Friday, April 19, 2024

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

My ViewThe Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (2024) PG-13   The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is the story of the first-ever special forces organization formed by Britain during WWII. Gus March-Phillips (Henry Cavill), a man with a bad reputation, is given the job of recruiting a rag-tag group of misfits, whose job will be destroying as much of the German U-boat forces as possible. And we do mean any means necessary. It is safe to say that while this film is based on a true story, the words ‘loosely based’ should be used. A lot of film critics are comparing this film to Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 film Inglourious Basterds, but I think it’s more of a 2024 version of all those war films of the 60s/70s like The Dirty Dozen, Kelly’s Heroes, or even Where Eagles Dare, where an unlikely group of not so innocent killers go on an impossible mission and kick some German butt. I haven’t been a fan of Guy Ritchie’s films lately, but this is a fun ride that never takes itself too seriously. The entire cast is a lot of fun, with Cavill leading the group with a devil-may-care attitude and an eye for expensive alcohol and cigars. Fans of Alan Ritchson, hot off his Reacher TV series, will love his off-the-wall character who loves to kill in very interesting ways. Eiza González has a lot of fun with the part of the sexy American who is sent in to seduce the evil German commander. The action is fast-paced (I would love to know the final kill count), and the story will keep you on the edge of your seat. There is a lot of humor in the film, as our heroes seem to enjoy that they can do just about anything they want, as long as it kills a few Germans along the way.   My Rating: Full Price  The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Abigail (2024) R  A group of kidnappers abduct a 12-year-old girl named Abigail (Alisha Weir) and are instructed to hold her hostage overnight in an old, luxurious manor until her father pays the ransom of 50 million dollars. Watch a little girl overnight for such a big payday? No problem, right? The kidnappers think they have trapped Abigail in the manor; instead, they are trapped with Abigail, who turns out to be a vampire. I liked the first 45 minutes of this film. It’s fun getting to know all the kidnappers and how they deal with the little girl. But the film starts to fall apart when they discover they are trapped with a vampire. Abigail wants to be a horror film with some humor thrown in, but I got very tired of the ballerina vampire who thinks she is smarter than her victims (she’s right about half of them). Alisha Weir, as Abigail, doesn’t consistently deliver her lines in the right way, never finding the right tone, making her vampire feel less threatening. I did enjoy Melissa Barrera’s performance as the one kidnapper, Joey, who tries to be nice to Abigail before she turns all vampy. Still, we are asked to see Joey as a badass, and when we find out she was in the army as a medic, it just doesn’t translate. Fans of the late Angus Cloud will enjoy his performance as a not-so-bright wheelman who wants to have a good time. Abigail gets very gory and tries too hard to make every death seem like the world is coming to an end. I was ok with the ending, but man, it took a long time (an hour and fifty minutes) to get there.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Abigail Website  Now playing in theatres. 

My View: Rebel Moon - Part Two: The Scargiver (2024) PG-13  The saga of Korea (Sofia Boutella) and her surviving warriors, as they prepare to fight alongside the brave people of Veldt to defend their village against the invaders of the Motherworld. In this rebellion, bonds will be forged, heroes will emerge, and legends will be made. Rebel Moon - Part One was a disappointment for me, as I felt that it was all set up with little actual storyline. Furthermore, I didn't care about what happened to any of the characters. So, what does Zach Snyder do? Give us more of the same, but at least this time, we have a big battle that has a victor. To explain how much time is wasted in this film, we get an incredibly long sequence where each of the gang of heroes explains why they were wrong and how it went down. I've only seen Part One once, but shouldn't that have been part of that film? Or maybe it was, and I just wanted to forget it? You have the usual Snyder action sequences where our heroes fight in slow motion, and you have an enemy army with such poorly designed transportation ships that they blow up incredibly easily. The film ends with the promise of more, but I think we all hope that there won’t be. And by the way, Snyder has a ‘director’s cut’ coming for both films. Oh boy, more sitting around and recounting war stories. I can’t wait. My Rating: Cable   Rebel Moon - Part Two Website Now playing on Netflix.

Indiefest: Sasquatch Sunset (2024) R The film is a year in the life of a unique family that captures the daily trials and tribulations of a group of Sasquatch. I know what you’re thinking after seeing that Jesse Eisenberg and Riley Keough are starring in the film. Hey, that Eisenberg guy was funny in Zombieland, and Riley was great in that TV show, Daisy Jones and The Six; this should be a blast. Well, what if I tell you that the film is about a family of four Sasquatch that don’t talk (unless you count grunts and hoots), there isn’t any narration, and there are no other actors in the film? We experience up close and very personal a year in the life of these four Sasquatch as they forage for food, look for shelter, and have to deal with a world that is quickly changing around them. I am going to warn you that this is a movie where one of the first scenes we see is the leader of the group having sex with the female as two other Sasquatch look on (patiently waiting for it to stop). Some of the film is funny, and a few times goes a little too far with the gags (they pee and poop a lot). However, the longer I watched the film, the more I got involved with the four as they deal with some rough times. Sasquatch Sunset is a film about survival, family, and the will to keep going, no matter the obstacle. Once you get over the attempts at gross stuff (primarily for humor), the film is full of quiet, tender moments and, at times, sadness. Sasquatch Sunset isn’t a film for everybody, but if you give it a chance, it might surprise you with how you feel at the end.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Sasquatch Sunset Website  Now playing in theaters. 

Indiefest: Girls State (2024)  The documentary Girls State follows 500 adolescent girls from all over Missouri as they gather to learn about the democratic process and tackle some of the most contentious issues of the day. This documentary is from the same directorial team of the Emmy Award-winning 2021 film Boys State. Boys State was one of my favorite films of 2021, and this film is even better. Like the first film, there are some of the girls that, at first, you love and some you are sort of on the fence about. The remarkable thing is that as the film goes on, I started to root for some of the girls I didn’t like initially. Just like politics in the real world, hearts are broken, campaigns are mismanaged, and some candidates who are well-spoken and have great ideas are left behind when better and more passionate speakers appear. What sets this apart from the Boys State documentary is that this one is shot at a perfect time, six days before the Supreme Court overturning the ruling of Roe vs Wade. The other fact that makes this film work better than the boy’s version is that for the first time, both the boys and the girls are gathering on the same campus at the same time, and we get to see how each side treats the issues and how the organization treats the two sides unequally. There is a brilliant scene in which a group of girls passes a group of boys, and some of the boys start flexing their muscles to impress the girls (big-time fail). Girls State is a fascinating film that will keep you on the edge of your seat to see who wins and how the winners and losers deal with the game of politics. Let’s hope that these bright young minds keep their interest in politics. The world will be a better place.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Girls State Info   Now playing on the Apple TV+ platform.

Sorry I Missed it (A film that has been out a while, and I’m just now seeing it): Hundreds of Beavers (2022)   Set in the 19th century, our hero Jean Kayak ((Rylland Brickson Cole Tews), a drunken applejack brewery owner loses his business (because of sabotage by beavers) and has to become a fur trapper. His biggest problem is that both the beavers and the rabbits are out to get him. While there is no dialogue (except for one word uttered for full comic effect) but you can’t call this a ‘silent film’. I mean, would you call the Looney Tunes films of the Coyote and the Roadrunner silent films? This is a live-action cartoon that piles on the gags so quick and furious that if one doesn’t work, don’t worry; there is another one right behind it that does. For the first hour of the film, our hero, or should I say our idiot, is constantly bested by rabbits, birds, and beavers. By the way, the rabbits and beavers are portrayed by actors in costumes, making the absurdity go beyond the almost believable. Hundreds of Beavers is an absolutely crazy film that has fun with the premise and keeps pushing the boundaries. Does our hero figure out how to defeat the beavers and maybe impress the cute trader’s daughter? You will have to see about a thousand gags to get there, but it’s worth it.   My Rating: Full Price  Hundreds of Beavers Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Forgotten Film: Purple Noon (1960) PG-13 This is the French version of The Talented Mr. Ripley. Tom Ripley (Alain Delon) is an American who is a mimic, moocher, forger, and all-around bad guy who thinks he can get away with anything through charm and wits. Tom has been sent to Rome to find his longtime friend Philippe (Maurice Ronet) and bring him back to America. Instead, Tom begins a quest to seduce Marge (Maire Laforet), Philippe’s girlfriend. Things start to go bad from there, but Mr. Ripley always thinks he can escape from any trouble. Purple Noon is a thrilling movie where you have a love/hate relationship with Tom. Being 1960, a few things aren’t explored, and the ending is a little weak, even so, it’s a movie that takes the beauty of Italy and, because of one character, almost makes it ugly.   My Rating: Full Price   Purple Noon Info   The film is available to rent/buy on Amazon. 

Weird Credits: From the credits of Abigail: Hair Juniors

Coming Soon a Screen Near You: Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024) As the world falls, a young Furiosa is taken by a biker horde led by the warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth). Years later, Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) tries to escape and find her way home as two tyrants wage a war. From filmmaker George Miller, this is the origin story of Furiosa, who Charlize Theron played in the 2015 film Mad Max: Fury Road.  Furiosa Website   The film will be released in theatres on Friday, May 24th. 

Until Next Time!

Friday, April 12, 2024

Civil War

My View: Civil War (2024) R    Civil War follows a small team of journalists traveling as the country is embroiled in its first Civil War since the 1800s. California and Texas have seceded from the United States to form the Western Forces and its war. This is a movie that is going to upset a lot of people. Some will be upset because the film never tells you what the war is about. In fact, there are times when we don’t know which side is which. Yes, there is a Trump-like President, played by Nick Offerman, but he is mostly there in voice only (we often hear his speeches on the radio while the gang is on the road). It’s going to upset other people because it’s damn scary. Not in a horror way, but in how real it feels during parts of the film, especially when the journalists are dealing with ‘regular people.’ The reason for seeing this film is the performances. First, there is the brilliant Kristen Dunst, who plays a hardened photographer, Lee, who is there to shoot history in the making with the hope that her pictures might make a difference. Dunst gives us a character who has seen it all, and it has made her put her emotions deep inside her, not wanting them to be let out. Cailee Spaeny is terrific as the young, just starting out Jessie who wants to be included in the action to become a photographer just like Lee. Stephen Henderson is fantastic as an old journalist who wants to report on one last story. I am not a big fan of Wagner Moura, who plays Joel, who loves the action and wants to interview the President before the White House is taken. His performance is a little too over the top for what is needed in the role. Civil War is a film about war and the people who risk their lives to cover it. It isn’t a film about ideology or who’s right or wrong. Civil War is about the horrors of war and how it destroys humanity.   My Rating: Full Price  Civil War Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide.

My View: The Greatest Hits (2024) PG-13   Harriet (Lucy Boynton), who lost her boyfriend, Max (David Corenswet), in an accident over two years ago. Harriet thinks she is getting over her grief when she meets a new guy, David (Justin H. Min), at her grief counseling group. The only problem is that when Harriet hears certain songs, she gets transported back to a time when Max was still alive. I enjoyed this film, but I love romance movies, so I’d take it with a grain of salt. The premise is pretty cool. Harriet’s time travels back to when she was with Max whenever she hears a song that was playing at the time. She is conscious of this time travel and has tried to save Max many times, but has always failed. This has taken over her life, as she can’t listen to songs on the radio or in a coffee shop, so she wears headphones everywhere and has quit her job as a music producer to work in a library. She then meets David and starts a relationship with him, but can she tell him her problem, or will she break it off with him to keep trying to save Max? I enjoyed the film’s music, and it is fun to see two relationships develop simultaneously. I have been a fan of Lucy Boynton since Sing Street (2016), and she is perfect in the role of Harriet, who is haunted by the past. Boynton has the right feel for the character, someone who loved a person deeply and isn't willing to give up on it. Will Harriet let the past go to find a future? Take a musical journey with The Greatest Hits and find out.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Greatest Hits Website  Now playing on Hulu.

Indiefest: The People’s Joker (2022) A wannabe comedian (Vera Drew) is grappling with her gender identity and forms a law-breaking anti-comedy troupe with a fellow castoff called The Penguin (Nathan Faustyn). She finds herself falling for the wrong person, named Mr. J (Kane Distler), while also dealing with a meddling mother and a certain caped crusader. The People’s Joker is one of those films I feel would probably be a better short than a feature film. The film continually pushes the boundaries both in the content of the storyline and in the use of live-action combined with animation. The animation is a lot of fun to watch, and there are so many styles that, at times, make this film dazzling to watch. I loved the message that the film is about, but it tends to wander a bit at times, and things meant to be funny don’t work about half the time. The mixture of comic book genres with Saturday Night Live (Loren Michaels is a character in the film, though animated) didn’t work for me, it just felt strange. There are quite a few jabs at DC Comics and Batman himself, including questioning the relationship between Robin and Batman. I commend Vera Drew for making a very personal film about his experiences growing up and realizing she was trans. The People’s Joker just went on and on to where I was exhausted by the time the film ended. By the way, there is a bonus scene after the first portion of the credits.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The People's Joker Website  Now playing in select theaters. 
My View:
Arcadian (2024) R   A father (Nicolas Cage) and his two twin teenage boys, Thomas (Max Jenkins) and Joseph (Jaeden Martell) are living in a remote farmhouse 15 years after the world has fallen into chaos. The trio is attempting to survive in a world that is teeming with evil that only appears after sunset. Mr. Cage is known for doing just about any movie that will have him, which means there are some stinkers. Thankfully, this is not one of them. Despite the shaky plot, the movie still manages to deliver plenty of thrills and chills thanks to the terrifying villains. Cage is a dad who has raised his boys since they were infants, born just as the world was being destroyed. Cage isn’t asked to do much as he plays the father as a strict but understanding one, and a little of Cage goes a long way. But don’t expect a full-on raging Cage. His father character is more restrained and practical. Not only is Dad dealing with the evil that comes out at night, but he is dealing with two teenage boys who are feeling their oats, especially Thomas, who has a girl from a nearby farm he is interested in. A sequence in the middle of the film is brilliantly executed, resulting in tension that persists throughout the scene. The ending is a little disappointing, and the special effects are done on the cheap side, even so, Arcadian delivers the scares you want from an end-of-the-world film filled with evil creatures.   My Rating: Full Price   Arcadian Info  Now playing in theatres. 

Forgotten Film: Salvador (1986) R  Written and directed by Oliver Stone, Salvador tells the story of a photojournalist, Richard (James Woods), who is down on his luck (primarily because of his personality and his drug/alcohol use) and goes to El Salvador to report on the events of a military dictatorship and the guerrillas attempting to overthrow the government. Richard tries to play both sides to get the story, which gets him into big trouble. He realizes his days may be numbered in the country and works to get his Salvadorian girlfriend out of the country before it’s too late. Woods is brilliant in the role (he got an Oscar nomination for his performance), and the film is a tense thriller with a main character you root for, even though he isn’t a great guy. My Rating: Full Price   Salvador Info   The film is available on several streaming platforms.

Weird Credits: From the credits of The People’s Joker: Lorne Michaels’s Office Hand Painted by

Coming Soon to A Screen Near You: Back to Black (2024) R  The life and music of Amy Winehouse (Marisa Abela), who went from unknown singer to Grammy-winning best-selling artist. Amy burned bright, but that light died much too soon. I wasn’t much of a fan of Amy Winehouse until I saw the Oscar-winning 2015 documentary Amy, and then I fell in love with her. I can’t wait to see this one.  Back to Black Website  It’s in theaters on Friday, May 17th.

Until Next Time!


Friday, April 5, 2024

Monkey Man

My View: Monkey Man (2024) R   Monkey Man is about a man (Dev Patel) who wears a gorilla mask when he enters the ring as he fights for money. This man has a plan, and it involves violence and getting revenge for the murder of his mother by corrupt leaders. Dev Patel makes a thrilling introduction to movie making with this film. The film tries to cover a bit too much, with commentary on poverty, class, the rich getting richer, and religious leaders becoming political. Still, the film moves at a quick and fun pace, with plenty of fights that would make a confident Mr. Reeves a bit jealous. Monkey Man is a film about finding your destiny while seeking revenge that has consumed you since you were young. The movie starts with our hero getting his butt kicked every time he goes in the ring. We soon learn that he has a plan, a way to get close to the man who killed his mother and burned down his community. Along the way, we learn more and more about our hero and his past as he learns about himself and how to channel his power and will. I have no idea the body count, but it’s high, with lots of blood and people dying in all sorts of ways, most in close action. Monkey Man is about a man fighting the good fight, trying to beat the odds as he takes on a cause that isn’t just about himself and his need for revenge but for the people who have been stepped on for so long.   My Rating: Full Price  Monkey Man Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide.

My View: The First Omen (2024) R   In The First Omen, a young American woman (Nell Tiger Free) is sent to Rome to start her life of service in the church. However, she soon discovers a darkness hidden deep inside the church that questions her faith and leads her to uncover a conspiracy that hopes to bring about the birth of evil incarnate. At my screening, we had an ad on the theatre screen with the statement “The Most Terrifying Movie of the Year.’ Well, don’t believe everything you read. The film tries and fails to scare you, mostly with homages to the 1976 film The Omen, which this is a prequel to. And because it’s a prequel, we know what will happen and who will survive. The film fails to find any balance between its anti-religion viewpoint and the attempt to gross us out at every turn. There is one scene in the middle of the film that is so outlandish that several of my fellow critics laughed out loud. The script is horribly written with an ending that makes no sense other than an attempt to end the film where the original film starts. Skip this one and watch the original because that kid in that one was creepy as heck.   My Rating: Cable  The First Omen Website  Now playing in theatres. 

My View: Música (2024)   Música is about Rudy (Rudy Mancuso), a young man filled by music from the sounds he hears around him. Rudy has synesthesia, which turns ordinary sounds into rhythm. Besides not knowing what he wants to do in life, he is torn between his former girlfriend, Haley (Francesca Reale), who wants him back, and a new girl working in a fish market, Isabella (Camila Mendes). Música is a fun musical where the story is told from the viewpoint of Rudy, so often, the world he hears turns into scenes of ordinary people making music with things such as trash cans, brooms, and books. Rudy is a character that you want to root for, but he is too nice of a guy, one who doesn’t like to let people down. That makes Rudy a character who continually frustrates you by making taking the easy way out. The musical sequences are well done, and there is a brilliant sequence in the film where, in the span of about 5 minutes, Rudy walks through several dates with both women while the scenery keeps changing right before our eyes. Música is a musical with romance and humor, a tremendous first directorial job by the star himself. Since this film is based somewhat on Rudy Mancuso’s own life, it will be interesting to see what he does next. Let’s hope there is more singing and dancing. My Rating: Full Price  Musica Info  Now playing on Prime Video.

Indiefest: Wicked Little Letters (2023) R  The film is set in the 1920s in a small English seaside town where deeply conservative local Edith (Olivia Colman) and others in the community have received scandalous letters containing profanity. All the evidence points to a rowdy Irish migrant, Rose (Jessie Buckley), known for her colorful use of language. It all comes to a head when Rose is charged with the crime, and Police Officer Gladys (Anjana Vasan) must solve the mystery. A bit of warning: the film has a ton of foul language and I do mean a lot, though it’s all in fun, as we learn this film is based on a real story. Jessie Buckley is fantastic as the foul-mouthed mother who speaks her mind while spouting a few profanities. Olivia Colman is the spinster who believes in God’s will but cannot forgive Rose, who she suspects is the writer of the letters. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and loved the gang of busybody sleuths, led by scrappy police officer Gladys, who attempt to figure out who is behind the letters. So be prepared to be shocked by some language, but it’s all in good fun as we discover who wrote those naughty letters.   My Rating: Full Price  Wicked Little Letters Website  Now playing in theatres. 

Indiefest: Housekeeping for Beginners (2023)   Dita (Anamaria Marinca) lives in a big house with her partner, Suada (Alina Serban), Suada’s two daughters, Dita’s longtime friend Toni, and her new younger boyfriend, Ali. The house always has new friends living in it, coming and going as they please. When Suada dies of cancer, Dita is forced to become the mother she never thought she would be. The movie is about finding family in circumstances that are not always conventional. It’s about finding support and love from people who have found each other by chance and fate. Dita has to do something she never thought she could do: become a mother. Anamaria Marinca gives a powerful and moving performance of a woman who loses the love of her life and now must try and hold this group of people together while dealing with the sorrow and pain. The film is stolen by Dzada Selim, who plays the young, always moving and talking Mia. Selim is hilarious, with lines that will make you laugh or break your heart. Housekeeping for Beginners is a beautiful tale about love and finding a way to stay together, regardless of odds. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Housekeeping for Beginners Website  Now playing in theatres. 

Familyfaire: Chicken for Linda! (2023)   Linda has been unfairly punished by her mother, Paulette. To make up for it, Paulette asks how she can make it up to Linda. Linda wants chicken with peppers, and the two are now off on an adventure to find a chicken in a town that has shut down because of a strike. This is a charming, lovely animated film about what we will do for our loved ones. This film is a fun adventure with some very colorful and inventive animation. I was a little let down by some of the musical interludes, but the film has plenty of comedic moments and a remarkable final third of the film, where all the elements come together to make a savory dish. Chicken for Linda! is a film that kids and their parents will enjoy.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Chicken for Linda! Website  Now playing in select theatres. 
My View: Scoop (2024) TV-MA   Scoop is the story of the  women who, through hard work and guts, got one of the biggest interviews of all time when Prince Andrew (Rufus Sewell) told about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. Scoop is the compelling and sometimes nerve-wracking story of a group of journalists who work behind the scenes to get one of the biggest stories of the last ten years, a story that rocked the monarchy. The narrative concentrates on Billie Piper’s Sam McAllister, who is not well-liked in the newsroom but is adept at persuading people to tell their story on the air. Sam is a single working mom who doesn’t feel or have the respect of the rest of the newsroom, but she is able to get things done. Gillian Anderson plays the nightly BBC news show anchor, Emily Maitlis. Anderson is perfect as the nerves-of-steel interviewer who stares down a member of the royal family, Prince Andrew (played impeccably well by Rufus Sewell), and gets him to make things worse for himself by being himself. Scoop is a well-told tale that happens to be true, and even though you know the outcome, you still have to wonder if the interview will ever come about or, better yet, broadcast. My Rating: Full Price  Scoop Website  Now playing on Netflix. 

Forgotten Film: Two Hands (1999) R  A young man, Jimmy (Heath Ledger), finds himself in trouble with a local mobster (Brian Brown) when some money is missing and Jimmy looks like he is the culprit. Jimmy goes on the run and meets Alex (Rose Byrne), who takes a liking to Jimmy and decides to go with him on the run. Meanwhile, a couple of kids find the missing money and go on a shopping spree. Two Hands is a fun caper film with a lot of star power in Ledger and Byrne heating up the screen. And anytime you have Brian Brown as the bad guy, you know you will have fun. The film tries a bit too hard to be a little off the wall. Nevertheless, it’s a fun ride with Heath Ledger giving us a hero to root for.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Two Hands Info  Available for rent/buy on Amazon.

Weird Credits: From the credits of The First Omen: Baby Model

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024) PG-13 Many years after Caesar's reign, a young ape goes on a journey that will make him question everything he’s been taught about the past, especially the history of humans. The film is set many years after the 2017 film War for the Planet of the Apes.  It releases on Friday, May 10, 2024.    The Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, March 29, 2024

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

My View: Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024) PG-13   Two mighty forces, the fearsome Godzilla and the mighty Kong, will have to unite to defeat a new enemy that threatens our world and challenges their very existence and our own. While watching this film, I realized it was a wrestling movie. It uses the age-old wrestling troupe of two mortal enemies to come together to create a tag team to defeat a possibly worse evil wrestler that can only be defeated if they work as one. That’s what this film is about, and there are even a few wrestling moves that Kong and Godzilla use to defeat the bad guy, or should I say bad guys. Yeah, instead of one evil force, there are two. My big problem with this film, besides that it’s almost two hours long with a lot of people talking about what is about to happen, is that the bad guys aren’t all that evil. I never felt that the combined forces of Godzilla and his new best bud, Kong, wouldn’t defeat these new baddies. It’s a lot of build-up that never delivers. Fans of Godzilla and Kong will have fun with all the battles and yeah, Godzilla destroys a lot of stuff even when he is trying to save the world (clean up on aisle Rome!). And sure, that’s fun, but man, there are some plot holes three Godzillas could walk through. I also had trouble remembering what the heck happened in the last film, Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), which introduced a bunch of the characters like the scientist that Rebecca Hall plays or the internet blogger that Brian Tyree Henry plays. Some big names from the past Kong/Godzilla films are gone, like Alexander Skarsgard and Millie Bobby Brown. I think the biggest problem that this film has is the hangover that the brilliant film from last year, Godzilla Minus One, has caused, making us spoiled for films that value the human element to these films versus, let’s see how much stuff these monsters can wreck on the screen. And I am guessing that if this film does some box office business, we will get more of these films because I bet there are more worlds to discover in the hollow world that Kong now lives in. I will say this, there is a new addition to the Kong universe and I won't give it away but it's going to give Baby Yoda a run for his money.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Website Now playing in theaters nationwide.

My View: Steve! (martin): A Documentary in 2 Pieces (2024) The documentary Steve! (martin) chronicles how Steve Martin became one of the biggest figures in comedy, from his early years as a writer to filling arenas as a standup and then as a respected writer and actor in films and TV. The documentary is separated into two parts, ‘Then’ and ‘Now’. ‘Then’ is about Steve’s childhood and how he got into performing at an early age with the help of magic and Disneyland. And then his slow ascent to becoming a standup comedian over the years to filling arenas and stadiums that made rock stars jealous. All to quit the standup game at the very height of his fame. ‘Now’ is the 2nd half of Steve’s career; first as an actor, then as a writer and musician. And now (no pun intended), back telling jokes on stage but as a part of a comedy team with Martin Short. I expect you will laugh a lot in the ‘Then ‘ film as we see the intellectual madness of Martin and how he pushed the boundaries of comedy. I love Martin gives us a behind-the-scenes thinking of why he did the routines that he did and how he perfected them. But like the man himself admits, you didn’t really get to know who Steve Martin was in those years, and they make it very clear that he felt very alone and isolated, especially at the heights of his fame. The ‘Now’ film is a gentler look at Martin as he got out of the standup spotlight and started making movies. Martin lets us see him as a man who has become comfortable in his life, has finally found love, and has come to terms with his past, including a father who never could show Steve any love or support. ‘Then’ is a much more personal look at Martin and how he has become someone who is finally happy and loved. I think the pairing with Martin Short as his on-stage partner also has mellowed Steve, and we see that the back and forth they do on the stage goes on behind the scenes. As a massive fan of Steve Martin, someone who not only treasures his standup years but also loves his books and his stage show with Short, this is a couple of documentaries that I will go back and watch again.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See Them Again  Steve! (martin) Info Both films are now on Apple TV+.

My View: In the Land of Saints and Sinners (2023) R  Finbar Murphy (Liam Neeson) is a man who has killed many times, working for a local mob boss (Colm Meaney). Finbar wants to retire, but his plans go south when a terrorist cell blows up a local pub in Belfast, killing three children, and is now hiding out in Finbar’s area. Finding out who is responsible and making them pay for their mistakes is Finbar's task now. I know what you are thinking: another Liam Neeson film where he kills a bunch of people using a particular set of skills. But wait, this is a bit of a different movie, as Finbar is a killer who is tired of killing and wants to live in his little town and have a pint or two. Neeson portrays a man who is haunted by the past and delivers an understated performance that elevates this film. The problem is that Finbar cares too much for his fellow townspeople, and when some IRA terrorists use his town as a hideout and start causing trouble, Finbar must react. The IRA terrorists are led by Doireann, played by the always interesting Kerry Condon. Doireann is filled with a sense of righteous indignation, believing that blowing up pubs is God's work. Condon plays Doireann as a woman who isn't afraid of confrontation and will do the unexpected if it gets her bloodshed and revenge. The scenes between Neeson and Condon make this a film to watch, as they practically bring sparks to the screen as the two face off, with us not knowing when they are both going to erupt into violence. In the Land of Saints and Sinners is a film about redemption, friendship, and doing the right thing, even when morality is not in play. My Rating: Full Price    In the Land of Saints and Sinners Website   Now playing in theaters.

Indiefest: La Chimera (2023) La Chimera is about Arthur (Josh O’Connor), an Englishman in Italy looking to make some money. He joins a group that locates and digs up artifacts that can be sold on the black market. Can Arthur keep ahead of the authorities trying to hunt him down before he can make the big sale? This is not an ordinary tale, as the film used different film stocks and mixed the aspect ratios to give the movie a surreal feel. I am not always a fan of films that push the boundaries between real and fantasy, where you question what is happening at any moment. The story is about a man who has lost the love of his life but thinks he has found a treasure that will make him rich. However, things go from bad to worse as we meet a cast of characters that seem right out of a Fellini movie from the 60s. I didn’t find the film funny, even though it tries to be comedic most of the time. And I hated the ending that tries to tie everything up in a bow that won’t tie.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  La Chimera Website Now playing in theatres.

My View: The Beautiful Game (2024) PG-13 The Beautiful Game takes place during the Homeless World Cup, a soccer tournament organized to end homelessness. Mal (Bill Nighy) manages England’s homeless soccer team and takes a chance on a talented but troubled player named Vinny (Michael Ward). Vinny has to learn how to trust and depend on others for his team to succeed. The Beautiful Game is a film that, while not great, has heart and shows us that something so simple as a soccer tournament can change people’s ideas about the homeless and give us insight into their world. The film is saved by Bill Nighy, who puts together a team with the idea that they may not win the tournament but will win when they believe in themselves and their teammates. Nighy is perfect as a man who knows how to interact with his players, getting them to mold as a team. The Beautiful Game is also helped by a moving, stellar performance by Michael Ward, playing Vinny, the one person on the team who really has soccer talent but refuses to believe that he isn’t above his fellow players, that he doesn’t belong on a team full of life’s losers. The Beautiful Game is about finding a purpose and a way to believe in yourself and see your fellow man/woman as people worth knowing and celebrating.   My Rating: Full Price  The Beautiful Game Website  Now playing on Netflix.

Indiefest: Carol Doda Topless at the Condor (2023) R  Documentary that tells the story of Carol Doda, a cocktail waitress who turned dancing on a piano, into an overnight sensation by becoming the first dancer to go topless. Carol became a tourist attraction, a center of controversy, and a woman who changed the landscape of San Francisco entertainment. With a cast of characters that would be home in a Mickey Spillane crime thriller and a woman who loved the spotlight, this is a documentary that is a fascinating look at the 60s world where people wanted to say goodbye to the boring 50s and explore a free-wheeling world. The film has a ton of interviews from newsreels and people who somehow survived those days to give us an up close and personal look at what it was like to live and work in the San Francisco entertainment area. The film loses a bit of steam when it travels into the 70s and 80s, when, like Carol, the novelty wore off and the world had gotten over the shock of the nudity. I came away not knowing as much about Carol as I did about some of the people who shared her world, but that has to do with Carol herself. She was someone who loved the spotlight, but only as long as it was when she was on the stage.   My Rating: Full Price  Carol Doda Topless at the Condor Info  Now playing in theaters.

Forgotten Film: Cactus Flower (1969) M   A middle-aged dentist, Julian (Walter Matthau), has a mistress, Toni (Goldie Hawn), whom he has told he can’t leave his wife because of the children. Julian has fallen in love with Toni, but he has a problem: he isn’t married. So he convinces his dental assistant, Stephanie (Ingrid Bergman), to act like she is his wife so that they can then get a ‘divorce’ and he can marry Toni. However, Toni takes Stephanie’s side and things get messy. This film is very dated, but Goldie Hawn is brilliant in the role of the naïve young girl who sees the good in everyone. In her first feature role, Hawn got an Academy Award nomination for her performance. Based on the hit stage play, the script is written by the talented I.A.L. Diamond, and the jokes are fast and furious. So go back in time and fall in love with Goldie; it’s worth the trip.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Cactus Flower Info Available to rent/buy on Amazon.

Weird Credits: From Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire: Soft Furnishing Lead

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Civil War (2024) R Civil War follows a small team of journalists who are traveling as the country is embroiled in its first Civil War since the 1800s. California and Texas have seceded from the United States to form the Western Forces and its war. The cast includes Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Cailee Spaeny, Nick Offerman, and Jesse Plemons, and is directed by Alex Garland (Ex-Machina (2015)).  Civil War Website  Releasing in theatres on Friday, April 12th. 

Until Next Time!

Friday, March 22, 2024

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

My View: Ghostbuster: Frozen Empire (2024) PG-13 The Spengler family returns to the iconic New York City firehouse, where it all began to team up with some of the original Ghostbusters. Their mission is to stop an evil force unleashed by an ancient artifact that threatens to turn the world into a second Ice Age. I am a big fan of the original 1984 Ghostbusters film directed by Ivan Reitman. Made at the height of Bill Murray’s appeal as a comedic leading man, and with a fun and original storyline, the film took the world by storm. In my review I let you know that wasn’t a big fan of the Ghostbusters: Afterlife film that came out in 2021, feeling that it was stealing a lot from the original movie, and Paul Rudd isn’t even close to filling Bill Murray’s shoes. I had some hope for this film since they were returning to NYC, where it all began, and some of the original cast would be in it. I liked this film more than the 2021 one, but not by a lot. I am not a huge fan of Dan Aykroyd, and he has a lot of screen time in this film. Aykroyd always delivers lines like he is also passing a kidney stone at the same time. The film tries to capture some of the old magic by bringing back a bunch of the characters from the original, including a few favorite ghosts (I do love the antics of the little stay puff guys), but it seems like they are trying too hard. I was glad they made the setting NYC, where the series belongs, making the city part of the cast. I remember being wowed by the 1984 special effects, but this time, it seemed the effects were on the cheap, as I was never scared by the big evil guy, probably the worst villain ever in the Ghostbuster series. And yes, Bill Murray shows up, but they don’t give him much to do. Way to waste a talent there. There is a funny scene after the first bit of end credits that is worth staying for.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire Website Now playing in theaters.

My View: Immaculate (2024) R  Cecilia (Sydney Sweeney) is a woman who believes God has a plan for her. She is warmly welcomed to her new convent with open arms. But it becomes clear to Cecilia that the convent is not what it appears to be, harboring dark and horrifying secrets. Sydney Sweeney loved the story idea so much that she found a screenwriter, produced the film, and found a studio to buy it. I am a fan of Sweeney, but maybe she should find someone else to find her material. The film is full of empty jump scares, a plot that holds no mystery, and not a lot of horror. It’s a storyline that is easy to figure out with the church leaders doing something terrible, and our girl Cecilia is a little slow in picking up the signs that something is wrong. The film is incredibly slow, with a lot of Cecilia going around the convent at night with just a candle. I did enjoy the inventive ending, but it takes a long time to get there. My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Immaculate Website It is now playing in theaters.

My View: Roadhouse (2024) R  A down on his luck, former UFC fighter Elwood Dalton (Jake Gyllenhaal) ends up working at a ‘Road House,’ a rowdy bar in the Florida Keys. Hired to clean up the troublemakers in the bar, it turns out the job is a lot more complicated than that. One key thing, don’t piss Dalton off. So the original 1989 movie became a hit, not because of a big box office (it did ok) but because it played on cable stations almost non-stop and had a winning cast in Patrick Swayze, Sam Elliot, and Kelly Lynch as the love interest. There are some considerable differences between this film and that beloved original. The first is that while Gyllenhaal is a better actor than Swayze, Patrick had a likability as an on-screen presence that made you want to root for his character. Gyllenhaal tries to be the kooky, nice guy, but it doesn’t quite work. Second, there isn’t a Sam Elliot character in the film, so there is no one to play off Gyllenhaal or give us the reason Dalton goes rogue at the end of the film. The fight sequences are shot incredibly awkwardly, with some point-of-view shots of a beat-up Gyllenhaal that I didn’t need. And finally, the bad guy doesn’t have the menace that Ben Garza had in the original. In this movie, Ben Magnussen plays the son of a crime boss who is out of his league and can’t help but mess up. The ending of this film doesn’t come even close to the satisfying ending of the original. Now I will say, just like the original, there are a few laughs, especially brought to the screen by UFC bad boy Connor McGregor, who plays his part of the ultra-tough guy brought in to kill Dalton. McGregor chews up scenery and swaggers about as if he is getting paid by how many times he shows his butt. Still, I feel Amazon made a mistake and didn’t release this in theatres, where crowds could cheer as the beer bottles crash against the band’s cage and Dalton gives it to a few drunk bad guys. Stay through the first part of the credits for a bonus scene that may set up a sequel.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Road House Website  Now playing on Amazon Prime.

Indiefest: They Shot the Piano Player (2023) PG-13 This animated docudrama is about Jess (voiced by Jeff Goldblum), a music journalist, who travels to Brazil to uncover the truth about a young samba-jazz pianist, Tenório Júnior, who disappeared without a trace in 1976 after a promising start of his music career. The film uses beautiful animation with a fantastic jazz soundtrack that captures the spirit of the samba-jazz craze of the 60s. They Shot the Piano Player is a perfect introduction to a jazz form that few know about. The film does an amazing job of letting the people who knew Tenorio and what an amazing pianist he was, while letting us know about how quickly people disappeared in South America countries during this time, sometimes for very little reason. It’s a perfect way to capture a place in time when samba ruled the airwaves and the bars of not just Brazil but the world.   My Rating: Full Price  They Shot the Piano Player Website Now playing in theaters. 

My View: Shirley (2024) PG-13  Shirley tells the story of Shirley Chisholm (Regina King), who made history as the first Black woman elected to Congress and to run for President in the 1972 election. So you know when you see that Regina King is playing the lead character, you will get a performance worthy of watching. I wish the film was on the same level as her performance. Shirley feels like someone gave John Ridley a bullet-point presentation of Shirley Jacksons’ run for the Democratic nomination for President in 1972, and he followed it to the letter. Other than getting to see Shirley on her first few days as a congresswoman and verbally tearing down a fellow freshman congressman in the halls, we don’t get a lot of background on her. We are almost instantly thrown into the race without a lot of information on why she thought this would work. We get to see how Shirley played the game of politics, but we didn’t get to know why. I wanted more from this film, and frankly, I got more out of the closing credits when we learn what happened to a lot of the principal players in her run than I did in the film itself. Still, watching Regina King work her magic on the screen is always fun.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Shirley Website Now playing on Netflix.

Indiefest: Riddle of Fire (2023) PG-13 Riddle of Fire starts when their mother asks three children to run an errand to the grocery store. Their journey will be filled with kidnappings, battles with a witch and fairies, and a showdown with a huntsman. This is a fun film about the adventures of three friends who go on a quest to get some eggs to make a pie so that their mother will let them play video games. The opening sequence, where the three successfully carry out a raid on a warehouse to steal a new gaming console, is so much fun. The film relies on you believing that the kids think the world is filled with witches and fairies, and that another adventure is just around the corner. It’s about how you could spend a whole day with your friends fighting off the bad guys to save the day. The film slows down a bit in the second half, and some of the performances are lacking, even so, the three kids have a lot of charm besides, did it all really happen? To the three heroes of the story, it did, and that’s all that matters.  My Rating; Bargain Matinee  Riddle of Fire Website Now playing in theaters

My View: Late Night with the Devil (2023) R  A live television broadcast in 1977 goes horribly wrong, unleashing an unspeakable evil into the nation’s living rooms. The movie is centered around footage from a late-night talk show, with some behind-the-scenes footage thrown in. It’s an exciting film that plays with many stereotypical late-night talk show tropes. Halloween night is when the show is broadcast live. The guests are a man who can talk to the dead, a former magician who now spends his time debunking people who say they can talk to the dead or the devil, and a woman who claims one of her patients can take the form of the devil. Into the mix is the talk show host, played by David Dastamlchian, named Jack Delroy, who, after he lost his wife to cancer, is trying to revive his talk show by doing stunt shows like this one. Nevertheless, things start to deteriorate, like the man who converses with the dead experiencing a seizure on live television. As it becomes clear that something is not right in the studio, things only get worse. This is a fun and occasionally terrifying adaptation of the horror film genre, with a touch of nostalgia for the old late-night talk show format. I loved David Dastamichian, who plays the host and is willing to go the extra mile to save his show until he realizes it’s gone too far. He is perfect in portraying the man who believes he is the smartest and most talented person in the room, but is really not. The film perfectly captures the talk show look and feel of the late 70s, which makes it a blast to watch. I’m not totally happy with the ending, but up to that point, it’s a fun ride back to a time when everyone watched late-night talk shows and talked about it around the water cooler the next day. I wonder what they said after they saw this broadcast? My Rating: Full Price   Late Night with the Devil Website  Now playing in theaters.  

Forgotten Film: The Last Samurai (2003) R Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise), a Civil War vet, is hired by the Japanese emperor to train the emperor’s army in the ways of modern warfare and defeat an army of traditional samurai warriors led by Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). Algren’s army is badly routed, and he is wounded, but Katsumoto spares his life. Algren soon learns the ancient ways of warfare are honorable and he decides to help Katsumoto’s quest. Because of the success of the FX/Hulu TV series Shogun, I thought I would revisit this film, which doesn’t always come up when discussing Tom Cruise’s career. The Last Samurai is a film that is not your ordinary white savior type of film. The film is more about two warriors finding common ground and respect, with Algren learning that there is more to life than just killing by the easiest way possible. Cruise plays off of Watanabe well, and there are some incredible battle sequences that make this film work so well.   My Rating: Full Price  The Last Samurai Info The film is available to rent/buy on Amazon.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire: Hair Punching

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Monkey Man (2024) R Monkey Man is about a man (Dev Patel) who wears a gorilla mask when he enters the ring as he fights for money. This man has a plan, and it involves violence and getting revenge for the murder of his father by corrupt leaders. The film won the Audience Award at the 2024 SXSW Film Festival.  Monkey Man Website  The film will be in theatres on Friday, April 5th.

Until Next Time!