Friday, October 22, 2021


My View:  Dune  (2021) PG-13   A son of a noble family, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), is destined to become the leader of a planet that contains the most vital element in the galaxy, spice. Paul will face untold horrors, challenges, and sadness as he battles forces for control of a world and a people that have been waiting for their hero for centuries. Frank Herbert’s novel Dune was a life-changing book for me, as it was the first ‘adult’ sci-fi book that I read as a kid, and it blew me away with its story of a young man who is destined to be the savior of a people on a distant planet. I was greatly disappointed in the 1984 David Lynch attempt at putting an over 500-page book into a 2-hour film. I can say that this is a much better attempt at adapting such a sprawling and dense book into a watchable movie. First, go into this film knowing that Dune is part one of a two-part film series and that the film is two hours and thirty-five minutes long (so pack a lunch and go to the bathroom before seeing it). Also, please don’t watch this film at home; watch it, like I did, on the big screen, where the glorious cinematography and the wondrous score by Hans Zimmer can surround and overwhelm you. Timothee Chalamet is an excellent choice for Paul, the man destined to lead, as he is young enough that Paul’s enemies will underestimate him and charismatic enough on the screen to believe that a nation of people suppressed for centuries will rise up and follow him. The cast is impressive, with Oscar Isaac, as the steadfast father of Paul and Josh Brolin as his loyal right-hand man, stand out in their performances. I loved Jason Momoa, as the brash pilot (shades of Hans Solo) who is a hero to the young, impressionable Paul. Momoa has some great action sequences, and his chemistry with Chalamet is warm and genuine. Fans of Dave Bautista and Zendaya may be a little disappointed in this film, as their parts as mostly hinted at on what they will be in the next movie. Overall, the film feels slightly lacking, only because the world that Frank Herbert created in Dune is so complex, and most of the action will take place in the second film. Still, that being said, this is a film spectacle that is one not to be missed on as big a screen as you can find.   My Rating: Full Price    Dune Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide and on the HBO Max platform. 

Indiefest:  The Electrical Life of Louis Wain  (2021)  PG-13  British artist Louis Wain (Benedict Cumberbatch) becomes famous for his paintings of cats, which transform the public’s perception of how we see and deal with our house pets. But Louis, an eccentric man responsible for the care of his five sisters, has bigger ideas brewing; unlocking the ‘electrical’ mysteries of the world. I loved the first half of the film as we get pulled into the world of Louis and his large, strange family. Into the madness of Louis and his five sisters walks Emily (Claire Foy), who is given the task of teaching the younger of Louis’s sisters, much to the unhappiness of Louis’s older sister, Caroline (Andrea Riseborough), who has taken over the role of both mother and father to her sisters and Louis himself. Emily brings life to both the family and Louis himself, and they fall in love, creating a great scandal, where a nobleman like Louis would love and marry a spinster, governess, who is of a lower class. However their happiness is short-lived, as Caroline becomes sick, though Louis discovers his love of cats when on a walk, the couple finds a kitten abandoned in the rain. The second half of the film begins to fail as Louis, having lost Caroline, starts to lose his sanity and slowly delves into madness. The film takes such a dark tone from its first half that it feels like it is two different films, and the pace becomes so slow that it is almost painful to watch Louis slowly descent into a shell of what he once was. The film is based on a real man, who almost single-handedly, through his drawings, made cats more than just something to keep around to catch vermin. Louis captivated his audience with whimsical depictions of cats that inspired a nation to see them as companions, something to love and cherish. I wish I felt the same way about this film, but it left me wanting more.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Electrical Life of Louis Wain Website  Now playing in select theatres and available on the Amazon Prime platform on Nov. 5th.

Indiefest: Becoming Cousteau  (2021) PG-13  Documentary looking at the life of Jacques Cousteau, the explorer and environmentalist who because famous for his sailing vessel, Calypso, his invention of the diving apparatus, the Aqua-Lung, and for his documentaries and TV specials on marine conservation. Cousteau is someone who has been somewhat forgotten. Still, for someone like me, who grew up in the 60s/70s, he was a part of our family, showing up for TV specials that not only entertained but also astonished with its beauty but always with a warning that the beauty of the sea was fragile. The film does a wonderful job of giving us a look at a man who became a symbol of the attempt to save the world from poisoning itself with pollution and the reckless abuse of the sea. The film has a ton of behind-the-scenes footage, some of which has just recently been discovered. The film explores how Cousteau, whose early explorations were funded by oil companies, became aware of how we were destroying the planet and how he became someone who preached about global warming as early as the 80s. The underwater footage alone is worth the price of admission, but Becoming Cousteau's message about a man who made it his mission to save the seas is worth more.    My Rating: Full Price   Becoming Cousteau Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest:  Mass (2021)  PG-13  Years after an unspeakable tragedy has occurred, two sets of parents (Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton, Reed Birney, and Ann Dowd) agree to meet to talk privately in an attempt to deal with what happened. The meeting will be a journey of grief, anger, denial, and finally, acceptance by those left behind. I will warn you that if you are a parent, this will be a hard film to watch, as the story is one of a parent’s nightmare; your child has been killed by another in a senseless act of violence. The film mainly takes place in one room with the two couples as they slowly go over what happened to their children and try to understand why. From the start, you feel the rage and hurt from Martha Plimpton, who is bubbling over with her feelings, wanting to point fingers at the other couple, especially at Ann Dowd, who plays the mother of the kid who pulled the trigger. The contrast between the two couples is stark and makes for some of the tension in the film, as the parents of the kid who died in the shooting are looking for answers, and the parents of the kid who did the shooting, really don’t have them. The tension in the film ebbs and flows between the two couples as the film goes along, and we see that both sides have been hurt to the core. This is a film that is hard to watch due to the subject matter, but the performances are so real, raw, and emotional that you can’t look away. As the mother of the kid who pulled the trigger, Ann Dowd is exceptional in the role of a woman who loved her child and is as shocked and guilty as a person can be, all the while looking for some way to find forgiveness. Mass is a powerful film with four outstanding performances that will shake you to the core.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Mass Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Found (2021) PG   Three American teenage girls, each adopted from China, discover that they are blood-related cousins through the 23andMe website. Their meeting inspires them to confront the burning questions of their shared past and lost history. Found is a fascinating and lovely story of three young women who are looking for answers. All three girls were adopted from China, probably abandoned by the parents due to the ‘one child’ rule that China had for many years that heavily punished families for having more than one child. The three girls were adopted by Americans, and all three have grown up in loving homes and are doing well. But there is that lingering wonderment that the girls have; why were they given up, and who are their natural parents. All the girls wonder; do their birth parents regret what they did, and do they ever think of them. This is a touching film about trying to find out these questions and how much the girls want to know. The film follows the girls as they discover that they aren’t alone in being adopted and finding solace in the fact that they have cousins of roughly the same age and from simular circumstances. Found is a film that is filled with not only hurt feelings, regret and guilt but also love. The love of family, of not just the ones that are related to you but also the family that chooses you.    My Rating: Full Price    Found Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest:  Ouija Japan  (2021)   Karen (Ariel Sekiya) is an American housewife living in Japan and desperate to fit in with her Japanese community. She joins other homemakers to play the Kokkuri-san (the Japanese Ouija board), and they unwittingly disrespect a local deity, which starts a game that will pit each housewife against each other in a battle that can only have one winner. This is one of those films that deserves to be seen at a small film festival as a midnight horror showing. There, an audience could have fun with it and enjoy it for what it is, a fun, somewhat amateurish version of a horror film. The film, while unlike a lot of small movies, does have some good qualities, with excellent sound and cinematography. But, it’s hard to overlook the somewhat clumsy dialogue, a plot that seems to forget how many people are in the group, and acting that is sometimes painful to watch. The film does combine two aspects that show up in a lot of Japanese horror films; the love of Ouija boards and the battle royal and I had fun watching this film move along, but it needed a stronger cast and a few re-writes of the script to make it more than just a nice film to see at a midnight screening.   My Rating: Cable    Ouija Japan Info  Now playing On Demand.

Indiefest: Bergman Island (2021) Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth) are an American filmmaking couple who move to Swedish island to each write screenplays. They hope to be inspired by the landscape where famed filmmaker Ingmar Bergman created some of his best works. The couple soon finds out that the lines between reality and fiction have become blurred. This is an interesting film that doesn’t always work. More of a slice of life film combined with a bit of mystery (is the film within the film real or a figment of Chris’s imagination?) than a full-fledged narrative, the film explores the dynamics of a couple whose writing process is exposed to us, while the couple explores the life and meaning of a famous filmmaker. I have never been a fan of Bergman’s films, but I know that his films mean a great deal to his fans and critics worldwide. The film explores what goes into the creative writing process, as the two writers talk about their work, though Chris is more forthcoming about her work than her husband is. The film is a bit frustrating, much like some of Bergman’s films, in that we never get a resolution; we are left with the couple continuing to work and live on the island, and what tensions that have been created, aren’t truly resolved.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Bergman Island Website  Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.

Forgotten Film: Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains (1982) R   Corrine Burns (Diane Lane) is still recovering from her mother's death when she is fired from her job on live TV. Using the publicity from that event, she and her band, The Fabulous Stains, get hired to open for a tour of a washed-up glam-rock group and an up-and-coming British punk band. Soon, through outlandish outfits and attitude, the Fabulous Stains become the headliner, but fame can be hard to handle, and Corrine learns that love and fame can be fleeting. Seeing both Diane Lane and Laura Dern as teenagers is worth watching this film alone, but it’s the performance of Ray Winstone, as the leader of the punk band who falls for Corrine, that makes this film worth watching. Plus, the song that his band plays is a darn good punk song, and the best of all the songs are in this film. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains isn’t a great film, but it’s fun watching Lane as the lead singer of a band that shouldn’t be out on the road, much less headlining.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Dune: Sandwalk coordinator

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Last Night in Soho (2021) R  Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) is a fashion student in London, living a good life, but she has always dreamed of being alive in the 1960s. Eloise begins dreaming at night about a glamorous wannabe singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), living the nightlife in 60s Soho. Be careful what you wish for because Eloise’s dreams are about to become dangerous as she uncovers something ugly. I am a big fan of Edgar Wright (Baby Driver, Shaun of the Dead), so I can’t wait to see this film. Add in the fact that Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit), Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit), and Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones, The Avengers), and it makes it one not to miss.   Last Night in Soho Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, October 15, 2021

Halloween Kills

My View:   Halloween Kills  (2021) R  Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) thought she had finally killed Michael Myers, but she soon discovers that Michael is back and heading home. What I loved about the 2018 Halloween film was that while the body count was much higher and the death’s much bloodier, the film captured the essence of the first film, and we had our hero in Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), who had been waiting for the day when Michael returned. I can’t say the same for this film. This is schlocky horror porn at its worst, with each killing giving us a close-up of the blood and gore. The film contains a horrible storyline that is patched together to showcase one gruesome death after another with no point or meaning to add to the story. The film tries to piece a patchwork tale of mob violence (maybe pointing back to the Jan. 6th takeover of the capital?) and attempts at redemption, but the film is so poorly made with what seems to be almost no effort to tie this film in with the Halloween storyline other than having a bunch of the original cast make appearances in this film to die one at a time. Fans of the series will be greatly disappointed, and Laurie is merely window dressing for this film, adding nothing to the story, just giving us a bridge from the 2018 film to this mess. With an ending that promises a sequel in the worst way, this film is a horrible excuse for a horror film, much less for a classic series that had a fantastic comeback in 2018. Go back and watch the first two Halloween films and the 2018 film and forget that this was ever a movie.    My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again     Halloween Kills Website  The film is playing in theaters nationwide and on the Peacock platform.

My View:  The Last Duel     (2021)  R  In 1386, Marguerite di Carrouges (Jodie Comer) claims that she has been raped by her husband’s best friend, squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver). King Charles VI (Alex Lawther) declares that Knight Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) can settle his dispute with his squire by challenging him to a trial by combat, a duel that would be the last legally sanctioned duel in France’s history. The story is told from three different perspectives; Jean de Carrouge's, Jacques Le Gris’s, and from the subject of the rape, the Lady Marguerite. When watching this film, I kept thinking about a similar plot device that the great Japanese filmmaker used in the classic film Rashomon (1950), on how a story can change from one person telling it to another. Your feelings about the characters change as the story, and the perspectives change. It helps that you have a contrast between the two knights involved. Driver’s character, Jacques Le Gris, is good-looking, intelligent, and charismatic, all of which make his character seems like the hero of the story early on. In contrast, is Jean de Carrouges, Matt Damon’s character, a man who is bull-headed, rough, slightly dull-witted, and someone who we see is not quite the love match would we would make for the fetching Marguerite. All this makes for a film that has quite to say about how we see our heroes and how quickly we judge people from appearances. Add in the fact that this is a story about the rape of a woman who is seen as not an equal of the men in the tale but is considered property of the male who marries her. I thought the two male leads were perfect in their roles, with Damon adding on the pounds and the scars (along with a horrible mullet haircut) to make his character unappealing. Driver uses all his flair and charisma to make his character seem too good to be true and the envy of other knights. Jodie Comer is what makes this film work, giving us a character that keeps us guessing on just who she is or how she feels until we see her story from her perspective. It’s a magical performance that gives this film life and one where even with Damon and Driver on the screen, you still focus on her. I did have a bit of trouble with the casting of Ben Affleck as Count Piere d’Alencon, a flashy noble who, from the start of the film, despises Jean de Carrouges and adores Jacques Le Gris and his winning ways. With his bright blonde dye job and his almost mugging for the camera, I was very aware that this was Ben Affleck playing a part in a film and not being able to see him as the character himself. I think the film would have been better served with someone not as notable or commanding in the role. Nevertheless, I still believe this is a film worthy of praise, telling a story in a way that made it compelling until its end.    My Rating: Full Price    The Last Duel Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide. 

Indiefest:  Needle in the Timestack    (2021)  R   Nick and Janine (Leslie Odom, Jr. and Cynthia Erivo) are married and in love, a love that will always last. That is until Janine’s ex-husband (Orlando Bloom) uses a time warp to try to tear them apart. Nick's memories of his wife will soon disappear, and he must decide what he’s willing to sacrifice to hold on to or let go of the one he loves. This is a film that creates a premise that if you have only one true love during your lifetime, will you find that true love even if everything, including time, has set up roadblocks to keep you from it. Unfortunately, I was let down by the film, which never did give me the emotional connection that I needed to the characters to care if the two lovers ever found their way back to each other. The film spends quite a bit of time setting up the premise of that in the near future (we know this because of the cool, slightly futuristic phones that everyone uses), time travel is possible, but at a cost, it creates a ripple where pieces of the past, memories, can vanish in an instant. The film wants us to believe that the love between Nick and Janine is so strong, even if their memories of each other have been erased, the two will still, somehow, and someway find each other. The film spends too much time and effort on Nick, a man that I ended up not liking very much, and that’s a problem when the film want’s you to root for him. I would have liked the film to have given us more of both sides of the story, but instead, we only get Nick’s journey and not Janine’s, much to the detriment of a storyline that takes too long to move along and doesn’t give us enough to care if the lovers ever get back together.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Needle in a Timestack Website  Now playing in select theatres and available On Demand.

Indiefest:  The Velvet Underground   (2021)  R  Documentary about the legendary rock band The Velvet Underground. The band, founded in 1964, was led by singer/guitarist Lou Reed and comprised of John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Moe Tucker, and film star Nico. They were a part of the Andy Warhol scene in NYC until it all started to fall apart. While not a huge commercial success during their existence, they are now recognized as one of the most influential bands in the rock scene and groundbreaking muscians that had a lasting effect on the music world. I have never been a fan of The Velvet Underground, finding their music a little too out there for my tastes, but I do understand how much they influenced other musicians, especially those in the punk and new wave scenes of the 70s and 80s. The film gives us a very detailed history of the band, focusing mainly on the two leaders of the band, Lou Reed and John Cale. Intertwined with the band was Andy Warhol, an artist who became the center of the modern art world in New York City and was able to hold onto the world’s attention until his death in the late 80s. The film uses that Warhol influence in its storytelling of the band, taking film that Warhol shot of the band to make up a central part of the film’s story about the band. It’s a visually stunning film using the techniques of the Warhol bag of tricks to make us understand and experience the music scene of the band. The film creatively uses both past interviews and current ones to create a tale of a band that was ever-changing, just as was the music scene of the 60s was. The Velvet Underground is one of the most creative documentaries that I have ever seen, perfectly capturing a time and place which created a band and its music, a music which is still influencing long after most of its creators have gone.   My Rating: Full Price    The Velvet Underground Info  Now playing in select theatres and streaming on the Apple TV+ platform.

Indiefest:   Hard Luck Love Song  (2020)  R  Jessie (Michael Dorman) is a down-and-out Troubadour who now makes his living hustling pool in dive bars and living in seedy motels. He has a chance encounter with an old flame, Carla (Sophia Bush), but before long, their shared past and current troubles catch up with them. This is one of those films that could have used a 2nd or third re-write, as there is too much filler (lots of time spent with Jessie singing to himself or to/with Carla) and not enough character building to make this film drag, sometimes for what seems like forever. We soon discover that Jessie, while at times is a good guy (we know this because he shares his good fortune with a homeless guy) but is also a hustler, a master at getting people to fall for his bait and switch pool hallways. In walks Carla, a flame from Jessie’s past, a past that Jessie blew up due to his hustler way of life. The scenes between Carla and Jessie are almost painful to watch, as their flirting takes forever to move the story along, and their eventual blowup takes such a quick turn that I got whiplash from the abrupt storyline change. By the end of Hard Luck Love Song, I was tired of Jessie and his songs,  much like a song on the radio that has been played one too many times.   My Rating: Cable   Hard Luck Love Song Website  Now playing in select theatres

My View:  The Rescue  (2021)  PG   Documentary on an incredible story that transfixed the world: the attempted rescue of a group of twelve boys and their coach stuck deep inside a cave in Northern Thailand, a recovery that would defy the odds. This is one of those true stories that if you saw it as a fictional film, you wouldn’t have believed it, that it was too unbelievable and not based in reality to be real, but this happened, and the story is told by the people who carried out this remarkable rescue. The incident became one of those stories that captivated a world, a group of boys, out on a fun outing, get trapped in a cave due to fast-rising water filling a cave system due to torrential rains that came earlier than expected. The film does a fantastic job of building the story, as there seems to be little hope that the boys and their coach will survive such a long time in the cave, and that’s even if the rescue teams can even find them through the miles of caverns which make of the cave system they are stuck in. In come two of the most unlikely heroes of any story ever told, two English mid-fifties amateur cave divers that, through incredible guts, courage, and a little luck, pull off a rescue that you will not believe is true. I will warn you that some of the footage is reconstructed (primarily due to the incredibly rough conditions that the divers had to travel in, camera equipment was the least of their worries), but that reconstruction was done with all the participates in the rescue. The Rescue is an outstanding documentary that has as many twists and turns in its story as the best Hollywood film, but it’s all real, which makes it one taut and remarkable story that will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end and keep the tissues handy. You will need them more than once.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    The Rescue Website  Now playing in select theatres and soon on the National Geographic channel.

Indiefest:  Wife of a Spy  (2020)  Yusaku (Issey Takahashi) and Satoko (Yû Aoi) are a happily married couple living in 1940 Japan. Yusaku, a local merchant and amateur filmmaker, takes a trip to Manchuria, where he witnesses something horrible and comes back a changed man, determined to right the wrong he saw. Now his wife is being torn between the love of her husband and her country. Filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa is best known for his work in thrillers, crime films, and horror. Kurosawa uses his skills as a filmmaker to make suspense out of both big and small moments. This film about a silk merchant's wife slowly masterfully builds the film's suspense, making those small moments feel significant incredibly important. The cinematography of this film is lush and creates the right feel for a country on the brink of a world war. Yusaku, played with a calm reserve by Issey Takahashi, is a gifted amateur filmmaker, making short films staring his wife to the delight of his friends and employees. His wife is happily married and loves the life they lead. All comes crashing down when Satoko discovers that her husband is involved with something that will endanger not only their life together but the lives of others. The film does a masterful job of building the suspense as it pits Satoko in the horrible choice of choosing between the love of her country and the love of her husband. Wife of a Spy takes a while to develop, but it’s worth the wait.    My Rating; Full Price   Wife of a Spy Website  Now playing in select theatres and on virtual cinemas.

Indiefest:  Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini   (2019)   Documentary about one of the greatest special effects technician who worked in a time when effects were done without CGI. While in college, a magazine started up called Fangoria, a magazine about horror and sci-fi films and the people who made them. At that same time, a master of special effects was making a name for himself, Tom Savini, whose work on films such as Dawn of the Dead and Friday the 13th started the rise of horror films that astounded and delighted fans with their special effects and makeup. I have always loved horror films and thoroughly enjoyed the masters of makeup like Dick Smith (The Exorcist, Altered States) and Savini, who took gruesome deaths on the screen to a new art form. This documentary is best seen as a fan film, as it is a little rough around the edges (some of the production pieces are a little amateurish) and is a little slow to start up as we get a lot of Savini’s childhood and younger life before films. For horror fans of cinema of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, the film's second half is a treasure trove of information and stories from a time when special effects meant physical work with pulleys, lots of makeup, and even more fake blood. If you ever wanted to know how special effects were done on those great, blood-soaked horror films of the 70s and 80s, this is a good primer, much like the glory days of Fangoria magazine.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Smoke and Mirrors Info  Now in select theaters and available On Demand

Forgotten Film:  Nixon  (1995)  R   The story of former U.S. President Richard Nixon (Anthony Hopkins), from his days as a young congressman struggling to find a voice (and finding it as an anti-communist), his turbulent rise to power as a Vice-President overshadowed by a legend and then his rise and fall as President of the United States, the one thing he wanted most and had to leave in scandal and shame. I am not a huge fan of Oliver Stone. I just never have quite connected with Stone’s heavy-handed filmmaking. Stone isn’t the reason to see this film, nor is it Hopkins as the iconic Nixon. No, it's Joan Allen’s portrayal as Pat Nixon, the long-suffering wife of Richard. Allen gives a complex, moving performance of a woman that few knew much about, as Pat was always seen as the supporting, loving wife in the background. Allen gives us such an incredible I wish the film had been centered around Pat instead of Richard Nixon.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Nixon Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Last Duel: Castle Cleaning Service

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Harder They Fall   (2021) R  When outlaw Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) finds out that his mortal enemy Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) has been broken out of a jail transport by Trudy Smith (Regina King), Nat rounds up his gang to track Rufus down and seek revenge for a killing that Rufus did long ago. Written and directed by Jaymes Samuel (They Die by Dawn) and includes a cast with Zazie Beetz, LaKeith Stanfield, Edi Gathegi, and Delroy Lindo, this will be a different kind of western, and I am down for that.    The Harder They Fall Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, October 8, 2021

No Time to Die

My View:  No Time To Die  (2021)  PG-13   The impossible has happened. James Bond (Daniel Craig) has retired and is living the good life until his friend, CIA agent Felix (Jeffrey Wright), shows up and tells Bond that there is a new enemy out there, and he has a dangerous new technology that could assassinate anyone without a bullet or killing anyone else. When Daniel Craig first came out of the ocean in Casino Royale, we knew we had a different style of James Bond to enjoy. It’s been a fun ride with only Quantum of Solace being somewhat of a letdown (though, unlike most Bond films, this one gets points as being a straight-on sequel to the first Craig film). This will be the last Craig Bond film. Sorry, Daniel Craig fans, but I just don’t see him doing a cash grab as Mr. Connery did with Never Say Never Again, but know this, this is an excellent sendoff of Craig’s Bond, and it’s worthy of the actor who played him. This is a bit of a different Bond, as he sets off to help his old friend Felix, making Bond a rogue agent since he is no longer designated 007 in the British system of spies. The film is somewhat long (pack a lunch for its two hours and forty-three minutes long), and some of the plot is a bit bewildering, but it’s still lots of fun, with some great chase sequences (one of which took my breath away), lots of great Bond quips, and I really enjoyed the ending. Also, Ana de Armas, who plays a new agent who helps Bond in Cuba, hits it out of the park again (just like she did in Knives Out), giving the film a much-needed bit of fun and energy. I would love to see a spin-off of her character doing Bond-like things with her own special magic applied. Rami Malek’s bad guy is pretty creepy though his timeline is a bit sketchy. I’m guessing they had the script written, and then Malek’s agent called up and said, ‘Rami has always dreamed of being a Bond villain.’ and the producers said, ‘We’ll make it work.’ There is a new British agent in town, Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch, who is just as cool and graceful in killing as Bond is, and the rest of the gang (Q, M, Moneypenny) are back, along with Bond’s love from the Spectre film, Madeleine (Lea Seydoux). Do you need to see this in a theatre-like I did? Yeah, I think you do because the car chases are fantastic, needing to be seen on the big screen for the full impact, and yes, Mr. Craig takes his shirt off a few times. Plus, do you want to say your good-byes to Craig’s Bond anywhere else?   My Rating: Full Price     No Time to Die Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide and On Demand.

Indiefest:  Lamb  (2021)  R   A childless couple, Maria and Ingvar (Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snær Guðnason) discover a mysterious newborn on their farm in Iceland. This new edition brings them happiness, but then things start going horribly wrong. First, if you haven’t seen the trailer, then stay far from it before seeing this film as it gives too much away (note to trailer makers: quit giving away major plot points in your trailer, let the movie do that). I am a huge fan of Swedish actress Noomi Rapace since she played Lisbeth Salander in The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo film series (watch this series instead of the horrible American version of the first film that starred Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig). This is a strange and weird film about a childless couple who are just going through the motions of being a couple until a miracle appears at their farm. Now, this is not a film for everyone. Think of it as an old-fashioned fairy tale of a movie, which is perfect for the setting of a remote farm in the harsh world of Iceland. This film is filled with a lot of moral tales; jealousy, betrayal, and what people will do to find happiness. I didn’t have a problem with suspending my concept of reality, but some of you will find this tale a bit too silly to enjoy the film. I did not see this film in a theatre and therefore, I can only imagine that some people will react differently to this film. I enjoyed the film, with its sense of gloom and doom that keeps building throughout the film, and the two leads of Rapace and Guðnason give us incredible performances to keep the story interesting. Just keep in mind from the beginning of the film, this is a fairy tale, and you will be fine.   My Rating: Full Price    Lamb Website  Now playing in select theatres.

My View: Madres  (2021)   Anita and Beto (Ariana Guerra, Tenoch Huerta) are expecting their first child and have relocated to a migrant farming community in 70s California. Soon, Anita begins to have strange symptoms and terrifying visions that may be related to a legendary curse. Part of the Welcome to the Blumhouse series of films on Amazon Prime, this film is more of a suspense film than a horror film. There are a few scary parts in the movie, but most of the film builds on the suspense of Anita, who is being visited by a being that is trying to communicate with her. Combined with a community that Anita soon realizes has almost no children and a creepy local woman who just might be a curandero (played by Elpidia Carrillo), Anita starts to realize that something is not right. There is a legend whispered about that the women in the area are cursed, and Anita soon starts to believe that something evil is going on. Buoyed by solid performances by newcomer Ariana Guerra and Tenoch Huerta, as the married couple, the film creates an interesting and complex storyline of LA born and raised Anita (who though Hispanic, speaks very little Spanish), a former journalist fired because she got pregnant (happened more than you would think in the 60s and 70s) and her husband, Beto, a Mexican native who has his big chance to run a farm after only five years in this country. The film's tension is not only created by the creepy things going on in the community but between Beto and Anita, as she keeps digging on a story that might prove that farmers in the area may be using dangerous pesticides. Overall, Madres is enjoyable, though horror fans will be a little disappointed by the limited amount of scares that the film supplies, but tension abounds in this film that makes it a great part of the Blumhouse series.   My Rating: Full Price    Madres Website  Now playing on the Amazon Prime platform.

My View:   The Manor   (2021)   After suffering a stroke, Judith (Barbara Hershey) decides that she doesn’t want to be a burden for her family and moves into a historic nursing-home. At first, things seem lovely, but then Judith starts to experience horrible visions at night. Is it the start of dementia, or is this nursing home housing something horrific that Judith will only escape from if she dies? The Manor is the most disappointing of the Welcome to the Blumhouse films released on the Amazon Prime format. I had high hopes for this film because of Barbara Hershey, an Academy-Award nominee (The Portrait of a Lady) who is in one of my favorite films of all time, the 1980 film The Stunt Man, starring Peter O’Toole. Hershey has fun in this role, as a former ballerina who has given up teaching due to being diagnosed with not only the after-effects of a stroke but also possible dementia. Hershey’s Judith isn’t your ordinary nursing-home resident, having a foul mouth and a fiery spirit; she is a woman that doesn’t give up her freedom easily and very quickly realizes that not everything is well in this home. Unfortunately, the scares are few, badly undertaken, and the plot is right out of a bad 70s TV movie. The ending is laughable and so quick to happen that you are left going ‘wait, what just happened?’, leaving me disappointed and wanting a do-over worth seeing what Hersey could do with a real, solid role.    My Rating; Cable    The Manor Website  Now playing on the Amazon Prime platform.

My View:  Justin Bieber: Our World   (2021) PG   Documentary that follows Justin Bieber as he prepares for his first full concert in three years, a New Year’s Eve show in 2020 on the rooftop of the Beverly Hills Hilton. Justin Bieber is one of the world's biggest pop stars with a ton of number one hits and record-breaking concert tours. He is also someone whose life has been followed by the media since his first hit many years ago. Now 27 and a husband, with this film, he hopes to give us a new Justin, one who has learned from his past mistakes and wants to show the world that after three years, he still has the chops to put on a great concert. The film is interesting in the fact that it was made during the height of the COVID crisis in LA, and the filmmakers make it one of the big points of the film, with constant referrals to COVID testing and how the concert is set up so that the audience will only be on the balconies of the hotel and not up close. I found troubling that even when Justin’s right-hand man, Nick Demoura, is diagnosed with coronavirus (and quarantined for two weeks), Justin rarely wears a mask, even when dealing closely with the dancers and band. It’s as if Justin’s ego told him he is too important to get COVID or maybe he just can’t stand to be seen with a mask on his face. The film does a countdown to the concert, showing us the preparation to put on the concert by constructing a stage on top of a building in the hotel's courtyard, one of the main focuses of the behind-the-scenes parts of the film. Are you going to learn anything about Justin with his up close and personal videos that he films as he and his new wife walk around the hills of Hollywood? No, as everything seems very controlled and part of a pr push to make Justin a new man who, due to his marriage, is committed to making his life about something (we never really know what). The fact that Justin and his wife walk around without the paparazzi taking pictures tells you a lot of just how isolated Justin is from the world. The concert footage may disappoint major fans of Justin as it is a re-editing of a live concert that he did that was broadcast over the internet (T-Mobile ads are part of the scenery of the concert, including their distinctive fuchsia color scheme that T-Mobile has lit of the hotel itself). The concert is full of his hits, and the stage show is fantastic, with pyrotechnics, lasers, and a beautiful drone light show. It shows you why Justin is such a draw as a performer, but like many concert films of late, this one will only let you see Justin as they want you to see Justin, a man changed due to marriage. We may never get the real Justin but will have to enjoy the performance on the stage as a substitute.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Justin Bieber: Our World Website  Now playing exclusively on the Amazon Prime platform.

Indiefest: Knocking (2021)   After suffering a traumatic incident, Molly (Cecilia Milocco) moves into a new apartment, ready to start on her path to recovery. Soon after her arrival, Molly begins to hear knocking and then screams that keep waking her up at night. As they start to intensify, she realizes that no one else in the building hears these horrible sounds and that she is on her own. I thought this was a well-done film that you question throughout the movie if Molly really hears the sounds, or if they are a part of her mental breakdown. The film builds the tension as we winch every time Molly tries to investigate the noises, as we put ourselves in the place of the apartment dwellers that have to deal with her and her wild accusations. The film keeps building the suspense as we see Molly lose sleep and possibly quit taking her medications as the knocking get more intense and finally goes into someone moaning and muttering that they are going to be killed. Knocking is a film where you constantly question the heroine's sanity in the movie, never knowing if our rooting for this woman is based on fact or fiction.   My Rating: Full Price   Knocking Website  Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.

Indiefest: Jacinta   (2020)   This documentary follows the life of Jacinta, who at the start of the film is incarcerated in a prison that also houses her mother, Rosemary, both of which are recovering from drug addiction. The film follows Jacinta as she tries to break the cycle of addiction and become the mother of her child, Caylynn, that she desperately needed but didn’t get when she was growing up. To say this is not an easy film to watch is an understatement. Given incredible access to Jacinta’s life, we follow her from her time in prison, where she is incarcerated with her mother (who is there on a much serious and longer sentence). Right from the start, we see the hold that her mother has on Jacinta, one that Jacinta knows is wrong, as her mother is her role model for her, to share their addiction to drugs together and the consequences that follow that addition. Jacinta has a daughter, who she has given up custody of. Her daughter is someone that Jacinta rarely sees, but we see that the hold Jacinta’s mother has on her is the same bond that Jacinta has on her daughter. Soon, shockingly so, Jacinta is back to doing drugs (we see her shoot up many times, including in a car with a friend just after she has shoplifted a computer) and getting into trouble. Jacinta is a tough film to watch, as Jacinta is a troubled soul, one who was damaged early on by her mother, and Jacinta doesn’t see a future for herself, other than the one that her mother has lived, going from drugs to prison and back again to drugs. There is a slight glitter of hope in Jacinta’s life, her daughter, who knows her mother is a flawed person that she can only be around in small bits. This is a film that has very little hope, but there are glimpses of that hope in Jacinta’s daughter and her father, both of which hope against hope that Jacinta will pull her life together. Jacinta is a film about addiction and family and how one follows the other through a rabbit hole that is hard to climb out of.   My Rating: Full Price    Jacinta Website  Now playing in select theatres and on the Hulu platform.

Forgotten Film: The Man in the Moon  (1991)  PG-13  Dani (Reese Witherspoon) is a young girl growing up in the 50s with an older sister (Emily Warfield) going off to college, a mother (Tess Harper) who is pregnant, and a father (Sam Watterston) who is strict. Dani’s life changes when Court (Jason London) moves in next door, and Dani develops a huge crush on him. After spending some time together, Dani gets her first kiss from Court, and she thinks the world is a beautiful place until Court sees Dani’s sister and sets his sights on her instead. This is a marvelous performance by Witherspoon, full of life and wonder, who gives us a Dani we can all get behind and root for. The cast is outstanding, and the storyline is sweet and fulfilling. You can see why Reese went on to become the star that she is today in this film.   My Rating: Full Price       The Man in the Moon Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of No Time to Die:  Bike Ramp Team

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You:   Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time (2021) Documentary about writer Kurt Vonnegut, made by Robert B. Weide, who documented their friendship over 25 years. Vonnegut is one of my favorite writers, and a fascinating character that I hope this film does justice to.     Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, October 1, 2021

The Adams Family 2

Familyfaire:  The Adams Family 2  (2021)  PG   Your favorite family of ghouls are back! Gomez (voiced by Oscar Isaac) is concerned that the kids are growing up too fast. Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Pugsley (Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton) are skipping family dinners and are always on their iPhones with ‘scream time.’ Gomez decides the kids need a change, so the family goes off on vacation to see the sites of America. America may never be the same again. Charles Adams is one of my favorite cartoonists, and he created the weird and morbid family headed by Gomez and Morticia. The problem with making a movie about these characters is Charles Adams’s family in the cartoons think fun is spilling a vat of molten tar from the heights of their mansion on Christmas carolers, something that a ‘family animated’ picture would never show. So what we get is watered-down characters and cause mayhem primarily by accident and only scare people by mistake. The family goes on vacation and visits such landmarks as Niagara Falls, where Gomez puts each family member in a barrel to go over the falls or the Grand Canyon that Pugsley blows up (why I have no clue). The film isn’t much fun, and I kept wanting to put the family members into the guillotine that in the Adams cartoons, Wednesday used to put her dolls in just to end this film. Kids might find some fun in the action sequences, but adults will be as bored as Gomez is at a play that doesn’t have any dead bodies in it.   My Rating; Cable   The Adams Family 2 Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide and On Demand.

My View:  The Many Saints of Newark  (2021)  R  Young Anthony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini) is growing up fast, under the influence of his uncle, Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), who is struggling to keep his hold on his power as rival gangs are rising up and challenging the powerful DiMeo crime family. What Anthony learns now will serve him later when we know him as Tony Soprano. I was not a regular viewer of The Sopranos, having watched enough episodes that I know the characters, and like most people, I know how the show ended. So I was interested to see the origins of Tony Soprano, especially since James Gandolfini’s son was playing a young Tony in the film. I was severely disappointed by this film as it is more about Anthony’s uncle, Dickie, played by Alessandro Nivola, and less about Anthony himself. In fact, for most of the film, Anthony is a bystander in the actions of his family and the mob. He stumbles across a few things but is left on the sidelines for most of the film, a secondary character that we get to see do some really stupid crimes like running numbers at his elementary school or hijacking an ice cream truck. In fact, all the publicity of the film made it seem like Michael Gandolfini would be a prominent point of action in the movie, but the actor is in maybe half of the film, with the rest of the film taking place when he was a kid in elementary school, played by William Ludwig. Sure we get to see his home life with his sister, his thug of a father (played by Jon Bernthal), and his crazy mother (played by always impressive Vera Farmiga), but even this home life is a background for interaction with Dickie, who while Tony’s father is in prison, becomes a surrogate father to Tony. I was disappointed that one of my favorite actors, Ray Liotta, was somewhat wasted in the duel role of Dickies father and imprisoned uncle. There are a bunch of scenes between Dickie and his uncle where the uncle spouts wisdom from Buddhism and his love of jazz that do nothing to move the plot along. Maybe if I was a rabid fan of The Sopranos, I would enjoy seeming all the characters as they were in their younger days, but for me, it was one long trip of mob life that I never really cared enough about to feel anything when a character (or two) dies. Maybe filmmakers of The Many Saints of Newark should have taken the advice given in the first Godfather film ‘Leave the gun - take the cannoli.’   My Rating; Bargain Matinee    The Many Saints of Newark Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide and on the HBO Max platform.

My View:  Venom: Let There Be Carnage  (2021)  PG-13  Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) has learned to live with the alien symbiote inside him named Venom, but they haven’t met Carnage, a fellow alien living inside the body of Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), a dangerous criminal who understands who and what Eddie is and wants to destroy him and Venom. I liked the first film, and they have taken what worked the best in that film, the interaction between Venom and Eddie, and made it even funnier. The action is fun, and it looks like Tom Hardy is having a great time playing this character (he co-wrote the story for the film). The ending is a little haphazard, with the final battle result feeling a little weak. Still, overall, this is a fun film that fans of Venom won’t be disappointed and yes, make sure to stay through the first section of the closing credits to see a big, and I mean big, bonus scene that is going to have everyone talking. I can’t wait to see what Eddie and Venom get into next!   My Rating; Full Price    Venom: Let There Be Carnage Website   Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Indiefest:  I’m Your Man  (2021)  R   Desperate to obtain funds for her studies, a scientist, Alma (Maren Eggert), agrees to participate in an unbelievable experiment; live for three weeks with a humanoid robot (Dan Stevens) designed to make her happy. I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The casting of the two leads is terrific, and they make you believe that a robot and a human are having conversations. There is a lot of humor in the film, but it isn’t a film that is played for laughs but for the romance that develops between the two despite the fact that Alma doesn’t want a relationship with anyone, much less a robot who has been created for her. The writing is incredibly well done, and the characters feel real (even the robot) and are richly drawn. I was afraid that the film would put itself into a corner that it couldn’t get out of, but I was blown away by how this film ended. I can see why Germany has nominated this film to be their selection to this year’s Academy Award Best International Feature Film. I can’t recommend this film more as itt gave this hopelessly romantic a thrill.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    I'm Your Man Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest:  Falling for Figaro  (2020)   Millie (Daniele Macdonald) seems to have everything; a great job, a good-looking but stuffy boyfriend, and a love for opera. Millie decides to chuck everything to pursue a career as an opera singer and leave her boyfriend behind to go to the Scottish Highlands to be taught by the legendary Meghan Geoffrey-Bishop (Joanna Lumley). This decision will change Millie in more ways than she could ever have thought. Macdonald, who wowed film festival audiences with her performance in Patti Cake$, has a fabulous presence on the screen, and I loved her in this role, except when she sang, mainly because it was annoyingly obvious that she wasn’t singing at all. Falling for Figaro is a film for opera lovers and anyone who wants a crash course in the big hits of the genre. While under the tutelage of the former opera diva played by Joanna Lumley, Millie slowly falls for the only other student that Meghan has, the surly, handsome Max, played by Hugh Skinner. The two have a nice chemistry together, and from the first meet, you know they are destined to be with each other. I usually like Joanna Lumley’s performances, but the film never gives us a reason to think that her unconventional methods would ever take a novice singer like Millie to become a success so quickly.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Falling for Figaro Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest:  Old Henry  (2021)   Henry (Tim Blake Nelson) is a widower, working a farm with his teenage son, Wyatt (Gavin Lewis), when a badly hurt man, Curry (Scott Haze), shows up on Wyatt’s farm with a satchel full of cash. When three men who claim that they are lawmen show up looking for the injured man, Henry must decide who to believe. The men and Henry’s teenage son will soon discover that Henry has hidden a past that he wishes had never happened. I am a big fan of westerns, and this one did not disappoint. The history of western films has many a reluctant hero, but Henry may be one of the most reluctant ever on the silver screen. A farmer who is happy in the hard work and is constantly being disappointed by his son’s lack of enthusiasm for the work. Into their lives comes a man Henry instantly dislikes and wants him gone as soon as possible, but fate has brought trouble to Henry and his son, and there is nothing that Henry can do to avoid it. Time Blake Nelson gives us a powerful but restrained performance of a man who just wants to work his land and be left alone. Nelson is brilliant in the role of the gruff Henry, who sees things very clearly for what they are, having lived a life that has seen many things. Old Henry has a few twists and turns that I didn’t see coming and a compelling and potent ending. Like its title character, this film packs a punch that you just might not see coming.   My Rating: Full Price     Old Henry Website  Now playing in select theatres

:  The Jesus Music  (2021) PG-13  From its humble beginnings at the Calvary Chapel in California to a multi-billion-dollar industry, the story of Christian Contemporary Music is a story that needs to be told about the soundtrack of a movement. I am a big fan of CCM and groups like Barlow Girl, Bethany Dillon, and Everlife, so I was really looking forward to this film. I enjoyed the insight into the early days of ‘The Jesus Revolution’ of the 60s and the look back at one of the vast music festivals of the 70s, Explo72, which brought contemporary Christian music to the forefront. The film is a good starting point for anyone interested in the genre, though they barely touch on some of the big acts, such as Point of Grace and Sandi Patty. The film is a little too close to the subject matter (it's from the directors who gave us the Christian movie I Can Only Imagine), so they only touch on a few subjects that aren’t positive (the backlash when mega-star Amy Grant got divorced and how the CCM music is dominated by white artists). Still, I enjoyed the stories from the early years, the fact that Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant are still close to this day, and that the music continues to inspire.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The Jesus Music Website    Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Forgotten Film: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou  (2004) R  When a shark kills his partner, world-famous ocean explorer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) sets out with his team to get revenge. It will be an expedition that the world will soon not forget. The film is co-written and directed by Wes Anderson, and the outstanding cast includes Owen Wilson, who plays his long-forgotten son, Anjelica Huston as his estranged wife, Cate Blanchett as a reporter sent to chronicle the expedition, Willem Dafoe as Steve’s troubled right-hand man, and a few more characters played by Jeff Goldblum, Bud Cort, and Matthew Gray Gubler. This is a strange film to watch, and unlike a lot of Murray films recently, this one he is in almost every scene, but sometimes you feel that he is bored with the plot, which at times feels almost non-existent. Why do I want you to watch this film? Because Willem Dafoe is hilarious as Zissou’s weird German servant. I almost wish that he was the featured character of the movie instead of Steve Zissou. I will also say that the cinematography during the underwater sequences is stunning and breathtaking. So if you are a fan of Bill Murray or just have an afternoon to kill, watch this film and relish the Dafoe antics. My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Venom: Let There Be Carnage: Lead Face Modeler

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: A Mouthful of Air (2021) R   Julie Davis (Amanda Seyfried) is a best-selling author who writes children's books that deal with unlocking your fears. She is warm, kind, and loving to her husband and her child. However, when her second child is born, she discovers that her past is catching up to her, and there is a secret which will reappear that will take everything Julie has to overcome.    A Mouthful of Air Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, September 24, 2021

Dear Evan Hansen

Note to readers: I have started going to movies in the theaters, having received my two shots and passed the two-week standby period, wearing a mask at all times and following social distancing. Most of the films I am reviewing are still movies that I watched at home, but I will note in the review if I saw them in a theatre. I am not going to tell you whether or not to attend a theatre. Just be aware of the risks, do your research, and follow the instructions to the letter.

My View:   Dear Evan Hansen (2021)  PG-13   Following the suicide of a fellow classmate, Conor, Evan Hansen (Ben Platt), a high-school-senior with Social Anxiety disorder, goes on a journey to find acceptance and self-discovery. A letter Evan has written will change not only his life but will touch so many more. It’s always hard to translate the power of a Broadway theatre experience to the screen. Dear Evan Hansen’s production on the stage was a Tony-winning phenomenon, but  that feeling and power of a live performance doesn’t translate to the screen in this adaptation. The songs are still there, and that is what saves this film, as the songs, including a few new ones, make this film watchable. Unfortunately, the film's storyline is a bit of a mess, and its message, so meaningful on the stage, seems lost in an attempt to add a bit of flash to the production, trying but not succeed in making this film not feel predictable. I enjoyed Ben Platt’s voice, but his performance on the screen feels a bit too stagy. A lot has been made on social media about Platt’s appearance (he is playing a high-school student while he is 28), but it never bothered me. Amy Adam's part is small, and her lovely singing voice is rarely used. I did enjoy the performance of Kaitlyn Dever, who plays Conor’s long set upon sister, who Evan secretly loves from afar. A couple of the musical numbers, where the cast has also to dance, are a bit painful to watch, so maybe just buy the soundtrack or see the musical the next time your local theatre group puts it on.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Dear Evan Hansen Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: The Guilty   (2021)  R   It’s an ordinary day for 911 operator Joe Bayler (Jake Gyllenhaal), as he gets his standard calls of people asking for help, but this morning will be different. As a wildfire threatens the city and grounds air support, Joe receives a call from a woman in a car and is being held against her will. Now it's a race against time as Joe tries to trace down the woman whose last words on the call are ‘I’m going to die.’ This is a remake of a Dutch film of the same name that I really liked a couple of years ago. Unlike a lot of remakes that Hollywood does of foreign films, this one works with Jake Gyllenhaal giving an outstanding performance as the troubled cop with anger issues that is trying to find a woman who has been abducted. Gyllenhaal gives us a complex hero that you are probably not going to like very much. Gyllenhaal gives Joe an intensity that is constantly blowing over. Joe can’t seem to control his anger and outrage as his character becomes increasingly frustrated that he can’t just get out on the street and find this woman himself. The Guilty is an intense character study of a man whose world is crashing down around him as he tries to make a difference one more time and save a life.   My Rating: Full Price    The Guilty Website  Now playing in select theatres and available on the Netflix platform on Oct. 1st.

Indiefest:  Man in the Field: The Life and Art of Jim Denevan  (2020)    Documentary on pioneering artist Jim Denevan, who started out creating giant works of art on beaches and then started combining his art with a radical alternative to conventional dining. This is one of those documentaries where you would probably not want to be Jim’s friend or even co-worker, but boy, oh boy, will you ever want to be part of his dining productions. The film does an unbelievable job of giving you an insight into a highly complex man who creates artwork on beaches and other areas that will only be visible for a short time and have to been seen from the air (or at least a hilltop) to fully appreciate the art in all its glory. Fortunately for us, Jim also is a chef (his journey to become one is equally impressive), and he creates these one-of-a-kind dining events that combine his love of nature, art, and cooking to new heights. You will be astounded by his artwork and jealous of the people that have sat at his long, long dining table. His dining events are a tough ticket to get, so watching this film is probably about as close as most of us will get, but at least we have this film to watch a fantastic artist work his magic.    My Rating: Full Price    Man in the Field Website   Now playing in select theatres and On Demand including the Apple TV+ platform.

My View:  This is the Year  (2021)   Pining away for a girl, Zoey(Alyssa Jirrels) he believes is way out of his league, Josh (Lorenzo James Henrie), a high-school senior, decides to enlist his friends to go on a road trip, promising Zoey he can get her into the biggest concert of the year. It seems this is the year for revisiting the old 80s teen films, but this movie has a bit of a change of pace; Josh wants his life to be like his favorite 80s teen movie, a movie he has watched over and over since he was a kid, right down to the girl choosing him over the hunk that she is with. Add to the fact that his best friend, Molly (played by the always impressive and energetic Vanessa Marano), is his ‘wing-woman’ who has her own 80s movie fantasy of having her first kiss be full of magic and fireworks. This is the Year is the classic teen road trip with a crazy group of kids that trouble seems to find them just as they think they have hit the promised land of music and good times. The film even throws in the funny high school teacher (played by Jeff Garlin), who is cool, witty, and has a final paper that Josh must write in order to graduate. This allows our lead character (like in The Breakfast Club and a few other classic 80s teen films) to sum up his experiences at the end of the film. This is the Year is a fun, feel-good film that plays on those 80s teen films and gives them a push into the 21st century with a cast that makes you want them to succeed. Somehow you know that they will always prevail, and everyone we want to end up together will. I mean, isn’t that how all those 80s films ended? Of course, with the exception to the rule, Pretty in Pink…Duckie rules! Am I right?!  My Rating: Bargain Matinee    This is the Year Website  Now playing in select theatres.

My View: Hudson (2019) R After his mother’s death, Hudson (David Neal Levin) enlists his distant cousin, Ryan (Gregory Lay), on a road trip to scatter her ashes in a family favorite gathering place. Along the way, they meet an unusual hitchhiker named Sunshine (Mary Catherine Greenawalt), and the three go on a journey that will involve a broken-down Volvo, haiku's, mini-golf, and self-discovery. This is one of those films you discover at a film festival and fall in love with. It’s predictable, and not a lot happens on this small road trip, but the characters are so adorable that you won’t mind that the journey isn’t for long. Hudson, the character played by David Neal Levin, is a droll, dry little man who has a one-track mind, a man who lives for retelling stories from the past about himself and his cousin Ryan. Sunshine, who they pick up at a gas station after she fixes their car, becomes their travel guide and a welcome buffer between the troubled Ryan, who is going through some sort of meltdown, and the grieving Hudson, who steadfastly must scatter his mother's ashes at a place that the family used to picnic at. So spend an afternoon on the road with this strange trio as they have a few laughs, get lost in a corn maze, and eat pretend ice cream at 7 in the morning. You will be glad you were along for the ride.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Hudson Info  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest:  Lady of the Manor (2021)   Hannah (Melanie Lynskey) is a hot mess who would rather smoke pot than get a regular job. When forced to work, Hannah gets a job as a tour guide, portraying Lady Wadsworth at the historical home, Wadsworth Manor. Work isn’t going great when she meets the ghost of Lady Wadsworth (Judy Greer), who tells her if Hannah doesn’t change her wild ways, she will haunt her until she does. I am a massive fan of both Judy Greer and Melanie Lynskey, and I am a regular listener to Justin Long’s podcast, but this film that Long wrote and directed with his brother Christian is just painful to watch. The jokes fall flat, Greer is given nothing to work within her character of stuffy Lady Wadsworth, and Lynskey’s comedic talents are wasted in a role that is so beneath her acting level. The film also wants you to believe that Justin Long’s character, a history professor, would be interested in Lynskey’s character, who, frankly, is an idiot who has trouble finding her way in a building that is clearly marked and keeps assuming that the professor is having affairs with his students. I had high hopes for Lady of the Manor due to its cast, but I’ve seen better student productions at local film festivals than this film.    My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again    Lady of the Manor Website  The film is playing in select theatres and  is available On Demand. 

Forgotten Film: Period of Adjustment (1962)   It was 1962, and Hollywood had no idea what to do with Henry Fonda’s daughter Jane. So they gave her a ridiculous hairdo, a bad southern accent, and outfits to make her look like Marilyn Monroe, and you have Fond’s performance in this comedy. Add to the fact that it is based on a Tennessee Williams play and directed by George Roy Hill (Oscar winner for The Sting and nominated for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), and you get a strange comedy that is fun to watch. A newlywed couple (Fonda, Jim Hutton) has their honeymoon interrupted by the troubles of a married couple (Anthony Franciosa, Lois Nettleton). The film has an outstanding supporting cast, including veteran character actor John McGiver, and a young-looking Jack Albertson. Look quick, and you will see a wet behind the ears John Astin. The film doesn’t always work, but it’s fun to watch Jane Fonda in a role that she would soon leave behind for much better fare.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Period of Adjustment Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Dear Evan Hansen: COVID-19 Secretary

Coming Soon to Screen Near You: Finch  (2021)  PG-13  In a devastated world full of sandstorms, incredible heat, and no water, Finch (Tom Hanks) decides he has to move on because of a coming storm. Finch will now take his new family, a dog and a talking robot, on an adventure in a dangerous and ravaged world. Tom Hanks and a talking robot is enough but add in a dog as your companion, and you’ve got me.    Finch Website

Until Next Time!