Friday, September 25, 2020

Enola Holmes

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

My View:   Enola Holmes  (2020) PG-13  Enola Homes (Millie Bobby Brown), the great detective 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. I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, and I am excited to say that this film did not disappoint. Right from the start, the film uses the winning personality of Millie Bobby Brown to its advantage as in the opening scene as she breaks the fourth wall to address the audience directly. Enola has been raised by her mother, played by the always captivating Helena Bonham Carter, in a large manor with few servants and little outside interference. Enola’s famous brothers are both considerably older and have gone on to live their lives in London, leaving Enola to be home-schooled by her widowed mother. To say that Enola’s schooling is unconventional is stating it mildly as Enola is taught how to do hand to hand combat, fire weapons, and read about every subject under the sun. When her mother disappears, Enola, much to her brothers’ dismay, decides to go to London to find why she left with only a few clues behind. The film is fun, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and moves at a rousing pace with lots of chases, escapes, and a few fistfights. Can the plucky Enola make her mother proud and show her brothers that she is just as an accomplished detective as they are? You will have to watch to find out as Enola goes on this rousing adventure.    My Rating: Full Price     Enola Holmes Website     The film is available on the Netflix platform.

IndiefestKajillioaire   (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. If you have seen ‘Indie darling’ Miranda July’s films Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) and The Future (2011), you know that July doesn’t make conventional films. Kajillionaire is a film that, if you give it some time, will grow on you. Old Dolio (what a name) and her parents are strange, to say at the very least. Old Dolio and her parents go through life from one scam to another, taking other people’s mail, trying to rig how to win contests, and telling story after to story to people who they owe money to. To say that Old Dolio has grown up to become a strange and quirky adult is putting it mildly. Evan Rachel Wood is the star of the film, and she gives us a character that is a combination of simpleton, one who doesn’t know how to relate to the world, and someone who is desperate for more out of life than what her parents give her. Old Dolio world is changed when by chance, the trio encounters a young woman, Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) who instantly takes to the wacky family and is willing to join them in on their scams. This isn’t a film for everyone, but I think that if you can wait it out until Rodriguez shows up in the plot, you will be rewarded with a movie that quietly will delight you.    My Rating: Full Price     Kajillionaire Website     The film is currently in select theatres. 

Indiefest Public Trust  (2020)    America’s Public Lands make up over 640 million acres of the US. The Public Lands make up the last large-scale public asset on the planet, and there are powerful forces that are aligning to attempt to sell off either the land or its mineral/gas/water rights. Men and women from all over the country are gathering to try to stop the largest land grab in modern history. As with a lot of other documentaries being released right before the election, if you are a Trump supporter, you will not enjoy this film. The film gives us a history of the creation of the Public Lands and how, from the beginning, corporations and big business have been trying to buy or exploit those lands. The film highlights what seems like a losing battle of the ordinary man or, in the case of many of the Public Lands, the American Indian tribes against both the government and greedy businesses, wanting to exploit the lands for money and oil/gas. My favorite moment in the film, one that will fill you with rage, is the shot of an Indian tribal leader, who during the Obama administration, won a long-standing battle to save her native lands from destruction from giant mineral companies, to only shake her head when the Trump administration reversed those decisions in the name of making America ‘Great Again.’ As a person who has greatly enjoyed the Public Lands, some of which were created by my favorite President, Teddy Roosevelt, I urge you to see this film and get as mad as I did watching it, and hopefully, will do something to keep these lands where they belong, in the hands of the American public.    My Rating: Full Price     Public Trust Facebook Page    The film is currently in select theatres. 

IndiefestOttolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles  (2020)    Documentary that follows world-renowned Chef Yotam Ottolenghi on his quest to bring the art and decadence of Versailles to life in cake form at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Chef Ottolenghi brings together a group of chefs from around the world, all of them known for creating incredible works of art with food, in an effort to celebrate the palace of Versailles. The film doesn’t spend a lot of time with any one subject, giving us a quick background on both the Chefs and Versailles history. I must say that after building up the Chefs and their astounding work of the past, the film seems to skim over the final results a little too fast, making the film seem a bit of a tease. I have a feeling that the displays the Chefs created were much more impressive in person than on the screen, and I also did not like the way the film ended, where it tried weakly to make some sort of statement about greed and opulence. I think foodies will enjoy this film, especially all the behind-the-scenes work that goes on before for the event, but I felt a little like a meal that I had at a diner last year; it was pleasing but not memorable.    My Rating:  Bargain Matinee     Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles Website     The film is currently in select theatres. 

My View:  Ava  (2020)  R Ava (Jessica Chastain) is an assassin who works for a black ops organization, traveling across the world, specializing in high profile hits. When a job goes sideways, Ava is forced to go on the run and fight for her survival. Ok, the good: Jessica Chastain is, as always, worth watching work on the screen, this as a cold-blooded assassin whose flaw is that she wants to know what her targets did to get themselves killed. The bad: the plot, the dialogue, and a secondary story that is so dreadful that it has to be seen to be believed. I am guess the fact that Chastain produced the film got her the cast that includes John Malkovich, Colin Farrell, and Gena Davis. Malkovich phones in his performance, Farrell, as usual, overacts with scene-chewing gusto and Davis, is in a part that belongs on a prime-time soap. The action sequences are boring, and thirty minutes in you wonder why am I watching this film. Ava ends, none too soon, with a nod to a sequel that I hope never gets made.   My Rating:  Cable     Ava Website     The film is currently in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Forgotten Film10 Rillington Place  (1971)  GP    Based on the true story of a serial killer named Christie (Richard Attenborough), who during and after WWII, drugged, raped, and murder at least eight women, all the while living in with a wife and another couple on his property. Christie, wonderfully underplayed by Attenborough, is a soft-spoken older man who is able to frame his boarder (John Hurt), who is uneducated and poor, because the police and Christie’s wife believe that the lodger is the man behind the crimes. I mean, an educated man wouldn’t do such things, would he? The film was shocking at the time of release, especially with Attenborough’s casting, who had before this always played the upright guy and many times the hero. The film is perfectly paced, and both Attenborough and Hurt give brilliant performances. The film concludes a little clumsily at the end, but I think it is because the outcome was so well known at the time.    My Rating: Full Price     10 Rillington Place Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Enola Holmes:  Child Licence Coordinator

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Save Yourselves!  (2020) R    A young Brooklyn couple (Sunita Mani, John Reynolds) decide to turn off their computers and cell phones and spend a week in an upstate cabin to unplug and reconnect with each other.  The couple, blissfully unaware, have picked the wrong time to disconnect with the world; a world that has fallen into chaos as aliens invade the planet. The movie looks like a lot of fun, and I am a fan of Sunita Mani from her roles in the TV shows Mr. Robot and GLOW.       Save Yourselves! Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, September 18, 2020


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

My View: Antebellum (2020) R   Bestselling author Veronica Henley (Janelle Monáe) has everything going for; a successful career and a loving family. Veronica finds herself trapped in a horrifying reality from the past and must uncover the mind-bending mystery before it’s too late. This film wants to be in the tradition of Jordan Peele’s horror films, with a lot to say about race in America today while pushing the boundaries of horror. Unfortunately, it fails badly in both cases, especially in the horror side. The first third of the film takes place on a plantation during the civil war, where the white Southern soldiers gravely mistreat slaves. We then jump to modern times where a famous author, played by Janelle Monáe, is the toast of the media world, selling books on the empowerment of women of color. There is a twist in this film that is so dissatisfying that I can’t explain how frustrated I felt at the end of the movie. The film never develops into any style of horror film and almost seems to be a throwback to the exploration films of the 70s, with villains so severely drawn that the movie practically becomes a comedy. Antebellum tries to make a statement about race but is so horribly executed that it becomes an absolute failure. Skip this film and go back and watch Get Out or Us instead.   My Rating: Cable    Antebellum Website      The film is currently in select theatres.

Indiefest: The Way I See It (2020) PG-13   This documentary looks at the eight-year Obama presidency through the eyes of former Chief Official White House Photographer Pete Souza. Souza worked in the White House once before during the Regan years as a photographer and was given the job to be the official photographer for the Obama administration, giving him access to every meeting, event, and speech that involved the President. The job gave Souza a unique look at the workings of both the presidency and the man and his family. When Souza left the job at the end of the Obama term, he because an outspoken critic of President Trump, using his pictures of the Obama presidency to comment on what he says were the failings of the Trump presidency. The film does an outstanding job of letting Souza narrate his dealings with Obama during the presidency while also showing Souza on a book tour, giving talks to both the public and the media. Trump supporters are not going to be happy with this film but history buffs are going to have a blast seeing a glimpse into the world of the White House.    My Rating; Full Price     The Way I See It Website     The film is currently in select theatres.

Indiefest: H is for Happiness (2019)   Candice (Daisy Axon) is a bit of a loner in her school, as she asks too many questions, but this doesn’t keep Candice from a boundless optimism that gives her a unique view of the world. With the help of her newfound friend, Douglas Benson from Another Dimension (Wesley Patten), Candice is determined to mend her parent's relationship after they are still giving at the loss of Candice’s baby sister. I never quite got into this film, and it’s not because it doesn’t try to charm or that it’s bad; it just never quite finds its footing, never finding its voice. The film tries very hard to make Candice a likable character, and her relationship with Douglas is adorable, but the film tries too hard to make the movie a little too cute in its handling of the storyline. There just isn’t a lot of substance to the story and the film tries too hard to tie everything up in a neat, tight bow at the end of the film. I think kids, especially young girls, will enjoy Candice and Douglas' adventures, but adults will be very bored with the long and pointless plot.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     H is for Happiness Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services,

Indiefest: Last Call (2019)   Scott (Daved Wilkins) is a bitter and lonely man who calls the Suicide Prevention Hotline but accidentally calls Beth (Sarah Booth), a janitor. It’s a phone call that both won’t ever forget. The film is shot in one long take using two cameras, one centered on each character, using a split-screen to show what each character is doing. The film is a serious and heartfelt look at one person in pain and another person, a total stranger, who tries to help with compassion and caring. What I loved about this film is that frequently the camera doesn’t give us all the information, as often a character will wander off the screen and we, along with the person on the other line, don’t know what is happening. Last Call is a film that, at first, you will be more into how the two storylines connect, but by the end of the movie, you will be enthralled by the action on the screen and not how we see it. This is a well done, beautifully acted film that builds the tension slowly, to where you become immersed in the two people and their conversation. Director/co-writer Gavin Michael Booth gives us a powerful film perfect for September, Suicide Prevention Month.    My Rating: Full Price     Last Call Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

My View: The Nest (2020) R   Rory (Jude Law), an ambitious entrepreneur, decides to move his family from suburban America to his native England so that he can rejoin his former firm. They lease a centuries-old country manor, and everything seems to be working out until Rory and his wife (Carrie Coon) soon have to face the unwelcome truths lying beneath the surface of their marriage. This film works as well as it does because of the lead performances of Jude Law and Carrie Coon, playing a couple that on the surface have everything and below that surface, have almost nothing. The film is a psychological drama about a marriage falling apart as a husband blindly keeps trying to capture the magic of the past. At the same time, the wife is no longer willing to go along for the rollercoaster ride that has become their lives. Coon and Law have a brilliant chemistry up on the screen, as their scenes turn from loving to contempt in almost a moment's notice. The characters are complex, and the film uses this to its advantage, making us slowly put the pieces together, clawing away at the truth, a truth that, at times, neither character wants to acknowledge. The Nest is a film about unhappy people and the lies they tell themselves to keep that sadness buried, even at the expense of their family's welfare.    My Rating: Full Price      The Nest Website     The film is currently in select theatres.

My View: The Secrets We Keep (2020) R   Maja (Noomi Rapace), after suffering horribly in Europe during World War II, has relocated to America and is living happily in the suburbs with her husband (Chris Messina). One afternoon Maja encounters a man she believes attacked her and her family during the war. On impulse, Maja kidnaps the man and seeks vengeance for the heinous war crimes she thinks he committed. I have been a big fan of Noomi Rapace since her groundbreaking role as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Swedish film series, so I was excited to see this film. Rapace doesn’t disappoint in an intense and complex role of a woman who is a prisoner of her memories. She gives us a gritty and thought-provoking role in which we are asked are what she does justified or not. From the moment that Maja hears a man's whistle from her tortured past, we are captivated by what Maja will do and how far will she and her husband go. The Secrets We Keep gives an electrifying thriller that keeps us guessing if the man Maja has kidnapped is her man from her past, and if she finds out he is who she thinks he is, what will she do to him.   My Rating: Full Price      The Secrets We Keep Website    The film is currently in select theatres.     

My View: The Devil All the Time (2020) R   Taking place between World War II and the Vietnam War, Arvin (Tom Holland) fights evil forces that threaten him and his family. This is a hard film to describe because there are a lot of moving and connected parts. The film revolves around Arvin and his family, as we see how his parents met, along with other characters in the movie, that will keep popping up throughout the years. The film is a profoundly disturbing look at how much religion hung over rural America in the ’50s and 60s and how evil seems to be always just around the corner. I liked some of the film's performances, including Bill Skarsgard, who plays Arvin’s father, a man who has come back from World War II deeply scared but finds hope in a young woman (Haley Bennett) he meets and marries. Alvin has a stepsister, Lenora (Eliza Scanlen), who has a scary connection with a local couple (Jason Clarke, Riley Keough) who love to pick up hitchhikers. Lenora gets involved with a preacher, played by Robert Pattinson, who takes advantage of his power and post. I don’t want to get too involved with telling the story because I did enjoy how all the parts come together by the end of the film. It’s a complicated tale, bloody and, at times, gruesome, but besides the film feeling a bit long, I enjoyed the outcome and was glad that I spent time watching Alvin grow up in such a weird and troubled world. My Rating: Full Price       The Devil All the Time Website     The film is available on the Netflix platform.

Forgotten FilmThe Devil’s Backbone (2001) R   Carlos (Fernando Tielve) is a 12-year-old boy whose father has died in the Spanish Civil War. Carlos arrives at a boys’ orphanage run by opponents of Franco’s fascists. The boy soon discovers that the bed he has been assigned to belonged to Santi, a boy who died and is said to haunt the grounds. This horror film is from two-time Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro and is well worth the watch. The movie is full of creepy images and, at times, is truly scary. I will warn you that if you don’t know the history of the Spanish Civil War, which took place right before WWII, there are a few things that will go over your head. But del Toro is a master of creating suspense, and this film might be his best in the horror category. Hey, any movie with a giant unexploded bomb hanging out in the middle of the courtyard ticking away is a film filled with tension.   My Rating: Full Price     The Devil's Backbone Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Antebellum: Police Advisor

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Friendsgiving (2020) R Molly (Malin Akerman) and Abbey (Kat Dennings) host Thanksgiving that is meant to be a small affair and turns into a whole slew of close friends and acquaintances making a dinner that becomes more and more bizarre, dysfunctional and comical as the day goes on. Besides Akerman and Dennings, the cast includes Aisha Tyler, Jane Seymour, Chelsea Peretti, Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, and Ryan Hansen. Hey, I need a little comedy in my life about now.     Friendsgiving Info

Until Next Time!

Friday, September 11, 2020

The Broken Hearts Gallery

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

My View: 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. All you need to know is that as soon as Geraldine Viswanathan appears on the screen, you will fall in love with her as the lovelorn but determined Lucy. The film doesn't have a great plot (how the gallery will ever make money is beyond me), predictable, and takes a little too long to conclude, but none of that matters because Viswanathan is just a force to be reckoned with. Viswanathan is a type of actress who makes you happy to be seeing her on-screen, with such a warm and winning presence that it almost overpowers her romantic lead, Dacre Montgomery; however, there is some great chemistry between the two. I thoroughly enjoyed Lucy’s two roommates/sidekicks (Phillipa Soo, Molly Gordon), who make the film even better to watch as they add some brilliant comic relief. I rolled in the aisle as they bet each other on how long each of Lucy’s relationships will last or described how they were going to hurt one of her boyfriends by a couple of outlandish means. The two are always there to not only pick up the pieces after each Lucy boyfriend breakup but also are remarkable wing women, ready to sing karaoke with the best of them. You are going to have a great time helping Lucy fill out her gallery of broken hearts.    My Rating: Full Price     The Broken Hearts Gallery Website  The film is currently in theatres.

Indiefest: All In: The Fight for Democracy (2020) PG-13   The documentary takes a look at the history and current activism against voter suppression in this country, putting a spotlight on a threat to the fundamental rights of citizens of the United States. This is a must-watch film about what we all take for granted, the right to vote, and how, if you look at America's history, just how hard that right is to achieve. The film does a superlative job of giving us an insight into how fragile the idea of voting by everyone is. The film centers on Stacy Abrams, who ran a hard-fought race for Georgia's governorship, losing by an incredibly narrow margin, even though the odds had been stacked against her. All In is a film that will piss you off at all the injustices which have occurred to keep the status quo in power and how important your vote and voice are in a world determined to stack the deck against democracy.    My Rating: Full Price     All In: The Fight for Democracy Website     Currently in select theatres and available on the Amazon platform starting Sept. 18th.

Indiefest: Rent-a-Pal (2020)   Set in 1990, David (Brian Landis Folkins) is a lonely bachelor who is stuck caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady). While seeking a partner through a dating service, he discovers a VHS tape call Rent-A-Pal. Hosted by Andy (Wil Wheaton), the service seems to fit David’s needs for company and friendship until David realizes that Andy’s friendship comes at a price, a price that David might not be able to afford. Rent-A-Pal is a strange, creepy film that takes a few steps in the right direction but ultimately falls apart by the third act. Some of the film is interesting as David slowly becomes under the spell of the idea that the only person in the world that understands him is on a pre-recorded videotape. I never felt fully engaged with the film, though at times I did enjoy the performance of Brian Landis Folkins, a sort of sad-sack everyman who can’t seem to get a break. The film’s final third doesn’t work as it becomes an attempt to become a horror film. The ending feels forced and predictable, taking away some of the enjoyment that I had during the film's early portions.    My Rating: Cable      Rent-A-Pal Website    The film is available in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: Red White & Wasted (2019)   The film follows a family as Florida’s redneck culture is threatened as Orlando's last mud-hole is being shut down. This documentary follows a divorced dad, Matthew, who is raising two teenage daughters as he laments his glory days as a video hound who documented the pastime of mudding (big trucks running around in the mud). The film is a look into the world of the redneck, racist Trump supporters whose life revolves around guns, trucks, and the confederate flag. The film follows Matthew as he struggles to make a living finding metals for recycling, often going into trash containers behind warehouses and businesses. Matthew’s biggest concern seems to be not his older daughter that gets pregnant or his younger daughter, who has epilepsy but the fact that he can’t find a place in Orlando anymore to go mudding. I got tired of watching Matthew digging through trash while complaining about how Trump would get rid of all the ‘illegals’ that take jobs away from ‘us taxpayers.’  Red, White & Wasted is a depressing look at an ugly side of America, with no sign of ever changing.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee      Red, White & Wasted Website   Available for rent on participating on-demand services

Indiefest: The Social Dilemma (2020) PG-13   Documentary on how a handful of tech designers control the way we think, act, and live. After watching this film, you may never look at your smartphone the same way again. A genuinely fascinating film about how Internet companies like Facebook and Twitter use data to custom your experience on the Internet, whether you want it or not. This is a film that has quite a bit of alarming information on just how influential these companies are, including the incredible rise of things like suicides by teens (especially girls) and how some of the platforms may have started as a way to reach out to people but have become increasingly a way that isolates us. The film is packed full of information, some of it jaw-dropping, but never seems dull or slow. Not everything works in this film, and I did not enjoy the attempt to create drama by having us follow a fictional family as they go down the Internet rabbit hole, concentrating on the teenage boy of the family who becomes obsessed with some things he finds on the Internet. The film does a great job explaining the science of the Internet, as told to us by some of the very people who worked for the companies that now fill up your online life.   My Rating: Full Price     The Social Dilemma Website   The film is available on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President (2020)   Documentary about how Jimmy Carter, a little known governor from the state of Georgia, used a tight bond with musicians to fund his campaign and give him a crucial boost in the Democratic primaries. No matter your political leaning, you have to admit that Jimmy Carter is a kind and spiritual man. Knowing of his vast history of humanitarian work, that didn’t surprise me. What blew me away was how cool Carter was and is when it comes to music. Carter’s love and appreciation for music came from his time in Southern churches during his childhood. The film does an incredible job letting us into Carter’s time as a governor of Georgia and his unexpected rise to become the President. Carter used his connections with Southern musicians, like Charlie Daniels or Greg Allman, to get people to his political rallies. The film gives us insight into just how close Carter was to musicians like Allman or Willie Nelson, and when some of them got into trouble that Carter would stand by them. The film is full of extraordinary archival footage of concerts and rallies and interviews with Dylan, Allman, and Nelson. One of my favorite parts throughout the film is when some of these great, iconic musicians read poems that Jimmy Carter has written, punctuating the man and his beliefs. Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President is the feel-good, joyful film we need during this time or heck, anytime. Rock on Jimmy!    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President Website     In select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Forgotten Film: Feeling Minnesota (1996) R   Freddie (Cameron Diaz) is a former stripper who is forced to marry Sam (Vincent D’Onofrio) to pay off a gambling debt by a local drug kingpin named Red (Delroy Lindo). Things get complicated when Freddie meets Sam’s brother, Jjaks (Keanu Reeves), and they instantly fall in love with each other. Freddie and Jjaks go on the lam together, with Sam and Red hot on their heels. This is a fun and peculiar romantic comedy that has murder, shoot-outs, and a ton of twists and turns that keep this film moving at an almost breathtaking speed. The reason to see this film is just how good an actress Cameron Diaz was. There are very few actors who could pull off this role, making you fall in love with Freddie and hope that she and Jjaks somehow get out of the mess they have gotten themselves into. Feeling Minnesota is a blast to watch and has an awesome scene-stealing cameo by Dan Ackroyd that you have to see.   My Rating: Full Price     Feeling Minnesota Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Broken Hearts Gallery: Executive Producer Selena Gomez

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Secrets We Keep (2020) R   Maja (Noomi Rapace), after suffering horribly in Europe during World War II, has relocated to America and is living happily in the suburbs with her husband (Chris Messina). One afternoon Maja encounters a man she believes attacked her and her family during the war. On impulse, Maja kidnaps the man and seeks vengeance for the heinous war crimes she thinks he committed. I have been a big fan of Noomi Rapace since her groundbreaking role as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Swedish film series (so much better than the Hollywood version). I won’t miss this one.     The Secrets We Keep Info

Until Next Time!

Friday, September 4, 2020


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

My View: Mulan (2020) PG-13   A young Chinese maiden, Mulan (Yifei Liu) disguises herself as a male warrior when her ailing father is called into the Army to protect the country from the Huns. This is a live-action remake of the 1998 animated Disney film, with some significant changes; this isn’t a musical and sorry to disappoint a few people (and kids), there isn’t a talking/flying, wisecracking dragon. Most of the rest of the story is the same as the animated film, with a young woman deciding to become a warrior in her father’s place, hiding that she isn’t a ‘he’ from her fellow soldiers. I was never a huge fan of the animated film, as I was not too fond of the Eddie Murphy voiced dragon, Mushu, finding the comedy relief wanting, and the music seemed a little bland to me. This film has some spectacular cinematography, and the fight/battle sequences are a wonder to watch, so much so that I wish we could all see this film on the big screen where it belongs. The film’s fight sequences reminded me of the 2000 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as our hero Mulan soars through the air, doing acrobatic feats to defeat her opponents. It’s a sweeping film about courage, inspiration, and finding that you can succeed if you believe in yourself and your friends no matter the obstacles.  Be sure to look for a appearance by Ming-Na Wen, the original voice of Mulan in the 1998 Disney film.  My Rating: Full Price    Mulan Website     The film is available on the Disney + Platform.

Indiefest: I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) R   A young woman (Jessie Buckley) is having second thoughts about dating her boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) and against her better judgment, agrees to a road trip to visit his parents (Toni Collette, David Thewlis) at the family farm. The young woman is about to question the nature of everything she knew or understood about herself and the world around her. I wrote that description before I saw the movie, and now that I have viewed the film, I am not quite sure I could write another one. To say the film bends time and logic is an understatement. This film is not for everyone, including me. The film starts as our couple head out on the road with the young woman (we never get her name) thinking to herself that she is about to break up with her boyfriend. When we arrive at the farm, things go from weird to bizarre as characters go out of a room and come back in a different age. The main character, the girlfriend, is trying to make the best of a very awkward visit as subject matters change almost at a moment's notice. I am not a fan of films like this, that go so far to challenge the viewer's viewpoint that it makes the experience uncomfortable and puzzling. If you enjoy the theatre of the absurd or watching characters debate the finer points of a vocabulary word, then you might enjoy this film. I, on the other hand, did not. I will say that Jessie Buckley is a major acting talent that made this film at least watchable. Buckley’s character had to pivot through the mind-blowing experience, and she handles the role with impressive agility and pathos. I just don’t enjoy this type of film and found myself wanting the whole experience to be over with.   My Rating: Cable     I'm Thinking of Ending Things Website     The film is available on the Netflix Platform and in select theatres.

My View:  Critical Thinking (2020)   In 1998, a group of intercity teenagers from Miami, inspired by their high school teacher (John Leguizamo) form a chess club and make it all the way to the National Chess Championship. This is an inspiring tale from director/actor John Leguizamo, about a group of misfits who buck incredible odds to make it to the top. I have always been a big fan of chess, impressed by the mental fortitude that it takes to become good at such a complicated game. Based on a true story, the film, at times, plucks on the heartstrings and, occasionally, lays it on a little thick with the us vs. the world plot, but Leguizamo has the charisma to carry it off with an outstanding supporting cast of young performers. The film shows us that no matter how hard the student’s lives are, existing with drugs and death, they still come together and believe in each other to conquer a world that they could never imagine. The film gets a bit bogged down in all the chess moves that the teacher goes on about, but even if you don’t know much about the game, you will be inspired on how a group of kids from a rough neighborhood overcame an incredible amount to become a team.   My Rating: Full Price     Critical Thinking Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest:  The Mole Agent (2020)   A private investigator places an ad for a senior citizen to go undercover at a retirement home where a client suspects the caretakers of elder abuse. This film’s description sounds like a work of fiction, but it is a delightful and, at times, incredibly moving film centered on a wonderful man, Sergio, who has a huge heart and is someone you will fall in love with. The film starts with the PI going through the interview process, and this part of the film is quite funny, as the PI has to find the right person for the job. Anyone with elderly parents/grandparents will love the part where the PI is trying to teach Sergio how to use not only his spy gear, which are pretty cool but also his phone (including how to do FaceTime). The heart of this film is not about trying to catch someone neglecting the people at the home, it’s about just how tough it is to grow old in our modern-day society. The film explores just how lonely it can be at a retirement home, how hard living day to day without someone to care about you is. The film isn’t all about heartbreak and loneliness as Sergio is a bit of a flirt, and the women, who vastly outnumber the men in the home, love his attention. It’s a film that is heartbreaking at times, but it is also uplifting because there are people like Sergio to brighten our world, even when it seems that no one else cares.    My Rating: Full Price     The Mole Agent Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Forgotten Film: Tigerland (2000) R    A group of recruits in 1971 go through advanced training in Louisiana at a place to look and feel like Vietnam, a place called Tigerland. Jim Paxton (Mathew Davis) is a man who dreams of becoming a great writer and volunteers for the Army at a time when serving in the military was a hotbed in a troubling time for the nation. Paxton befriends a fiery young man named Bozz (Colin Farrell) who has a gift for getting into trouble. This is a small, gritty film about how the military and war can break any man, no matter their moral compass. The film is less about action and more about the people in the combat troupe. Farrell gives a breathless performance full of bravado, and Davis, as the intellectual writer, is a perfect companion, making them a dynamic couple that the film revolves around.   My Rating: Full Price     Tigerland Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Mulan: Speciality Jeweler

Coming Soon to A Screen Near You: Hearts (2020) PG-13   Two couples (Radha Mitchell, Tiera Skovbye, Adan Canto, Jacob Elordi) from different decades are connected in a way that no one could ever guess or predicted. I am a sucker for a romance, and we just don’t get enough of them, so I can’t wait for this one.      2 Hearts Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, August 28, 2020

Bill & Ted Face the Music

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

My View: Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) PG-13    Bill (Alex Winter), and Ted’s (Keanu Reeves) lives haven’t quite turned out the way that they were told they would. Both are middle-aged dads who have never produced that big hit song they thought they were destined to. Now it’s time for the guys to dream big and fulfill their destiny. Moviemaking is a tough business, and it’s hard enough to bottle lightning once. The first film, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, was a fun ride, with some lovable characters and a plot that was delightful. Unfortunately, you can’t say the same for this sorry excuse of a film that fails miserably on almost every aspect of trying to capture that magic again. The film is painful to watch, especially watching Reeves, who of late has had quite a film career revival, attempt to make Ted lovable again. The jokes are bad, the acting seems wooden, and the plot is just downright stupid. Like the song that is supposed to be the big finale, the film lays a big fat flat note that so severely executed that I wanted the film to end ten minutes into it. George Carlin must be so sad looking down from heaven, going ‘Dudes, don’t do this again!’    My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again    Bill & Ted Face the Music Website   Now playing at a theatre near you and  available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: Get Duked! (2019) R   Three teenagers (Rian Gordon, Lewis Gribben, and Viraj Juneja) are given one last chance to turn their lives around by completing a grueling trek across the highlands. They are joined by an overachiever (Samuel Bottomley) who just wants to pad his curriculum to get into school. Their first assignment is to work together to find their campsite before dark. The problem is, there are some wealthy aristocrats (Georgie Glen and Eddie Izzard) who intend to hunt the boys down for sport. This comedy doesn’t always work, as with a well-worn gag about psychedelic rabbit pellets, but it is on the floor funny when it does. There is a gag (that I won’t ruin) near the end of the film that I literally did a ‘spit take’ when it happened. The four main actors play well off each other (I kept having flashbacks to the old BBC TV show The Young Ones) and that chemistry helps keep the film going through a few rough spots where the action/comedy starts to wain a bit. The film is a wild ride that, if you are in the mood for a bit of absurdist fun, is an adventure that you may not soon forget.    My Rating: Full Price     Get Duked! Website  Available on the Amazon platform.

Indiefest: Centigrade (2020)    A married couple (Vincent Piazza, Genesis Rodriguez) gets stranded in a frozen vehicle after a blizzard in the arctic mountains of Norway and must struggle to endure amid plunging temperatures and incredible odds of survival. I will warn you this is not an easy film to watch as a couple snuggles to survive in their car as they slowly realize that no one is coming to save them. The film is a character study as the couple goes through the torture of living in a confined space with nowhere to go and resources dwindling down, like the few emergency candles the couple has to light their cold, lonely nights. The film does do an excellent job of creating tension, especially in the latter stages of the film, when things look their bleakest. The film will keep you guessing if they will survive this ordeal, and there are a few times when you will look at the clock and wonder how much more can these characters suffer.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Centigrade Website     Now playing at a theatre near you and  available for rent on participating on-demand services.

My View:   The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019) PG  The story of David Copperfield (Dev Patel), whose rag to riches story is a journey of the triumph of life’s many obstacles. I have always loved the work of Charles Dickens, whose work offers commentary on the human condition, that is just az revenant today as it was when Dicken's work was first published. I have always admired how Dickens was clever in bringing his point across, sometimes with humor, sometimes with sadness, but still moving. Director/co-writer Armando Iannucci perfectly captures Dickens's magic in this fantastic adaptation of David Copperfield. With the comic timings of Dev Patel, Iannucci brings us a tale that, while set in Dicken's time, feels contemporary with a look at the times we are living in now. Patel as Copperfield isn’t your ordinary hero, instead, he is one that is somewhat a buffoon but has a heart that sees people for what they are, and is able to make friends no matter the circumstances. The film moves at a quick pace as we watch David go from riches to rags and back to riches so many times it makes your head spin a little but all the while David is learning about life, friendship and even love. The Personal History of David Copperfield is a film that will make you feel good and wonder at its sheer cleverness, much like Charles Dicken's writings.    My Rating: Full Price     The Personal History of David Copperfield Website    Now playing at a theatre near you.

Indiefest: You Cannot Kill David Arquette (2020) R   David Arquette 20 years ago became the WCW World Wrestling Champion, considered by most wrestling fans and historians as one of the worst events to ever happen in the wrestling world. In this documentary, Arquette decides that after ten years of not getting any acting jobs, to go back into wrestling and try to atone for his wrestling sins. I have to admit that I have never been a fan of David Arquette, the actor or the person, I just never liked him and his I’m still a kid routine. I am a big wrestling fan, and when Arquette won the WCW Championship belt as a publicity stunt for a horrible movie (Ready to Rumble), I was shocked and a not happy. The documentary starts with Arquette trying to mend fences with both the wrestlers and the fans, and it doesn’t turn out well. I didn’t enjoy the first 20 minutes or so of the film, as I wasn’t sure just how serious and committed Arquette was to fixing his place in the wrestling world. As the movie went along, I slowly became a fan of both Arquette and this film, as he really does love the world of wrestling and is willing to put his body through the pain and agony of taking hits and bumps in and out of the ring. You will question his sanity, but you won’t question Arquette’s heart by the end of the film.    My Rating: Full Price     You Cannot Kill David Arquette Website      Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

My View: All Together Now (2020) PG   Amber (Auli’i Cravalho) is a musically gifted high-school-student who has hopes of attending Carnegie Mellon. Amber spends her time between her beloved high school drama club helmed by Mr. Franks (Fred Armisen), her job at the donut shop, and her volunteer time at a local retirement community. When Amber’s dreams are threatened, she learns to lean on the strength of her family and friends to move forward. Amber is a bubbly high school student that everyone loves to be around, but she is hiding a secret, she and her mom (Justina Machado) are homeless. All Together Now is one of those films that just tries too hard to tug on the heartstrings but guess what, we don’t care because Auli’i Cravalho is mesmerizing on the screen. Machado gives us a performance that feels real, and we can see the love and sometimes hurt in her expressive eyes as she pushes forward, even as things start to come apart for Amber. The film is aided by an excellent supporting cast including Justina Machado as Amber’s troubled mom, Judy Reyes as the warm-hearted mom of Amber’s best friend and Carol Burnett as a cantankerous senior at a retirement community that Amber volunteers at. The film is relatively predictable, but Machado is such a gem to watch that all we can do is root for Amber to overcome her troubles and succeed.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     All Together Now Website    Available on the Netflix platform.

Forgotten Film: The Efficiency Expert (1992) PG   A productivity expert (Anthony Hopkins) is brought in to try and get the Ball moccasin factory back on track before the old man (Alwyn Kurts) has to shut the place down. To say that the inmates run the asylum would be an understatement as the employees spend more of their time on lunch and racing slot cars than making shoes. Complicating things is Mr. Ball’s daughter (Rebecca Rigg), who has two of the factory workers in love with her: Carey (Ben Mendelsohn), a great guy, and a rouge named Kim (Russell Crowe). Carey is oblivious that the woman who is perfect for him, is a fellow worker named Wendy (Toni Collette) who loves Carey even though he seems to not even notice her. The film is set in the mid-60s, has a brilliant cast that fills out the wacky factory, and is a blast to watch as Hopkins, a workaholic, who is so wrapped up in the factory that he is about to lose his wife (Angela Punch McGregor) and doesn’t realize it.    My Rating: Full Price      The Efficiency Expert Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Bill & Ted Face the Music: Movement Coach for Mr. Winter

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Connected (2020)    Katie (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) is about to leave her family to go off to film school. Her dad (voiced by Danny McBride) decides to take the whole family on a road trip to take Katie to college. Along the way, this family will have to pull together to defeat a robot army threatening to take over the world. The robots never had a chance. Hey, the main character is going off to film school, so the filmmakers got me right from the start.       Connected Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, August 21, 2020


My View:  Unhinged (2020) R   After a minor traffic confrontation with an unstable man (Russell Crowe), a woman, Rachel (Caren Pistorius), and her son become a target of his rage. Not exactly the type of film you want to re-open movie theatres with, this feels like it was meant for a drive-in. With a script that is about as thin as the weird accent Crowe tries to use (slightly Southern, maybe New Orleans adjacent), this film has plot holes that a mac truck could drive through. The film opens with a ton of news reports about how society is falling apart and how that is reflected on our roadways. We cut to Russel Crowe, murdering his ex-wife and her partner, then setting their house on fire. Russell is having a bad day, and when Rachel honks her horn at him, it sets him off to make her life a living hell. Crowe gets to go over the top, and it looks like he is having fun with the performance, I just wish the script had given him a little more to work with. The film ends about how you expect, with a cringe-worthy final line that had me wincing. If you have been waiting for theatres to open up to see a new movie, you might want to wait a bit and let a few other films open before taking that trip to your local movie palace.    My Rating: Cable     Unhinged Website     Now playing at a theatre near you.

My View:   Words on Bathroom Walls (2020) PG-13   Adam (Charlie Plummer), halfway through his senior year, has a breakdown in his chemistry class and is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Adam doesn’t just hear voices, he sees the people talking to him. Adam transfers to a new school, with thoughts of graduating and going on to cooking school. He then meets Maya (Taylor Russell), and she gives him hope that together he can make it in the world. Words on Bathroom Walls isn’t your typical teen romance film, as it goes deep into what it is like to be a teenager with schizophrenia. From the start, I rooted for Adam as Charlie Plummer gives us a multi-faceted performance that provides us with insight on a complicated and perplexing world, one that is hard to stay grounded in. It’s a world that most of us can’t even come close to understanding, but the film tries to give us some insight into just how much a scary world it is for someone with this illness. Russell and Taylor have an excellent rapport together and makes the off-kilter romance believable. The film has a few nice twists and turns, making the film moving at an interesting pace, keeping you guessing a bit on how Adam is going to survive high school and the outside world.   My Rating: Full Price    Words on Bathroom Walls Website     Now playing at a theatre near you.

My View:   Chemical Hearts (2020) R   Seventeen-year-old Henry (Austin Abrams) has never been in love. On his first day of senior year, he meets transfer student Grace (Lili Reinhart), and his luck changes when they are picked to co-edit the school paper. Grace is hiding a secret that deeply impacted her life and will come between her and Henry. I enjoyed this film that features Lili Reinhart in an impressive performance as a damaged (both physically and mentally) teen, Grace, who Henry falls for. Sure the film is a little cliched in its plot, but I think fans of Young Adult romance will enjoy the pull of heartstrings at the two young people find love and heartbreak.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Chemical Hearts Website    Now playing on the Amazon platform.

Indiefest:  Desert One (2019)   Documentary on the daring and failed mission in 1980 to rescue the 52 hostages being held in the American Embassy in Iran. The story up to now hasn’t been entirely told, and legendary two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple brings us a documentary that will explore both sides of the story. When student radicals in Iran invaded the American Embassy, it shocked the American public and became a huge story, so much so that the late-night news program Nightline was created to give us a daily report on the crisis. President Carter was running for reelection and was running against a strong and outspoken Ronald Regan, who wanted military action to save the hostages. This documentary explores the little known rescue effort that ended in disaster, with 8 Americans losing their lives and the hostages remaining at the mercy of Iran and bringing Carter an overwhelming defeat, one he never recovered from. The film uses footage from the time and never before heard communication between President Carter and his military advisors, giving us an insider look at an essential part of American history. The film is a fascinating look at how the rescue attempt came about, with incredible interviews with most of the principals, including President Carter, Vice President Mondale, and the soldiers who went on the mission and the families they left behind. It is time that we salute and celebrate the brave men who went willingly on a mission that failed but not because they didn’t give the mission everything, including their hearts, their minds, and in some cases, their lives.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Desert One Website      Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest:  Tesla (2020) PG-13   Visionary inventor Nikola Tesla (Ethan Hawke) fights to bring his revolutionary electrical system to fruition, battling fellow inventor Thomas Edison (Kyle MacLachlan), who is determined that his system will win the battle to bring electricity to the US. I knew we were in trouble right away when J.P. Morgan’s daughter gave us background information about the main characters of the story using Google. The film isn’t your ordinary bio-pic as it uses unique sets (such as a green screen of cattle on a plain, as Hawke as Tesla, is in front of the green screen offering the cattle an apple) and jump cuts to show us that this isn’t your orthodox story. I have a feeling that some film critics are going to love this offbeat movie that has Hawke, as Tesla, singing a modern-day song, but I found the film taxing and tedious. The film continually hits you over the head that Tesla is an inventor, not a businessman. While he might be smarter than Edison, Tesla has no way to match Edison in money-making or getting publicity. The underlining theme of the film is that greed is bad, that a man like Tesla was doomed from the start because he couldn’t compete with the greed of Wall Street. The film also does a horrible job of letting us know exactly what Tesla was working on and whether his inventions were indeed better than Edison’s ideas. I never felt I never knew what made Tesla tick and, therefore, never quite got in his corner to root for him.   My Rating: Cable     Tesla Website    In theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services.

My View:  The Sleepover (2020)   Two siblings ( Maxwell Simkins, Sadie Stanley) discover that their mom (Malin Akerman) has a big secret, she used to be a high-end thief who has been in the witness protection program. When their mom is forced to pull one last job, the two kids decide to rescue her over the course of an action-packed night. Lately, Netflix has given us some quality films that have been hitting them out of the park; this isn’t one of them. In fact, when Netflix first talked about creating its own movies, I worried that they would go the low budget, low-quality route, and this film gives us just that type of product. The film goes for the easy joke, including a horrible sequence in which Ken Marino, playing the clueless dad, gets sick a number of times, always for the easy, atrocious bit. The film wants to be a poor man’s Spy Kids, but it fails on almost every level, including several fight sequences that feel like the kid actors themselves choreographed them. Kids may enjoy some of the highjacks, but I guarantee that parents are going to bored senseless.    My Rating: Cable      The Sleepover Website    Now available on the Netflix platform.

Forgotten Film: Defending Your Life (1991) PG   Daniel Miller (Albert Brooks) unexpectedly dies and is sent to Judgement City where your life goes on trial to determine if you can move on to the ‘next stage’ of existence or are sent back to earth to spend another life as a human. While on trial, Daniel meets Julia (Meryl Streep), who is also there to defend her life. Daniel and Julia fall in love, but it seems that Julia is destined to move on, and it sure looks like Daniel is heading back to earth. One of my favorite movies of all time, Albert Brooks, not only stars in this beautiful comedy/romance, but he also directed and brilliantly wrote the screenplay. I can’t tell you how many lines of this film I can recite, and I have the original movie poster hanging on my wall. The storyline is creative and funny, and the chemistry between Brooks and Streep is off the wall. The film is greatly enhanced by an outstanding performance by Rip Torn as Daniel’s defense attorney. So go on a journey with Daniel, maybe visit the Past Live Pavillion (hosted by Shirley MacLaine) and have fun watching him defend his life.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Defending Your Life Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Unhinged: Grip Nifty 50

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) PG-13 Bill (Alex Winter), and Ted’s (Keanu Reeves) lives haven’t quite turned out the way that they were told they would. Both are middle-aged dads that have never produced that big hit song they thought they were destined to. Now it’s time for the guys to dream big and fulfill their destiny. I didn’t like the sequel, but I sure enjoyed the first Bill & Ted, and Keanu has been on a hot streak lately, so let’s˜Party on Dudes!’    Bill & Ted Face the Music Website

Until Next Time!