Friday, August 7, 2020

Made In Italy

My View: Made in Italy (2020) R    An estranged father, Robert (Liam Neeson) and son, Jack (Micheal Richardson), travel to Italy to sell a family home in Italy. The house brings up a tragic past, including the death of Robert’s wife and Jack’s troubled childhood. I enjoyed this film, but I am not sure it was the storyline that I enjoyed but the scenery. The plot is pretty thin and predictable, and as soon as Jack meets Natalia (Valeria Bilello), a local divorced restaurant owner, we know that they will end up together. The question is not when Robert and Jack will solve their relationship (a little too quickly with all the baggage involved if you ask me), but how. But hey, maybe this is just the fun, warm, romantic film we need.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Made in Italy Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

                                   Indiefest: Red Penguins (2019) PG-13    Shortly after the Soviet Union's collapse, an NHL team, the Pittsburgh Penguins bought a fifty percent interest in the infamous Red Army hockey team. Pittsburgh sent a young, New Yorker marketing executive to oversee the operation that became a wild ride of high jinks, including strippers and live bears on the ice, an attempted overthrow of the government, and the Russian mafia. In 2014, filmmaker Gabe Polsky brought us one of the best documentaries of that year, a film called Red Army about the story of the infamous Soviet Union’s Red Army hockey team that dominated the Olympics (except for that little ‘miracle on ice’ game). Well, Polsky has done it again in telling this story of a wild and brash marketing guy, Steven Warshaw, who traveled to Russia and tried to bring American know how on how to promote a team to the icy and broken area in Moscow. You are not going to believe some of the stories that are told in this film. Some are so unbelievable that if they were part of a Hollywood comedy, you would go, ‘that would never happen.’ This film is a blast to watch and no, you don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy it. In fact, I was sorry that the experiment went on for such a short time. I would have loved to see what would have happened when Warshaw had to deal on a regular basis with the Russian mafia.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Red Penguins Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: The Burnt Orange Heresy (2019) R   James (Claes Bang), an ambitious art dealer, is hired by a wealthy art collector (Mick Jagger) to steal a rare painting from one of the most mysterious painters of all time (Donald Sutherland). I went into this film hoping for a stylized thriller about a heist pulled off by a sophisticated thief; instead, this is more of a psychological drama that turns very dark. I have never been a fan of Mick Jagger’s acting, and there is a reason he hasn’t been in a film for almost twenty years…he’s pretty bad at it. The plot is razor thin from the start, and then as the film goes along, that thin line begins to unravel, and by the end, the film wants to shock, but the only shock is how badly this film ends. I wish the film had taken a different route with James’s love interest, played by the always engaging Elizabeth Debicki. I kept waiting for a twist to happen, one that would have made this film enjoyable to watch, but instead, those twists never made it to the screen, and the ending left me feeling like a saw a movie that needed a few more drafts in the screenplay.    My Rating; Bargain Matinee     The Burnt Orange Heresy Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

My View: The Secret Garden (2020) PG   Mary (Dixie Egerickx) has just come from India, where she lost her whole family to cholera. She is sent to a manor in Yorkshire to live with her uncle (Colin Firth) and his housekeeper (Julie Walters). Mary soon learns that the estate is home to a treasure trove of secrets, including a hidden garden locked away by her uncle for years after his wife's death. Sometimes we need to believe in magic, and that is one of the messages of The Secret Garden. You know the story (it has been made into countless films), but this film perfectly captures the book's essence with some additions of its own. The cast is led by Dixie Egerckx, who gives an enchanting and delightful performance of a young girl who has lost her parents and feels abandoned. We get to see the hidden garden in Mary's eyes, as it works its powers of rejuvenation on not only Mary but everyone who enters its grounds. The Secret Garden is filled with beautiful scenes, as Mary’s presence seems to bring the garden to its former glory. This is a story that the whole family can enjoy, and you will want to explore the special grounds with Mary and her fellow group of misfit adventures.    My Rating: Full Price     The Secret Garden Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

  



















Indiefest:    Creem: America’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll Magazine      (2019)       Documentary on the legendary music magazine in 1969 to the untimely death of its publisher Barry Kramer in 1981. I was always a bigger fan of Rolling Stone, but that’s because they paid attention to movies as well as music. Creem was all about rock ’n’ roll and maybe a little sex also. It is a fantastic story about a bunch of music lovers who decided they would put out a magazine, and they didn’t care who they offended. Home to some of the greatest music critics of their generation, the magazine was on the cutting edge of music, often deciding who or what type of music was worthing checking out. The documentary does a great job of giving us an inside look on how crazy it was to work there, especially the early years where just getting to the office every day was a matter of taking your life into your own hands. The film is bittersweet as, like many of the rock stars the magazine wrote about, the magazine also burned bright for a time but ultimately died too soon. If you love great stories about the rock scene of the 70s and the legendary people who wrote about it, this is a film you will want to see.    My Rating: Full Price     Creem Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: She Dies Tomorrow (2020)    Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) is convinced that she is going to die tomorrow, and it sends her on a downward spiral. Amy’s friend Jane (Jane Adams) soon discovers that Amy’s feeling of imminent death is contagious, and they start a journey that might be their last day on earth. I feel that this is another one of those films that many critics are going to love because it is so mysterious and existential. On the other hand, I was bored throughout the film, not caring what happened to any of the characters and continually looking at the clock to see how much more that I had to watch of this movie. The film takes forever to get going as we spend the first fifteen minutes of the film following Amy around her house as she keeps playing the same song repeatedly on the record player. The film gains a little ground as Jane, Amy’s friend, shows up, but that momentum is soon over as the malaise that Amy is feeling also takes over Jane. I’m just not a fan of this type of film, one that never really answers any questions and revels in being mysterious about what it is trying to say and feel. I kept thinking as I was watching this film, can it be tomorrow already?    My Rating: Cable      She Dies Tomorrow Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

My View: Work It (2020)   When Quinn’s (Sabrina Carpenter) admission to the college of her dreams depends on her performance at a dance competition, she decides to form a dance troupe to take on the best squad in the school. The only problem, Quinn needs to learn how to dance. If you are a fan of one of the many dance competition TV shows, then this is a movie for you. The plot is pretty weak, as Quinn’s entrance into Duke depends on if she can make the dance team (even though she has a 4.0 and a ton of extra-curricular stuff), but Carpenter is fun as the spunky Quinn and its fun to see her transformation from a klutzy amateur to someone who can dance. The dance numbers are fun, though I must admit, the final dance-off numbers didn’t really wow me too much, but you will enjoy watching Quinn and her band of misfits try to bring win and maybe find a little romance to top it off.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee        Work It Website      Available on the Netflix platform.     

Indiefest:     I Used to Go Here (2020)   Kate (Gillian Jacobs) is at the top of the world. She just completed her new novel and is about to go on a big book tour; that is until the reviews come in, and her book is a big flop. Kate, with nowhere else to go, accepts a speaking engagement at her alma mater. The question is always, can you go home again? The answer is yes, but you might not like what you find there. Gillian Jacobs gives a charming and engaging performance of a woman returning to where life was exciting and full of promise and possibilities. Filmmaker Kris Ray provides us with a story that is fun to watch unfold, as Kate attempts to impress a former professor while also trying to relive the past. I loved the cast of this film, especially the college kids who Kate kind of latches onto when things spiral a bit. Like a weekend visit to an old haunt, this film scratches a very pleasant itch, and overall gives us an enjoyable ride.    My Rating: Full Price     I Used to Go Here Info    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.   

Forgotten Film: Return to Paradise (1998) R   Sheriff, Lewis, and Tony (Vince Vaughn, Joaquin Phoenix, David Conrad) meet up in Malaysia and have a great time. Sheriff and Tony return to New York, and right after they leave, Lewis, unbeknownst to the other two, is arrested for possession of hash and is sentenced to death. Two years later, Sheriff and Tony are contacted by a lawyer (Anne Heche) and told if they go back and testify, Lewis will receive a life sentence, and the other two will have to serve three years in prison, if only one of them returns, it will be six years. The movie is about choices and how far you are willing to go to do the right thing. Heche is the reason to see this movie as she does everything she can to try and persuade the two men to save Lewis’s life. This is an incredibly interesting film that will have you questioning what you would do in their place.   My Rating: Full Price     Return to Paradise Info


Weird Credits: From the credits of The Secret Garden: Head Cutter


Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Broken Hearts Gallery (2020)  PG-13  Lucy (Geraldine Viswanathan), an art gallery assistant, has horrible taste in men and has a memento from every lousy relationship she has been in. She decides to start up her own gallery where people can leave items to display that have been left behind by former lovers. This might be the fresh start that Lucy and all other romantics out there need. I loved Viswanathan in the TV show Miracle Workers, so I can’t wait for this one.       The Broken Hearts Gallery Info

                                         
                               
                                                      Until Next Time!


Friday, July 31, 2020

Summerland

My View:   Summerland (2020) PG    During World War II, a single English writer, Alice (Gemma Arterton), is given an evacuee child, Frank (Lucas Bond), to raise as his father fights the war. Both Frank and Alice will discover friendship and how time can repair anything, including past loves. Right from the start, Gemma Arterton steals your heart as a woman whose life is filled with what could have been. Alice is a woman who wants to be left alone to write, but when Frank joins her world, she slowly comes to realize that her life has been missing something. The storyline is fun and has a few cool twists that I didn’t see coming. I don’t want to give too much away, but let's say that this film is filled with love and Arterton’s winning performance.    My Rating: Full Price    Summerland Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest:  Yes, God, Yes (2019) R   Alice (Natalia Dyer) is a Catholic teenager in the early 2000s and her body in inflict with what her religious upbringing is telling her about sex. Her church has a weekend get together for teens, and it just might provide the answers that Alice is looking for, or will it? This delightful and funny film about a young woman who wants to understand the sexual feelings that she has begun to explore. Alice is a confused and sweet teenager that just wants some answers. Unfortunately, the Catholic church isn’t going to give her the answers she needs or wants. What I loved about this film is that Alice is kind of an innocent dunce as it comes to her sexual feelings, and we delight in her discovery that maybe what everyone is telling her isn’t the truth or set in the real world. The film moves along at a quick pace, and though the film can get a little raunchy, it still is a fun time with a character that is a blast to be with.     My Rating: Full Price     Yes, God, Yes Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

My View:  Stockton on My Mind (2020)   Documentary on Michael Tubbs, who in his twenties, the same day that Donald Trump was elected President, became Mayor of Stockton, California. Mayor Tubbs, the son of a teenage mother and a father who was always in prison, decided to use private and public partnerships to create innovative and sometimes controversial programs to improve his community's conditions. Watching this movie, you will admire Mayor Tubbs, and you hope that his ideas work, but we never quite get in-depth with the Mayor or what his voting public thinks about him or his programs. The film and its subject are in the right place and maybe in a few years, we can look back and think about how progressive and great the Mayor’s programs are. The problem is that currently, we don’t know and that makes this film seem not quite finished.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Stockton on My Mind Website    The film is currently on the HBO platform.

My View:  The Secret: Dare to Dream (2020) PG   A widow, Miranda (Katie Holmes), is trying to make ends meets while raising three children and dating her boyfriend, Tucker (Jerry O’Connell). A devastating storm comes to town and brings a mysterious man, Bray (Josh Lucas) into Miranda, and her life will never be the same. I wanted to like this movie, but as the film went on, it got just stupid and created an ending that even the Hallmark Channel wouldn’t consider doing. This isn’t a horrible film, but you have to wonder what happened to Katie Holmes's career that she has to take this type of role. The film is filled with preaching about how the power of positive thinking will change your life, but the only thing positive about this film is that you aren’t going to like it.    My Rating: Cable     The Secret: Dare to Dream Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest:  The Fight (2020) PG-13    The documentary gives an inside look at the lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and the battles they face during the Trump administration. The film follows four ACLU lawyers, each working on a different case that pits the individual against the government, but each case could have far-reaching results that could go to change how rights are seen. The film does a great job giving us insight into just how the ACLU works as they continually fight for our freedom. The film doesn’t gloss over the idea that sometimes the ACLU fights for the rights of some organizations that most of us don’t approve (like the KKK or radicals), but it also makes the point that is why our democracy works, giving everyone the right to vote, to serve our country and to marry who we want. I will warn you that there a couple of times that you will need a tissue as some of the cases deal with very touching subjects such as parents being separated from their children in detention centers. You may not always agree with who they defend or what those people stand for, but you will understand what a courageous and challenging job it is through this film.    My Rating: Full Price      The Fight Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: Rebuilding Paradise (2020) PG-13   After the devastating ‘Camp Fire’ wildfires in 2018, where 85 people lost their lives, the community of Paradise, California, attempts to pick up the pieces. Ron Howard directed this documentary about what happened to this community in the months after the fire that wiped out over 18,000 homes. The film concentrates on some of the town people, including a former mayor who wants to rebuild a young police officer with a family and a school superintendent who is trying to keep her district alive and working. The film begins with horrific scenes of the fire, including camera phone movies as people evacuated their homes to the fire. The rest of the film explores just how devastating the loss of life and homes was on the people who lived in the area. The film does explore a little bit of the causes of the fire and the environmental damage that people have caused in the area to make the fire more powerful, but the focus is on the people. We get to see just how these people are coping and how hard they are trying to get their lives back together. My Rating: Full Price     Rebuilding Paradise Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Forgotten Film:   The Crimson Kimono (1959)   Two detectives (Glenn Corbett, James Shigeta) are on a case to find a stripper’s killer in the Japanese part of Los Angeles. Little Tokyo. Their partnership is threatened when both men fall for the same woman (Victoria Shaw). I love that this film is two films in one, a murder mystery and a romance that deals with inter-racial relations. The film has a great black and white look to it, making it seem very stark and realistic. The murder mystery is a little weak, but the three-way romance more than makes up for it, creating a movie that was way before its time.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The Crimson Kimono Info


Weird Credits:   From the credits of Summerland: Marine Coordinator


Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:   Kajillionaire (2020) R   Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) has spent her whole life doing one low-level scam after another with her parents (Debra Winger, Richard Jenkins). Old Dolio’s life is changed when Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) joins the group for a major heist. The film is written and directed by Miranda July, who made one of my favorite movies of the 00s, Me and You and Everyone We Know.     The Kajillionaire Info

Until Next Time!


Friday, July 24, 2020

The Kissing Booth 2

My View: The Kissing Booth 2 (2020)   Everybody’s favorite high schooler, Elle (Joey King), is about to start her senior year. It will be an interesting one with her boyfriend Noah (Jacob Elordi) off to college at Harvard and her bestie, Lee (Joel Courtney), dating his girlfriend, Rachel (Meganne Young). Just to spice things up, there is a new hunk at school, Marco (Taylor Zakhar Perez), and Elle has to keep her long-distance relationship with Noah going. This is a sequel to the smash Netflix hit The Kissing Booth. That film had quite a bit of charm, mostly due to fish out of water Elle, played by the sparkling Joey King, and Elle having to choose between her best friend and the boy she always dreamed about. This film tries to re-capture that magic, but the film bloated, where the filmmakers decided to squeeze Elle’s whole senior year into a rather long two hours and ten minutes. King is dazzling again, but she can’t get past the clunky script that revolves around a dance contest on an arcade game, and the will she/won’t she cheat on her hunky boyfriend with the new hunk in town. I got bored with the plot pretty quick, but then again, I’m not the target audience, and I feel a lot of young viewers are going to fall in love with Elle and her kissing booth all over again.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     The Kissing Booth 2 Website    The film is currently available on the Netflix website.
Indiefest:  Radioactive (2019) PG-13   The incredible story of Marie Sklodowska Curie (Rosamund Pike), who, because of her ground-breaking scientific achievements, was the first female to win the Noble Prize and the first person ever to win it twice. Pike is always an interesting actor to watch, but she can’t overcome a script that inserts Madame Curie’s impact on the world in the future, showing us a child in the 50s being cured of cancer by radiation treatments, witnessing the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima and being an observer of a nuclear bomb test in Nevada. Oh, and for good measure, we witness a firefighter heading into the heart of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The story of Madame Curie moves slowly, as we see her fight the good fight to claim her rightful place in history, both alone and alongside her husband, Pierre (Sam Riley), who may have died due to his continual exposure to radiation poisoning. The dialogue feels forced and too often, Pike is left having to give speeches on the technical aspects that the impact of the moments get lost. Madame Curie and Rosamund Pike both deserve a better film.   My Rating: Cable    Radioactive Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: The Rental (2020) R    Two couple (Dan Steven, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand, and Jeremy Allen White) rent an oceanside getaway that seems perfect. That is until they discover that their host (Toby Huss) is spying on them. The ideal getaway weekend becomes filled with something sinister, and the four old friends expose secrets that have been long kept. Just a word of warning; if you are on vacation or about to, and are going to stay at a rental property, you probably want to avoid this scary horror film until you get back. Director and co-writer Dave Franco has brought us a well done and thrilling movie that starts building the tension about 10 minutes into the film and doesn’t let up until the end. It’s a fun ride that doesn’t resort to too many jump out of the dark moments and has plenty of twists and turns to keep you interested. Be sure to keep watching through the first portion of the final credits to see a bonus scene.    My Rating: Full Price    The Rental Website  Available for rent on participating on-demand services and in drive-ins around the country.
Indiefest: Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful (2020)   Documentary on the trailblazing photographer whose impact on the world of fashion and art is still ongoing. In the 70s through the 90s, you couldn’t avoid Newton’s bold and sexy photography for magazines like Vogue and Vanity Fair. Newton was known for his photography of strong, most of the time naked, women. Newton was also known for his sense of humor and his love of life. This documentary does a great job of giving us an inside look at Newton's life and how much fun he had at his work. The film interviews some of his most famous models, including Charlotte Rampling, Isabella Rossellini, Grace Jones, and Claudia Schiffer, providing us insight on what it was to be the subject of Newton’s camera. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Newton and his beautiful, awe-inspiring photos.   My Rating: Full Price    Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: Carmilla (2019)   Fifteen-year-old Lara (Hannah Rae) lives in seclusion from the outside world on a vast country estate with her father and her governess Miss Fontaine (Jessica Raine). One evening, a carriage crashes near the estate, and a young girl, Carmilla (Devrim Lingnau), is brought into the home to recuperate. Lara’s world will never be the same. This is a beautiful looking film, stylish and dark but I never really connected with the movie as it couldn’t  decide if it was a gothic romance or a horror film. The movie, throughout hints that Carmilla may be a vampire, but we never know for sure, instead, we get a film which teases us with lots of scenes that never quite capture the dramatic moments. I think I would have been happier if the film had picked one genre or the other, instead we get a weak movie that doesn’t deliver either one.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Carmilla Info      Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: In the Cold Dark Night (2020)   In 2018, authorities reopened the investigation into the 1983 murder of a young African-American man Timothy Coggins in a small Georgia town. Fascinating documentary of a cold case that probably should have been solved back in 1983, but as the film shows, the long arm of bigotry and white privilege was king. The film shows how a determined team of a local sheriff, a GBI agent and a prosecutor were able to piece together what happened to Timothy Coggins and who did it. The film is a fascinating look at the wheels of justice, which took a long time to get turning, but due to the dedication of local law enforcement, finally found the momentum to find justice.    My Rating; Bargain Matinee     In the Cold Dark Night Website     The film is currently available on the Hulu website.
Forgotten Film The Wild Life (1984)  R   Bill (Eric Stoltz) is a guy who has just broken up with his longtime girlfriend, Anita (Lea Thompson), and has gotten his first apartment. Anita is working at a donut shop and starts having an affair with an older man who just happens to be a cop. Anita’s pal, Eileen (Jenny Wright), is working at a clothing store managed by the lecherous Harry (Rick Moranis) and is dating a wrestler. I could go on but know that this film was the second movie written by Cameron Crowe (the first was a little film called Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and is filled with a cast that includes Chris Penn (in an excellent performance), Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Hart Bochner and Randy Quaid, plus there are a couple of bonus rock star appearances. The Wild Life is not a great movie, but it’s fun visiting the 80s and those outfits/hairstyles.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The Wild Life Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Kissing Booth 2: Skydive Stunt Double

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Beatles: Get Back (2020) Peter Jackson brings us a documentary on the making of the legendary Let it Be and the rooftop concert that the Beatles performed in 1969. The film features extensive, never-before-seen footage of the recording sessions. I can’t wait.    The Beatles: Get Back Info
Until Next Time!

Friday, July 17, 2020

Fatal Affair

My ViewFatal Affair (2020)   Ellie (Nia Long) is in a marriage to Marcus (Stephen Bishop), that is having some rocky times. Ellie runs into a flame from her past, David (Omar Epps), and though she is tempted, she does not stray. The problem is that David won’t give up on Ellie, no matter how much she tries to avoid him, and David doesn’t like to be denied. The plot is pretty much what you expect, a crazy stalker goes after a former love and attacks her and her family, first with deception and possible blackmail, followed by stalking and then the final confrontation. Fatal Affair isn’t a bad movie, just a highly predictable storyline that doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, and the chemistry between Long and Epps is nothing spectacular. If you are into the ‘Lifetime’ style plot, you might want to spend the hour and thirty minutes watching this. If this type of genre is not your thing, it’s fine to skip it.   My Rating: Cable    Fatal Affair Website   Available on the Netflix website.
My ViewThe Sunlit Night (2019)   After her boyfriend breaks up with her, and her art is rejected by the critics, Frances (Jenny Slate) travels to faraway Norway to help a painter (Fridtjov Saheim) with his latest art project. I love Jenny Slate, and she doesn’t disappoint in this lighthearted and a quirky film. The film is filled with some zany characters like the surly painter Frances is assisting in helping paint an abandoned barn in really bright yellow and orange colors. Zack Galifianakis is funny as an American who somehow has become the Viking chief of the town. A few performers are wasted with smaller parts, like David Paymer as Frances’s father, a frustrated illustrator who is talented but is forced to do illustrations for medical journals and Gillian Anderson, who shows up and says maybe two lines. However, this is Slate’s movie, and she is up to the task as the flighty painter who rediscovers her passion for painting in this weird little town. The Sunlit Night is just a fun time with a character that you will enjoy watching her figure out not only this strange small town but her life as well.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The Sunlit Night Info   Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My ViewFather Soldier Son (2020) R   Documentary on a former platoon sergeant and his two young sons spanning over a decade, chronicling his return home after a severe combat injury. The filmmakers were given unprecedented access to the family over a span of ten years. We see the Eisch family deal with all sorts of obstacles that test the family is its will to carry on. It was hard seeing a single father (the wife left years ago, never seeing her two young sons) having to leave his sons behind as he gets deployed once again to Afghanistan. That is heartbreaking enough, but the sergeant, a highly decorated soldier, gets severely injured and has to go through years of hard and agonizing rehab. There are some good times, as the family deals with life, but I will warn you, there will be a lot of times you will pull out multiple tissues. The film gives us an inside look on just how tough it is to be a military family, dealing with the aftereffects of war. It’s hard enough raising a family, but this film shows just how almost impossible it is in these tough times. The film will keep you watching as you will want to see how the family overcomes all its struggles.   My Rating: Full Price    Father Soldier Son Website   Available on the Netflix website.
Indiefest The Painted Bird (2019)   A young Jewish boy (Petr Kotlar) is left with a relative in Eastern Europe during World War II, and after that relative dies, the boy goes on a quest to find his family. I knew that this was going to be an incredibly tough film to watch based on the amount of press the film got at several film festivals where people walked out of screenings and the legendary reputation of the graphic content of the 1960s book the film is based on. I will warn you that it is a hard watch, with lots of very uncomfortable situations that this young boy has to go through to survive the war. I won’t go into detail, but if you get upset over graphic material dealing with the welfare of children, then don’t watch this film. Shot in black and white, which makes the film feel stark and harsh, the film is brought to life by an incredible performance of Petr Kotlar, who almost goes the whole movie without saying a word. It’s a film full of tragic events, but it shows just how much the human spirit will endure to survive.   My Rating: Full Price      The Painted Bird Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
IndiefestTwo Ways to Go West (2020)   Gavin (James Liddell) is a recovering addict who survives testing his sobriety on the Vegas Strip. Returning to their hotel rooms, the bachelor party escalates, and Gavin and his friends go down a road he never wanted to confront. I wanted to like this film, but it felt too much like a stage play, as the film is primarily set in one hotel room where three friends discuss life. The plot is incredibly predictable, and the dialogue feels forced. I never really cared about Gavin, a TV star who we quickly see go down a road of self-destruction. The film feels like a student film project that the lead actor wrote to show off his acting talents to other filmmakers. The film ends with a dull thud as nothing is settled or even close to being resolved.   My Rating: Cable    Two Ways to Go West Facebook Page    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
IndiefestBlessed Child (2019)   Filmmaker Cara Jones attempts to finally break free from the cult that she belonged to that dominated her childhood: Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. The filmmaker was part of what could be considered the preeminent American family that belonged to the Unification Church, as her parents, who had four kids, were high ranking members of the Church. I wanted more from this film, as we are continually told that the Church is a cult, but the film takes such a soft approach to the subject, mostly due to the fact that while all the children are no longer members of the Church, their parents are still heavily involved. The film is a personal look at how the church impacted the filmmaker and one of her brothers, Bow, who in his teens realized that he was gay (considered a sin in the church). I just never quite connected with Jones on her exploration of the church and how it affected her life. There are so many unanswered questions, so much that isn’t explored in the film, that I came away feeling that I really didn’t learn much about the church and why it was such a bad influence in people’s lives.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Blessed Child Info    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest We Are Freestyle Love Supreme  (2020)  Before Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking musical smash Hamilton, he was in a comedy improv hip-hop freestyle group called Freestyle Love Supreme. What a fun film to watch as Lin-Manuel and his friends perform in front of paying adoring crowds or by themselves as they walk down the street. Fans of Miranda are going to love this film as we see just how Miranda found his voice that he turned into Broadway magic. The film covers how the group was formed and goes over some of the group's changes during the years. What never changes is how much fun the cast has and how they delight in each other's performances. Pull up a seat and let these freestyle comedic talents run wild with words and song.  My Rating: Full Price    We Are Freestyle Love Supreme Website      Available on the Hulu website.
Forgotten Film: Last Orders (2001) R   Jack (Michael Caine) was a butcher who, for over fifty years, enjoyed a pint with his friends. Before he died, he requested that his ashes be scattered in the sea. Three friends (Bob Hoskins, David Hemmings, and Tom Courtenay), along with Jack’s son (Ray Winstone), go on a journey to celebrate Jack’s life and respect his last wish. The film is about love and friendship, told in flashbacks, as the four travel. Jack’s widow (Hellen Merrin) goes on her quest to visit a daughter who has been committed to an institution. Great performances by the cast make this a film hit all the right notes.   My Rating: Full Price     Last Orders Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Fatal Affair: Netflix move app operator

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Summerland (2020) PG  During World War II, a single English writer (Gemma Arterton) is given an evacuee child to raise as his father fights the war. Both the child and the woman will discover friendship and how time can repair anything, including past loves. I absolutely adore Gemma Arterton, so I can’t wait for this film.     Summerland Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Old Guard

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 3, 2020

The Outpost


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

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

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