Friday, June 21, 2024

The Bikeriders

My View:  The Bikeriders  (2023) R  In The Bikeriders, it’s the mid-1960s, and after a chance encounter at a local bar, Kathy (Jodie Comer) becomes involved with Benny (Austin Butler), the newest member of a biker club named The Vandals. The biker club is led by Johnny (Tom Hardy), and under his leadership, the club is starting to change. It’s a change that will force Benny to choose whether to stay with Kathy or The Vandals. I was excited when I heard about this film because you have three Oscar nominees in the cast: Austin Butler (Elvis), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), and Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Nocturnal Animals). However, they are all let down by a script that goes nowhere and dominated by a performance by Jodie Comer, who makes this film watchable. Comer is brilliant and captivating as the girlfriend/wife of Benny, a woman who speaks her mind, is in love with her man (from first sight), and is the storyteller of this tale as she is interviewed by a reporter/photographer (Mike Faist) who documents the early days of the biker gang. While Hardy, going full brood, is dominated as the biker gang leader who seems to make the rules up as he goes along, the performance of Austin Butler is a letdown. Butler seems to believe that his character's look is too cool for him to do anything else. Of the three main characters, Benny, the focus of much of the film, is the most uninteresting character in the bunch. Kathy's presence made this film enjoyable and entertaining, even with the subject matter of a violent, rebel-rousing biker gang. My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Bikeriders Website  Now playing in theaters.

My ViewThelma  (2024) PG-13  Thelma is about 93-year-old Thelma Post (June Squibb), who gets duped into giving away 10,000 dollars in a phone scam. With the help of a few friends, Thelma decides to go on a treacherous quest across the city to get her money back. This is one of those rare films that is precisely what you think it is: an enjoyable film with some fun performances and a story that isn’t going to win any Oscars but is going to delight a lot of people. Thelma is June Squibb’s first headlining film in her long career. We fell in love with Squibb in her Oscar-nominated performance as Kate, the feisty mom in Nebraska. While Thelma isn’t going to speak her mind like Kate, she is a strong-willed woman, still living on her own, and is determined to confront the people who stole her money. Squibb is aided by an outstanding supporting cast. Parker Posey and Clark Gregg play a married couple, with Fred Hechinger portraying their son Daniel, Thelma's 20-something grandson. Posey and Clark's overreaction to any information about Thelma and her journey is hilarious. I loved how the film portrays Daniel, who loves his grandmother and is on her side (his parents are on the verge of putting Thelma in a home), even when she escapes from his care. The movie features Richard Roundtree's final performance, and it's a delight to watch him on screen with June Squibb. Roundtree is perfect in the role of Thelma’s friend, who provides Thelma with his scooter, but only if he can come along so she won’t get in trouble. And here’s where the fun begins with Squibb going on a road trip (of sorts) that will involve breaking and entering, gunplay, and maybe an explosion or two. So maybe drink a nutritional supplement, put on your best tennis shoes, and get ready to ride with Thelma as she tracks down the bastards who stole her money. And by the way, June Squibb did almost all her own stunts.   My Rating: Full Price  Thelma Website  Now playing in theaters.

IndiefestGhostlight  (2024)  R   Ghostlight is about Dan (Keith Kupferer), a construction worker struggling to deal with life after a family tragedy. He is not talking to his wife, Sharon (Tara Mallen), and has no idea how to relate to his troubled daughter, Daisy (Katherine Mallen Kupferer). Dan finds comfort and community after he stumbles upon a misfit company of amateur actors rehearsing Romeo and Juliet. When Dan joins the company, he realizes that confronting his buried emotions is crucial to becoming the actor he aspires to be. As a former theater kid, I always enjoy watching films that showcase the behind-the-scenes stories of putting on plays, particularly when it's a local production. That’s what we get in Ghostlight, a film that follows Dan, a father who isn’t dealing well with a traumatic event that has affected him and his family. Dan is having trouble sleeping and isn’t communicating well with his wife. Almost every time he tries to connect with his daughter, Daisy, she becomes hostile. Things change a bit when Dan stumbles upon a local community theater group, and they convince him to join their group. What makes this film work so well is the performances of Keith Kupferer and his real-life wife Tara Mallen and daughter Katherine Mallen Kupferer. The performances are outstanding and feel so touching, as all three characters are trying to deal with the tragedy in their own ways. Even when Dan's daughter Daisy tries to bring him into her therapy sessions, he has chosen not to talk about it. Daisy is always angry, and Sharon is just trying to keep the family going while also trying to keep a lawsuit the family has filed on track. Ghostlight is a heartfelt and moving story that lets the cast take us on a journey of discovering and healing, as Dan learns to get in touch with his emotions through his work as an actor. Ghostlight is a film that examines the power of art to aid in healing and comprehending our emotions and feelings. So, study your lines and help Dan and his family put things back together, maybe in time for a performance of Romeo and Juliet.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Ghostlight Website  Now playing in theaters.

My ViewBlack Barbie: A Documentary  (2023)  Black Barbie: A Documentary chronicles the journey of three former Mattel workers who questioned why Barbie didn’t look like them and then made it happen. This is the personal journey of filmmaker Lagueria Davis, whose Beulah Mae Mitchell was one of the first Black employees at Mattel and was there when Black Barbie was first released. The film gives us a history of not only how and when black Barbie dolls were introduced but also how those dolls impacted the lives of kids around the world. The film features an interview with Kitty Black Perkins, the creator of Black Barbie, and the individuals who followed her at Mattel. We also receive personal stories from Gabourey Sidibe, Shonda Rhimes, and Misty Copeland about Barbie's influence on their childhood. I loved the behind-the-scenes footage and the fascinating history of the Barbie doll. The movie reveals that Mattel still needs to work on bringing Black Barbie from the shadows to the spotlight she deserves.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Black Barbie Website Now playing on the Netflix platform.
My View:
 The Exorcism (2024) R   A troubled actor, Anthony Miller (Russel Crowe), is known for his past addictions. When he exhibits disruptive behavior on the set of a horror film, his estranged daughter (Ryan Simpkins) wonders if he has slipped again or if something more sinister is at play. This film marks the return of Russell Crowe to his I've Met the Devil phase of his career, following the release of The Pope's Exorcist in 2023. At least The Pope’s Exorcist had a bit of fun with Russell as a scooter-riding Father sending The Devil packing. In this film, Russell is an actor who plays a priest. Apparently, Tony has ruined his career and his relationship with his daughter by drowning his sorrows in liquor and drugs after his wife's death to cancer. Now, Tony has returned from rehab and is trying to mend fences. He is given the lead role in a film called The Georgetown Project, a knockoff remake of the classic 1973 horror film The Exorcist. Despite its promising beginning, the movie quickly goes off the rails with a plot that is downright silly. The film uses only jump scares coming from the dark because the budget couldn’t afford more than one light at a time. An unbelievable sequence occurs about an hour into the film that brings the film to a crashing halt. I guess we are to think that everyone on the Georgetown film crew thinks that what they see is just something that happens to actors from time to time. At that point, I thought about leaving, but I wanted to see how it ended and if David Hyde Pierce, playing a Priest/psychologist, would say the words “The Power of Christ compels you!” Unfortunately, he doesn’t. Can Russell Crowe please put down the priest collars and make a sequel to The Nice Guys instead?   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again  The Exorcism Website  Now playing in theaters. 

Forgotten FilmRoad to Perdition  (2002)  R  The story of two men, Mike Sullivan (Tom Hanks) and Connor Rooney (Connor Rooney), who are henchmen for mob boss John Rooney (Paul Newman). Even though Mike is not flesh and blood related to John Rooney, John sees Mike more as his son than the volatile Connor. After Mike’s young son (Tyler Hoechlin) witnesses a botched killing by the two men, Mike realizes that he and his son must go on the run to escape the mob. However, they won’t be able to escape the past. Road to Perdition is a film with incredible performances and Oscar-winning cinematography but it has been forgotten because Tom Hanks plays a hitman who kills for a living. There is a great supporting cast that includes Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Stanley Tucci, and Ciaran Hinds. If you are a fan of gangster films and film noir, this is a film for you.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Road to Perdition Info    The film is available for rent/buy on Apple TV+ and Amazon. 

Weird Credits:  From the credits of The Bikeriders: Principal Fitter

Coming Soon to a Screen Near YouDidi (2024)  R  In 2008, during the last month of summer before he starts high school, Chris (Izaac Wang), a thirteen-year-old at the horror of his mother (Joan Chen), is constantly shooting videos and trying to make friends, instead of studying. He is a typical American boy, learning to be a teen while trying not to disappoint his Taiwanese family. The film won two awards at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for three awards at the Seattle International Film Festival.  Didi Website  The film will be in theaters in late July.  

Until Next Time!


Friday, June 14, 2024

Inside Out 2

My View:  Inside Out 2  (2024)  PG  Riley is now a full-time teen, and her mind is going through some changes. The gang of Emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, have been doing a great job, but they are about to meet a new addition to the group: Anxiety. And it looks like she isn’t alone. When we last left Riley (Inside Out (2015)), she was still a preteen trying to get over moving to a new city and dealing with a lot of new emotions. Just when Riley thinks she has things handled with some great friends and a budding ice career, she becomes a teenager. With that comes a whole bunch of new emotions show up: Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hause), Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos), Envy (Ayo Edebiri), and worst of all, the ever hyper Anxiety (Maya Hawke). Just as these new emotions move in, Riley is given the immense chance to impress her future high school coach as she has been specially invited to a summer hockey camp. In the past, Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) has run the show, but now Anxiety has taken control, and things aren’t going well for Riley or her old emotions. Inside Out 2 is a wonderful addition to the Pixar lineup, and while not entirely on the level of the first film, it’s still a rousing, fun time, full of comedy and adventure. The new characters are hilarious, especially Ennui (think of her as a bored, too-cool French teen), with the standout being Maya Hawke as Anxiety. Hawke brings a fresh energy to the film, and her comedy timing is spot-on, making Anxiety antics over-the-top funny. Oh, and there are a couple of awesome new characters that I don’t want to spoil, but fans of old kids’ animation and old video games will be in heaven. Can Joy and the rest of the gang get control back from Anxiety? Well, you will have to see if Riley can conquer her emotions to survive hockey camp and the horrors of being a teenager. Make sure to stay through all the credits to see a bonus scene that perfectly caps off the film.  My Rating: Full Price  Inside Out 2 Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide.
IndiefestTuesday  (2023)  Zora (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a single mom, has devoted her life to her terminally ill daughter Tuesday (Lola Petticrew). One day, Death, in the form of a size-altering macaw, arrives at their home and tells the two to prepare for the end. Death’s arrival sends Zora and Tuesday on a journey that explores life, death, and love. I am not giving anything away (since it’s on the poster and in the trailer) that Death shows up in the form of a macaw parrot. When I saw the trailer for this film, I was expecting a film where Death and Zora talk about life and death, much like the professor and the genie in the Tilda Swinton drama Three Thousand Years of Longing  (2022). Instead, we get a wandering film that never can find its footing, as, at first, Tuesday befriends Death, convincing Death to let her live until her mother returns from an outing. Then it becomes Zora trying to defeat death in any way to keep her daughter alive. I never corrected to this film and never felt any of the emotions that the film wanted me to. I also felt that early on, the film was slow to get going because Death has a hard time speaking, and it takes a while for Death to make any sense at all. But mostly, Tuesday never fully gives us characters that we can understand and embrace, as its theme seems to be a one-note film.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Tuesday Website  Now playing in theaters. 
IndiefestTreasure  (2024)  R  In 1991, Ruth (Lena Dunham), a neurotic journalist from New York, takes after her father, Edek (Stephen Fry), back to Poland to visit his childhood home. However, Edek, a survivor of the Ghettos during the Holocaust, does not want to relive the trauma and does his best to sabotage the trip. Treasure works because of the performances of Dunham and Fry. Dunham plays Ruth as a sad sack person who desperately wants to connect with her father but doesn’t know how and is too stuck in her own misery to see how hard this trip is on Edek, making him relive a past he wants to forget. Edek is also at fault, and Fry plays him as a man who tries to make everything full of sunshine and laughs when he won’t open up to Ruth to tell her how he is feeling. Ruth feels she can make things right between her father and his past by confronting it. Edek would rather avoid the past and live in the present. Treasure is full of both funny and harsh moments as the two people try to connect, but don’t have the guts to truly make a connection. The film tackles the idea that it’s hard to tackle the horrors of the past when you can’t even confront the present. The film’s big moments are not only in the actual Auschwitz grounds but in those moments when the two are both trying to connect in hotels or cabs and can’t find the words to reach each other.   My Rating: Full Price  Treasure Website  Now playing in theaters. 
Indiefest 20,000 Species of Bees (2023)   While on a family vacation in a village house linked to beekeeping, a mother, Ane (Patricia López Arnaiz), and her eight-year-old son, Altor (Sofía Otero), will learn about themselves and each other, changing their lives forever. This is a film about trying to find a place in the world where you are comfortable in your own skin. The film moves at a pace that allows us to get to know the characters and how they deal with life’s pressures. Right from the start, we know something is up, as Altor keeps telling her brother that his name is not Altor but Coco. We soon learn that Coco is a child who is used to staying behind with his mother, not taking part, even at a pool with other kids. As the film moves along, we see that Altor/Coco doesn’t feel right in his skin, that he knows things don’t seem right, and that maybe, just maybe, he should have been a she. I loved this film, as we slowly see a child discover that the world isn’t in black and white, but full of color and choices. Ane tries to understand her child but has problems of her own, with a marriage that is falling apart, a disapproving mother, and pressure to create a sculpture in time for a job interview that her family desperately needs. Altor/Coco finds a friend in her mother’s aunt, who takes the child under her wing and teaches Coco about life and how to deal with/care for bees. 20,000 Species of Bees is a beautiful film about life and young person trying to figure out a way to live a life they feel they must follow.   My Rating: Full Price  20,000 Species of Bees Website  Now playing in theaters.  
FamilyfaireUltraman: Rising  (2024)  PG  Ken Sato, a superstar baseball player, has returned to Japan to become the latest hero to carry the mantle of Ultraman. His dreams are shattered when he is given the task of raising a newborn kaiju monster. The newborn is the offspring of his greatest enemy and will be Ultraman’s greatest challenge. Ultraman: Rising is a collaboration between Tsuburaya Productions, the creators of the Ultraman franchise, and Netflix Animation. That makes this an excellent primer for kids to get into the world of the Kaiju monsters (think monsters from the Godzilla world) without getting scared. The core of this film is family and how sometimes we don’t realize the sacrifices that our parents make to ensure that we are safe and happy. Ken has returned to Japan to reluctantly take the mantle of being Ultraman from his father, who, because of all the battles he has been in, must retire. Their relationship is not great and is getting worse since Ken’s mother disappeared and is presumed dead. Ken is also coming back to Japan to prove that he is a winner in baseball, having never won a championship in the U.S., even with all his baseball heroics. What makes this film fun for kids is when the baby kaiju falls into Ken’s lap, and he becomes an instant father to a giant pink baby kaiju monster named Emmy, who has a tendency to get heartburn that projects fire and, of course, throws up green slime. The battle sequences are fun and have plenty of action, but I will warn you that the family I saw it with and I were not ready for the almost 2-hour run time. Also, like a lot of Japanese manga animation, there are a lot of discussions that go on, making those parts boring for kids (and sometimes adults too). The family storyline goes on a little too long, but as 5-year-old Miles said after the screening, ‘The best thing was Emmy and the fighting.’  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Ultraman: Rising Website    Now playing on the Netflix platform. 
IndiefestLate Bloomers  (2023)  Louise (Karen Gillan) is a 28-year-old woman who is recently single again, in need of a job, and depressed. When she drunkenly falls while doing something stupid, Louise breaks her hip and finds herself in a physical therapy ward full of people twice her age. There, she meets Antonina (Małgorzata Zajączkowska), a cranky elderly Polish woman who doesn’t speak English. Somehow, Louise gets a job as a caretaker for Antonina, and it just might be time for her to grow up with Antonina’s help. Late Bloomers is a coming-of-age story that isn’t about a teen but a 28-year-old woman who acts as if she is still in high school. Louise is a person who is lost, selfish and isn’t willing to listen to anybody, including her friends. Along comes Antonina, a woman who speaks no English and seems to hate everyone and everything. The two start bonding, even without the ability to converse, with Louise feeling she has found someone she can finally relate to. This is a fun, sweet film that is helped by a captivating and sometimes brave performance by Karen Gillan. Gillan plays Louise as a person who we don’t like at first, but we soon learn that there are reasons Louise has never grown up. We soon root for this newfound relationship that is strange and mystifying but somehow works between Louise and Antonia. So grab a walker or a crutch and join Louise and Antonia on a journey where they learn about each other and themselves. My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Late Bloomers Website  Now playing in theaters and On Demand. 
 I Used to Be Funny (2023) I Used to Be Funny is about Sam (Rachel Sennott), an aspiring standup comedian and sometimes nanny who struggle with PTSD and depression. Sam sets out to find Brooke (Olga Petsa), a troubled teen she used to nanny who is missing, but only if Sam can get off her bed and out of the house. While the film wanders a bit with its structure of going back and forth from the past to the present, the film is a delight to watch because of the awe-inspiring performance by Rachel Sennott. Sennott plays Sam in the present as someone who has gone through a traumatic event that has changed her outlook on life and the world. This is a contrast to Sam we saw in the past, because she is confident, quick to make humorous comments, and adept at addressing a very moody preteen in Brooke. Sennott handles both with incredible grace, causing you to fall in love with Sam, even when she's challenging and unapproachable. Sennott flows through the past scenes with superb comic timing while she gives the present, Sam a multilayered personality, one who wants to hide but knows it is best if she keeps trying to live her life. I Used to Be Funny is a film about friendship, love, and, with the help of good friends, putting your life back together when it seems hopeless, which writer/director Ally Pankiw delivers with a sure hand and an ear for creating real and natural dialogue. Sennott anchors the film with a performance that actors with 20 more years of experience couldn’t deliver. I Used to be Funny that gives us both laughs and tears with a performance that you won’t soon forget. My Rating: Full Price  I Used to Be Funny Info  Now playing in theaters.
Forgotten FilmO  (2001) Modern-day telling of Shakespeare’s Othello. Coach Duke Goulding (Martin Sheen) runs his high school basketball team with a firm hand, often taking it out on his own son, Hugo (Josh Hartnett). Josh feels he is the star of the team but is put out when his own father makes Odin (Mekhi Phifer) the award winner of ‘Best Player,’ who then shares the award with his best friend, Michael (Andrew Keegan). Hugo decides to take Odin down and using Odin’s own girlfriend Desi (Julia Stiles), to create a plot that will destroy both Odin and the high school basketball team. O was a film that very few people saw (the original studio delayed its release by two years because of the original release date being around the Columbine High School shootings). The young cast is outstanding, with Phifer and Stiles shining in their parts as teens on a collision course with tragedy. Fans of Shakespeare should check this film out.  My Rating: Full Price  O Info  The film is available on most streaming platforms. 

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Inside Out 2:  Character Groom Lead

Coming Soon to a Screen Near YouDeadpool & Wolverine  (2024)  R  Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is recovering from some serious injuries when he comes across someone he really doesn’t like, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds). After trying to kill each other, the two frenemies team up to defeat a common enemy. I am a huge fan of the Deadpool series and can’t wait to see this film. I love how Reynolds kept after Jackman to put on the yellow uniform for one last time. And by the way, it’s rumored that a certain baldheaded man in a wheelchair may show up.  Deadpool & Wolverine Website  The film will be released in theaters on Friday, July 26, 2024. 

Until Next Time!

Friday, June 7, 2024

The Watchers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until Next Time!

Friday, May 31, 2024

Hit Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until Next Time!

Friday, May 24, 2024

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until Next Time!