Friday, May 29, 2020

The High Note

My View: The High Note (2020) PG   Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross) is a superstar singer who is resting on the popularity of her past hits. Maggie (Dakota Johnson) is Grace’s overworked and under-appreciated assistant. When Grace’s push for a new album is shot down by her manager (Ice Cube), Maggie pushes Grace to record songs on her own, but is Maggie overstepping her bounds? I used to not be a big fan of Dakota Johnson, but after her role in The Peanut Butter Falcon and this film, I am warming up to her. Johnson has a pleasant screen presence and is enjoyable as the lovable assistant who dreams of being a music producer. Tracee Ellis Ross plays the diva that is still a big star but thinks her days as a hitmaker are over. Ross is sizzling in the role, and boy, can she sing, making her performance the highlight of the film. The film is predictable, and the big reveal near the end is something that you will see from about a third of the film in. The film revolves around the love story between Maggie and a singer, played by Kelvin Harrison, Jr., she discovers at a grocery store. Maggie convinces the singer that he has the talent to make it, and she is just the producer who can make his dreams come true. Harrison, Jr. has a great singing voice, and I enjoyed several of his songs, but Ross gives us the reason to see this film, with a stage presence that makes us believe she is that legendary singer. While not a great movie, it's still a fun film to watch, and you might sing along with some of the classic songs that Maggie loves.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The High Note Website   Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: The Vast of Night (2019) PG-13   Set in a small New Mexico town in the 1950s, a young switchboard operator, Fay (Sierra McCormick), and a local radio DJ, Everett (Jake Horowitz) discover a strange audio frequency that a caller claims has origins of a mysterious past. This isn’t your typical Sci-Fi film as it starts with credits like it is a 60s sci-fi television show. That open gives you a clue that this film will be pushing a few boundaries, but that makes the film feel very rich and exciting. The film starts with us following Everett, a quick talking young man who, as the local DJ, is the small-town celebrity. He encounters Fay, who wants to know how to work her new purchase, a portable tape recorder. Fay gets a mysterious phone call about the time she hears an unusual series of sounds coming from Everett’s radio broadcast, and the film takes off from there. Like the opening credits, this film feels like those old Sci-Fi TV shows like The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits, where there isn’t a bunch of significant action sequences, but the tension is built on what the characters experience and find out. There is some inventive camera work in the film, and the two leads are fascinating to watch on the screen. It’s a film that doesn’t need the action sequences to make you feel on the edge of your seat; it just needs a few key scenes and some knockout performances to do that.   My Rating: Full Price     The Vast of Night Info    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: Funny Pains (2017)  Documentary featuring the life and times of comedian Wendi Starling, as she navigates the harsh world of a stand-up comic. The film gives us an up-close and personal look at the life of a comic struggling to make her mark. Starling isn’t afraid of discussing her life, whether on the stand-up stage or in her apartment talking to the camera. The film gives us a bunch of conversations that Starling and other comics, including Nikki Glaser, Jim Norton, and Bonnie McFarlane. The film never quite finds its footing, though I think there is a good film in there somewhere. Starling admits to having some problems, but the film never presses Starling into going in-depth into those personal problems, which was desperately needed to keep the movie from feeling so slight. I must admit that I didn’t ever truly enjoy Starling’s stand up routine, and we never see her with an audience that is eating up her material. The film feels flat, much like much of Starling’s material.   My Rating: Cable     Funny Pains Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: Olympic Dreams (2019) PG-13  In the Olympic Athlete Village, a young cross-country skier (Alexi Pappas) meets a volunteer dentist (Nick Kroll), and these two lonely people strike up a friendship as the world gets together to compete in the Olympic games. The film is a must for any fan of the Olympics as almost the whole film was shot in the actual Olympic Village during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. That being said, the film fails to completely overcome the novelty of shooting everything on the site. I liked the initial chemistry between the two, but as the film develops, I just never saw the sparks we needed for us to believe the couple was falling-in-love. The film can’t shake the feeling that most of the scenes are improved, making it seem more like a selection of skits than a fleshed-out film. I did like Alexi Pappas, who, as a former 10K Olympic runner, brings a bit of realism to her role. I wish that the film had a little more substance to it, but still, it is fun to go behind the scenes of the world’s biggest athletic event.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Olympic Dreams Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: Banana Split (2018) R   Over the summer, right before everyone is about to take off for college, April (Hannah Marks) and Clara (Liana Liberato) become best friends. One big problem; Clara is dating April’s ex, Nick (Dylan Sprouse). Almost from the start of the film, I fell in love with April, played by the fantastic Hannah Marks. Marks reminds me of a very young Sandra Bullock with a touch of Rachael Leigh Cook thrown in. Marks has incredible comic timing, and like Bullock, anytime she is on the screen, she dominates the scene. Liana Liberato holds her own on the screen as the girl that anyone would be jealous of, and the time the two spend on the screen is magical. I enjoyed the dinner scenes that April has with her single, put upon mom (Jessica Hecht) and her younger sister (Addison Riecke), who sees her sister as competition for the attention of Nick. The film has fun with the unusual friendship (they keep it a secret from Nick), and while a bit predictable, I think you will enjoy it as much as I did.   My Rating; Full Price     Banana Split Info    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Forgotten Film Bell Book and Candle (1958)   Gillian (Kim Novak) likes her neighbor, Shepherd (Jimmy Stewart), but feels that his fiancée (Janice Rule) isn’t the one for him. How to win him over? Why, with an enchantment, because she is a witch. Only Gillian plays it a little too real and falls in love with him. This isn’t a great film, but Novak is just mesmerizing, the supporting cast with Jack Lemmon, Elsa Lanchester, and Ernie Kovacs are a scream and Stewart is Stewart at his best. Oh, and I’m not a cat person, but you will love the cat in this film.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Bell Book and Candle Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The High Note: Biscuit Tech

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Spelling the Dream (2020)   An Indian-American has won the Scripps National Spelling Bee for the past 12 years. This documentary explores this trend, which is one of the longest in sports history, highlighting four students as they compete to win the tournament. I am a horrible speller, so this event always fascinates me every year.    Spelling the Dream Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Military Wives


My View: Military Wives (2019) PG-13   With their partners away serving in Afghanistan, two headstrong women (Kristin Scott Thomas, Sharon Horgan) form a choir on a military base. The women in the choir form a bond that transforms their lives and gives them a way to deal with the reality of the everyday fear that their loved ones won’t return from the war. This is a good old fashioned feel-good film that doesn’t disappoint and just might have you pull out the tissues a time or two. The plot is relatively predictable, but that’s ok because it’s precisely what we need in this time of chaos and strife. Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan work well together on screen as the two military wives who head of the choir, with Thomas as the officer’s wife who is all about protocol and Horgan, who is more about making sure the wives are getting the support they need, regardless of the rules. The film is based on a true story, and it is quite inspirational in its showing how war impacts not only the soldiers but also the families they leave behind. The film will feed your soul, and you might sing along to a song or two as you watch it.   My Rating: Full Price    Military Wives Website   Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: The Trip to Greece (2020)   Actors Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan travel from Troy to Ithaca, eating their way across Greece following in the footsteps of the Odysseus. So this is the fourth ‘trip’ movie, and if you haven’t seen the other three, the plot is pretty simple; two British actors take a trip, visiting foreign lands as they stop at historical sites and fantastic restaurants all the while trying to one-up each other with impressions and stories. I love these films and have a great time watching them. Brydon and Coogan are playing themselves, and the plots of the movie don’t matter too much. What does matter is both actors have incredible comic timing and brilliant impressionists. I have a feeling that the scripts are pretty small, as most of their back and forth talks are mostly improved. The film takes you across Greece, and the scenery is magnificent, plus you will be envious of the places the two go to eat at. These films aren’t for everyone, but if you like to travel, be apart of great conversations and are a foodie, you will want to see this film.    My Rating: Full Price    The Trip to Greece Website   Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: The Painter and the Thief  (2020)   Documentary about an artist who befriends the thief who stole two of her most valuable paintings from a gallery in Oslo. When the thief is severely hurt in a car crash, the artist becomes his supporter. This film is the reason why I love documentaries because very often, the truth is much stranger than fiction. With a storyline with more twists and turns than your average movie mystery, this film and its two main subjects will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat throughout the film. Both people are very complex, and the film does an impressive job letting us see their lives both before the paintings are stolen and afterward. I can’t say too much about this film because I want it to be revealed in the movie, but I will say that you won’t be disappointed and probably surprised by how this film ends.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    The Painter and the Thief Facebook Page    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: Lucky Grandma (2019)   Set in the heart of New York City’s Chinatown, a recently widowed 80-year-old grandma (Tsai Chin) is told by a fortune teller that her luck is about to change and she decides to go gamble at a casino. She suddenly finds herself on the wrong side of a local gang and employs the services of a rival gang member as her bodyguard. Grandma is about to be caught up in the middle of a Chinatown gang war. Tsai Chin is a trip as the tough as nails, headstrong, chain-smoking Grandma who gets into a bit of trouble. Chin is superb playing a character that, at times, is hard to love, but you end up rooting for anyway. Hsiao-Yuan Ha is very funny and sweet as the lumbering bodyguard Big Pong. This film reminded me of the buddy cop films of the 80s, with Grandma and Big Pong making a tremendous on-screen team. Join the fun and see what trouble Grandma and Big Pong can get into.   My Rating: Full Price    Lucky Grandma Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: The Lovebirds (2020) R   A couple (Issa Rae, Kumail Nanjiani) are accused of murder and now have to clear their name. Will they and their relationship survive the night?  I thoroughly enjoyed this funny film with a couple of actors who have such comedy chops they can overcome a plot which is pretty darn weak. Rae and Nanjiani are hilarious as a couple who argue over everything, so much so that they decide to break up. Before they can, they witness a murder, a murder that looks to some bystanders that Jibran and Leilani have committed. The couple decides to go on the run, and with the phone of the dead man, they are determined to clear their name. Throughout the film, Rae and Nanjiani keep up their banter back and forth, sometimes resulting in laughs, often in groans, but it is obvious that the two actors are having fun in the roles. The Lovebirds is one of those films to forget that what the characters are doing doesn’t make a lot of sense and just have fun listening to and watching this couple react to some impossible situations   My Rating: Bargain Matinee      The Lovebirds Website     The film is currently available on Netflix.
Forgotten Film: Eyewitness (1981) R    A Vietnam War vet turned janitor, Daryll (William Hurt) is obsessed with a news reporter, Tony (Sigourney Weaver). When a wealthy Vietnamese businessman is murdered in the janitor’s building, Daryll pretends to know about the murder in order to get the attention of Tony, but little does Daryll understand that the killers think he actually does know about the killing and they want to shut him and his reporter friend up. The supporting is worth the price of admission, with Christopher Plummer as a mysterious Israeli agent, James Woods as Daryll’s friend and fellow janitor and Steven Hill and Morgan Freeman as the cops investigating the murder. The mystery is a fun who-done-it, and the characters in the film are full and rich with interesting storylines. Weaver and Hurt have a nice chemistry that gets stronger as the film goes along. While not a great movie, it's still fun to watch all these actors in their prime act on the screen.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Eyewitness Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Lovebirds: Rigging Medic

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Old Guard (2020) R   Led by a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), a group of mercenaries who cannot die, have fought evil to protect the mortal world for centuries. Led by Andy and a new recruit (KiKi Layne), they have to regroup when their identities are exposed to the world they seek to protect. Anytime Charlize Theron is a lead in an action movie, I will be first in line to see it.     The Old Guard Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Capone


My View:  Capone (2020) R   47-year-old Al Capone (Tom Hardy) has been released from prison after ten years and is back with his wife at his home in Florida. Al is suffering from dementia and other ailments, causing him to relive his past while at the same time, being watched by the FBI, hoping to find money that Al has tucked away. I love Tom Hardy. His performance in Locke (2013) is one of my favorite of all time. Unfortunately, this film is not Hardy at his best; in fact, it might be one of his worst performances. Heavy with prosthetics and an accent that I have no clue what it is, Hardy gives us a bubbling, stumbling Capone who is on his last legs. The film uses Capone’s perspective quite a bit, so you never know where the fantasy starts and reality ends. If you are thinking about watching this film, hoping for gunfights and bombastic performances, you will be sorely disappointed. The film is frustratingly slow and other than watching Hardy’s Capone waste away, not much happens. I will warn you that it got its R rating for a few very violent scenes, mostly due to Capone’s dementia. Frankly, I was just waiting for Capone to die so that this film would end.   My Rating: Cable    Capone Website       Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest:  CRSHD (2019)   On the last night of her college freshman year, Izzy (Isabelle Barbier) tries to finally lose her virginity. Still, her only hope is if she and her two best friends can get her into the exclusive, invite-only ‘Crush Party.’ I wanted to like this film, but it felt like a first film from a recent college graduate, which it is. The cast is a little green, though I did like Sadie Scott as the wild child best friend of Izzy, who has a flair for comedy. The film feels like it would be a big hit on a college campus at a university film fest, but it just seems a little shallow and slow in the big world. The film relies too much on gadgets such as a video-game-like map to show the girl's travels and a three-way split of the screen to show when the girls or texting to each other. The production values are excellent, and for a first-time film of such a young filmmaker, it’s a fine-looking film but just never quite gets going.   My Rating: Cable    CRSHD Website       Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest:  Straight Up (2019)   Todd (James Sweeney) is gay and hasn’t had any luck finding love. Rory (Katie Findlay) is an actress who is just looking for a roommate. Rory and Todd discover that they might not be your typical couple, but they might be great at being together. I enjoyed this quirky film about a couple that are perfect for each other, except for the fact that Todd is gay. James Sweeney, who plays Todd, also wrote and directed the film, but he gave the best part in the movie to Katie Findlay, who shines in the role of Rory. Findlay delivers her lines with great comedic timing and dominates every scene she is in. I was reminded of a young Lauren Graham watching Findlay on the screen as her Rory plays off the reserved and ever nervous Todd. The film doesn’t always work, but with Findlay’s performance, you are willing to see it through to the end.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Straight Up Website        Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My View:  The Wrong Missy (2020)   Tim (David Spade) goes on a blind date from hell with Missy (Lauren Lapkus). Lucky to end the disaster date, three months later, Tim meets a woman, Melissa (Molly Sims), by chance in an airport, and she is everything he could ever want in a woman. He decides to ask Melissa to a corporate retreat and, by mistake, invites Missy instead, and Tim’s life will never be the same. Thank goodness I didn’t see this in a theatre and could stop it every ten minutes to do something, anything else to get my mind off how bad this film is. Please, please Netflix, quit giving Adam Sandler money to finance his friends to make movies. I beg you, stop the madness. I felt terrible for some of the actors in this film, like Lauren Lapkus, who I like as a comedy actress and Sarah Chalke, who I hoped enjoyed the week she got in Hawaii (where they shot the film). David Spade does show some restraint in his part, but the jokes are horrible, the plot is stupid, and watching Rob Schneider mug his way through is performance as a boat captain is painful to watch. Stay away from this one!   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again    The Wrong Missy Website    The film is currently available on Netflix.
Forgotten Film: The Last Run (1971) GP   Harry (George C. Scott) is a retired getaway driver living in a small Portuguese fishing village. Harry has become bored with his life and decides to take on one last job, a job that won’t turn out the way Harry planned to go out. Scott, hot off his Oscar for Patton, wanted to do a ‘Humphrey Bogart’ type role, and he carries it off with style. The film uses incredible locations in Europe, fantastic driving sequences (wait until you see the opening sequence on a tiny mountain road) and a brilliant cast, including Trish Van Devere, who plays a woman who is being used as bait by her boyfriend to get Harry to take the job. Scott is masterful as a man who hasn’t much to live for other than the thrill of driving as fast as he can.   My Rating: Full Price    The Last Run Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Capone: Chef Driver

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Military Wives (2019) PG-13   With their partners away serving in Afghanistan, two headstrong women (Kristin Scott Thomas, Sharon Horgan) form a choir on a military base. The women in the choir form a bond that transforms their lives and gives them a way to deal with the reality of the everyday fear that their loved ones won’t return from the war. From two-time Oscar-nominated director Peter Cattaneo, this film just might be the uplifting film we need at this time.     The Military Wives Info
Until Next Time!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Becoming

My View:  Becoming (2020) PG   After serving as First Lady for eight years, Michelle Obama goes on a book tour in 2019 for her book ‘Becoming.’ The documentary offers a rare and up-close look at her life, taking viewers behind the scenes of her 34 city book tour. The film gives us plenty of behind-the-scenes footage of Michelle Obama’s massive, area filling book tour. What I enjoyed about the film is that this is about the First Lady giving us insight into her life, as it drastically changed from one of a working woman whose husband wanted to serve the public, to suddenly being thrust into the spotlight of being the wife of the most powerful leader of the free world. We get to see her humor, especially in those behind the scene shots like her kidding her security detail or listening to music with her staff while waiting to go on stage. Becoming is a must-watch for anyone who is a fan of Michelle and her family; you won’t be disappointed visiting a world that we so briefly get to see.   My Rating: Full Price     Becoming Website   The film is currently available on Netflix.
Indiefest:  How to Build a Girl (2019)   Johanna (Beanie Feldstein) is a sixteen-year-old girl who desperately wants to escape her humdrum life in Wolverhampton. She decides to reinvent herself as Dolly Wilde, a music critic who takes the rock world of the 90s by storm. If you haven’t fallen in love with Beanie Feldstein from her appearances in Booksmart and Lady Bird, well, you will now. Feldstein is a blast to watch as she transforms from the nerdy, book smart girl to a critic that took the London music world by storm. Feldstein is one of those rare actors who can be silly and funny in one moment, and heartbreakingly real in another. Director Coky Giedronyc and writer Caitlin Moran (Dolly Wilde/Johanna in real life) give us a film that is a quirky (Johanna’s wall of heroes pictures continuously talk to her with advice) and amusing look at a girl whose dreams come true but at a price. The film is aided by some stellar supporting roles, including Paddy Considine as Johanna’s father, who still has dreams of being a rock star, and Alfie Allen as a rock star who becomes a good friend to Johanna early in her rock critic career. The film slows down a little when Johanna lets success go to her head, but I loved the ending of the film, and Feldstein is a talent to keep your eye on in both this film and in the future.   My Rating: Full Price     How to Build a Girl Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest:  Clementine (2019)   After a breakup, a devastated Karen (Otmara Marrero) breaks into her ex’s lake house, where she meets and starts a complicated relationship with a younger woman named Lana (Sydney Sweeney). This film has a small and intimate feel to it as Karen works through her heartbreak with the help of Lana, a teen who is a little mysterious, and though she plays the innocence card, it is apparent that her story isn’t as simple as it seems. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Otmara Marrero, who slowly lets Lana and us into her world. The film is understated and lets the tension fill as the couple gets to know each other. The film has a bit of menace in it, as we never quite know what to make of Lana, and there is always the specter of Karen’s ex that hangs over the house, much like the paintings her ex has created throughout the home. The film from time to time misses its mark making the movie seem a little slow, but Marrero, as the headstrong Karen, has a few very moving moments that make the film worth watching.   My Rating; Bargain Matinee    Clementine Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
 
My View:  Bad Education (2019)   Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) seemingly has everything going for him; he’s superintendent of New York’s Roslyn school district, where he is loved by his employees, his students, and their parents as their kids get into the best colleges. He is aided by his confidant and second-in-command Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney). Frank and Pam are hiding a deep, dark secret that is about to be exposed by a high-school-student (Stephanie Kurtzuba) who is about to break a story on the local school paper. Jackman doesn’t disappoint as the vain and overconfident Frank, who depends a little too much on his good looks and his charm to smooth over any problem. Allison Janney, playing the smart mouth financial wizard of the school, dazzles the screen with her brash style of a woman who feels entitled because of how successful the school is. I loved the performance of Stephanie Kurtzuba, who as the student who is given a small ‘puff piece’ for the student newspaper and smells something fishy is going on at the school. Bad Education is one of those films that you start taking sides at the beginning, but you might have to change your mind as the film moves along.   My Rating: Full Price    Bad Education Website  The film is currently playing on HBO.
Indiefest:   Spaceship Earth (2020)  Documentary on a science experiment that captivated the world where a group of people spent two years quarantined inside a self-engineered replica of Earth’s ecosystem called Biosphere 2. This is a fascinating film about something that you continually wonder how this experiment ever even made it to the planning stage, much less successfully building a complex and completing the first mission. It is almost as if your high school drama teacher said ‘Hey, let's put on a play’ and the next thing you know, you are on Broadway. The film interviews most of the participants in the project, including the ‘biospherians’ that lived inside and the people that were in charge of the project on the outside, so we get a feel of what it was like during that time. We get a look into life in the biosphere from the extensive footage shot inside and by the constant news coverage that kept the experiment at the forefront of the news cycle for those 2 years. The film looks at all the controversies, including if the operation itself was part of a cult, whether the experiment was based on scientific principles and how a series of events caused the public to believe that the Biosphere 2 ultimately was a flop. And, wait until near the end of the film, when a twist you couldn’t see coming happens: it will blow you away.    My Rating: Full Price     Spaceship Earth Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Forgotten Film: Police Story (1985) PG-13   A Hong Kong police officer (Jackie Chan) is framed for murder by a drug lord. Now, against the odds, the officer must fight to clear his name all the while trying to protect a woman (Bridgett Lin) from the mob intent on killing her to stop her testimony. As with a lot of Chan films, there is a lot of funny gags and Chan doing impossible stunts that most stuntmen could only dream of doing. While not a great movie, it does have one of the most impressive and possibly the greatest stunt of all time, especially when you realize that Chan did it all on his own without tricks or CGI. After seeing this film, you will wonder how Chan is still alive at the end of the movie.   My Rating: Full Price    Police Story Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Bad Education: Hand Model

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The High Note (2020) PG-13   Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross) is a superstar singer who is resting on the popularity of her past hits. Maggie (Dakota Johnson) is Grace’s overworked and under-appreciated assistant. When Grace’s push for a new album is shot down by her manager (Ice Cube), Maggie pushes Grace to record songs on her own, and Grace decides that Maggie is just the one to produce them. I’m not a big fan of Dakota Johnson, though I loved her in The Peanut Butter Falcon) and I am a massive fan of Traces Ellis Ross, so I am game.    The High Note Website
Until Next Time!



Friday, May 1, 2020

The Wretched


My View: The Wretched (2019)  Ben (John-Paul Howard), a rebellious teenage boy who is struggling to deal with his parents' separation. Ben believes that somehow the family next door is responsible for the missing children in a town that is hiding secrets. Ben learns that the woman next door isn’t your ordinary neighbor; she is a thousand-year-old witch that has the ability to live beneath the skin of her victims. I really enjoyed this horror film which has just the right amount of scares to make it worth a watch. The plot is a little familiar, with a troubled teen who no one thinks is telling the truth until it is too late, but the film has some nice twists and turns that make the film keep the tension going. I liked Howard as Ben, who becomes obsessed with the creepy next-door neighbors. There is some excellent chemistry between Howard and Piper Curda, who plays Mallory, a teen girl who works at Ben’s father's business. The special effects, though on a small scale, are well done, and the witch is quite horrific. This film is much better than a lot of horror films of the past few years with twice the budget. In the mood for a late-night scare? This film might just fit the bill.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Wretched Facebook Page    Available for rent on participating on-demand services and is currently playing at drive-in theatres around the country.
Indiefest: Bull (2019)   In a rundown subdivision near Houston, a troubled teen, Kris (Amber Havard) breaks into a neighbor’s house, an aging bullfighter, Abe (Rob Morgan), who has seen his better days in the rodeo. Abe decides to take Kris under his wing, and their relationship will change both their lives forever. Bull is a low-key but excellent film about small-town living in Texas and the people struggling to make it in the world. I loved the look into the world of the small rodeos and the people that make it their world. Rob Morgan gives a multi-layer performance of a man who has lived a hard life but a life that he loves. Amber Havard provides us with an insight into a young woman who is just looking for someone to help guide her into making better decisions and not follow into the footsteps of her mother, who she can only see when she visits her in prison. Kris doesn’t make the right decisions, and Abe isn’t always the best person to be her surrogate father, but by the end of the film, you get the idea that they will be good for each other.   My Rating: Full Price    Bull Website     Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: The Half of It (2020)  PG-13  Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) is smart, so smart that she makes needed cash doing school work for other students. Ellie gets an unusual assignment; Paul (Daniel Diemer) wants Ellie to write love notes for him to give to Aster (Alexxis Lemire), the most popular girl in school. Ellie’s notes begin to work when Ellie realizes that she may have gotten in over her head and might be creating a surprising love triangle. This is a beautiful and funny take on the old Cyrano de Bergerac tale as things get a bit complicated and messy. I loved the cast of this film, and Leah Lewis stands out as the headstrong Ellie, who has taken care of her father since her mother suddenly died when she was thirteen. Lewis is perfect in the role, as Ellie, the studious misfit, falls slowly in love from afar with Aster as she writes love notes and, of course, texts for Paul as he attempts to date Aster. Writer/director Alice Wu, who gave us the delightful 2004 film Saving Face, has a great ear for dialogue, making her characters feel real and easy to root for. I loved the ending of the film and would welcome an update on the characters in a few years to see how things worked out for the trio.   My Rating: Full Price     The Half of It Website  Currently available on Netflix.
Indiefest: A Secret Love (2020)  A documentary on the love story between Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel. Terry played in the women’s professional baseball league, which inspired the classic movie A League of Their Own. The film tells Terry and Pat’s story, who had to keep their relationship under wraps for most of their lives. The documentary is a sweet and sometimes sad story about two women that hid their love for each other from not only the outside world but also their families as well. There are some great behind the scene pictures and plenty of home movies that make this film feel very personal. The couple is proud of Terry’s baseball career, where she was quite a player. The phrase ‘There is no crying in baseball’ shows up from time to time in their wardrobe. I will warn you that the film centers around the fact that the couple is getting up in years, and family/friends begin pressuring the couple to move out of their house and into a managed facility. The couple holds out as long as they can, and quite a few tears are shed as they finally have to make the move. The film gives us what it was like for two women who were in a loving and committed relationship that they felt they couldn’t share with the world until now.  My Rating; Full Price    A Secret Love Website   Currently available on Netflix.
Indiefest: Circus of Books (2019) In 1976, Karen and Barry Mason were struggling to make money. Barry happened to see an ad for a magazine salesman, and before you know it, the couple had an adult bookstore in Los Angeles that became a national icon and at one time, was the largest distributor of gay porn in the US. I saw this film at the Out of Film Festival here in Atlanta and had a blast watching it with an audience that couldn’t stop laughing at and with the Mason’s. The couple raised a ton of kids, all of who didn’t know their parents were in the porn business. The bookstore in the 70s and 80s was the place for gays to meet (and hookup, sometimes out in the alley in the back), and the Mason’s, though very conservative, kept their politics out of their bookstore. In fact, during the AIDS crisis, they kept employees that became stricken on the payroll, even when they were on their deathbeds. The film is funny and touching, especially as the couple finally decides that the bookstore has had its day, and it is time to close it down. You will have a great time with the Mason’s and their delightful and unusual little bookstore.   My Rating: Full Price    Circus of Books Website    Currently available on Netflix.
Forgotten Film: Castle in the Sky (1986) PG   A young boy, Pazu, comes across a mysterious girl named Sheeta, who somehow floats down from the sky. The girl is being chased by not only pirates but also an army and secret agents. Pazu and Sheeta go on an adventure to search for Sheet’s identity in a floating castle in the sky. If you have never experienced the magic of animator Hayao Miyazaki, then this is the film for you. The story is fun and adventurous with a touch of sci-fi and even a little steampunk added in. Castle in the Sky is an adventure that you and your kids will fall in love with, a film that will be a part of your family's favorite movies.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Castle in the Sky Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of The Half of It: Vocal Contractor

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Lovebirds (2020) R   A couple (Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani) are accused of a murder and now have to clear their name. Will they and their relationship survive the night? This film is from the same director, Michael Showalter that teamed up with Kumail Nanjiani to give us the 2017 film The Big Sick, so I’m there!    The Lovebirds Info
Until Next Time!
https://youtu.be/uMSkGD7RCdY


Friday, April 24, 2020

Extraction


My View: Extraction (2020) R   Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) is a black market mercenary known for his success rate. He is sent on an impossible mission to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord. I had fun watching this action film and man, does it have action. The film is one bloody ride with Hemsworth’s character putting up a kill every few seconds, sometimes in very creative and gross ways. Things blow up a lot, and there are plenty of close hand to hand fighting scenes, with Hemsworth kicking butt while taking in quite a beating himself. The fighting sequences are so well done. I wish I had seen the film on the big screen, where I think the action would have stood out better than it does on the smaller scale. The film is aided by its location work being shot in India and is also helped by Indian action star Randeep Hooda and actress Golshifteh Farahani (Paterson, About Elly), who plays Rake’s handler. Stranger Things fans of David Harbour are going to be disappointed in his role, as other than getting drunk with Tyler’s character, he doesn’t have much to do. While the plot has a few holes and the dialogue is a little rough, it’s still a fun popcorn film that will satisfy any action fan.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Extraction Website   Currently available on Netflix.
Indiefest: The Roads Not Taken (2020) R   Leo (Javier Bardem) is living in New York City and is suffering from dementia. His daughter, Molly (Elle Fanning), is struggling on this day to help her dad keep his health appointments, while in Leo’s mind, he is reliving two versions of his past, one in Mexico and one in Greece. The film feels much longer than its 85-minute run time. Bardem is wasted in the present-day scenes that take place in NYC. The film does find some emotional stability in the flashback sequences, especially the scenes that Bardem shares on-screen with Salma Hayek, as a couple that is grieving over the loss of their son. The problem is the film never finds any tug at the heart-strings pull in those father/daughter scenes in the present, and the sections where Leo is in Greece seem lost and almost worthless. The Roads Not Taken is one of those films that after you see it, you wonder if it was worth the time watching.   My Rating: Cable     The Roads Not Taken Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Familyfare: The Willoughbys  (2020)  PG   The Willoughby children are often neglected by their selfish parents, so the kids decide to send their parents on a vacation. Nanny (Maya Rudolph) shows up to take care of the kids, but the siblings decide to embark on their own high-flying adventure to find the true meaning of family. Kids are going to love this loud, vibrantly colored animated film about a bunch of kids who desperately want to get rid of their parents and find a way to stay together as a family. The characters are fun to watch, especially the strange twins, both of who are named Barnaby, and Ricky Gervais, as ‘The Cat’ who narrates the story is hilarious. I got a little bored with the film towards the end, but I think this fun and funny film will be one that children will enjoy.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The Willoughbys Website   Currently available on Netflix.
Forgotten Film: Frida (2002)  Artist Frida Kahlo (Salma Hayek) overcame the pain of a crippling injury and a marriage to an egomaniacal husband (Alfred Molina) to become one of Mexico’s iconic painters. Salma Hayek gives a moving and brilliant performance, I would have loved that the screenplay was better. The chemistry that is needed between Hayek and Molina never develops and, at times, treats their relationship a little too superficially. The film just can’t find its footing with a clunky storyline, but Hayek is a wonder to watch on the screen.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Frida Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Roads Not Taken: Drum Choreography  

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Bull (2019)   In a rundown subdivision near Houston, a troubled teen, Kris (Amber Havard) breaks into a neighbor’s house, an aging bullfighter, Abe (Rob Morgan), who has seen his better days in the rodeo. Abe decides to take Kris under his wing and their relationship changes both their lives forever. The film was a big hit on the film festival circuit, including winning the Lone Star Award at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival.    Bull Info
Until Next Time!

Friday, April 17, 2020

Selah and the Spades


My View: Selah and the Spades (2019) R  At a prestigious east coast boarding school, five factions run the underground life of the school. At the head of the most dominant faction, The Spades is Selah Summers (Love Simone). During her senior year, Selah is challenged by a protege, Paloma (Celeste O’Connor), and must fight for control of The Spades. Selah and the Spades is a stylish high school drama where power is what everyone wants. Selah is bound and determined to keep her control over the boarding school with an iron hand. This isn’t a ‘90210’ style film where everyone is hooking up, this is all about how the boarding school is decided into factions, and everyone is out to keep their interests going, even if it means stabbing someone in the back to do it. Love Simone gives a powerful performance that doesn’t always make us like her, but you have to respect her character’s win at any cost attitude. Selah and the Spades gives us a fascinating look at a school where the inmates defiantly run the asylum.   My Rating: Full Price    Selah and the Spades Website   Currently available on Amazon Prime.
Indiefest: Saint Frances (2019)   A young woman, Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) life is falling apart, and she decides to take a new approach, she becomes a nanny to a six-year-old girl who will change her life. O’Sullivan wrote and stars in this delightful story of a woman who feels life has passed her by. Bridget kind of falls into a nanny job for a lesbian couple, taking care of their 6-year old girl, Frances (Ramona Edith-Williams), while Frances’ mom, Maya (Charin Alvarez0 takes care of Frances’ newborn baby brother. What I found amusing in this film was that the relationship between Bridget and Frances isn’t perfect. In fact, both are kind of misfits. Bridget isn’t the best of nanny’s (she loses Frances at one point), and Frances is a pretty horrible acting kid, but by the end of the film, both have become best buds and are better off for knowing each other. Bridget is also bad in relationships with men, and we see her continually make mistakes in her personal life. This is a film that isn’t always warm and fuzzy, but you will fall in love with Bridget and ‘Saint Frances.’   My Rating: Full Price    Saint Francis Website    Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: Chichinette: The Accidental Spy (2019)   Documentary about Marthe Cohn, a French-Jewish woman who during World War II, was a spy in Nazi Germany. Now 98, Marthe has decided after years of silence, to tell the world her story. You will fall in love with this little fireball of a woman who single handily saved thousands of Allied lives delivering intelligence on the whereabouts of the Nazi army hiding in the Black Forest. The Allied army was able to avoid the trap the Nazis had set, and the war against Germany ended earlier due to her heroics. As we slowly learn Marthe’s story, we follow her and her husband, Major, on a speaking tour in Europe. What I enjoyed about this film, besides Marthe’s unbelievable story, is the relationship between Marthe and her husband, who is always by her side (almost always holding hands) and letting his wife take the spotlight (which he proudly does). Watch this beautiful documentary and wonder how someone hasn’t made this into a narrative feature film.   My Rating: Full Price    Chichinette: The Accidental Spy Website   The film is available on the Kino Now platform and available for rent on iTunes, Vudu and other TOVD platforms.
Forgotten Film: The Man from Snowy River (1983) PG   In the rugged, often harsh country of 1880s Australia, a young cowboy, Jim (Tom Burlinson) inherits his father’s ranch and only the young woman, Jessica (Sigrid Thornton) who falls in love with Jim thinks he can handle running the ranch. To complicate matters, Jessica’s father, Harrison (Kirk Douglas), will do anything to not only break up the relationship, but he is also hell-bent on taking Jim’s land. While the storyline is predictable and Kirk Douglas, in a dual role of also playing Harrison’s wacky brother, chews a little too much scenery, the landscape and cinematography is gorgeous and Jim’s relationship with a wild horse is moving, making this an enjoyable film to sit on the couch and watch on a rainy afternoon.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The Man from Snowy River Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Selah and the Spades: Taylor


Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: A Trip to Greece (2020)   The fourth and possibly final movie of the ‘Trip’ series with actor Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan as they follow the footsteps of the Odysseus. This is sure to hit the funny bone as the other three films did.    A Trip to Greece Info  
Until Next Time!