Friday, June 7, 2024

The Watchers

My View: The Watchers  (2024)  PG-13  Mina’s (Dakota Fanning) car breaks down while she is traveling on a forest road in Ireland. Taking off on foot, she suddenly sees a woman yelling at her to run to a concrete bunker. Mina makes it before the bunker’s door closes, and she finds herself in another world where creatures observe their captive humans and terrible things happen when people don’t reach the bunker in time. The Watchers is Ishana Shyamalan’s directorial debut. The daughter of M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs) shows that she has an eye for creating some cool horror scenes, but like her father, her film falters as it writes itself into corners it can’t get out of. The movie starts out with great promise, with a lead character, Mina, who isn’t going to go down without a fight. The problem (among many with this film) is that it sets up a series of rules that the humans are not supposed to break and then go about breaking them at every turn. Not giving anything away, but I figured out just about everything that was supposed to be a mystery about ten minutes into the film, with the rest of the mysteries hitting me over the head as the story went along. The Watchers ends with a whimper and never answers a ton of questions that would typically come up. It looks like the daughter is following right in her father’s footsteps.    My Rating: Cable  The Watchers Website  Now playing in theaters.

My ViewBad Boys: Ride or Die  (2024)  R  In Bad Boys: Ride or Die, the bad boys (Will Smith and Martin Lawrence) are back and in trouble. The late Captain Conrad Howard is being accused of being on the take with the Romanian Mafia. The guys set out to exonerate the late captain but get set up themselves, and now, as fugitives, they will have to work outside the law to solve the case. I am not a huge fan of this series. I like the first film and somewhat enjoy the relationship between Mike and Marcus, with Marcus, played by Martin Lawrence, being the comic relief of the two. The two stars work well together on screen, and there are some funny moments (and one great one which I won’t give away), but I tired of Lawrence’s performance rather quickly, as Marcus has a near-death experience and feels that he can’t die, all the while pushing that fact to no end. The storyline is weak (no reason is given why the mean, big bad guy starts the whole mess into action), but the action sequences are imaginative, and there are some great set pieces that are both funny and thrilling. Directors Arbi and Fallah do some brilliant things with the camera during the shootouts that put you right into the action. Overall, I had more fun than I thought I would. I wish Lawrence would dial it down to about an 8 instead of a 15.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Bad Boys: Ride or Die Website  Now playing in theaters. 

My View Am I OK?  (2022)  R  Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and Jane (Sonoya Mizuno) are lifelong friends, even though Lucy is a mess. Jane is in a stable relationship with her boyfriend, and the dates with the guy Lucy is interested in always end with a hearty handshake. Things change when Jane announces she is moving to London, leading Lucy to reveal a secret about herself. Lucy just might be gay. I loved this film and Dakota Johnson’s performance. Am I OK? is a sweet, funny, and at times moving look at someone, realizing that they may haven’t been true to themselves. This is a film about friendship and how we need friends to help us find our path. The chemistry between Johnson and Mizuno is better than some of the recent rom-coms out there, making their friendship enjoyable to watch and all that more believable. Lucy is a person who needs someone to push her past her comfort zone, and Jane is that person who does it out of love. Am I OK? is a rom-com, not about two people falling in love but about two people whose friendship will get them through anything, even if it’s life-changing. My Rating: Full Price  Am I OK? Website   Now on the Max platform. 

My ViewHow to Rob a Bank  (2024)  In the documentary How to Rob a Bank, a bank robber, Scott Scurlock, nicknamed Hollywood, was the most prolific bank robber in the 1990s. His robberies were straight out of the movies, and he was taking a ton of money out of the banks with the FBI not having a clue who he was or how he was doing it. However, everything must end, and it all comes crashing down in one spectacular final heist. Ever wonder what makes a person become a bank robber? Right out of a Hollywood film (Scurlock was inspired by the 1991 film Point Break), this documentary has all the thrills of some of the best that movies have put out. With interviews with the people who helped Scott rob banks and the FBI agents who were trying (for years) to catch him, you get an inside look at how Scott was so successful in doing something that most people who attempt it fail. Scott was a person who was probably too smart for his own good, and combined that with someone who was an adrenaline junky; it made a perfect combination for a person who outsmarted the FBI and might have gotten away with it if he hadn’t tried for too big of a haul that caused his downfall. The documentary tells a story about a man who, if you saw it in a fictional film, you would think, this isn’t possible, but it was. How to Rob a Bank does a fantastic job of telling the story of a man who lived a life his way, for a while.  My Rating: Full Price  How to Rob a Bank Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Forgotten FilmGirl 27  (2007)  Documentary about a chorus girl named Patricia Douglas, who in 1937 was raped at an MGM promotional event. The studio had tricked her and 100 other women (many underage) into attending a party on an isolated Hollywood studio ranch. Although the attack and trial received newspaper headlines in the day, the case was covered up by MGM, the police, and the LA D.A.. 70 years later, filmmaker David Stenn came across the story while researching a book on Jean Harlow. Girl 27 is a fascinating look at how much power the studios had in Hollywood and how they could make almost anything disappear, all to protect their product. The film uses interviews, archival footage (including footage of the man who attacked Patricia), and newspaper clippings to piece together what happened and why. Girl 27 is a ‘Me Too’ story before the movement started, but it shows that not a lot has changed in 70 years.   My Rating: Full Price  Girl 27 film website  Now available on YouTube. 

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Bad Boys: Ride or Die:  Helicopter Mockup Provided By

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: MaXXXine  (2024)  R  In 1980s Hollywood, adult film star and aspiring actress Maxine Minx (Mia Goth) is about to get the big break she has been dreaming about. However, there is a mysterious killer stalking the streets of Tinseltown, and Maxine’s bloody past may be catching up to her. This is the third of filmmaker Ti West’s X trilogy, after X (2022) and Pearl (2023), all starring Mia Goth.  Maxxxine Website  The film will be released on Friday, July 5th.

Until Next Time!

Friday, May 31, 2024

Hit Man

My View:  Hit Man  (2023)  R   Gary (Glen Powell) is your typical, boring philosophy professor with two cats. Except, Gary has a side job, he poses as a hit man for the New Orleans police department and he is good at catching criminals who want someone dead. Things are going great until he meets Madison (Adria Arjona), who wants to hire him to kill her husband. There are two problems: Gary is falling for Madison, and her husband just turned up dead. Glen Powell has been working in Hollywood for quite a while, mainly as a supporting actor, playing roles such as John Glenn in Hidden Figures (2016). However, filmmaker Richard Linklater gave Powell a starring role in his baseball film Everybody Want’s Some (2016) set on a small college campus in the early 90s. Then Hollywood figured out that maybe there was more to Mr. Powell when he blew everyone away in his role as Lt. Jake ‘Hangman’ Seresin in Top Gun: Maverick (2022). He then showed he could be the leading man in the successful rom-com Anyone But You last year. Now he shows us what a great and mesmerizing actor he is in the role of a college professor who moonlights as a fake hitman to catch crooks for the New Orleans police department. Powell is exceptional in the role, letting him play Gary as a man with a talent and a passion to be a chameleon, meeting his potential clients in disguises and outfits to match their expectations of what a hit man should look and act like. Powell gives one of those performances where you can’t take your eyes off him, commanding the screen, even when he is playing the quiet, mild Gary. And that’s saying a lot when you have someone like Adria Arjona on the screen with him. I loved their scenes together, as they just about combust on the screen as the two characters constantly joke and flirt, and you know from that first meeting that they are destined to end up together. The film is a blast to watch as Gary gets deeper and deeper into a relationship with Madison, one that we know could blow up in his face at any time. Hit Man is an outstanding date film, and it could be called a rom-com with a few dead bodies along for the ride. The film moves at a quick pace, and as things start to get sticky for Gary, we wonder how he will ever get away with it. You will have to go on a few capers for that answer as Gary plays hit man for a while.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Now playing in theaters and on Netflix on June 7th.

My View:  Ezra  (2023)  R  Ezra is about Max (Bobby Cannavale), a struggling standup comedian who is co-parenting his autistic son Ezra (William A. Fitzgerald) with Max’s ex-wife (Rose Byrne). Max gets the break of a lifetime but has to go cross-country to do it. Against his better judgment, Max decides to take Ezra on the trip. It’s a trip that could change both their lives. This is another in a long line of films that its heart is in the right place, but it has a hard time staying there. I loved William A. Fitzgerald as Ezra, who spouts lines from TV and movies when he needs to make a point and often tells the truth when others won’t. It’s a beautiful and thoughtful performance, making this film watchable. The problem is his dad is a self-centered jerk who won’t listen to anyone, at times, even his son. It’s hard to root for a character like Max, who thinks only his way is right, even though he has a wife (played by Rose Byrne) who puts up a lot with Max (more than she should) and struggles to raise their son. The film does show the hardships it is to raise a child with autism and how the world seems always like a hard place to raise a child with special needs. But Max goes too far in his attempt to make sure his son is given a chance in the world, and it hurts the film that we aren’t on board with what Max is doing. The film also does a lousy job of giving us bits and pieces of Max’s upbringing, which shows that he might have had some of the difficulties that Ezra is now experiencing. I liked every character in this film, including the people in Max’s life we meet along the way. I don’t like Max, and that’s a problem when we are supposed to root for him. Oh, and there is a bizarre bonus scene at the end of the film that took me entirely out of what good feeling I had for the film.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Ezra Website Now playing in theaters.

My View:  Young Woman and the Sea  (2024)  PG  Trudy Ederle (Daisy Ridley) is a woman who is used to setting her mind to something and succeeding. Trudy took swimming lessons from her father when no one would teach her. She joined a swim team when no one wanted her. She competed in the 1924 Olympics. Now, Trudy has a bigger goal. One that no woman has ever done swim across the English Channel. Young Woman and the Sea is the type of film that Disney does so well. The underdog who fights incredible odds and a system that is set against them to not only succeed but to prove that they belong. This is an inspiring tale of a young woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Instead, she would find a way to complete and push the boundaries that society had set up for her to overcome. Ridley is perfect as Trudy, a woman who is sure of her abilities and has the drive to keep going, no matter what comes up in her way. Young Woman and the Sea is perfect for young women to see, as Trudy not only goes past any barrier she encounters but also destroys it. Like Trudy did in the 1920s, this film will inspire girls to go further and break those barriers, just like Trudy did.  My Rating: Full Price  Young Woman and the Sea Website  Now playing in theaters.

Indiefest:  The Dead Don’t Hurt  (2023)  R  The Dead Don’t Hurt takes place right before the Civil War when Vivienne (Vicky Kreips) meets a Danish immigrant, Holger (Viggo Mortensen), who convinces her to follow him to his ranch outside of a small town in Nevada, where they start their life together. The outbreak of the Civil War happens, and Olsen joins the Union Army to fight for his newfound country, leaving Vivienne to fend for herself on their homestead. It’s a decision that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. I am a big fan of Westerns, so it’s always fun to see a new one, this time with one of my favorite actors, Viggo Mortensen, at the director’s helm. Mortensen has a great eye for framing, and there are some magnificent shots of how a man and his woman make a home in the middle of a vast and harsh country. This is a love story between two people who were meant to fall in love and how that love stands the test of time in a world that can be cruel. I will tell you that, at first, the story is a little hard to follow as we go back and forth between the present and the past. We see how the two met and how their unconventional love story starts between two unique individuals who are used to being alone and independent. Their love is short-lived when the Civil War comes knocking on their doorstep, and Olsen decides to join up. Leaving Vivienne to deal with the rough conditions on her own. While Mortensen wrote and directed this film, a good deal of the story is in the hands of Vicky Kreips, and she carries the movie with an emotional and charismatic performance portraying a character that won’t give up on love, no matter what happens. The Dead Don’t Hurt is an impressive film that goes off into uncharted territory, which makes the film even more powerful. The Dead Don’t Hurt makes me want more from Viggo Mortensen, and I hope it’s soon.  My Rating: Full Price  The Dead Don't Hurt Website  Now playing in theaters.

Indiefest:  In a Violent Nature  (2024)  R   In A Violent Nature starts when hikers come across a burned-out fire tower, and one of them discovers a necklace that they take. That mistake will cost them their lives, as the vengeful spirit is resurrected and now is haunting the woods, hellbent on getting the necklace back. In a Violent Nature is a unique horror movie that doesn't rely on scary music, jump scares, or the killer's perspective. What it does do is give you an origin story of a bogeyman that appears every ten years or so and kills in incredibly gruesome ways. This is a slow ride of a film as, like many of his fellow slashers, our killer takes his time, waiting in the woods for the right time to strike. And he isn't exactly fleet of foot. You are nowhere safe in these woods, and our killer may strike at any time; though he doesn’t hide his approach, people just don’t think there is anything out in those woods until it is too late. In a Violent Nature is not a film for your ordinary horror fan; it’s far too slow, and the kills tend to go on for a while, but for the hardcore horror fan who wants to see something different, this is right up their alley. Just remember, if you come across a necklace out in the woods, leave it there. Please.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   In A Violent Nature Website  Now playing in theaters. 

My View:  MoviePass MovieCrash  (2024)    Documentary about the founding and destruction of a radical idea, a way to get people to see more movies without breaking the bank. As a film critic, I get to see a lot of movies for free that the studios send me or have me attend a screening. However, as a movie fan, I also pay for movies when I miss a movie screening or the studio doesn’t set up one. So I was an early adopter of MoviePass, a service where you could see any movie, any theater (almost), and one a day, all for ten dollars. Too good to be true, right? Yep, turns out it was. This film proves that 1). It’s hard to be an entrepreneur, especially a black one 2). Greed will take over when dealing with big business and investors who only want to see the bottom line. This is a film about injustice and the men who take over companies not to succeed but to make as much money as possible before getting out. I was an early MoviePass subscriber and was sorry to see it go, but even I could see that the business model could never sustain the low price and the unlimited movies you got with the plan. As it turns out, we see that the people who ran the company (in the last few years of its existence) knew this also, and the film does a great job of clueing us to this. The film has heroes (I’m looking at you brave people in customer service), villains, and an ending with a bit of hope for justice and success. It’s kind of like the movies they wanted us to go to the theater to see.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  MoviePass MovieCrash Website   Now playing on HBO Max. 
My View:  
Jim Henson: Idea Man  (2024)  The documentary Jim Henson: Idea Man is about the man behind The Muppets, Sesame Street, and films like The Dark Crystal, following Henson’s career from the early days, centering on his partnership with his wife, Jane Henson. It is a fascinating film that gives you an inside look at the magic and genius of Jim Henson. The film traces his life from childhood to college, where he met his wife Jane and developed an interest in puppetry. This is a must for any fan of The Muppets as it gives you a look at the early days of creating Kermit and the journey of creating live TV with puppets in Jim and Jane’s early days. Early footage of their live TV show, including commercials they created to keep the operation going, is fantastic. What I loved while watching this movie is we see how Jim found and hired the creative people who would design such wonderful puppets as Fozzie, Big Bird, Burt and Ernie, and, of course, Miss Piggy. There is a ton of behind-the-scenes footage from everything, including the early days of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show (which was, by the way, turned down by all three networks). Jim's passing was unexpected, shockingly young, but he left a legacy that is celebrated in this fabulous documentary for us to enjoy.   My Rating: Full Price  Jim Henson: Idea Man Website  Now playing on the Disney+ platform.

Forgotten Film:  Robot Dreams (2023)   Dog is living alone in an apartment in 1980s New York City when he sees what could be the solution to not having any friends, an ad for a home robot. He orders Robot, and they have a great time together until one fateful day at the beach when a horrible mistake causes them to separate. Will they find each other again? I loved this fun and quirky film about a dog who finds a pal in a robot and then keeps trying to rescue his buddy Robot when an afternoon at the beach goes horribly wrong. What more could you want from an animated film than a robot and a dog roller skating a dance to Earth, Wind and Fire’s September? Robot Dreams is a fun and sometimes touching film about finding someone to connect with, and it can bring happiness and completeness to your life. The animation is bold and colorful, set in NYC in the 80s (the Twin Towers keep showing up), and I loved all the brand name products that are part of the story, especially Cheetos, which Dog has a fondness for and always has trouble opening the bag (don’t we all). The story is a simple one that hits the heartstrings and makes you laugh and cry a bit too. Kids will love the Robot and Dog’s constantly wagging tale, and adults will love the story of friendship and love. Note: While the film is from Spain, there isn’t any dialogue spoken throughout the film.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Robot Dreams Website The film had a limited release in Dec (which is where this review is from) and is being given a full release to theaters. 

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Hit Man:  Featured Cats

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1  (2024)  R  Spanning the four years of the Civil War, from 1861 to 1865, the film looks at the people who made up the Old West at a time of conflict. The story is told through the lens of families, friends, and foes as America grew its boundaries. This is Kevin Costner’s first directorial effort since his 2003 film Open Range. The films are in two parts and span over fifteen years and has a cast that includes Will Patton, Kathleen Quinlan, Thomas Haden Church, Luke Wilson, Sienna Miller, Jena Malone, and Tom Payne.  Horizon: An American Saga Website  Chapter 1 releases in theaters on Friday, June 28, 2024.

Until Next Time!

Friday, May 24, 2024

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

My View: Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024) R  As the world falls, a biker horde led by the warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth) takes a young Furiosa. Years later, Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) tries to escape and find her way home as two tyrants wage a war. Having been a huge fan of the Mad Max franchise since I saw the original film at a midnight screening when in college, falling in love with the action and Mel Gibson (even with his voice dubbed because the studio thought American audiences wouldn’t be able to understand Gibson’s Australian dialect). I consider Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior) (1981) one of the great action films of the 80s, and I picked Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) as one of the best films of that year. I am happy to say that while not as good as Fury Road, Furiosa is still an excellent action picture that gives us a ton of backstory on the origin of Furiosa, a character we all fell in love with in the 2015 film. A lot was made of the decision by filmmaker George Miller to not cast Charlize Theron again in the role, but Miller, after seeing how badly CGI did de-aging De Niro in The Irishman, Miller went with Anya Taylor-Joy for the role. It must be said that Taylor-Joy is only in the 2nd half of the film, as the early days of Furiosa use a much younger Alyla Browne in the role, as we learn she was kidnapped as a child by Dementus (Chris Hemsworth) and used as a kind of good luck charm as he terrorizes the world with his biker gang. The film is divided into segments, each telling an essential part of Furiosa’s life. When Anya takes over the role, she shows us she can kick butt with the best of them. I loved her in this role, and she showed she can handle the action sequences. There is an excellent sequence in the middle of the film as Furiosa has become the sidekick of the best rig driver, Praetorian Jack (played by a very charismatic Tom Burke), as he drives a massive war rig across the desert delivering precious gas while Furiosa and Jack fight off a seemingly endless group of attackers who are trying to highjack the rig. It’s a fantastic bit of stunt work that goes on for at least ten minutes of high-octane action. Chris Hemsworth dominates the screen every time he is on it, as the mad as a hatter warlord who loves to cause as much trouble as he can. Hemsworth chews scenery with the best of them, and it’s always fun to see just how nuts his character is in each chapter of the film. While not a great film like Fury Road, Furiosa is still a rousing action film filled with characters you will keep thinking about long after the last scene leaves the screen.   My Rating: Full Price  Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide.

Familyfaire: The Garfield Movie (2024) PG  Jon (voiced by Nicholas Hoult) rescued Garfield (Chris Pratt) after finding the cat abandoned in a restaurant. Now grown, Garfield has a sudden reunion with his long-lost father, an alley cat named Vic (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson). Now Garfield and his dog pal Odie (voiced by Harvey Guillen) are forced from their perfectly pampered life into joining Vic in a high-stakes heist. The bar is pretty low for any Garfield movie. I mean, Bill Murray sleepwalked doing the voice of Garfield for two movies in the early 2000s. So, how does this film stack up? It’s ok, which in Garfield movie-land means it’s watchable. Kids are going to enjoy the film. There is plenty of action, Garfield gets into lots of trouble and still saves the day, and the cast of characters are at least interesting and colorful. I was bored by most of the film, even with many movie references, but the kids in the theatre with me seemed to enjoy the antics of the fat cat. Chris Pratt does a fine job as the voice of the cat with an attitude. Unlike Mr. Murray, he at least sounded like he was having fun. My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Garfield Movie Website Now playing in theaters. 

My View: Atlas (2024) PG-13   Atlas Shepard (Jennifer Lopez) is a data analyst who deeply mistrusts AI technology, even though her mother is responsible for creating the technology that gave AI robots their power. Atlas decides to join an anti-terrorist mission to stop an AI from destroying Earth. After an attack, Atlas is marooned on a planet, and her only ally is an AI robot named Smith. Together, they will have to succeed, or the Earth is doomed. I’ve always felt that Jennifer Lopez could have been a bigger film star if she hadn’t gone off to become a pop star. She had a successful run in the late 90s with Selena, U-Turn, and an outstanding performance in Out of Sight. Even Anaconda is fun to watch, and The Cell is so weird that it is extremely watchable. Then she went with the rom-com route, and we got Gigli, among others. I had hope when she got great reviews with Hustlers (2019), but then she went back to the rom-com route again with stuff like Marry Me and Shotgun Wedding. So now we have Jennifer as a tough-as-nails woman who is determined to stop an AI named Harlan (played by Simu Liu) from destroying the world, an AI that her mother created and set loose on the world. Jennifer spends most of the film inside a giant robot-like war machine that, to work properly, must sync with Atlas so that they both share each other’s thoughts. I liked the action sequences, and the ultimate battle between Atlas and the AIs is fun to watch, but it takes a long time to get there, and that’s what slows this film down. We slowly get the real reasons Atlas is so determined to defeat Harlan (besides his desire to kill humans). This isn’t a bad film; in fact, I enjoyed it for what it is: a sci-fi action film with not enough action in it. I am hoping that Jennifer will find the right role again in the near future. Just stay away from the rom-coms for awhile.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Atlas Website  Now playing on Netflix. 
My View:
The Blue Angels  (2024)  The documentary The Blue Angels delves into the selection and training of the Navy/Marine Corps Flight Demonstration Squadron, called The Blue Angels. I grew up in San Antonio, TX, which is a big Air Force and Army town. So, I didn’t know much about the Blue Angels, but this film has corrected that. This film will amaze you with how skillful these Navy and Marine pilots are. The aerial photography is mind-blowing, and you will be thrilled at the precision it takes to fly these planes like the Blue Angels do. We get to know the pilots and, to a lesser extent, their families as the camera spends a year following the pilots as they crisscross the country, bringing their air show to crowds that sometimes are larger than a Super Bowl. What I loved was the behind-the-scenes training that these pilots do, showing us all the classwork and study sessions that go on throughout the year to try and achieve perfection in their flying. Like their airshows, I have a feeling that this film will inspire a few kids to want to become pilots and someday fly with The Blue Angels.  My Rating: Full Price  The Blue Angels Website  Now playing on Amazon Prime. 
Babes  (2024) R  In Babes, Eden (Ilan Glazer) and Dawn (Michelle Buteau) have been friends forever. They grew up in NYC and experienced everything together. Eden, carefree and single, has a one-night stand and becomes pregnant. She decides to have the baby and will need all the help that her best friend can supply. This film is a hilarious and touching depiction of friendship and family. It's also about the family you create through friendship, and sometimes that bond is stronger than your real family. When we meet Dawn and Eden, they are getting together for their annual watching of a movie in a theater on Thanksgiving, and they will not stop for anything, even if Dawn is having a baby. We instantly see the dynamic between the two as they decide to leave the movie and get something to eat before Dawn has to suffer for ’25 hours like last time. ’ They are best friends, and nothing can get in the way of that. Except for life, especially after a great one-night stand, Eden finds out she is preggers, and Dawn is having trouble managing a new baby, a job, and a toddler. Glazer and Buteau's comedic timing is incredible, as the chemistry between the two women is off the charts. Their banter is laugh-out-loud funny, and the situations they are in seem based on real-world experiences. The film is helped by a great supporting cast, including John Carroll Lynch, who plays both women’s baby doctor. Every time he is on camera, there is a running gag that just made me lose it. While men are going to have a great time, and by the way, Marty (Hasan Minhaj), Dawn’s husband, is a saint, women are going to fall in love with Babes, and its observations on motherhood, pregnancy, birth, and friendship. Go see this film. You will laugh (with a few tears in between) from beginning to end.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Babes Website  Now playing in theaters. 

Forgotten Film: Clean and Sober (1988) R  Daryl (Michael Keaton) is a successful real-estate salesman who has seen better days. He is a drug addict and is in trouble with his job for taking some money and investing it (badly) in the stock market. Oh, and a woman he picks up at a bar dies from a heart attack due to all the drugs they did together. He decides to escape and enroll in an anonymous drug rehab program. His thinking is he can hang out until things cool down. Little does he know this program is run by a counselor who has seen guys like Daryl a hundred times before and will make Daryl work at his recovery. The movie is helped by a supporting cast that includes Morgan Freeman as the counselor, Kathy Baker as a fellow addict whose life is as big a mess as Daryl, and the great M. Emmet Walsh as Daryl’s AA sponsor. Keaton is perfect in the role of a guy who thinks he can either charm or BS anyone into believing anything. The film lets you know at the end that it will be a long and bumpy road for Daryl. We don’t know if he will succeed in staying sober, but at least he has a chance.   My Rating: Full Price  Clean and Sober Info The film is available on streaming services.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga: Earthworks Manager

Coming Soon to Screen Near You: Beetlejuice Beetlejuice (2024)   After an unexpected family tragedy, three generations of the Deetz family have come home to Winter River and the house we all know so well. Lydia (Winona Ryder) is still haunted by Beetlejuice, and to make things worse, her daughter, Astrid (Jenna Ortega), has discovered that mysterious model of the town. It’s only a matter of time before someone’s name will be uttered three times. Tim Burton and Michael Keaton have returned to bring us the magic back. As someone in a dirty, black-and-white suit says, “The Juice is loose!”  Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Website The film is slated for release in early September.

Until Next Time!

Friday, May 17, 2024


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 10, 2024

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until Next Time!