I did. Parallax is more a psychological film, as we as viewers have to figure out what is real and what is imagined by Naomi. The film slowly peels back the layers as Naomi explores the mystery that is her life, and we journey along with her on the travels through the pictures that she has created. I enjoyed this trip into Naomi’s mind, reminding me of some of the Sci-Fi stories I read as a kid.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Parallax Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: Guest of Honour (2019)   Veronica (Laysia De Oliveira) is a high school teacher who has been arrested for a sexual assault that she didn’t commit but is willing to take the fall because she feels she is being punished for crimes she committed at an earlier age. Jim (David Thewlis) is Veronica’s father and isn’t above using his power as a food inspector to get her daughter off. This film tells two different stories; one is Veronica telling the story of her life with her dad to the priest (Luke Wilson), who is helping plan Veronica’s father's funeral. The second story is Jim’s story of his life as a food inspector, which he took to spend more time with his sick wife/mother of Veronica. I had a hard time getting into this film, though I did enjoy the performance of David Thewlis, who is always interesting to watch on the screen. The film has a rather clunky plot that I never quite could get into. I had a hard time figuring out what exactly Veronica was dealing with, both in her present life and in her childhood. The film feels messy almost from the start and never clicked for me.   My Rating: Cable    Guest of Honour Website   Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado (2020)   For decades, Walter Mercado was the world’s most famous astrologer, whose televised horoscopes captivated an audience that reached 120 million Hispanic viewers a day, then one day, Walter mysteriously disappeared. Living in San Antonio until my late 30’s, I was always aware of Walter Mercado, this strange, flamboyant man who gave out advice based on the astrological signs. While I speak a little bit of Spanish, I was mostly just captivated by the spectacle of Walter, which seemed like one big theatrical experience. The film looks at Walter's influence on his audience (though it does blame his manager for some of his shadier deals, like the psychic network he shilled for) and just how much he meant to his fans. The film's highlight is when super fan, Lin-Manuel Miranda, shows up to spend time geeking over Walter. The film does give you a glimpse into Walter’s life after he left TV (mostly due to legal problems with his former manager), and if you grew up watching Walter with your parents and grandparents, it will be a fun trip to the past.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Mucho Mucho Amor Website   Available on the Netflix website.
Indiefest: Inmate#1: The Rise of Danny Trejo (2019)   Actor Danny Trejo, having spent much of his early life in prison, discusses his career and how he has overcome a life of crime and addiction. It is incredible that Danny Trejo survived his childhood; much less became a movie star. A heroin addict by age twelve, thanks to an uncle, Danny was on a journey that would have ended either with his death or being locked in prison for the rest of his life. Instead, Danny in 1969 went to AA and got clean. He then became a world-renown drug counselor and was happy in the life he had made for himself. As we know, Danny’s story didn’t end there, and that is where the fun of this documentary takes you, as you discover that wonder that is Danny’s life. To say that you will fall in love with Danny, the real person (who still lives in the area he grew up in), is a given. And you will be amazed and astounded by the journey that Danny takes on his road to stardom in Hollywood. This film is so much fun to watch and, if you aren’t already, it will make you a fan of Danny Trejo and his incredible life.   My Rating: Full Price    Inmate #1 Facebook Site    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Forgotten Film: But I’m A Cheerleader (1999) R   Megan (Natasha Lyonne) is the envy of her high school; she is a cheerleader, popular and has a steady boyfriend. However, Megan is a little ˜different’; she’s pretty handsy with her fellow cheerleaders, only has pictures of girls up in her locker, and her boyfriend notices that she isn’t really into him. Her parents and friends decide that Megan must be gay, and her parents send her off to a sexual redirection school. The school could just be what Megan needs, especially when she meets a fellow camper named Graham (Clea DuVall). This isn’t a great film, and it takes a while to get going, but once Megan is at the camp, it becomes a lot of fun to watch. The film has a great cast, including Michelle Williams, Bud Cort, RuPaul, Cathy Moriarty, and Melanie Lynskey. Plus, Natasha Lyonne is so much fun to watch get into trouble.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    But I'm A Cheerleader Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Old Guard: Aviation Supplier

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Enola Holmes (2020)   Enola Homes (Millie Bobby Brown), the Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill) teen sister, discovers her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) is missing and sets out to find her and discovers a mystery that her famous brother can’t solve. Any movie that involves Sherlock Holmes is a movie I am lining up to see.      Enola Holmes Info
Until Next Time!

Friday, July 3, 2020

The Outpost

My View:  The Outpost (2020) R   A small band of US soldiers in a combat outpost battle against hundreds of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. I wish that more theatres were open and we could see this film on the big screen because, I think to get the full impact of this movie, you need to be immersed in the spectacle of this rough and realistic look at life in a camp that was nearly impossible to defend. Based on a true story, the film looks at life of soldiers in a war zone where their lives can be taken at virtually every moment. This is not your grandfather’s or even your father’s glamorized look at war but a down and dirty view of how hard it is to be a soldier in a country that doesn’t want you there. The film does a great job of letting us get to know the soldiers in the camp and how they deal with a camp that was set up to fail. Scott Eastwood gives one of his best performances as the heroic Staff Sgt. Romesha, Orlando Bloom, is outstanding as the camp commander who has to keep the morale up in the camp while trying to keep the local leaders happy, all the while the Taliban is lurking, always looking at a way to slowly whittle away at his men. The actor that stands out in the excellent cast is Caleb Landry Jones as Specialist Ty Carter, a solider that doesn’t quite fit in, but when the chips are down comes through. Added touch to the real feel of the film is that some of the actors were the actual soldiers in the engagement. The battle sequence takes place during the second half of the film and director Rod Lurie, allows us to experience the horror of war as he uses long, unflinching takes that ramps up the tension and the overwhelming feeling that the lives of the soldiers we have gotten to know just might be doomed. The Outpost is a film that needs to be seen, and I wish it was on the big screen.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    The Outpost Info    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: Desperados (2020)   Wesley (Nasim Pedrad) hasn’t had a great year, and after a horrible blind date, she meets the man of her dreams, Jared (Robbie Amell). After a month of dating, the couple finally sleeps together, and then Wes doesn’t hear from Jared for five days. Egged on by alcohol and her two best friends (Anna Camp, Sarah Burns), Wes writes a blistering email but learns that Jared got into a car accident and hasn’t been able to reach Wes. Wes decides to travel down to Mexico where Jared is and somehow erase the email before Jared is released from the hospital and can see the document. Let’s start out by saying this film is an hour and forty-five minutes long, and it feels like it’s even longer. The premise of the film is darn thin that it barely can sustain fifteen minutes of plot, much less a whole movie. I never cared about Wes, and it is so apparent from the start that Jared is not the right guy for her. There is a subplot involving Anna Camp, that wastes her comic talents and the cameo of Heather Graham,  that is almost as stupid as the main plot. The film falls flat on its face from the start and never recovers. Sure if you have Netflix, you might think, what can it hurt watching this film…oh it will hurt.    My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again     Desperados Website    Available on the Netflix website.
My View: John Lewis: Good Trouble (2020) PG   Documentary on the legendary civil rights crusader and Georgia representative, whose career spans 60-plus years of social activism on essential issues such as civil rights, gun control, and voting rights. These days it is sometimes hard to feel good about your elected officials, but that is not the case with John Lewis, a man who stands for the rights of all people. The film tells the story of a son of a sharecropper, who as a young boy, preached to the chickens he was in charge of feeding and was so worried about his appearance, wore a tie in high school. At a very early age, Lewis became an essential cog in the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement of civil rights and the nonviolent protest movement. The film moves back in forth from giving us the history of Lewis’s struggle for civil rights and his battles in the halls of Congress to the present day with the close defeat of democratic governor candidates in Texas and Georgia. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with John Lewis and now, more than ever, admire a man who was willing to risk his life to bring about change in our society.   My Rating: Full Price    John Lewis: Good Trouble Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services and at select drive-ins around the country.
My View: Athlete A (2020) PG-13   Documentary that follows the reporters of the Indianapolis Star who in 2016 broke the story which brought to light the USAG women’s team doctor, Larry Nassar, had been abusing athletes for over two decades and the cover-up that allowed the abuse to thrive. Athlete A is a fascinating film that just when you think the situation it is showcasing can’t get any worse, it does. Looking at the story through the eyes of the investigative team at the Indy Star paper, we get to see how the story kept getting bigger and bigger, as more of the sorted and horrible details came forward. Due to the courageous efforts of some of the victims, especially Maggie Nichols, we see how Dr. Nassar operated under the guise (sometimes in the very presence of parents) that he was doing ‘special adjustments’ to the young women. The fact that this man had his job for so long and that so many officials knew what was going on is a blight on our Olympic past and will make you incredibly mad. Athlete A is a film and a story that needed to be brought forward into the light and those involved should be punished.    My Rating: Full Price     Athlete A Website   Available on the Netflix website.
Indiefest: Homewrecker (2019)   Michelle (Alex Essoe) is a newlywed and an interior designer. Linda (Precious Chong) lives alone and is looking for someone to help her redo her home. Linda coerces Michelle into visiting her home, and it soon becomes clear that Linda has something more sinister in mind than just decorations. This is an odd film that combines horror/suspense with a bit of comedy. Homewrecker a tale of two women who meet by chance or did they. It’s a tale with a few surprises and takes some wild turns but is fun to watch. I will tell you that some of the camera work and a few of the action sequences are not well done, and the dialogue is a little clunky, but I did enjoy seeing where the film was going to go and this would make a great addition to any film festival's midnight movie slot.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee      The Homewrecker Info    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Forgotten Film: Brassed Off (1996) R   The town of Grimley, a Yorkshire mining town, has had a brass band, made up of local miners, since 1881. The government has decided to go to nuclear power, and the local mine is about to close. Danny (Pete Postlethwaite) is the band's leader and is determined to keep the band going despite the layoffs and get his band into the national finals. In walks Gloria (Tara Fitzgerald), a talented flugelhorn player whose late father was a legend in the band. Gloria is the first woman to ever join the band, and there is one problem; she is the former crush of Andy (Ewan McGregor), and Gloria is conducting a study of the mine that might speed up the closing. I love this film, and though you might think that the center of the story is the love story between Andy and Gloria, the film really is about Danny and his determination to keep the band going, convinced that it can keep the town going through the hard times. The music is fun and rousing, but it’s Pete Postlethwaite that makes this film work so well.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Brassed Off Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Outpost: Pashto Voice Actor

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Father Soldier Son (2020)   Documentary on a former platoon sergeant and his two young sons spanning over a decade, chronicling his return home after a severe combat injury. The plight of veterans in this country needs to be examined, and I welcome this documentary as it explores just how much our soldiers sacrifice.    Father Soldier Son Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, June 26, 2020


My View: Irresistible (2020) R  Gary (Steve Carell) is a Democratic strategist who was responsible for the Hillary Clinton campaign loss to Donald Trump. He discovers a retired veteran named Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) and persuades him to run for mayor in his small, conservative Midwest town. Things look good until Gary's political rival, Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), rolls into town, and democracy in this tiny town will never be the same. I was disappointed in this film as it goes too many times for the cheap laugh. I knew we were in trouble when early on, Steve Carell’s character leaves a press conference to go move the cows in the background into a better photo opportunity. I think the film missed its mark by going for an all-out comedy instead of going the satire route, which would have made the storyline work. Instead, the film never finds its footing and goes the easier route.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Irresistible Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: My Spy (2020) PG-13   A legendary CIA agent, JJ (Dave Bautista), has been demoted and is sent undercover to surveil a 9-year-old, Sophie (Chloe Coleman) and her family. Sophie is a tech genius, and she discovers where JJ's operation is set up. She blackmails him into letting her hang out with him and learn what it means to be a spy. While not a great film and I am not sure exactly what the target audience is as it has a strange PG-13 rating due to some language and violence, I still found myself enjoying the film. I think it is because Dave Bautista is so likable and is willing to have the movie make fun of himself. He has some nice chemistry with Chloe Coleman and also the adorable Kristen Schaal, who plays Bautista’s nerdy tech partner. My Spy is predictable, and you can see the ending from a mile away, but it’s still a fun ride.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    My Spy Website   Available on the Amazon Prime website and in drive-ins around the country.
My View: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020) PG-13  Lars (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams) have been dreaming since they were kids to representing Iceland in the world's biggest song competition, Eurovision. Their dream just might come true. Oh, how I wanted this film to be good, but it's not. Instead, it's long, the comedy is weak, and some of the songs are downright grating to watch. This is Ferrell’s movie as he co-wrote the film, inspired when he watched the real Eurovision contest with family and friends a few years ago. The problem is that Ferrell’s character is the weak link to the film, a (no pun intended) one-note character who is clueless about everything, including how silly he and his songs are. The film wastes the comedic talents of Rachel McAdams, who plays the lovestruck Sigrit. McAdams is used mostly to make Ferrell’s character look even stupider. Some of the songs are fun, and I will say there is a rousing song that takes place at a party where all the contestants sing a mash-up of several songs that is fun and enjoyable. I just wish that the film had captured that fun and enthusiasm throughout the storyline. Instead, we get a lot of bad songs and unfunny dialogue, like a horrible night at a karaoke bar.   My Rating: Cable   Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga Website   Available on the Netflix website.
Indiefest: The Ghost of Peter Sellers (2018)   In 1973, Peter Sellers was the biggest comedy actors of his time, and he embarked on a comedy for Columbia Pictures. Sellers, notoriously temperamental and difficult to work with, lost confidence in the film and got the producers of the film fired. This is a documentary about a movie, Ghosts in the Noonday Sun, that never should have been made because it was doomed almost from the start. Peter Medak, a young director, was coming off a hot film, The Ruling Class, that got star Peter O’Toole an Oscar nomination. Peter Sellers was an international star of the Pink Panther films, and Spike Milligan was a comic genius who, with Peter Sellers, had become famous in Britain on the radio show The Goon Show. They came together to film a movie about 17th-century pirates to be filmed almost totally on a fully functional sailing ship off the coast of Malta. The documentary tells the behind the scenes stories of a shoot that went from bad to worse, with Sellers acting up so much, he caused a movie crew mutiny, a shooting schedule that was wrecked by rotten weather, faulty equipment and a script that was being re-written as it was being shot. The film suffers a bit because the original director of Ghosts, Peter Medak, also shot the documentary, so the story is one-sided, with Medak making himself the forlorn hero. There are quite a few shots in the documentary where we see Medak actually directing the shooting, and there are some interviews that he does with friends that seem to be in there only so they can commiserate with his experiences on the Sellers film. Ghosts in the Noonday Sun was such a disaster, it was never released and seeing footage from the film, I can see why as the comedy looks forced and downright stupid. I got bored about 3/4 of the way through the film, and like Medak’s experience shooting Ghosts, I just wanted the experience to end.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The Ghost of Peter Sellers Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.    
Indiefest: Disclosure (2020)  Documentary that looks at Hollywood's depiction of transgender people and the impact those stories had not just on the American culture but the lives of transgender people. Watching this documentary was quite fascinating and made me go back and think about films/tv shows that I have watched with transgender characters in them. So often in our culture, a person that is depicted as trans is either the but of a joke or seen as a degenerate, often times a maniac or a disturbed person. Using interviews with trans contributors makes the film feel personal and impactful. Laverne Cox, a three-time Primetime Emmy nominated actress, is one of the main interviews in the documentary and is also the executive producer of the film. This is a critical and groundbreaking film that looks at a subject that has rarely been even talked about, much less explored. The film uses extensive clips from tv shows and moves giving the film quite an impact on what it is saying. I will tell you that some of the clips contain full-frontal nudity, so be warned. I think this documentary is an outstanding addition to the history of cinema and will be shown in film classes from now on.   My Rating: Full Price    Disclosure Website   Available on the Netflix website.
Familyfaire: One Small Step (2020)   A collection of family-friendly animated short films including the Academy Award-winning Bear Story. Every year I look forward to the release of the Oscar-nominated Animated Short films. It is always fun to see some of the world’s best animation up on the big screen. While not on the big screen, the company behind those releases have a new short film compilation, One Small Step, and it is a blast to watch. The incredible, inventive, and touching Bear Story is worth the price of the rental alone, but you get ten other incredible animated shorts to boot. Some are silly like Gopher Broke (think Looney Tunes), and others are a little bit sad like Borrowed Time, but all are worth watching. My favorite is One Small Step, a 2018 nominee for the Academy Award about a young girl who dreams of becoming an astronaut. The film is beautifully told, and you will need a couple of tissues by the end of the short film. Do yourself a favor and rent this visit with animation from around the world. This is the first of a series of feature-length compilations of the best short films that will be released every two weeks and will be available to consumers in partnership with at least sixty independent theatres across the US and Asia.  My Rating: Full Price    One Small Step Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services. 
Forgotten Film: The Eagle Huntress (2016) G   Documentary that follows a 13-year-old Mongolian girl named Aisholpan, as she trains to be the first female eagle hunter. The cinematography of this film is striking and remarkable as time after time, we see scenes of ravishing beauty that at the same time are overwhelmingly isolated, as Aisholpan and her family seem to be the only people on that planet. The scenes of Aisholpan and her father traveling across snow-packed mountains and frozen streams are both beautiful and terrifying as you wonder if they will ever make it back alive to their home and family. The Eagle Huntress is a film filled with bravery, determination and the human spirit filled with confidence that nothing can stop someone who knows she will succeed. That Aisholpan succeeds is not the question, it’s how well this 13-year-old girl does might surprise you, and then again, once you get to know her, it just might meet your expectations for her.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     The Eagle Huntress Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Eurovision Song Contest: H O D Plasterer

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Desert One (2019)   Documentary on the daring and failed mission in 1980 to rescue the 52 hostages being held in the American Embassy in Iran. The story up to now hasn’t been fully told, and legendary two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple brings us a documentary that will explore both sides to the story. I can’t wait to see this.      Desert One Info
Until Next Time!

Friday, June 19, 2020


My View: 7500 (2019) R   A young pilot, Tobias (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is faced with a horrible situation, the passenger plane he is flying is being hijacked by terrorists. I immensely enjoyed this taut, suspenseful film that takes place entirely inside the cockpit of the airplane. Levitt gives a tour de force performance as the young pilot who has to make some tough and sometimes horrible decisions to keep his plane and passengers safe. He is on screen the whole movie, and he is up to the challenge, showing a multi-level performance making us care about him and wanting him to figure a way out. 7500 is a roller coaster of tension as Tobias deals with not only the terrorists but having to fly the plane as well. I highly recommend this film as it does a difficult job of making such a confined space into such a theatre of suspense.    My Rating: Full Price     7500 Website   The film is available on the Amazon website.
My View:  Miss Juneteenth (2020)   A former beauty queen and single mom, Turquoise (Nicole Beharie), who dreams that her daughter, Kai (Alexis Chikaeze), will win the ‘Miss Juneteenth’ scholarship pageant and go to college. I loved this story of a strong-willed mom who wants a better life for her daughter than the one that she is living. Beharie gives a powerful performance of a woman who keeps getting kicked down, but by sheer willpower is determined that her daughter will succeed where Turquoise failed. There is excellent chemistry between Bahaire and Alexis Chikaeze, and that makes the heart of the story work so well, as the love between mother and daughter shines throughout the film. I enjoyed the sense of pride and community, and how much the Juneteenth holiday meant to the town. The film captures the feel of a small, Texas town and how important local businesses, like the bar Turquoise works in, are, giving people a place to gather and get together. Miss Juneteenth is a warm, intimate look at a woman who wants a better life for her daughter. A mother that will do what she has to do, no matter the obstacle, for her daughter to succeed in life.   My Rating: Full Price    Miss Juneteenth Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services and in participating drive-in theatres.
Indiefest: My Darling Vivian (2020)   Documentary on Vivian Liberto, Johnny Cash’s first wife and the mother of his four daughters. The film is narrated by Vivian’s four daughters, including Country superstar Rosanne Cash, which contains numerous behind-the-scenes home movies, giving the viewer an inside look into the life of the Cash family. The Cash daughters bring us the story of their mother, who was mostly forgotten by the fans and the industry after Johnny left Vivian for June Carter, a story we know well from the Oscar-winning 2005 film Walk the Line. We get to see how much Vivian influenced Johnny in both his music and his life, but fame and pills took Johnny away from Vivian, a strong woman who raised four children with almost no help from the ‘Man in Black.’ My Darling Vivian is a must-see for Cash fans, and yes, it might tarnish his image a bit, but it is Vivian’s time to be in the spotlight that she so deserves. My Rating: Full Price     My Darling Vivian Website   Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: Babyteeth (2019)   A seriously ill teenager named Milla (Eliza Scanlen) falls for a parent's worst nightmare, a small-time drug dealer, Moses (Toby Wallace). Milla’s new love gives her the freedom to find things to be joyous about and to take chances on life. Babyteeth isn’t an easy film to watch because Milla and her parents (Essie Davis, Ben Mendelsohn) don’t always make the right decision; in fact, most of the time, they make the wrong one. Including Moses, these are all incredibly flawed people, but that is the point of this film. That throughout all their mistakes and bad choices, they are a family that is dealing with Milla and her fight to live. Milla, through the help and love of Moses, learns to live her life on her terms and the world be damned. All four principle actors give outstanding performances, with Scanlen giving us a meaningful and heartfelt performance that dominates the film. Davis and Mendelsohn are fabulous as the parents who learn to cope with their problems through the love and intersection of their daughter. This isn’t your ordinary cancer kid film, and that is what makes it stand out: it shows how a family deals with life and all its pain and warts.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Babyteeth Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: Runner (2019)   Documentary on Guor Marial, who at age eight fled war-torn Sudan to eventually seek safety in the US. He became a nationally known runner and qualified for the 2012 Olympics. Guor wanted to run for the newly formed South Sudan, but because it was not recognized by the Olympic Committee, he had to fight to run as an independent, not as a member of the Sudan team, taking a stand against its years of oppression. You are going to fall in love with Guor Marial (later Guor Marial Marker) has his unbelievable story is told on the screen. Guor had to literals run for his life (not once but several times) as he was sent by his mother and father out into the wilderness to escape the war that was raging in Sudan. I loved the animation the film uses to illustrate Guor’s life in Sudan, and the trials and tribulations that he had to endure to survive. It is a remarkable story of just how he got to America, but then it gets even better when coaches at his high school realize that he had a talent for running. That talent not only took him to college but also the Olympics. The film does an outstanding job of giving us all the insight and troubles that Guor had in his life, including a massive obstacle for him to get into the Olympics. It is a film that will have you cheering for the lone runner from South Sudan.   My Rating: Full Price    Runner Website   Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: Jack and Yaya (2019)   Jack and Yaya met when they were toddlers through their shared backyard fence. They spent their childhood together, and both supported each other as they both came out as transgender. The film follows the two for a year as they reunite after moving away from each other, exploring their unique relationship with the help of home videos and interviews with their friends and family. This sweet slice of life film explores the lives of two people, by happenstance, gives us an insight into the world of transgender people, their lives, loves, and how both they and their families dealt with the transition for becoming who they were meant to be. Because of the support system that both Jack and Yaya had, we see two people that have ended up being happy with the lives they created for themselves.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Jack & Yaya Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Forgotten Film: Dressed to Kill (1980) R After visiting her psychiatrist (Michael Caine) and talking about her deepest fantasies, a woman (Angie Dickinson) is picked up by a mysterious man at an art museum, and they go back to his apartment to have sex. When the woman leaves, she is brutally killed by a tall blonde woman in an elevator. A high-class call girl (Nancy Allen) has witnessed the killing and now is the next target for the killer. For me, the film is worth watching for the first ten minutes of the film, as we follow Dickinson through her fantasy-filled day. Writer/director Brian DePalma (Carrie, The Untouchables) has always been an Alfred Hitchcock fan, and this is his tribute to the great master. The film is filled with some excellent performances, including Nancy Allen, Angie Dickinson (who’s sex scene was the talk of the town), and Dennis Franz as the investigating detective. The film lets us down a little with its ending, but Dressed to Kill is still an intense, fun thriller of a ride.    My Rating: Full Price   Dressed to Kill Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of 7500: Previz Artist

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Ghost of Peter Sellers (2018)   In 1973, Peter Sellers was the biggest comedy actors of his time, and he embarked on a comedy for Columbia Pictures. Sellers, notoriously temperamental and difficult to work with, lost confidence in the film and got the producers of the film fired. Sellers then turned on his friend, Peter Medak, who was directing the film, and the scars left from this production are still there after all these years. I have a love/hate relationship with Peter Sellers and can’t wait to revisit this complex man.     The Ghost of Peter Sellers Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, June 12, 2020

The King of Staten Island

My View: The King of Staten Island (2020) R   Scott (Pete Davidson) spends his days getting high and watching cartoons, all the while dreaming of becoming a tattoo artist. His world was destroyed when his firefighter dad died, saving a family from a burning building. Now Scott’s world is rocked again when his mom (Marisa Tomei) begins dating Ray (Bill Burr), a firefighter himself, and Scott’s mom thinks it’s time for Scott to grow up. I enjoyed this film but boy I did not enjoy Scott as a character, and that is the point of the film. Scott is a self-centered 20 something man who feels more like he stopped growing up when his father died, stuck in a teenage mind. Scott lives off the kindness of his mom, played by the always brilliant Marisa Tomei, and seems to think that it is his God-given right to sponge off his mom. It takes a lot for Scott to change and to realize that maybe, just maybe he should grow up. The supporting cast does a great job, including Bel Powley as Scott’s on-again/off-again girlfriend, who somehow sees something in Scott that we can’t see at first and Bill Burr, as the firefighter who falls in love with Scott’s mom. The film is funny, and though the film feels a little long, it is an entertaining film about a guy that you might not like at first but just might root for in the end.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    King of Staten Island Website      Available for rent on participating on-demand services
My View:  Artemis Fowl (2020) PG   Artemis Fowl II (Ferdia Shaw) is a 12-year-old who comes from a long line of criminal masterminds. Artemis is on a mission to find his father (Colin Farrell), who has mysteriously disappeared. Artemis is about to discover that the world is full of surprises, including elves, dwarves, and fairies. I would love to read the book to help me understand what the heck I watched. The film is one long setup for a sequel. Almost nothing happens in this film, and when it does, it is met with a yawn. The dialogue is horrible, weak, and insulting, the plot is just plain stupid, and the characters are so thinly created it seems as you can see through them. I am guessing Disney thought they had their Harry Porter series, but instead it created a movie that starts out with a whimper and goes downhill from there. Please don’t waste your time investing in watching this film as I doubt another movie in the series will be made.   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again      Artemis Fowl Website    The film is available for viewing on the Disney Plus platform.
My View: Da 5 Bloods (2020) R   Four former African-American soldiers (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen Squad Leader (Chadwick Boseman) and the gold fortune that they left behind. Spike Lee’s films are always an interesting experience, and this one has his handprints all over it. I just felt the 2 hour and 36-minute length as the film covers so many things that sometimes the main story gets lost in all the visuals that he puts on the screen. The film covers the effects of the Vietnam War both during the war and the scars of its aftereffects. Like a lot of Lee’s films, the movie breaks the third wall, as one of the character’s talks directly to the audience and Lee uses scenes from prominent Black people in history like Dr. Martin Luther King to make his point about the injustices that have been going on in this country since its beginning. I enjoyed some of the film, especially the action sequences, but the film was dragged down by too many ideas in too long of a film.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Da 5 Bloods Website   The film is available for viewing on the Netflix platform.  
Indiefest: You Don’t Nomi (2019) Documentary on one of the legendary flops of all time, 1995s Showgirls. I had a little bit of a hard time with this film because I consider Showgirls one of the worst movies of all time and there are people, including two in this film (David Schmader, who did the DVD commentary on the film and Adam Nayman, who wrote the book ‘It Doesn’t Suck: Showgirls’) who feel that the film is a misunderstood movie that should be appreciated. The film does have quite a few insights on why and how the film was made. Showgirls was directed by Paul Verhoeven, who gave us Robocop, Total Recall, and Basic Instinct and was written by Joe Eszterhas, who was paid a lot of money to craft the script after his hits, Basic Instinct and Sliver. A bit of warning, like Showgirls (which went for and got an NC-17 rating), there is a lot of nudity in this documentary. The film does a great job of setting up the scene of making the film, including the casting of Elizabeth Berkley, who up to the time of the film, was known for her role as Jessie on Saved By the Bell. The film was a huge bomb, and it ruined Berkley’s career, who was dropped by her agent weeks after the film was released. I would suggest that if you have interest in seeing this film, to watch Showgirls first, but I warn you, it isn’t a pretty sight.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee      You Don't Nomi Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: Arkansas (2020) R   Kyle (Liam Hemsworth) and Swin (Clark Duke) are low-level drug runners based in the South working for a man they have never met named Frog. The boys start pushing the boundaries of their job, and when a deal goes wrong, Frog is out for revenge. This isn’t your ordinary crime drama, but you would know that as soon as you saw John Malkovich’s name in the credits. The film feels like a mixture of Fargo, Reservoir Dogs, and a little bit of Blood Simple thrown in. To say that Kyle and Swin are in over their heads would be an understatement when things start going wrong for the two. The film is funny, full of very strange characters and filled with a plot that takes quite a few surprising twists and turns. This is one of those films where the film does a great job of giving us a background of some of the main characters and how they got where they are at. The cast is excellent, including Vince Vaughn, Vivica A. Fox, and Eden Brolin, in a very amusing role as the love interest of Clark Duke’s character. Have some fun, and enjoy your time in Arkansas with Kyle and Swin.   My Rating: Full Price    Arkansas Website   Available for rent on participating on-demand services and in participating drive-in theatres.
Indiefest: Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl (2018)  Kate Nash, at age 18, rockets to fame, becoming an Internet sensation and then gets a big recording contract. However, life doesn’t always happen the way you think it does, and in this documentary is shows the struggle that Kate goes through when her label drops her and her luck goes from bad to worse. I will admit that before seeing this film, I didn’t know much about Kate Nash or her music, just that she is on the hit TV show GLOW, where she plays Rhonda Richardson, the British book nerd wrestler. After seeing this documentary, I am both a fan of Nash’s music and Kate Nash herself. The film gives us an up-close and personal look at a really tough time in Nash’s life, where everything seemed to go the wrong way for her. For fans of Nash and her music, there is plenty of concert footage, from both her early days and her more recent tours. Nash is a force of nature both on the stage and behind the scenes, and you will fall in love with Kate and her music.   My Rating: Full Price    Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl Facebook Page     Available for rent on participating on-demand services
Forgotten Film: The Stalking Moon (1968) G  A retired Army scout (Gregory Peck) takes in a woman (Eva Marie Saint) and her half-Apache son, not knowing that the boys father, a notorious renegade Apache is after them. I love westerns, but this is a western with a twist, it is also a suspense film. Peck is outstanding as the man who determined to protect the woman and her son with his life. The film builds to a great showdown and doesn’t disappoint.   My Rating: Full Price    The Stalking Moon Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Da 5 Bloods: Thai Art Coordinator

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: My Darling Vivian (2020) Documentary on Vivian Liberto, Johnny Cash’s first wife and the mother of his four daughters. This should be a blast to watch, and I can’t wait to see it.    My Darling Vivian Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Spelling the Dream

My View: Spelling the Dream (2020)   An Indian-American has won the Scripps National Spelling Bee for the past 12 years. This documentary explores this trend, which is one of the longest in sports history, highlighting four students as they compete to win the tournament. You are going to fall in love with these kids, and how can you not. They are funny, sometimes a little quirky, and unbelievably smart. All the kids profiled have incredibly supportive families, where not just the parents help the kids study. Still, the whole family becomes involved with the preparation and work to get ready for this incredible feat. What I came away from this film is not only how wonderful these families are but how much the kids participating enjoy the challenge and some, the spotlight. Spelling the Dream is a feel-good film that is helped by interviews with comedian Hari Kondabolu and CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Enjoy getting to know the kids and get ready to be on the edge of your seat, rooting for them when they start spelling words that you have never heard of.    My Rating: Full Price   Spelling the Dream Website    The film is currently available on Netflix.
Indiefest: Tommaso (2019)    An American, Tommaso (Willem Dafoe), living in Rome with his young European wife, Nikki (Cristina Chiriac), and their daughter, is preparing for his next film. Tommaso is haunted by his past mistakes, so much so that he begins to question his life and his sanity. I am a huge Willem Dafoe fan, and even in films that I don’t like (The Lighthouse), I always find his performances fascinating. Dafoe doesn’t disappoint as he is on screen the whole time, but I just wish I liked the film more. This is a film where a character is dealing with being sober for the past six years and has a young wife and daughter. Add to the pressure of planning/writing a movie and teaching, Dafoe’s character is being stretched thin, and he begins to experience things that are not part of reality. Tommaso is a film that you never know what you see is happening, or is it just a figment of his imagination, like drinking coffee in his regular hangout, but this time, the barista is naked. I never entirely connected with the movie or with Tommaso, who, for most of the film, isn’t a likable person, someone who can only see his point of view. It’s one of those films that after you see it, you feel exhausted both mentally and physically.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Tommaso Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: Shirley (2020) R   Shirley (Elisabeth Moss) is a world-famous horror writer who is as well known for her writing as for her gloom and doom nature. Her writing of a new project is disturbed by the arrival of newlyweds Fred (Logan Lerman) and Rose (Odessa Young). This is a visit that the young couple will never forget. Moss is brilliant as the moody and troubled Shirley, a talented writer whose world revolves around her writing and her husband, played by the bombastic Michael Stuhlbarg, who, at first glance, loves her, but their relationship is far more complicated than we could first imagine. Moss dominates the screen in every scene she is in, though I was also impressed by how Odessa Young, as the headstrong but very young newlywed, holds her own on the screen with Moss. The film is complex, and we slowly, along with Rose, learn that Shirley isn’t the monster that she seems to be at first. The film has a bit of a mystery in it, as a young woman from campus has gone missing, and Shirley starts to write a novel based on what could be behind her disappearance. We never solve the mystery of the missing woman, nor do we ever fully understand the enigma of Shirley, but it’s a captivating and compelling ride nonetheless.   My Rating: Full Price    Shirley Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: And We Go Green (2019)   Documentary on the International Formula E circuit, the world’s fastest-growing Motorsport. The film follows the professional drivers on the circuit as they race for victory across ten major cities. I really enjoyed this film about a sport I knew very little about. The race cars look like formula one cars but are powered by electric motors. The film does a great job of showing us that the handling of the vehicles is very different from any other race car, without a combustible engine to listen to and a braking system that, just like your hybrid cars, uses those brakes to replenish the batteries. The film follows a group of drivers, giving us up close and personal insights to the drivers and their pasts. The racing is fast and furious, with great in-car shots and audio that gives you insight on just how challenging the races are. As I said, I didn't know much about this sport before, but I’m a fan now.   My Rating: Full Price     And We Go Green Website   The film is currently available on Hulu.
Forgotten Film: Stop Making Sense (1984)   One of the greatest rock concert documentaries ever! If you can’t have fun watching this film with The Talking Heads rock group giving one of the great performances of all time, then I don’t have any hope for you. The music is magical, David Byrne is mesmerizing as the lead vocalist, and the band is as tight as they come. This is one of those concert films that is so good, you don’t miss not seeing the performance live.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Stop Making Sense Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Shirley: Historical Magick Consultant

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Babyteeth (2019)   A seriously ill teenager named Milla (Eliza Scanlen) falls for a parents worst nightmare, a small-time drug dealer, Moses (Toby Wallace). Milla’s new love gives her the freedom to find things to be joyous about and to take chances on life. I look forward to this film that cleaned up awards on the international film festival circuit.     Babyteeth Website
Until Next Time!