Friday, January 14, 2022


My View:  Scream  (2022)  R   Twenty-five years have passed since Woodsboro was torn apart by a series of gruesome murders. Now a new killer has emerged, and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has returned to stop the murderer again. The first Scream film, back in 1996, is still one of my favorite slasher/horror films. It had humor, played on the horror tropes of the day, and had a outstanding opening sequence (don’t answer that phone Drew). It was written by Kevin Williamson and directed by the legendary horror director Wes Craven, it was great fun for horror fans, filled with a batch of young stars. Unfortunately, it inspired the studio to do a slew of sequels that never lived up to the first film. Now comes a new Scream, the first in the series not directed by the late Wes Craven. First, this is a blood bath, with each killing very gruesome and violent. The more I think about this film, the more I like it. I will say that my first reaction was a bit negative because of some aspects of the ending, but I have come around thinking that the ending, like the rest of the film, is a play on the horror films (and action films) of the past. The film is constantly thumbing its nose at horror films, whether it is a woman watching a horror film, commenting on how stupid the victim is, just as she is about to suffer the same fate, or how the characters in the movie are talking about how the sequels of the Stab films aren’t as good as the original. Like all the Scream movies, there are plenty of clues left to figure out who the killer is, but that’s ok; it's a Scream trait. I really liked Melissa Barrera, as Sam, the young woman whose past is why the Ghostface killer has targeted her. Barrera has the fire and screen presence that makes her a great successor to Neve Campbell’s Sidney. Will you have fun? Yes, but make sure to look behind you a few times while watching this film. You never know when Ghostface will make an appearance.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Scream Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Familyfaire: Hotel Transylvania: Transformania  (2022)   Van Helsing (voiced by Jim Gaffigan) has invented a ‘Monsterfication Ray’ that has gone haywire, and Drac (voiced by Brian Hull) and all his monster friends have been transformed into something horrible; humans. I have not been a big fan of this series, but since this is the fourth film under the Hotel Transylvania banner, somebody must like them. This is the first film in the series where Adam Sandler is not the voice of Dracula (now voiced by Brian Hull), but since the film is pretty weak to begin with, Sandler isn’t missed. The film has plenty of action for young kids to be entertained by, but I was bored by the plot, and like the last two films, the jokes continually fall flat, making the film feel very long and unfunny. Luckily, the studio has decided to let parents off the hook and is releasing this film directly to Amazon Prime, so it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to sit through this poorly done attempt at animated humor.   My Rating: Cable   Hotel Transylvania: Tranformania Website  Now available on the Amazon Prime platform.

Indiefest: Drive My Car (2021)  Yûsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is a well-known actor and director who is happily married to his screenwriter wife, Oto (Reika Kirishima), when she suddenly dies. Two years after her death, Yûsuke is asked to put on a play in a town across the country and is given a driver (Tôko Miura) to transport him from his remote hotel to the rehearsal space. On the long trips, Yûsuke listens to a tape that Oto recorded for him before her death, and it brings back old memories, both good and bad. I will warn you from the start that this film is three hours long, so pack a lunch when you watch it. I mean, the opening credits don’t happen until 40 minutes into the film, with a prologue that will give you more questions than answers. And yes, you should watch it as it is filled with marvelous and moving performances. I will admit, I would have cut about 20 minutes of the film. There are a few sequences that drag a bit, but almost everything that is in this film pushes us to understand the three main characters; Yûsuke and his very complicated but loving relationship with his wife, Oto, and Yûsuke’s driver, who we are let to know slowly through their guarded interactions. This is a film full of character studies as we get to know the stories behind why almost everyone in the movie behaves the way that they do. Driving My Car is a surefire Academy Award-nominated film and probably the frontrunner for Best International Picture (the film was the pick of two of my critic group's International picture of the year). So pile into the backseat and get ready to go down the road with Yûsuke and his driver.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Drive My Car Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Belle (2021) PG   Suzu is a 17-year-old shy high-school student living in a rural village with her father. One day, she enters ‘U,’ a virtual world with over 5 billion members on the Internet. In the ‘U,’ she becomes Belle, a world-famous singer, and she embarks on a journey of discovery, challenges, and love that will change her forever. This is a beautiful and thrilling new version of Beauty and the Beast, with a big twist. The film is more about a shy, young woman who has never gotten over her mother's death, and that death has taken both her confidence in herself and her singing voice. With the help of a friend, Suzu escapes into the virtual world of the ‘U,’ where you can become another person. As Belle in the ‘U, Suzu becomes a singing sensation and suddenly Suzu, as Belle, is incredibly popular. In the ‘U,’ she meets a mysterious and seemingly dangerous character, The Beast, who is continually angry and is on a constant tear to take on all challengers in battle. But the ‘U’ and its universe is only half of this film. The other half is a film about growing up in the overly connected social network world of high school and how an innocent act of kindness can be overblown instantly. I watched the film in Japanese, and I loved the music in this film. Belle’s songs of love and courage are just magical. From reading a few reviews, I understand that the English version is just as lovely. The film is filled with meaning and has great heart, as we follow Suzu on her adventures, both in the real world (full of crushes and strife) and in the ‘U’ world (full of adventure and mystery). Belle is about finding the courage to take a stand and be yourself while also taking the chance on other people. So enter the ‘U’ and go on a journey of discovery with Suzu and Belle.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Belle Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: The House (2022)   This is an eccentric, dark comedy about a house, told through three surreal tales of the individuals who made it their home through the years. This film comprises three stop-motion animated stories that take place in the same home. The first story is the most enjoyable of the three, about a family that moves from their falling apart home to a newly built house given to them under mysterious circumstances. The family moves into the house and the young daughter, Mabel, soon learns that this gift has come with a price. Mabel’s parents, once loving and attentive, become distracted and uncaring. The house becomes filled with traps and obstacles, to where Mable and her baby sister are constantly trying to overcome, as this nightmare of a house becomes ugly and threatening. It’s a wonderfully told tale that is a bit scary and full of surprises. The remaining two tales are a little less captivating. The second is a tale of a mouse who is going about trying to re-build and flip a house with his life savings, only to have two intruders, one, a group of bugs and another, a couple of potential buyers, invade his remodeled home. The second tale never quite fully develops any tension or scares. The third tale is about a young cat trying to turn the house into an apartment building but is foiled by her lack of funds and two tenants who pay with fish or rocks rather than money. The third tale is probably the weakest of the three, with an ending that just left me wanting more. I wish the second and third tales had the imagination and the scares of the first story, but I still enjoyed the stop-motion animation of all three stories and their different filmmaking styles. While an animated film, please note that The House is for more adult audiences than kids, especially the first tale, which may be too scary for little ones.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The House Website  Now available on the Netflix platform. 

Indiefest: Italian Studies (2021)   The story of a young writer, Alina (Vanessa Kirby), who has suddenly lost her memory. Alina is now adrift in NYC, not knowing who she is or how she got there. She connects with a group of teenagers that promise to help her find her way home, but Alina has no way to know if what she is experiencing is real or imagined. Man, this is a strange film and one that I did not enjoy. It reminded me of the stream of consciousness films that came out of France in the 60s and 70s. This film follows Alina, who goes for a walk with her dog, enters a store, and then forgets who she is. The rest of the film is Alina wandering the streets of New York, meeting people and trying to figure out who she is. But the problem with this film is that Alina is trying to figure out who she is but takes such a rambling, lazy approach to it that it can be maddening how laissez-faire her attitude is. The film goes back and forth with the character interviewing the teens she has interacted with during her memory loss, but it’s never clear when or if these interviews really happen. Italian Studies is a mess of a film that, even as fine as an actor Vanessa Kirby, can’t overcome a plot with no middle or end.   My Rating: Cable   Italian Studies Website  Now playing in select theatres

Indiefest: The Velvet Queen (2021)    The Velvet Queen is a documentary about Vincent Munier, one of the world’s greatest wildlife photographers, who takes novelist Sylvain Tesson (In the Forest of Siberia) on a journey in the Tibetan plateau in search of one of the rarest big cats on the planet, the snow leopard. I loved this film, and I wish I had seen it in a theatre (instead of my computer) as the cinematography is stunningly beautiful. This is a story of a quest that is more about the journey and what you experience than what the goal is. The film explores what it is like to be so immersed in a world that you soon discover that while watching these animals, they have been studying you long before you noticed them. This film explores the wonder and beauty of the stark wilderness of Tibet, filled with wildlife that constantly surprises you as these two explorers go deeper and deeper into a world that few humans have seen or experienced. The Velvet Queen is a film that makes you appreciate the beauty of nature and how we as humans have lost contact with that world. It’s a film filled with beauty and just how diverse the animal world is.   My Rating: Full Price   The Velvet Queen Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: Never Cry Wolf (1983) PG   A government researcher, Farley Mowat (Charles Martin Smith), is set down by a bush pilot in the Arctic wilderness, where he will, camping out on his own, will study wolves, seen as only a menace to mankind. What Farley learns about wolves will change the way we see the species' impact on the environment and how they are integral to the ecosystem's survival. While Farley learns about wolves and their true beneficial impact on nature, he will also learn about himself. This is a film that would, if made today, have to be made either as an online streamer or an Indie, but at the time was made by Disney and got a major release. The film is a wonderful study of an ill-equipped man trying to survive in the wild on his own while learning that almost everything he knows about a species is wrong. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the wildlife scenes are realistically staged. Charles Martin Smith gives a winning performance of the researcher who learns how to survive in the wild and appreciate the beauty surrounding him. This film and the book it is based on changed the way we think about wolves and their impact on their environment. Once thought of as a menace, wolves are now seen as essential parts of nature’s ecosystem. Like Farley, go and spend some time with wolves and learn their ways with Never Cry Wolf.   My Rating; Full Price    Never Cry Wolf Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Scream: Toolperson

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Moonfall (2022) PG-13 A mysterious force has knocked the moon from its orbit and is in a collision course with Earth. A former astronaut, Jo Fowler (Halle Berry), enlists a ragtag team (Patrick Wilson, John Bradley) to help her go on an impossible mission, leaving everything they love behind to try to save the Earth. The only problem, the moon isn’t what we think it is. Moonfall looks like it could be a lot of fun and could be one of those films to just go have a blast with, no pun intended.    Moonfall Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, January 7, 2022

The 355

My View:  The 355  (2022)   PG-13    A top-secret weapon has fallen into the wrong hands, so CIA agent Mace (Jessica Chastain) gathers a group of international spies to help her find and defeat the mercenary that stole the weapon, while a mysterious woman tracks their every movement. First, let me say that I am a massive fan of the women who star in this film. I just wish this was a better film. I especially love Jessica Chastain, who exploded on the scene back in 2011 when it seemed she was in every movie and got two back-to-back Oscar nominations (The Help, Zero Dark Thirty). This is her film, as the film centers around her character and her production company produced the film. Chastain stated that she pitched the movie to the director as a combination of Mission Impossible and James Bond. Unfortunately, it feels a lot like those James Bond films of the 70s, where the plot didn’t always make sense, and characters magically made it to the other side of the world in a matter of hours, decked out with the latest gadgets that could do the impossible. The film tries to do too much with too little of a plot and has a few twists and turns that are surprising at all. I liked the chemistry between Chastain’s CIA agent character, Mace, and Diane Kruger’s German spy, Marie. They play off each other with a sense of humor and grit. Unfortunately, there isn’t any chemistry at all between fellow CIA agents Chastain and Sebastian Stan, who, while on a caper, decide to move their friendship into a romance. The action sequences fall flat as they feel sloppy and are not what this film needs. The film lost me when we are introduced to Chastain’s character Mace, who is supposed to be a badass but looks awkward and unskilled in hand-to-hand combat in the opening fight scene. It’s not the opening that we needed to see. And the film goes downhill from there. Maybe The 355 should have centered more around Diane Kruger’s character, whose back story is much richer, and Kruger looks like she can kick anyone’s butt in a fight.    My Rating: Cable   The 355 Website  The film is playing in theatres nationwide.

Indiefest: A Hero    (2021)  PG-13  Rahim (Amir Jadidi) is in prison because he could not repay a debt. While out on a two-day leave, he comes into some ‘found money,’ and things quickly go out of control. It’s an age-old dilemma; you find some money you desperately need, do you keep it or try to find the rightful owner? That is the start of this film as Rahim has to make that decision. After going back and forth, he decides to find the person who lost the money, and when he does, he returns it. That act of kindness at first works in his favor, but, and I won’t give too much away, his tale of how he found the money becomes a lie that explodes in the face of publicity, and Rahim goes down a rabbit hole he may never come out of. This is another beautiful, complex, and intriguing look at life from filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, who gave us the brilliant Oscar-winning film The Separation. A Hero is a story of a man whose life went downhill when technology destroyed his vocation, and he never recovered from it. A good man who, even when he does the right thing, is punished for it. It’s a tale where there is a fine line between right and wrong, and forgiveness is a hard thing to both get and give. A Hero is a sure bet to be nominated for the International Feature Film category and possibly a few more.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   A Hero Website  Now playing in select theaters and available on the Amazon Prime platform on January 21st.

Indiefest: See for Me    (2021)    Sophie (Skyler Davenport) is a house sitting in a place she has never been before, an isolated vacation home. This could be a problem because Sophie is visually impaired, but with a new app called See For Me and a helpful customer service person, Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy), Sophie will do just fine. But Sophie is in danger when three thieves break into the home to rob the place, and now Sophie must depend on Kelly, an Army vet, to survive the home invasion. Bad guys attack an alone blind woman is an old premise, like the 1967 Audrey Hepburn film Wait Until Dark. The difference between that film and a lot of others like it, and this film, is the main character in this film, Sophie, isn’t your usual innocent person. Sophie, we see from the start, when she tries to leave her house without her mother knowing, that Sophie has an attitude and that attitude could get her killed. Skyler Davenport gives us a Sophie who is out for herself and herself alone, willing to push the boundaries to get what she wants. The film has some great twists that I didn’t see coming, and though the ending is a little too easily put together, the film moves at a quick pace, and the action sequences are both thrilling and suspenseful as Sophie, and her See For Me helper Kelly, try to outwit and outrun the thugs who have invaded the home that Sophie is house-sitting.   My Rating: Full Price   See for Me Website  Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.

Indiefest: June Again (2020)   During a short bout of clarity from her dementia, June (Noni Hazlehurst) decides to go on the run. June is on a mission to find a family heirloom, bring her estranged family together, possibly save the family business and maybe even rekindle an old flame. This is about the impact that dementia has not only on the person who suffers from it but also on family and friends as the person they know and love slowly disappears before their eyes. The film explores, much like the Rip van Winkle tale, what would happen if someone came back five years after they left? In this case, June suddenly awakens from her dementia to find that her world has changed drastically, and being the headstrong woman who is used to getting her way, she attempts, in the limited time she has, to make things right again. June will learn that things have changed and that world has kept going on as she slept. Aided by a beautiful and moving performance by Noni Hazlehurst, June Again is a film that will touch you and will make you wonder what you would say to a loved one you have lost, who, through some miracle, would come back for a brief time.    My Rating; Full Price   June Again Website  Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.

Indiefest:   Aware: Glimpses of Consciousness   (2021)   Documentary that explores life's big questions: What is consciousness? Is it in all living beings? And what happens when we die? I wish I had seen this film in the theatre instead of watching a screener on my computer screen as there are countless shots that are breathtakingly beautiful. From scenes in a lush forest to a turtle swimming in the sea to a glorious sunset, the film shows us the world's beauty around us. This film explores the attempt to understand the mind and how not only us but all living things deal with consciousness. All the people featured in the movie have explored the idea of consciousness and how we interact with each other and the world. This is a film that explores the concept of consciousness through different viewpoints. Some of those viewpoints are scientifically based, and others are more about our connection within ourselves and our connection to the physical planet. I loved that many of the people interviewed in this film started out believing in one thing, but as time went on and they explored the idea of consciousness, their thoughts and beliefs changed. I will warn you that in the last ten minutes of the film, there is an animal sacrifice, that while is not shown on camera, is disturbing to watch. I learned a lot about how consciousness works and how we are connected to everything living in this world. We have a long way to understand where we as humans make our place in this world, but this film gives you a lot to think about and is an excellent place to start that exploration.    My Rating: Full Price   Aware: Glimpses of Consciousness Website    Now available On Demand.

Forgotten Film: Blindsight   (2006) PG   Documentary about a team of climbers that take six blind Tibetan teenagers, who have never climbed before, to climb the Lhakpa-Ri peak of Mount Everest. The team is led by blind mountain-climber Erik Weiheenmayer, the first blind person to climb the seven tallest summits in the world. This is a remarkable film about overcoming the odds, but it’s also about how blind people are treated in the world and how they see themselves in it. The cinematography is just mesmerizing, but it's the kids that make this film worth watching. Most have been made to feel like they are not a part of their community, even by their own parents, but Weiheenmayer won’t let these kids quit, believing that they can do anything that they put their minds and wills to.   My Rating: Full Price   Blindsight Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The 355: Crowd Welfare PA

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Batman (2022)   In his second year of fighting crime, the caped crusader, Batman (Robert Pattinson), uncovers corruption in Gotham City that connects to his own family while battling a criminal known as The Riddler for control of his city. With a cast that includes Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Andy Serkis as Alfred, and Robert Pattinson as the lead character, this is one of the most anticipated films of 2022. The only question is, will The Batman still be released in March or be pushed back due to the continuing COVID crisis.   The Batman Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, December 31, 2021

The Tragedy of Macbeth

My View:  The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021)   A Scottish lord (Denzel Washington) is convinced that he will be King after being visited by a trio of witches. His ambitious wife (Frances McDormand) eggs him on, and Macbeth’s act of seizing power will lead to madness and death. As a kid growing up in the theatre, I have seen a lot of Shakespeare both on the stage and on the screen, and I can say that this is one of the most beautiful and thrilling productions I have ever seen. At times the film feels like you are front row of a stage production, with its minimalist sets and stark lighting, but then Denzel and Frances fill your screen with performances that jump out at you and grab you by the throat, and you realize you are witnessing brilliance and unmatched artistry. Directed by Joel Cohen, the film is shot in beautiful black and white, making the film feel like an instant classic while using all the tricks of current cinema to make the film flow effortlessly. One of the things I loved about this film is the interpretations of the Lord and Lady Macbeth. Washington’s Macbeth is a man who is weary of living in the shadows, and his lust for power drives him into madness, a madness that he seems to have no control over. McDormand’s Lady Macbeth is different altogether, a woman who plots and schemes, knowing full what she is asking her husband to do and damn the consequences. The supporting cast is flawless, with Brendan Gleeson playing King Duncan, a man loved by his men, making his murder that much more powerful, and Kathryn Hunter playing all three of the ‘weird sisters,’ the witches that foretell what will come. Add in a much-needed bit of comic relief by Steven Root, and the film is filled with performances that will thrill and marvel you. So sit back and watch with wonder and amazement a story that still has the power to thrill you to the core.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    The Tragedy of Macbeth Website  Now playing in select theatres and available on the Apple TV+ platform on Jan. 14th.

My View:  Passing  (2021) PG-13   Irene (Tessa Thompson) seems to have everything she has wanted. She lives in a nice house in a prosperous section of Harlem, with her two sons and her husband, Brian (Andre Holland), a successful doctor. But Irene isn’t happy, and this is brought out by a chance meeting with Clare (Ruth Negga), someone she was once friends with in high school. Clare is living a secret life; she is living as a white person, married to a racist (Alexander Skarsgard) who is clueless to Clare’s real identity. When we first meet Irene, she travels around shopping in New York due to her light skin, but the difference is Irene does it as a necessary way to go to shops that wouldn’t let her in if they knew her race. Passing is a story of two women who are not comfortable in the lives that they have created for themselves. Beautifully shot in black and white, we follow the two women as they become close, but there is always a barrier between the two, with Irene wanting what Clare has and Clare wanting to disappear into the life of Harlem. The film centers on Irene’s life, as she deals with a husband who wants to move to a foreign country, where he feels he can be free of living in a society that allows blacks to be hung for looking at a white person the wrong way. While the film centers on Irene, it's the performance of Ruth Negga that makes this film worth watching. Negga gives a mesmerizing performance of a woman who lives a life full of lies but is willing to lose everything for a friendship that she desperately wants and needs.   My Rating: Full Price Passing Website   Now playing in select theatres and on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest:  Storm Lake (2021)   Documentary about Art Cullen, who with his family and friends put out a twice-weekly paper, the Storm Lake Times, in a small town in Iowa. Shot during a time when small-town newspapers are dying at an incredible pace, this tiny newspaper tries to continue to serve its community and be a voice for the farmer and for democracy. I grew up with a father who, on a typical day, would read three or four newspapers in a day, so I have always loved local newspapers, the smaller, the better. I often would ask friends traveling the country to bring me back a newspaper from their hometown, loving to read about the latest news about store openings, bar-b-cues, and the always happening beauty pageant or talent show. We follow Art, who writes an opinion piece for each issue, his wife, who is in charge of local events, things she calls the ‘happy news,’ and Art’s son, who covers local politics. It’s a fascinating world of a paper that is holding on by a thread to keep going, even when the paper wins the Pulitzer Prize (which, by the way, hurt the paper locally). I loved this look at everyday life in a small town, where a store owner agonizes over running two ads or one, pondering if the extra 50 dollars will pay off in sales. The film is helped by the Democratic Iowa caucus, which meant that a lot of important politicians visited Storm Lake to try and propel their campaigns (Pete Buttigieg comes off the best of the parade of wannabe presidents). So pull up a chair and sit down to watch a small staff work their butts off to put out the best paper they possibly can while still covering that baby pig in a diaper visiting an elementary school.    My Rating: Full Price  Storm Lake Website  Now available on demand including for rent/purchase on the Amazon Prime platform.

My View:  Mother/Android (2021)   Georgia (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Sam (Algee Smith) should be happy as they are about to have a baby. The problem is the world has changed overnight as the androids built to serve mankind have turned on the human population. Now Georgian and Sam must go on a treacherous journey through the No-Man’s Land, a stronghold of the android uprising, in order for their baby to be born in safety. I liked the beginning of the story on how the android revolt started, but the film takes forever to get to any action sequences, and we spend a lot of time with Georgia and Sam talking to each other about baby names and how to get to Boston. The twist is something that you see from a mile away, and the film never delivers the punch to the gut that it desperately wants you to feel. Except for some nice chemistry between the two leads, this is a pretty bland attempt of an end of the world plot.   My Rating: Cable    Mother/Android Website  Now available on the Hulu platform.

Forgotten Film: Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold  (2017)   Joan Didion was a fantastic writer, someone who could go from writing a screenplay to a novel to a series of essays without breaking a sweat, and all were interesting and sometimes brilliant. All the while, she was married to another brilliant writer. John Gregory Dunne, as they edited each other’s work. This documentary is directed by the actor Griffin Dunne, who happens to be Didion’s nephew. He uses his connection and affection for Joan to get her to open up, sometimes shockingly frank, about her life. Didion was destined to be a writer, given a journal by her mother at age five, and she never stopped writing, giving us some of the most moving and amazing work, mainly dealing with what she experienced in her life. This is a fascinating documentary about a woman who just recently passed, a woman who wrote like her life depended on it. The documentary gives us a glimpse into a life filled with glamour, Hollywood stars coming in and out of her life like the parties that she used to have. Her life was also filled with sadness, in a marriage to a man who was often angry at her and the world, and in quick succession, she lost her husband and her adopted daughter in the span of a couple of years, only to write about it in the award-winning book The Year of Magical Thinking. Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold is a beautiful and fascinating look at a complex woman who would touch the world with her writing.   My Rating: Full Price   Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Tragedy of Macbeth: Shakespeare Consultant

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: I Want You Back (2022) R   Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate) meet by chance on a day that both of them got dumped. They decide to become a team to get back the ‘loves of their lives by breaking up their old partner's new relationships. What could go wrong? I can’t wait to see this rom-com because I have been a huge fan of Jenny Slate since her breakthrough starring role in Obvious Child (2014).   I Want You Back Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, December 24, 2021

The Matrix Resurrections

My View:  The Matrix Resurrections (2021)  R   Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a successful, award-winning programmer of video games. However, Thomas is dealing with feelings and thoughts that his world isn’t real and that a great love has been lost. Soon, Thomas will have to make that choice again; to take the red or blue pill. I have seen the other three Matrix films, and always I have only been able to understand or follow about half of what is said or going on. This movie is no different. At times, I had no clue what the heck was going on, but I had fun trying. This is a celebration of the series, with lots of flashbacks for people that haven’t seen the movies in a while. I mean, it’s been over twenty years since the first one, so we do need a bit of refresher course, and this film does that. If you have never seen a Matrix film (first, where have you been?), this isn’t a film to start as it is about love lost. I enjoyed this film because its central theme is love and what we will do to find it. The Matrix Resurrections has its usual fights, gun battles, and car chases to make the action fans happy, but it’s really Thomas/Neo dealing with feelings that he is missing something. He is a man lost and is searching for something he feels he once had. So take the red pill and go on another journey with Neo and the gang, this time for love.   My Rating: Full Price   The Matrix Resurrections Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide and on the HBO Max platform

Familyfaire: Sing 2 (2021)  PG  Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) and his friends are convinced that they are ready for the big time, but first, they must convince a mean and ruthless promoter, Mr. Crystal (Bobby Cannavale), that they have the star to headline their latest show, Clay Calloway (Bono). Now, all Buster and his gang must do is convince Clay to come out of retirement and seclusion to headline their new act. I did not like the first Sing film, feeling it was just an excuse to repackage a bunch of songs to be sung by stars who don’t usually sing in films. This time I had a much better time. There is a purpose to these songs as the gang tries to put on a show that will wow the audience and brings back a singer that they all love, someone who, due to a tragedy, hasn’t sung in a long time. They have added to the cast, and then, somehow, someway, they got Bono to be in this film. His entrance as Clay Calloway to his song is worth watching the movie for. I enjoyed this film much more than the first one, and some of the songs are quite good. There are a couple of characters that are crazy enough to keep the kids interested, and the songs should make the adults in the crowd at least tap their feet.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Sing 2 Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide

My View: The King’s Man (2021) R   In the early 20th century, the Kingsman agency is formed to stand against a cabal, led by Rasputin (Rhys Ifans), who want to start a war that will wipe out millions. Now it's up to Orlando, Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) and his fellow Kingsmen to stop the cabal. I have not been a fan of this series, and after seeing this film, I hope that it goes away. Now, if watching a weird monk sword fight while dancing is your thing, then this movie is for you. For the rest of us, it will be a bore. Hey, did you know World War I was started by an evil guy to destroy England? Yeah, I didn’t either, but that’s the plot of this silly and boring film. The film gets more ridiculous as it goes along, including a Mata Hari moment that is incredibly laughable. Rasputin has to be one of the worst villains ever created (yes, I know he was a real, bizarre guy), and I found the use of curse words in this film to be such an over-the-top attempt at being cool that it made me mad watching it. Look, I like Ralph Fiennes and have a special place in my heart for Gemma Arterton, who is plays Orlando’s servant/love interest/partner?, but this film wastes them in roles that aren’t fun or heroic. And don’t get me started on the goats in the film. Yes, goats play an essential part of the plot. There is a short bonus scene after the first portion of the credits.   My Rating: Cable    The King's Man Website  Now playing in theatres

My View: The Tender Bar  (2021) R    JR (Daniel Ranieri) and his mother (Lily Rabe) must move back into JR’s grandfather’s house (Christopher Lloyd). Under the tutelage of his uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck), the manager of a bar called Dickens, JR will learn everything he needs to become a man. But JR will always be haunted by his missing father, a man he only knows as The Voice, a DJ on the radio. This is one of those films where I bet the book is far better than the film. The Tender Bar isn’t a bad film, but it's one that kind of never gets going anywhere, much like JR’s life. The film centers on JR, which we first follow as he, as a young kid, moves back in with his single mother to his grandfather’s home. JR only knows his dad as a voice on the radio (his dad is a journeyman radio DJ) and looks for guidance from his uncle Charlie, a book-loving bar manager that loves to give JR advice on how to be a man. We also get to know JR during his college years, a great student who wants to be a writer but sometimes lets his obsession with a girl named Sidney (Briana Middleton) override his life. I wanted to love this film (the kid playing JR, Daniel Ranieri, is adorable and the best thing about this movie), but it’s a story that never gets going as Charlie keeps spouting off and JR keeps pining away for a girl who will never love him.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The Tender Bar Website  Now playing in select theatres and available on the Amazon Prime platform on Jan. 7th.

My View:  A Journal For Jordan  (2021) PG-13   When Dana (Chanté Adams) first meets Charles (Michael B. Jordan), she doesn’t think he is her type. However, after a few dates, she realizes that there is more to Charles than meets the eye. They fall in love, get married, and are about to have their first child when Charles is deployed to Afghanistan. Before he leaves, Dana gives Charles a journal to fill with his thoughts for his son to read after he is born. It will be how Charles's son will get to know his father. This is not quite the tearjerker that you want it to be. It’s more of a love story between a man who is earnest and good and a woman who falls for him, even though he seems not to be her type. Look, I am a big fan of Michael B. Jordan, and he could probably make reading the phone book interesting, but it seems to me that the film is solely aimed at the female audience. There are countless scenes where Jordan is shirtless or pantless, doing pushups while being a stand-up guy that any woman would fall for. The love story isn’t engaging and though based on a real-life story, seems too lackluster keep us interested in the storyline for a payoff that takes way too long to come.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    A Journal for Jordan Website  Playing in select theatres starting on Christmas Day

My View: American Underdog  (2021) PG  The story of Kurt Warner (Zachary Levi), a man who had a dream of playing in the NFL and went from stocking shelves of a supermarket to becoming an NFL quarterback who won a Super Bowl and a member of the Hall of Fame. Is this a corny, rags to riches story of a guy who, through determination and belief in himself (and God) because one of the best quarterbacks to play in the game? Yeah, but it’s well made, has a great cast, and has two leads that make you want to root for them and their unusual family. Warner’s story seems too unbelievable to be true but is. This is a faith-based film, but unlike many films of this type, it doesn’t go overboard with the religious factor, but it is an integral part of Warner’s make up and faith in himself. American Underdog is a fun film that I think the whole family will enjoy, rooting for a guy who is as good as his character on the screen in real life. Stay through the credits to see about Warner’s real life and his charity work involving his adopted son Zack. It just might bring another tear to your eye.   My Rating: Full Price    American Underdog Website  Playing in theatres nationwide starting on Christmas Day.

Indiefest: Licorice Pizza (2021) R   It’s 1973, and Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) is a fifteen-year-old high school kid who thinks he has the world by its tail because he is a famous working actor. Then he meets Alana (Alana Haim), an older woman who is about to change his life. I loved this film from the very first scene where we meet Gary and Alana. That first meeting sums up what their relationship will be like for the rest of the film; a guy who has an abundance of confidence and a young woman who is intrigued by this brash young man. I had so much fun watching this film and seeing where it was going to go. The film is just an adventure that two people go on, as they figure out their places in the world while enjoying each other’s company and friendship. Gary wants more, but Alana, being older, is hesitant to get close to Gary, though she is intrigued by him. I loved the two leads in this film. Cooper Hoffman, who you see so much of his father, Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his performance, is brilliant as the almost too smart and brash for his own good kid who seems to do everything to get Alana’s attention. It’s Alana Haim, in her first starring role, as the headstrong Alana, who makes this film work. Haim is a force on the screen, as she plays a woman who, against her best intentions, is attracted to Gary and wants to be in his life and involved with all his crazy adventures. Bradley Cooper makes a very memorable and possibly Oscar-bound performance as the legendary Jon Peters, a man who took his ability to promote himself from hairdresser to the stars to running a major studio. Cooper is not in a lot of scenes, but boy, he makes his mark as the nutty Peters who wanted everyone to know he was the boyfriend of Barbara Streisand. Licorice Pizza is a film that made me laugh and smile throughout my viewing. It’s one of those films that I wanted to see again as soon as I saw it. I hope it's that kind of experience for you too.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Licorice PIzza Website   Playing in select theatres starting on Christmas Day

Indiefest: Red Rocket (2021) R   Mikey (Simon Rex) is a porn star who has hit hard times. With nowhere else to go, he goes back to his hometown to try and live with his ex, Lexi (Bree Elrod). While doing odd jobs, he meets a young woman working at a donut shop named Strawberry (Suzanna Son), who just might be his ticket back into the big time. Like his previous films, Tangerine and The Florida Project, filmmaker Sean Baker has filled this world full of characters that have lived a hard life, constantly scraping by, sometimes by luck and sometimes by their charm or wit, but just getting by. In walks (literally) Mikey, back into his ex-wife’s world, a man who is down on his luck but is still proud to be known as a porn star. Mikey is always looking for an angle, a way he can get back on top, and he uses his good looks and charm to try and convince anyone that he meets that the good times are just around the corner, even if that corner is miles away. Mikey is a character that Simon Rex knows well as Rex is a former porn star in real life, whose acting career has not always gone well, but this is a role of a lifetime, and Rex plays Mikey to the hilt, giving him a bit of substance behind that facade of a brash man who thinks he can charm his way out of any situation. I also loved the performance of Suzanna Son, the donut shop counter girl named Strawberry, who is charmed by Mikey and becomes his new conquest. Strawberry is someone that Mikey thinks is his ticket out and back into the world of porn, and she seems to be willing to go on that road with him. Red Rocket is a film filled with characters that you would never want to meet but wouldn’t mind watching up on the screen for a couple of hours, though you might feel the need for a shower or disinfectant afterward.   My Rating: Full Price    Red Rocket Website  Now playing in select theatres

Forgotten Film: A Gift From Bob (2020)   Based on the books by James Bowen, this series is about James, a drug addict who gets clean with the help of friends and a street cat that adopts him. Bob is a smart, street-savvy cat that found James (not the other way around) and, through his love, helped James kick drugs and start to turn his life around. In this Christmas film, James struggles to keep his head above water, barely making enough to keep the electricity on in his apartment and keep Bob fed. Things start looking bad when the local authorities investigate James to make sure that Bob is well cared for. I loved the first film, and though I am not a cat person, I fell in love with the cat named Bob, who loves to place himself across Jame’s shoulders as he walks or plays for money on the street. A Gift from Bob is a sweet and sometimes funny Christmas tale starring a cat named Bob. What more could you want?   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    A Gift from Bob Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Matrix Resurrections: Cast Physical Trainers

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The 355 (2022) PG-13  A top-secret weapon has fallen into the wrong hands, so CIA agent Mace (Jessica Chastain) gathers a group of international spies to help her find and defeat the mercenary that stole the weapon, while a mysterious woman tracks their every movement. Just the cast alone of Bingbing Fan, Penelope Cruz, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, and Jessica Chastain is enough to make me want to see this film.     The 355 Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, December 17, 2021

Spider-Man: No Way Home

My View:  Spider-Man: No Way Home  (2021) PG-13   Spider-Man (Tom Holland) has been unmasked, and now everyone knows who he is, making it hard to separate his private life from being a superhero. He turns to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell that everyone will forget who he is, only that spell has lasting consequences, including bringing back an old enemy. First, if you have never seen a Spider-man film before, this is not where you should start. In fact, even for fans, it might be wise to go back and watch a few of the films from the past (just skip the Toby Maguire Spider-Man 3 film with Spidey tap-dancing away, I will never be able to get that scene out of my brain). 2nd, pack a lunch to take with you because it’s two and a half hours long. The bad: it tries to make every fan out there in the MCU happy, bringing back villains from the past packing way too much into the film. The problem is if anyone out there is really asking for the Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church) to come back (besides Church’s agent)? Or the Lizard-man from what every Spider-Man movie that was from? Probably not. Now the good. The film has a lot of heart, and it’s because of the winning performance of Tom Holland. Holland is allowed to give depth and meaning to a character that always has had a side of pathos to his makeup. From the comics on down to the movies, Spider-Man is a character that has felt the pain of loss and the heavy burden of responsibility, trying to live up to a code that few can live by. This is a Spider-Man character trying to live in a world where his father-figure is gone (Ironman), and half the population has turned on Spider-Man, blaming him for a death of a person that some people feel was a hero. And now Peter can’t hide behind the mask, as he has been outed. Peter not only has to deal with how this impacts him but also that his actions have had an impact on his friends and loved ones. The film’s core message is one that has been preached to Spider-Man by his family, and his mentor’s “With great power comes great responsibility.’ That underlying theme of this Spider-Man film makes it stand out from the past films and makes it work seeing. There are two post credit scenes; one after the first section of credits that may set up the next Spider-Man film and a trailer at the end of all the credits.    My Rating: Full Price   Spider-Man: No Way Home Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Indiefest:  The Lost Daughter (2021) R   Leda (Olivia Colman) is on a beach vacation where she wants to be left alone to write. But her past keeps coming back to haunt her as she becomes involved with a local (Ed Harris) and a young, troubled mother (Dakota Johnson) who is part of a loud and large family that is also on vacation. Maggie Gyllenhaal has brought us a story about a woman whose past rears its ugly head when she interacts with a family that constantly interacts with Leda, even when it’s evident that she wants to be left alone. Colman gives a fantastic and impressive performance of a woman who you probably won’t like and possibly won’t understand. Leda is a woman who has made choices in her life, about her life as a wife and mother, that most people would see as selfish, and she makes decisions while on this vacation which seem reckless and almost ugly, even when you understand that most of what she does is deeply seeded from her past. One of the best films of the year and certainly one of the great performances of 2021, The Lost Daughter is a journey into the mind of a woman who, as her vacation goes on, gives us insight into her psyche and why Leda acts the way she does. Her actions may make you uncomfortable and not like her, but Leda is not regretful; it’s something that she feels she had to do.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    The Lost Daughter Website  Now playing in select theatres and will be available on the Netflix platform on Dec. 31st.

Indiefest:  Swan Song (2021) R   Cameron’s (Mahershala Ali) life is filled with love as a father and as a husband, married to a wonderful woman (Naomie Harris). All that is about to end because Cameron has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. At his lowest point, Cameron is presented with an alternate solution by his doctor (Glenn Close), which could change his and his family’s fate. Cameron must confront just how much he is willing to sacrifice for love. If you were given a death sentence but were told there was a way that you could go on living your life, with your loved ones never finding out about that death sentence, you would take that offer, wouldn’t you? What if I told you that you will still die, but a clone, enhanced with not only your likeness but all your feelings and memories, will replace you, would you still do it? That is the dilemma that Cameron is faced in Swan Song. Mahershala Ali gives another one of his nuance and brilliant performances as a man who loves his life but must give it over to someone else so that his family doesn’t suffer. Swan Song is a film about death and how much pain we can take as people. The film is a slow burn as we go on this journey with Cameron, but the last thirty minutes has quite an impact as Cameron decides which path he will take.    My Rating: Full Price    Swan Song Website  Now playing in select theatres and is available on the Apple TV+ platform.

My View:  Fortress  (2021) R   Robert (Bruce Willis) is a retired CIA agent living at a secret resort in the woods. Robert’s estranged son, Paul (Jesse Metcalfe), has tracked down his father but little does either one of the men know that Paul has been followed by a criminal named Balzary (Chad Michael Murray), who is hell-bent on revenge. Now father and son must band together to defeat Balzary’s band of mercenaries as they defend Robert’s high-tech bunker called The Fortress. The premise is interesting, but the film makes too many easy choices, most of which can be seen from a mile away, to make the film worth watching. I will say this; Bruce Willis is in this film a lot more than I thought he would be, though it’s pretty evident that he shot all his scenes in just a few days. The script is lazy with a bad guy that Chad Michael Murray can’t quite get a handle on, as he chews up the scenery to the very last shot. The action sequences are pretty bland, and the ending seems too quick and easy. Fans of Willis will be disappointed in that most of his scenes are him either getting beat up or sitting in a comfortable chair, spouting dialogue that no one cares about. Fortress is the type of movie that used to be on the shelves of a Blockbuster in the 80s, waiting to be rented when all the current movies were gone on a Friday night.     My Rating: Cable    Fortress Info  Now playing in select theatres and available On Demand.

Indiefest:  The Novice (2021) R  Alex (Isabelle Fuhrman) has succeeded in everything on which she has set her mind. Now, as a college freshman, Alex is ready for a new challenge, something she has never tried before, rowing. She decides to join her university’s rowing team as a ‘novice,’ but she is determined to make it to the varsity boat, no matter the cost. To say that Alex is obsessive would be an understatement. Alex is a character who, at the start, we root for because she is an underdog, someone who is willing to put in the hard work to succeed. But, soon, very soon in the film, you realize that Alex is taking this want to succeed beyond what people would see as normal. She pushes herself to go beyond what anyone else is willing to do or even should do. Fuhrman gives us a performance of a woman who is wound so tightly that Alex sees the littlest offense as an attack on herself and her goals. It’s scary how Fuhrman lets us see just how intense Alex is and how much she is willing to risk to succeed. It’s a performance that will stay with you for a long time, and don't be surprised if never again go near that rowing machine at the gym.   My Rating: Full Price    The Novice Website  Now playing in select theatres and for rent online.

Familyfaire:  Rumble  (2021) PG   In a world where monster wrestling is a huge global sport, and its monsters are massive stars, a teenager named Winnie (voiced by Geraldine Viswanathan) decides to follow in her father’s footsteps and turn a lazy, mild-mannered oaf named Steve (voiced by Will Arnett), who loves sleeping and dancing, into a champion. Kids who love monsters (the fun kind) or wrestling will enjoy this film because it is filled with both. Arnett is hilarious as the monster who doesn’t want to become a star; he would rather take the easy road and be comfortable with losing all the time. Winnie sees that Steve has the potential to be a good wrestler and believes in him, now if only she can get Steve to believe in himself. Rumble is a fun ride, helped by Arnett’s humor and wild wrestling monsters that kids will fall in love with. So go and get in the ring with Steve, Winnie, and a few fellow monster wrestlers.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Rumble Website  Now playing on the Paramount+ platform.

My View:  Nightmare Alley  (2021) R    Stanton (Bradley Cooper) is a grifter, a man trying to hide from his past. After working at a traveling carnival and learning the tricks of the trade, Stanton and a fellow sideshow performer (Rooney Mara) run away and start a successful mentalist act. Using the skills he developed as a grifter, Stanton becomes involved with a psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett) and sees her as a way to con some of the most powerful men in the city. It's a dangerous game that Stanton is playing, and it may be his last. This is a stylized film noir filled with interesting characters that don’t often show their true feelings or motives, as everyone in this movie seems to be out for themselves. It’s a cruel world, a world controlled by greed and by crook. We meet a few honest people along the way, but they are few and far between in this film filled with carnival people and the suckers that they will hustle for their few dimes and quarters. Into this world comes Stanton, a man with a troubled past but someone who quickly learns how to play the game. He has a talent for reading people and getting to know their weaknesses in a short amount of time. Cooper is perfect in the role of a guy who gets by on his looks and his brains. The film perfectly reflects the film noir films of the forties with its editing style, lighting, and set design. The film tells a story of greed, want, and a need to get one up on someone else. Rooney Mara plays the love interest of Stanton, a woman who doesn’t give in to men easily but is seduced by Stanton, the woman who has a heart of gold, only to be corrupted by the man she loves. Blanchett plays the woman who seduces Stanton, someone he thinks he can use to get money and information. As the cool, calculating blonde, Blanchett fits the bill of the film noir temptress who corrupts a man and takes him away from someone who truly loves him. A masterwork at storytelling, Guillermo del Toro's Nightmare Alley is a tale of horror, greed, and fate. Stanton learns early on not to tempt fate, but he can’t help himself, it's in the cards. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Nightmare Alley Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Forgotten Film:  Mad Love (1995)  PG-13  The story of two young people (Drew Barrymore, Chris O’Donnell), both living in broken homes, who find each other and fall in love. Matt is a young man whose mother left, and his family is in disarray. Casey is a young woman who, on the outside, seems funny and carefree, but she is hiding a problem. When threatened with being separated, the two go on the run to escape and leave their lives behind. The reason I like this film is Barrymore gives one of the best performances of her career. Yes, at first, she is the usual Barrymore cute girl, but as the film goes along, we see a depth from her character that Barrymore rarely was let to explore with most of her characters. Some of the characters are a little too broadly portrayed in the film, but I love the relationship between Barrymore and O’Donnell and how it treats someone with a problem with not an easy fix, but one that takes work and love.    My Rating; Bargain Matinee   Mad Love Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Spider-Man: No Way Home: Special Thanks: Mack Trucks

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You:  Scream  (2022) R   Twenty-five years have passed since Woodsboro was torn apart by a series of gruesome murders. Now a new killer has emerged, and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has returned to stop the murderer again. Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette are back in this film and have played the same characters in four separate decades; 90s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s.    Scream Website

Until Next Time!