Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Croods: A New Age

Note to readers: I currently am not willing to risk my health (I’m 62 and an asthmatic) by visiting a theatre. All films that I have seen for review have been screened in my home. I am not going to tell you whether or not to attend a theatre. Just be aware of the risks, do your research, and follow the instructions to the letter.

Familyfaire: The Croods: A New Age (2020) PG   Your favorite prehistoric family, the Croods, are back! There is a new family in the neighborhood, the Bettermans, led by Hope (Leslie Mann) and Phil (Peter Dinklage), who claim to be better and more evolved. Can Grug (Nicolas Cage) and Ugga (Catherine Keener) keep their family on the right track, or will their kids lose their way when shown how the Bettermans live? I liked the first The Croods film, immensely enjoying the antics of Grug, voiced by Nicolas Cage, who as the dim but caring caveman made the film seem fun and enjoyable. This time around, there isn’t much to add to the story other than the Bettermans, a modern-like family that makes the Croods seem like, well, cavemen. The Croods: A New Age isn’t a bad film, it just doesn’t bring much more to the storyline. Kids will enjoy the movie, and there are plenty of colorful, wild animals to keep the smaller kids involved.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     The Croods: A New Age Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres.

My View: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) R   In 1927 Chicago, tensions rise between Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), her ambitious horn player, Levee (Chadwick Boseman), and the management determined to control the headstrong Ma Rainey, the ‘Mother of the Blues.’ It’s hard to take a stage play and make it work on the screen, but boy, this film makes it work. Boy, does it! The late Chadwick Boseman gives us one last performance, and it is one for the ages. Using all his energy and charisma, Boseman provides us with a man who has talent and lets everyone know it, but there is something wrong with Levee, a man who is haunted by his past. Not to be outdone, Viola Davis, almost unrecognizable behind all the makeup and costume padding, is powerful and commanding as the demanding Ma Rainey, a woman who knows she has a gift and is willing only to share that gift when her demands are met. This is a film that will move you and, at times, will shock you. It is a fitting tribute to a man who we will all miss, and once the movie ends, is filled with the sadness of knowing that a great career was cut way too short.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Website   The film is playing exclusively in the Atlanta area at Landmark Midtown Art.

Indiefest: Stardust (2020)   A young David Bowie (Johnny Flynn) comes to America for the first time in 1971 on a trip that inspires the invention of Bowie’s iconic alter ego Ziggy Stardust. It’s hard to make a film about a legendary musician like Bowie without playing his songs, but that’s what we get with Stardust. Johnny Flynn does a fine job playing Bowie, and his singing voice is a nice copy, but the problem is that we never get the feeling from the film why Bowie was such a magnetic force on stage. The movie just slowly moves along, as we get depressed as much as Bowie does when he realizes that his dreams of becoming a big star are crumbling away. The film never finds its footing, and while we get a short vision of Bowie’s creation of an alien rock star named Ziggy at the end of the film, it has nothing of the impact that it should have. David and Ziggy deserve more than what this film gives them.    My Rating: Cable     Stardust Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Last Call (2020)   Before there were rock stars, there was writer Dylan Thomas (Rhys Ifans). In 1953, Dylan Thomas is on his final tour, where he was captivating audiences with his poetry and stories. In New York City, Thomas walked into a Tavern and pondered his life as he downed eighteen doubles scotches. This is not an easy film to watch as a man slowly before our eyes drinks himself to death. I’m not a big fan of Thomas’s work and therefore didn’t enjoy the constant reciting of his work as we flashback to his performances before an audience on his tour. The film feels somewhat like a stage play, as most of the action takes place in the bar as Thomas downs each shot, giving the bartender and the other fellows at the bar his thoughts of love, life, and death. It’s a mesmerizing performance by Rhys Ifans, but it's not enough to keep the film moving at even a slow pace. The film becomes almost repetitive as we watch Dylan keep downing his drinks. The film moves from the bar to flashback to happier or sad times in his past, along with imagined appearances by his wife, Caitlin (Romola Garai). The film slowly moves along, and like Dylan Thomas, it very quickly wears out its welcome.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Last Call Info      The film is currently playing in select theatres.

My View: Uncle Frank (2020) R   In 1973, college professor Frank Bledsoe (Paul Bettany) and his Eighteen-year-old niece, Beth (Sophia Lillis), journey back to South Carolina to attend Frank’s father’s funeral. Frank has many secrets that he wishes would remain hidden, but this trip home will be painful, and those secrets will spill out. Uncle Frank is an interesting film because even though Beth is the narrator of the film and the first third of the film is from her viewpoint, the main story and character is her Uncle Frank. Frank has a secret, one he has kept hidden and is ashamed of. It’s a shame because I really enjoyed Beth and her view of the world. The switch to focus on Frank is a bit sudden, and we never quite get the focus back on Beth. Instead, it’s Frank's story for the rest of the film. Bettany shines as the likable but troubled Frank, and his journey back home brings back memories that he would like to forget. It’s a complex performance that is full of passion and pain. Because of the performances in the film, it’s worth taking a road trip with Beth and Uncle Frank.   My Rating: Full Price    Uncle Frank Website     Available on the Amazon Prime platform.

My View: Happiest Season (2020) PG-13   Harper (Mackenzie Davis) and Abby (Kristen Stewart) are in love, so much so that Abby is going to propose to Harper when they go to Harper’s childhood home for Christmas. The problem is that Harper’s family doesn’t know Harper is a lesbian, and now Abby will have to pretend that she and Harper are just roommates. What could go wrong? This is a nice addition to the ‘home for the holidays’ genre with a wonderful twist on the romantic comedy to spice it up. Davis and Stewart have brilliant chemistry on screen together, and while a few of the comedy pieces are a bit too broad, the film is still fun, sweet, and a blast to watch. Mary Steenburgen is funny as the high-strung mom trying to coordinate not only a Christmas holiday but also her husband's (Victor Garber) bid to become mayor. The cast that stand out are Dan Levy as the gay best friend of Abby, who is more interested in his problems until he realizes Abby’s world is crashing down and Mary Holland as the odd, overeager younger sister Mary. Both bring an energy to the storyline and are a delight to watch. So grab some cocoa, put up the stockings, and watch Abby and Harper try to survive the holidays.   My Rating: Full Price     Happiest Season Info    Available on the Hulu platform.

My View: Hillbilly Elegy (2020) R    The story of J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso), who goes back to his Appalachian home to revisit his childhood and the two women, his strong-willed grandmother (Glen Close) and his troubled mother (Amy Adams). What a colossal waste of talent. The film moves back and forth from when J.D. is a kid and in the present where J.D. is in law school. The biggest problem is while the younger J.D. is somewhat enjoyable as a kid who needs guidance and love, the adult J.D. is a stupid jerk who is mad at the world and doesn’t deserve his loyal and loving girlfriend. The film feels like one of those movies that can’t live up to the book's complexity. The storyline seems skimpy as we never get enough depth to understand why the characters are the way they are. Sure, there are some flashbacks, but the film seems like just trying to throw as much stuff on the screen as it can without a lot of substance. I was bored by this film, didn’t care about its characters, and wanted it to end as soon as possible.   My Rating: Cable     Hillbilly Elegy Website   Available on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest:  Zappa (2020)   Documentary that looks at the life and work of legendary rock musician and composer Frank Zappa. Zappa was a very complex man who put out an incredible amount of music in his lifetime, which makes tell his story so hard to do. Filmmaker Alex Winter, who has already had a good year with his documentary Showbiz Kids and starring as Bill in Bill & Ted Face the Music, tries to give us the life story of a man who was a rock legend but considered himself a composer. Using vast amounts of previously unseen home movies, concert footage, and behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage, the film is a treasure trove of sights and sounds for any Frank Zappa fan. The film using past interview recordings, let’s Frank tell his own story because if there was one thing that Frank liked to talk about, it was himself. The documentary interviews  band members, fellow musicians, and Gail, Frank's long time wife. The film doesn’t pull punches as we find out that Frank considered only his immediate family as his close friends, and that he wasn’t shy about sleeping with other women while on the road. I learned a lot about Frank from this film; his strange childhood (he liked to make bombs), that he never studied music but was self-taught (impressive for a man who composed for orchestras), and while Frank loved his family, he wasn’t close to them. In fact, his daughter Moon Unit made Zappa’s only hit Valley Girl with him just to get him to pay attention to her. The film is packed in its little over two hours run time with information, but it doesn’t seem like enough time as his early career is given the bulk of the film, and what some consider his best work in the late 70s into the 80s is barely talked about. Frank Zappa wasn’t for everybody; in fact, often, he pissed off audiences at his concerts as he played what he wanted to, not what they wanted him to. This film also isn’t for everyone, but if you are a fan or want to know more about a fascinating musician whose work is vast and impressive, this is a movie for you.    My Rating: Full Price    Zappa Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: Columbus (2017)   Jin (John Cho) is a Korean-born man who finds himself stuck in Columbus, Indiana, because his father is in a coma. He meets Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a young woman who is staying in Columbus because she has to support her mother, who is a recovering addict. Writer/director Kogonada brings us a magical film about family, relationships, and dreaming of things that you think can't come true. The film takes place in Columbus, Indiana, the “Midwest Mecca of Architecture,” and it's magnificent buildings are the backdrop for this film. Every shot utilizes these brilliant buildings, making you feel a part of the landscape. What I love about this film is that the two characters slowly peel back the layers of Jin and Casey as their conversations continue. The characters become part of the architecture, interacting with it and exploring it. Casey has even-numbered her favorite buildings like a film lover would rate movies. Columbus is a movie that will hold you spellbound as it explores the importance of relationships, the ones we honor, and the ones we have to leave to better ourselves.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Columbus Info  

Weird Credits: From the credits of Stardust: Intimacy Coordinators

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Let Them All Talk (2020) R   A famous author (Meryl Streep) is having trouble writing her latest book. She decides to go on a cruise trip with her two best friends (Dianne Wiest, Candice Bergen) and her nephew (Lucas Hedges). On it, she hopes she finds inspiration, reconnects with her friends, and maybe even come to terms with her troubled past. The film is directed by Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich) and stars Meryl Streep. I think that is all I need in a movie.       Let Them All Talk Info

Until Next Time!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Sound of Metal

Note to readers: I currently am not willing to risk my health (I’m 62 and an asthmatic) by visiting a theatre. All films that I have seen for review have been screened in my home. I am not going to tell you whether or not to attend a theatre. Just be aware of the risks, do your research, and follow the instructions to the letter.
My View:   Sound of Metal (2019) R  A heavy-metal drummer, Ruben (Riz Ahmed), life is changed when he begins to lose his hearing, and he thinks that his life and music career are over. With the help of his band and his girlfriend (Olivia Cooke), Ruben checks into a secluded sober house for the deaf in hopes it will prevent a relapse with heroin and help him adapt to his new world. What would happen if you had something taken away from you that you loved doing? How would you handle it? That is what Sound of Metal explores. Ruben is happy, touring in a band with his girlfriend, Lou. They live in a motor home where Ruben makes smoothies and puts on jazz records to wake Lou up. It's all good, and because of Lou, Ruben has been clean and sober for four years. Then Ruben suddenly loses his hearing, learning that he will never hear properly again. Fearing for his life and his sobriety, Lou persuades Ruben to go to a sober house for the deaf, and now Ruben has to figure out how to live in this world of silence. Riz Ahmed gives a brilliant and moving performance as the troubled Ruben. It’s stunning how good Ahmed is, how he can convey so much by doing so little. The tension slowly builds as we wonder if Ahmed will adapt and accept his new life or is he going to rebel and go down a terrifying rabbit hole. Ahmed gives one of the best performances of the year, and the storyline does not disappoint as it treats him and his fellow sober housemates with dignity and lets you in to see them working on themselves and each other. The ending of this film will have you thinking about Sound of Metal for a long time to come.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Sound of Metal Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres and available on the Amazon Prime on Dec. 4th.

Indiefest: The Last Vermeer (2019) R   During World War II, Joseph Piller (Claes Bang) was fighting in the Resistance while Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce) was hosting parties and selling Dutch art treasures to the Nazis. Now that the war is over, the two men cross each other's path as Piller is investigating war crimes and van Meegeren has been accused of collaboration. As Piller investigates, he becomes convinced that van Meegeren is innocent and tries to save his life. I enjoyed this mystery that turns into a bit of a courtroom drama. Guy Pearce is the reason to see this film as his performance as the outlandish and flamboyant Han van Meegeren is a sight to be seen. With his mop of hair and his eyebrows turned up at an angle, Pearce is a force on the screen as he commands us to watch him weave his magic. After wars, people must justify how they acted, and van Meegeren is no different. Did he do what he is accused of? Did he do it for the money and fame? We will probably never know the full truth. The amazing bit about this story is that it is based on actual events, and that makes for a good story.    My Rating: Full Price   The Last Vermeer Website      The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Dating Amber (2020)   Eddie (Fionn O’Shea) is gay but is afraid that his parents and classmates will find out. Amber (Lola Petticrew) is a loner with an attitude. The two decide the only way they will survive their last year of school is to pretend that they are in a straight relationship. I loved this movie, which is a new take on the coming of age, romantic comedy film. O’Shea and Petticrew are hilarious together, as two start up a friendship that begins with necessity but ends with a meaningful and deep relationship. Set in Ireland in the 90s, the fashion and music is fun, and the situations the two characters get into seem real and have emotional pull. Both Eddie and Amber don’t want to disappoint their parents. Eddie’s parents are on the verge of splitting up, and Eddie’s dad (Barry Ward) wants his son to follow in his footsteps and join the Army. Amber is dealing with her mom is dealing with a tragedy in her past. Amber has accepted her homosexuality and is planning to escape to London as soon as she graduates. Eddie is deep in the closet, resigned to the fact that he will join the Army, even if it kills him. The film moves at a quick pace, and I was surprised by how emotional the ending was for me. Dating Amber is a wonderful film full of funny and sweet moments, with two characters that you will want to spend time with and root for.    My Rating: Full Price    Dating Amber Website   Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: Born to Be (2019)   The documentary follows the work of Dr. Jess Ting at the groundbreaking Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City. The film follows the doctor as his work impacts his patients' lives while he becomes a pioneering gender-affirming surgeon. This is an emotional and sensitive film on how one doctor is almost single handily changing the lives of men and women who have longed to physically be what they have always mentally seen themselves. We follow Dr. Ting as his practice grows, so much so that by the end of the film, he has a waiting list just to be considered for the surgery. We get an inside look at how complex the decision is to have this type of surgery and its toll on the psychological makeup of the patients who are getting the work done. We see what a great man Dr. Ting is as he treats each person with compassion and respect, wanting only to change how his patients feel about themselves. Born to Be brings the world of transgender to the front and lets us see and feel how it is to accept who you are.   My Rating: Full Price    Born to Be Website   The film is currently playing in select theatres and is available to rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: Crazy, Not Insane (2020)   This documentary examines the research by forensic psychiatrist Dorothy Onto Lewis, a pioneer in the study of the psychology of murderers and serial killers. Fans of the ‘true crime’ genre will love this film about controversial forensic psychiatrist Dorothy Lewis's life and work. The film goes through Dr. Lewis's career as she looks at her past case files, including video and audiotapes. Dr. Lewis has been at the forefront of diagnosing people with multiple personalities and how those personalities can cause some to commit murder. Dr. Lewis is a feisty woman with a rich sense of humor, who isn’t afraid to speak her mind (she has a great showdown with Bill O’Reilly over what the definition of evil is), and she has many people in her field that don’t believe in multiple personalities. The film even brings out the star of ‘true crime,’ serial killer Ted Bundy, who gave Dr. Lewis his last interview with. I think by the end of Crazy, Not Insane, you will be either on Dr. Lewis's side, or you won’t believe in her theories, but you won’t be able to say that this film didn’t entertain you.   My Rating: Full Price     Crazy, Not Insane Website    Available on the HBO platform.

Forgotten Film: Beauty Is Embarrassing (2011)   This is a funny and fascinating documentary about the extraordinary life of artist and performer Wayne White. Wayne grew up in the Tennessee mountains and, after graduating college, moved to New York City. There he got a job designing sets and puppets on the first season of the Saturday morning TV show, Pee-wee’s Playhouse. He was the creative force behind the legendary music videos, Peter Gabriel’s "Big Time" and The Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight." He also branched out as an artist of paintings and sculptures. White is a fascinating man, and the film does an exceptional job capturing his humor and energy in a movie about a highly creative man.   My Rating: Full Price    Beauty is Embarrassing Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Last Vermeer: Lead Matchmover

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Loss Adjuster (2020)   Martin (Luke Goss) is having a bad day. His wife Angie (Kym Marsh) Leaves him for another man one week before Christmas. His job as an insurance loss adjuster is hard, especially when you deal with a flirtatious widow, a corrupt Doctor, and a dead rat, all while trying to do your job. The world seems to be set against Martin, but thanks to a few new friends and a bit of Christmas magic, life might turn out for the better. This looks like a film to get us in the mood for the holidays.    The Loss Adjuster Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, November 13, 2020


Note to readers: I currently am not willing to risk my health (I’m 62 and an asthmatic) by visiting a theatre. All films that I have seen for review have been screened in my home. I am not going to tell you whether or not to attend a theatre. Just be aware of the risks, do your research, and follow the instructions to the letter.

My View: Freaky (2020) R  Millie (Kathryn Newton) is just a teenage girl trying to survive the rigors of high school. She becomes the target of The Butcher (Vince Vaughn), her town's infamous serial killer, and then they switch bodies. Millie has 24 hours before the change becomes permeant. Freaky isn’t your typical slasher film as it has quite a bit of comedy in it. Taking a premise stolen from every teenager switches bodies with an adult, this film also makes fun of all the horrible deaths that we see in the normal teenagers are in trouble horror films. Vaughn and Newton are hilarious as they portray each other’s character inside their bodies. Vaughn does a masterful job of playing a man who is now inhabiting a teenage body. The film is buoyed by Millie’s ‘Scooby gang’ of her best friend (Celeste O’Connor), Josh (Misha Osherovich), her gay sidekick, and the boy Millie is secretly in love with (Uriah Shelton). Freaky is fun, sometimes silly, and the plot has a few holes in it, but who cares when trying to bring down a serial killer who is inhabiting your body.    My Rating: Full Price    Freaky Website  The film is currently playing in select theatres.

My View: Come Away (2020)  PG   Alice (Keira Chansa) and her brother, Peter (Jordan A. Nash), let their imaginations take them on fantastic journeys while enjoying the summer in the English countryside. When their older brother (Reece Yates) unexpectedly dies, Alice seeks temporary refuge going down a wondrous rabbit hole, while Peter escapes the harsh reality of the real world by entering the magical realm of the ‘Lost Boys.’ Come Away is one of those films that you want to love because the premise is so cool, but boy does it fail to capture any magic whatsoever. This is a beautiful looking movie, with some gorgeous scenes, but the story never quite gets on track, making the film seem incredibly long with an ending that is meant to inspire but fails to make sense. The film flirts with both the Peter Pan storyline and the Alice in Wonderland plot, but every time it visits those places, the film just doesn’t deliver the charm and wonder that it needs so desperately. I thought Keira Chansa carried the film, and she needed to because, unfortunately, Jordan A. Nash as Peter doesn’t have the charisma that the part requires. The movie is undoubtedly helped by the presence of David Oyelowo and Angelina Jolie as the parents, but they aren’t the focus of the film, the kids are. Ultimately, the story doesn’t deliver the wonder and amazement that Wendy and Peter deserve.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Come Away Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: The Climb (2019) R   Mike (Michael Angelo Covino) and Kyle (Kyle Marvin) are best friends, that is until Mike sleeps with Kyle’s fiancee (Judith Godreche). For a while, Mike and Kyle are enemies, but they can’t stay mad at each other too long, and soon they make up their friendship. Now Kyle has a new fiancee (Gayle Rankin), and Mike is determined to break that romance up also. First, let me say that there is one long tracking shot in this movie that has to be seen to be believed. This is a buddy picture where the two ‘buddies’ don’t always like each other. In fact, several times during the film, at least one of the two hates the other. The movie's humor is harsh and biting, as the two men always seem to be on a collision course filled with tension and words that often hurt. Covino and Marvin play off each other with incredible timing, making the film fun to see what they will say or do to each other next. As Kyle’s fiancee, Gayle Rankin almost steals the movie as she is determined to make sure that no matter what Mike does, she will be married to Kyle. The Climb is a film to watch and enjoy, filled with characters that you soon won’t forget.    My Rating: Full Price     The Climb Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: The Life Ahead (2020) PG-13   In a small seaside town in Italy, a Holocaust survivor, Madame Rosa (Sophia Loren), with a daycare business takes in a street kid, Momo (Ibrahima Gueye), who recently robbed her. Sophia Loren gives a beautiful and heartfelt performance as the tough but caring Madame Rosa. Madame Rosa has made her living taking care of the children of local prostitutes, something she has done since she quit the business. Rosa is in need of money when her doctor (Renato Carpentieri) brings the hard to handle Momo to her with a proposition that he will pay Rosa to take in the boy for a few months. Rosa reluctantly lets Momo stay with her, and an uneasy beginning starts a relationship between the aging madam and the street-smart boy. I enjoyed the slow warming between Rosa and Momo, as the two learn about each other, both learning to respect each other’s boundaries, with Rosa treating Momo like a young adult and Momo treating Rosa like a mystery that is needed to be solved. The Life Ahead is sure to bring a tear or two as the story is filled with love and heartbreak, just as it is in life.   My Rating: Full Price    The Life Ahead Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres and on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Ammonite  (2020) R  In 1840s England, Mary (Kate Winslet) lives in a seaside home with her aging mother. Mary is a well-respected fossil hunter. One day Roderick (Jame McArdle) and his wife, Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan), come into Mary’s shop with a proposition. Roderick will pay Mary to teach Charlotte about fossils while he is away on a scientific expedition. That fateful day will change Charlotte and Mary’s lives forever. First, the good: Winslet is terrific as the stone-faced, reserved Mary, who wants to be left alone with her fossils. Winslet often doesn’t speak with words but with just the slightest movement or facial expression, and we get precisely what Mary is thinking and feeling. Saoirse Ronan is up to the task as the depressed Charlotte, a woman who has lost the light inside her that her husband adored. The problem with this film is that it is incredibly predictable. Each move that is made by the characters is so laid out, it takes away from any spark the film has with the chemistry of the two leads. It’s always fun to watch Kate Winslet weave her spell on the screen; I wish I didn’t know what her character was going to do throughout the whole film.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Ammonite Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Fatman (2020) R   Times are hard for Chris Cringle (Mel Gibson), also known as Santa Claus. He takes a one-time deal to deliver some items for the U.S. military, but there is a problem. After getting a lump of coal for Christmas, a kid hires a hitman (Walter Goggins) to kill Santa. Little does the hitman know that this isn’t the first time someone has come after the jolly fat man. I don’t think this film will get you into the mood for Christmas, maybe a trip to the shooting range, but Christmas, no, I don’t think so. Santa is an unhappy old man who is worried that he has lost his touch and is about to go broke. Billy (Chance Hurstfield) is a ‘Richie Rich’ kind of kid who isn’t above hiring a hitman so that he can win a science fair. That hitman is someone who hates Santa (we find out why near the end of the film) and eagerly takes up the hit when Billy gets a lump of coal for Christmas. The film doesn’t always work, especially the second story of Santa having to work for the government. I kind of wish they had just left that out of the storyline. Goggins is just flat funny as the grumpy, Santa-hating hitman, as his character hits the road determined to bring down Christmas and everything it stands for. Fatman is an amusing idea that probably would have been better as an SNL skit, the plot doesn’t justify the feature-length treatment.   My Rating: Cable     Fatman Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services on Nov. 17th.

Familyfaire: Wolfwalkers (2020) PG  A young apprentice hunter, Robyn (Honor Kneafsey), and his father journey to Ireland to wipe out the country’s last wolf pack. Once there, Robyn befriends Mebh (Eva Whittaker), a member of a mysterious tribe rumored to have the ability to transform into wolves. Robyn uncovers a secret that could make her turn against her father. The team that brought us the Academy Award-nominated films The Secret of the Kells (2009) and Song of the Sea (2014) bring their animated talents again to the screen to bring us the imaginative and visually striking Wolfwalkers. This is a fun play into the land of myth and legends, as our hero Robyn discovers that there are always two sides to a story. Convinced by her father that wolves are to be killed because they are evil, she soon finds herself alone in the forest, confronting the very beasts her father seeks to kill. This is a dazzling coming of age tale that is perfect for children, especially young girls, to try to understand those who you oppose. Wolfwalkers is a superb film filled with bewitching animation and a brave girl who takes a chance on friendship.    My Rating: Full Price     Wolfwalkers Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: The Ipcress File (1965)   Several vital scientists have been kidnapped and, after a few days, are released, with each scientist brainwashed with all of their knowledge gone. The British send counter-espionage Agent Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) to investigate. Palmer feels that he has been chosen for this mission because he feels he is expendable. The Ipcress File is a fascinating spy thriller with a very un-James Bond character. Caine is perfect as a spy with a weird sense of humor, tries too hard to impress the ladies, and isn’t the dapper spy that we think of when picturing a British agent. The storyline is intriguing, and there are plenty of twists to keep you interested. I love this film's feel and look, making it seem more like a film noir type of movie than just a spy caper.  My Rating: Full Price    The Ipcress File Info

Weird Credits: Credits from Come Away: Coffee

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouNews of the World (2020) PG-13 Five years after the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) makes his living going town to town as a storyteller, reading from news accounts, telling stories of all kinds. In the plains of Texas, he finds Johanna ( Helena Zengel), a ten-year-old girl who was raised by the Kiowa people as their own. Against her will, the Captain agrees to take Johanna to her relatives in a remote town hundreds of miles away. The two will travel a great distance to meet the tremendous challenges of both human and natural forces to find Johanna a home. Hanks is reunited with his director from Captain Phillips (2013), which is all I need to know to want to see this western.    News of the World Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, November 6, 2020

Let Him Go

Note to readers: I currently am not willing to risk my health (I’m 62 and an asthmatic) by visiting a theatre. All films that I have seen for review have been screened in my home. I am not going to tell you whether or not to attend a theatre. Just be aware of the risks, do your research, and follow the instructions to the letter.
My View: Let Him Go (2020) R   Retired Sheriff George Blackledge (Kevin Costner) and his wife Margaret (Diane Lane) leave their Montana ranch to find their dead son’s wife, Lorna (Kayli Carter), and their grandson. Lorna has moved to an isolated ranch in North Dakota with her new husband, Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain), where the family's matriarch, Blanche (Lesley Manville), lives. George and Margaret soon discover that the Weboy family have no intention of letting the child go and that the Blackledge’s are going to have to fight for their family. I am a fan of modern westerns and of Kevin Costner, and in both cases, I was not let down. The movie moves at a slow pace (until the third act), letting us get to know George and Margaret’s relationship with both each other and their daughter-in-law. I love the performance of Diane Lane, who plays Margaret as a strong, independent woman who is going to rescue her grandson with or without George’s help. Costner gives a subtle, understated performance as a former lawman who wants what his wife wants but wants to try reason instead of hard action. The interaction between the two is perfect, and we see that they will always back each other up, no matter what obstacles mount in their way. The ease that the two work together on the screen makes this film worth watching. The Weboy family is effectively creepy, and Lesley Manville gives us a family leader who is ruthless and downright nasty. Let Him Go does have some rather disturbing violence, but I feel that it makes its impact even stronger as George and Margaret’s world comes crashing down on them.   My Rating: Full Price    Let Him Go Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Love in Dangerous Times (2020)   With the world shutting down due to the pandemic, Jason (Ian Stout) and Sorrell (Tiffany Groben) meet on a dating app. Can their relationship be built on the fact that they may never meet in person? Love in Dangerous Times is an interesting experiment of making a film about relationships during a pandemic. Shot mostly in Jason’s apartment as a base, we see most of the rest of the cast via Zoom or FaceTime on iPhones and computers. The film uses this premise to show us the slow but steady up building of the relationship between Jason, a struggling playwright, and Sorrell, a teacher, both who are not necessarily looking for love but more like a buddy to help ride out the boredom of a pandemic. I liked the chemistry between the two leads of Stout and Groben, which felt real as they explored each other’s likes, opinions, and personalities. Overall, Love in Dangerous Times has a pleasant feel to it, and I enjoyed seeing Jason and Sorrell court online.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The film is available for rent on participating on-demand services.

My View: Kindred (2020)   When her boyfriend, Ben, suddenly dies in an accident, Charlotte (Tamara Lawrance), a mom-to-be, is taken in by his family in a crumbling manor house in the middle of nowhere. Ben’s family is determined to take care of Charlotte until the baby arrives. The grief-stricken Charlotte is increasingly haunted by visions that intensify as she begins to doubt Ben’s family’s intentions, feeling that they are trying to control her and her unborn baby. Kindred isn’t a horror film but more a thriller, where our heroine can’t trust anyone. Is her boyfriend’s family trying to keep her under lock and key because they care about her, or are they trying to keep her under wraps in order to steal the baby from her and claim the child as their own? The film slowly brings to the screen of impending doom with her constant nightmares, a blackbird that keeps appearing when she is alone, waking up without knowing how she got there, and a domineering twice-widowed matriarch, Margaret (Fiona Shaw), who rules her family and her home with an iron hand. To further complicate matters, her dead boyfriend did not have the best relationship with his family before his death, making Charlotte distrust them even more. Added to the mix is Thomas (Jack Lowden), Margaret’s devoted stepson (from another marriage) who goes back and forth between being a servant of Margaret’s wishes and trying to be, at times, Charlotte’s friend. Kindred is a creepy and sometimes unpredictable film that will have you guessing its outcome all the way to the end.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Kindred Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest:   Chuck Leavell: The Tree Man (2020)   Chuck Leavell has played piano and keyboards with some of the most extraordinary acts of the last 40 years, including the Allman Brothers Band, the Black Crowes, Blues Traveler, Pink Floyd, and The Rolling Stones. For sure, Chuck Leavell has had an impressive career. The film shows him with the Allman Brothers Band, and he played the piano on the legendary track ‘Jessica’ from their Brothers and Sisters album. That would be enough, but then we learn that in 1981 he joined The Rolling Stones and not only played with them but became their Musical Director for their legendary tours. But wait, the film tells us, there is more. He’s played with Train, The Black Crowes, Blues Traveller, and not only played keyboards/piano on Eric Clapton’s iconic MTV Unplugged performance but also played with Clapton on George Harrison’s last tour. Chuck’s story is told by giving us his three loves; music, the environment (especially forestry), and his long-time marriage. All that said, the film doesn’t give us enough of the music and too much of Chuck talking. The film has some interviews with some all-time great musicians, including Mick Jagger, Clapton, and David Gilmour but other than praising Chuck’s style, we never get any interesting stories from the road, nothing about the recording sessions and the legendary songs he has played on. Ultimately Chuck Leavell: The Tree Man leaves you wanting more.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Chuck Leavell: The Tree Man Website      The film is currently playing in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services

Forgotten Film: Searching for Sugar Man (2012)   Documentary that won the Oscar in 2013, this is a fabulous film about a man who was an incredible singer long forgotten until he was re-discovered in all places, South Africa. It perfectly uses Rodriguez’s music to highlight the story with interesting interviews and an intriguing use of animation to recreate scenes in the past that builds a fantastic story and makes this a film one to be enjoyed. Searching for Sugar Man is a great film that celebrates a long-lost musician who was never appreciated in America but became an important musical figure for so many people worldwide and helped bring down a government. This is a story that will put a smile on your face, and you will fall in love with Sugar Man.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Searching for Sugar Man Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Let Him Go: Key Dyer Breakdown Artist

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Life Ahead (2020) PG-13   In a small seaside town in Italy, a Holocaust survivor (Sophia Loren) with a daycare business takes in a street kid show recently robbed her. You had me at Sophia Loren, her first acting role since 2010. Added to the mix is that this is a remake of the 1978 Best Foreign Language Film Madame Rosa.     The Life Ahead Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Come Play

Note to readers: I currently am not willing to risk my health (I’m 62 and an asthmatic) by visiting a theatre. All films that I have seen for review have been screened in my home. I am not going to tell you whether or not to attend a theatre. Just be aware of the risks, do your research, and follow the instructions to the letter.
My View: Come Play (2020) PG-13   Oliver (Azhy Robertson) is a lonely little boy who feels different from everyone else. Desperate for friends, Oliver turns to his cell phone and tablet. There he discovers Larry, a mysterious creature using Oliver’s devices to break into our world. I enjoyed the nice play on using modern-day devices to access horror folklore, but this film is filled with scares that never really develop. Oliver is a boy whose communication problems are so severe he has to use an iPhone to talk and have a helper keep him on track at school. I never could figure out if Oliver was scared of Larry or if he genuinely thought Larry could be a friend because it seemed that every time Oliver could have run away, he instead went toward Larry. I liked the last ten minutes of Come Play, but the film is so poorly paced and takes so long to set everything up (how many times must we see the Larry story on an iPhone or other device?) that the film never ramps of the tension to make the movie feel scary. Sure there is a message about kids and too much time on iPhones in there somewhere, but what we really care about is just how scary Larry is or isn’t.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Come Play Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Martin Eden (2019)   Martin (Luca Marinelli) is a humble sailor who saves a man, Arturo (Giustiniano Alpi), from a beating. Arturo takes Martin to his family home, where he meets Elena (Jessica Cressy), Arturo’s beautiful sister with whom Martin falls instantly in love with. Martin decides to become the man that Elena is worthy of and pursues his dream of writing for a living. However, these are challenging times, and Marin begins to write about things he cares about, all of which will bring him in conflict with Elena and her world. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I never got into this film. I don’t know if the fact that this film is highly political in nature, as the main character slowly evolves into a spokesperson for individual rights, or if I just haven’t cared for the study of philosophy, because that is all that Martin does, study and talk about philosophy. I found some of the direction jarring, with some strange edits that tried but failed to set a mood for the film. Martin starts a likable character, but by the end of the film, he tends to scream and shout about things that he thinks everyone should think are important. I never could connect with Martin, and that took me down a long road of a film where I didn’t care what happened to him and his ideas.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Martin Eden Website   The film is currently playing in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: Radium Girls (2018)    Bessie (Joey King) and Josephine (Abby Quinn) are two sisters who work in a watch factory painting a radioactive liquid to the faces of watches so that they glow in the dark. When Josephine becomes deathly ill, Bessie leads a group of factory workers to advocate for safer work conditions after Bessie discovers the effects of radium poisoning. This true story is one that needed to be told, I wish the writing on this film was better. Bessie is the main focus in the movie, and she is probably the weakest, least interesting character. Josephine, her sister, is far more engaging, but because she is hit early on with an illness, her character is more of just a supporting one. The film uses quite a bit of footage from newsreels of the twenties, but instead of giving us a feel of the times, it just slows down the storyline. The last third of the film feels rushed, giving us some closure on a storyline that needs a little more time to develop. It’s a valiant try, but it just never finds its footing, and we don’t get that emotional pull we need from the story.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Radium Girls Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services.

My View: The Craft: Legacy (2020) PG-13   When Lily’s (Cailee Spaeny) mother re-marries, Lily moves into a new home, feeling like an outsider. After a horrible first day, she meets three fellow students (Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, Zoey Luna) who invite Lily to join their group, a group of witches. Soon the four discover that their newfound powers are more than they bargained for. I enjoyed the first two-thirds of the film, which seemed to find a new angle to the storyline of four outcast girls coming together to become powerful witches. There are some fun moments in the film, and I enjoyed the modern take that the film goes on, with a few enjoyable twists and turns. With such a great start, it's sad that the last third of the film became highly predictable and almost laughable. You will see the ending coming from nearly ten minutes into the film, and unfortunately, the ending you predict happens. The cast is fun, and Cailee Spaeny is likable in her role as the spunky Lily. I just wish the film didn’t end like a bad episode of Charmed.  My Rating; Bargain Matinee     The Craft: Legacy Website   The film is available for rent on participating on-demand services.

My View:  Bad Hair (2020)   In 1989, Anna (Elle Lorraine) works for a music television station. She has the talent but is told that she doesn’t have the right hair, the right face, or the right look to make it in the image-obsessed world of TV. She strikes a bargain with the new head of the music network, Zora (Vanessa Williams), who sends her to get a weave, but Anna soon discovers that this new hairstyle has a mind of its own and people around her are dying. Bad Hair is a strange, sometimes funny, sometimes weird horror film that feels like a B-picture from the 70s with an 80s vibe. Is it campy? Yes, but in a fun way with some rather inventive deaths that always don’t make sense but is still enjoyable to watch. I wish the film was a little shorter than its 115 minutes, but there are enough campy horror bits to go around.  My Rating: Full Price    Bad Hair Website    The film is available on the Hulu platform. 

Indiefest: Us Kids (2020)   Documentary on the student activists that came out of the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The film follows the March For Our Lives movement from the point of view of three of the students; Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, and Samantha Fuentes. This is a fascinating look at the lives of the students who started a movement that swept the country, a movement which shocked the political system and hurt the powerful NRA. The film does an outstanding job of letting us inside look at how the students mobilized, what their motivations were, and just how deeply they were affected by not only the shooting but the aftermath of all the attention that they got. We get to see the pressure that these kids were under and how a horrible event changed their lives. That they survived not only the shooting, but the spotlight is remarkable, and Us Kids gives us a beautiful and moving look into their lives, letting them tell us in their own words what it meant to them. For once, adults and politicians weren’t telling them how to feel or react; instead, the students of Parkland showed us the way.   My Rating: Full Price   Us Kids Website   The film is available to view for free on the Alamo Drafthouse Virtual Cinema Website


Forgotten Film: Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)    As a boy in Germany, Dieter Dengler, witnessed firsthand the bombing of his city. In fact, he tells us that at one point, an American airplane flew so close to where Dieter was that he could see the pilot’s eyes as he rumbled by. Dieter emigrated to America and joined the air force, where he flew during the Viet Nam War. Dieter was shot down and captured by the Viet Cong and became one of the few American soldiers to escape from the prison. Little Dieter Needs to Fly is a remarkable tale of sorrow and triumph as director Werner Herzog masterfully brings us Dieter’s tale in his own words. It is an unbelievable story about a impressive man told by a master storyteller. A deeply moving and sometimes funny tale that needs to be seen.    My Rating; I Would Pay to See it Again    Little Dieter Needs to Fly Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Holidate: Security Badge Support 

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Sound of Metal (2019) R   A heavy-metal drummer’s (Riz Ahmed) life is changed when he begins to lose his hearing. Film critics who have seen this movie are raving about Ahmed’s performance and say that this film is one of the best of the year. Sound of Metal Website 

Until Next Time!


Friday, October 23, 2020

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Note to readers: I currently am not willing to risk my health (I’m 62 and an asthmatic) by visiting a theatre. All films that I have seen for review have been screened in my home. I am not going to tell you whether or not to attend a theatre. Just be aware of the risks, do your research, and follow the instructions to the letter. 

My View:   Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020) R   Our favorite Kazakh television journalist Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) is back as he travels around the country in disguise as an attempt to blend in with the American public after believing he is popular due to the first film. Borat is on a mission to give a gift to Vice President Pence, Borat’s own daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova). I enjoyed the first film, especially when Borat fooled politicians and officials into interviews that often were hilarious and uncomfortable. This time around, there is a bit more of a story as Borat is trying to train his long-lost daughter, Tutar, to become worthy of being a gift for the Vice President. Maria Bakalova absolutely steals this movie and is the reason to watch it. Her comic timing is equal to Cohen, and at times, she outshines Cohen, taking the spotlight from him and his Borat character (something I thought might be impossible). Now, this is a raunchy and bawdy film, filled with Cohen’s sense of humor that pushes the boundaries of good taste far beyond what many comics would do. Unlike the first film, I didn’t always believe the people that Cohen was interacting with didn’t know who he was, and that often made the situations a bit slow and forced. That being said, I was surprised how much I enjoyed this film, mostly due to the blooming relationship between Borat and Tutar. And yes, there is a big scam near the end of the movie with a famous politician that has to be seen to believed. This Borat film isn’t for everyone, but as a fan of the first film, I did enjoy my travels with Borat and Tutar. Just remember that if you encounter Borat out on the streets of your town, try and keep your social distance and maybe wear a mask or two.   My Rating: Full Price    Borat Subsequent Moviefilm Website   Available on the Amazon Prime platform.

Indiefest: Friendsgiving (2020) R   Molly (Malin Akerman) and Abbey (Kat Dennings) host Thanksgiving that is meant to be a small affair and turns into a whole slew of close friends and acquaintances making a dinner that becomes more and more bizarre, dysfunctional, and comical as the day goes on. Besides Akerman and Dennings, the cast includes Aisha Tyler, Jane Seymour, Chelsea Peretti, Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, and Ryan Hansen. Friendsgiving is one of those films that on paper was a good idea but once filmed, it never got off the ground. It is very obvious a good deal of the dialogue is improvised, and while Dennings and Aisha Tyler shine, most of the rest of the cast has a hard time creating anything remotely funny. Too many gags are weak, and often, just when you think the film is starting to pick up steam, a bit brings the movie to a screeching halt. Even the outtakes that are shown during the credits don’t work. It's a get-together that I can do without.   My Rating: Cable     Friendsgiving Info    The film is currently playing in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services.

My View: Rebecca (2020) PG-13   A young newlywed (Lily James), after a whirlwind romance, arrives at Manderley, her husband’s (Armie Hammer) imposing family estate on the English coast. Soon after she arrives, the bride realizes that the estate is haunted by the legacy of her husband's dead first wife, Rebecca. When you remake a classic, you must bring something new to the screen, otherwise why not just watch the original. I am telling you right now, skip this film and go back and watch Hitchcock’s Rebecca, which won seven Academy Awards and made Joan Fontaine a star. What the 1940 film has that this modern version doesn’t? How about a lack of suspense and style? This version does a horrible job of building tension, making us feel sorry for Lilly James’s character, but we never feel like she is in any danger. Hammer’s Maxim de Winter comes across as not a tortured soul who mourns his beloved Rebecca. Instead, he comes off as just a jerk who thinks he can make things up to his wife with a cuddle in bed. Kristin Scott Thomas never captures the evil that her character must have under the surface, but we never get the menacing undercurrent that is needed to be there. Hitchcock’s film left us with a final scene that is shocking and scary; this Rebecca leaves us with a whimper.   My Rating: Cable     Rebecca Website  Available on the Netflix platform and is currently playing in select theatres.

My View: The Witches (2020) PG   In 1967, in the rural Alabama town of Demopolis, a young orphaned boy (Jahzir Kadeen Bruno) goes to live with his Grandma (Octavia Spencer). There they discover that the town is filled with witches. Grandma takes the boy to a seaside resort, only to find out that the world’s Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway) has gathered her fellow witches from around the globe to carry out her nefarious plans. First, I must warn parents that very young children may find the witch characters quite scary, with their sharp teeth filled incredibly wide mouths and claws for hands. The film starts promising, with a great introduction to the witches when the young boy encounters one at a store. The film loses its way when the boy and his grandmother go to the hotel, slowing down to a crawl as we learn that the Grand High Witch has plans to turn all children into mice. The sad thing is that they didn’t give Octavia Spencer anything to do in a role that she could have played in her sleep. I was bored with the storyline, and Hathaway going way overboard in her portrayal of a villain just doesn’t work. The ending feels rushed, and the CGI looks like a throwback to a 90s film. By the end of the film, I didn’t care what happened to the kids or the witch; I was just ready for it to end.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The Witches Website    Available on the HBO Max platform.

Indiefest: I Am Greta (2020)   Documentary about the teenage claimed activist Greta Thunberg who captivated the world with her global crusade to get people to listen to scientists about the environmental problems that confront the world. I enjoyed this film, which looks at how a 15-year-old girl went from sitting outside a government building in Sweden by herself to speaking at the UN with the world watching. Greta is one determined young woman who believes deeply in what she preaches that governments worldwide have talked a big game but have done very little to help the environment, and she isn’t going to put up with it any longer. The film follows Greta on a year-long quest to call attention to climate change, but the film fails to fully explore Greta’s home life and as well-meaning her parents are (her father is shown as a loving and caring parent), the immense pressure that has been put on a teenager that is on the autism spectrum. I came away from the film admiring Greta and her passion to change the world, but I was left a feeling that I never quite got to know her.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee      I Am Greta Website    In select theatres now including Landmark Midtown Art Cinema in Atlanta and available on the Hulu platform starting Nov. 13th.

Forgotten Film:  The Short Game  (2013) PG   The World Championship of Junior Golf brings 1500 young golfers from 54 different countries to compete in a tourney that will crown the next possible “Tiger Woods.”  This entertaining film follows 8 young golfers, ages 7 and 8, from around the world, in their quest to win the championship.  Some of the kids are adorable, including little Sky Sudberry, who is a tiny little girl with a big heart, and Zamokuhle Nxasanna, a roly-poly kid from South Africa, who is just there to make friends, play as well as he can and have fun.  There are a couple of kids that you sort of root against, including Alan Kournikova, the brother of tennis star Anna, who is the epitome of the rich, stuck up kid who thinks he’s God’s gift to golf (and he maybe, since he is that good), and Amari “Tigress” Avery, who is coddled by her dad and has temper tantrums on the course when she hits a bad shot.  This is a must for any golfer, though throughout the film,  you will say to yourself “Man, why can’t I hit the ball like that?”    My Rating: Full Price     The Short Game Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Witches: Drapesmaster

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Nomadland (2020) R   After her company town is devastated by the economic recession, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs up her possessions in her van and sets off on the road to take a journey through the American West, living as a modern-day nomad. The film has been winning a ton of awards on the film festival circuit and is a sure Oscar contender.      Nomadland Info

Until Next Time!