Friday, May 20, 2022

Downtown Abbey: A New Era

My View: Downton Abbey: A New Era  (2022) PG   The Crawley family and its beloved staff are back. A villa in the south of France has been passed down to Violet (Maggie Smith), and so most of the family travels to France to take ownership, but there is a problem. The previous owners are not happy. Meanwhile, adding to the excitement, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) stays behind at Downton Abbey to help with the filming of a silent movie on the estate. It’s busy times for the Crawley family of Downton Abbey. Fans of Downton Abbey will love this film, as it hits all the right spots to make the story feel fun and satisfying visit to a time when being the privileged class in England meant something. If you haven’t seen the TV series or the first Downton Abbey film, you may be a little lost at the start, as it is a large and vast cast. Still, once the film gets moving, it’s easy to figure out the various storylines allowing you to sit back and have fun with all the plots of the film. As usual, two characters dominate the screen time, with Maggie Smith giving us another reason to love her, as the fiery and opinionated Violet, who rules the family with an iron hand (with a bit of love thrown in), and Lady Mary, played by Michelle Dockery, who is being forced to become the woman who runs the household and steers the family into new and possibly choppy waters, as the modern age is beginning to creep into their lives. I had fun watching this film, and if the five women who wore period dresses to the screening I saw are any indication, audiences will enjoy it too.    My Rating: Full Price   Downton Abbey: A New Era Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Indiefest: Emergency (2022) R   Sean (RJ Cyler), and Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) are two college friends who have mapped out a party night to remember. Then they discover a young student passed out in their dorm room. Sean and Kunie decide, rather than call 911 and, otherwise, be blamed for something they didn’t do, they will take the woman to the emergency room, but everything will go wrong on a night that started so promising. This is a film that is part comedy, part drama about friendship, racism, and the fact of being guilty just because of their appearance. The two friends are very different, with Sean being the party guy whose recent life has been dominated by weed and the idea of hitting seven parties in one night. Kunle is the opposite of Sean, a young man who is focused and is determined to make his mark by being an outstanding student and making his family proud. The two young black men are then confronted with a huge problem; somehow, a young, unknown white girl has passed out in their apartment, and they are afraid that they will be blamed for her condition. Thus starts a night that goes from bad to possibly deadly, as their predicament worsens at every turn, even when they try to do the right things. This is a film that starts out as a light comedy which soon turns into a drama that keeps upping the tension as our guys get deeper and deeper into trouble, a trouble that Sean is convinced will result in their death by cop. I loved this film, a buddy comedy that becomes a riveting look at how society can racially profile someone and make them the bad guy just from appearances, with possibly deadly consequences. There is a wonderful scene near the end of the film that sums up what it means to be a young Black man in America. It’s a scene that will stay with you for a long time.    My Rating: Full Price   Emergency Website    Now playing in select theatres and on the Amazon Prime platform on Friday, May 27, 2022.

My View: Chip’ N Dale Rescue Rangers  (2022) PG   The mystery-solving duo, Chip N’ Dale (John Mulaney, Andy Samberg), are leading separate lives 30 years after their TV show was canceled. However, cartoon characters are mysteriously disappearing, and the guys will need to get back together and find their missing friends. I loved this film, and if you are a child of the eighties or a fan of Disney syndicated TV cartoons of that time, you will too. This is a film that is out loud funny with an inventive plot, and so many ‘Easter Eggs’ that it will take hours to find them all. Chip N’ Dale live in a world where humans and cartoon characters live in the same world. The duo has been broken up for a long time due to a very messy breakup. When one of their co-stars is kidnapped, the guys decide to put the gang back together to solve one last crime. This film is a blast to watch, with cameos by a whole host of cartoon characters in the Disney vault, along with some surprises from other cartoons of the 80s. Full of funny jokes, mostly making fun of the 80s, it’s a joyful ride that I wish I had seen it in a theatre with an audience to hear the reactions when their favorite childhood characters show up. Even if you weren’t a fan of the TV series, there is something in this film that you will enjoy, and you just might have to explain to kids. So go on a wild and crazy ride with Chip N’ Dale and solve a mystery while taking a trip back to those lunch box-filled days of afternoon TV watching.   My Rating: Full Price   Chip N' Dale Rescue Rangers Website  Now playing on the Disney+ platform.

Indiefest: Men (2022) R After her husband (Paapa Essiedu) committed suicide in their apartment, Harper (Jessie Buckley) goes on a solo vacation to the English countryside to recover and get away. Little does she know that something is lurking in the woods just outside her rented isolated cottage, and no one in the nearby village seems to care. I am a fan of filmmaker Alex Garland. I loved Ex Machina (2015), thinking it's one of the best films of the past ten years, and I even liked his trippy Sci-Fi film Annihilation (2018), but this attempt to make a moody horror film is a big miss. Even though Jessie Buckley is magnificent as the troubled Harper, a woman who at first puts off the weird things happening in the small English village as just strange until she feels threatened and in danger. Buckley can’t overcome a bizarre and increasingly dull script that gets weirder and weirder with no end in sight. The plot starts out promising with images of a Harper witnessing her husband’s suicide, a haunting image that the film keeps coming back to. Instead of what could have been a promising look of a woman dealing with grief and guilt, we get a meandering tale of gas-lighting, male toxicity, and just out and out weirdness that cumulates in an ending that I have no idea what it means or wants to say. Men is a mess of a film that never lives up to its beginning.   My Rating: Cable   Men Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Pleasure (2022)    Bella (Sofia Kappel) is a young woman who comes all the way from Sweden to pursue a career in the porn industry in Los Angeles. Emphatically, Bella doesn’t care about anything else but becoming a star, no matter what she is asked to do or who she has to hurt to get there. This was one of the most uncomfortable films to watch that I have seen in the last five years. Sofia Kappel gives us a compelling and powerful performance of Bella, a young woman who has her sights set on becoming a big porn star. At the start, Bella thinks she knows what she is in for, but as she tries to climb the rings of stardom, the sex becomes more and more degrading and painful (both physically and mentally). This is a rough (no pun intended) film to watch as the sex scenes are very graphic, and we see what Bella is asked to do. Pleasure is almost a horror film, as Bella goes further and further into the seedy world of porn, attempting to quickly make a name for herself by performing sex acts that become more perverse. This isn’t a film about showing how horrible the porn industry is but is a study of a woman who dreams of being a star and is willing to burn every bridge she crosses to get there, and maybe that’s where I had a problem watching this film. It’s an industry that exploits women, and in this film, it’s really Bella that exploits everyone she befriends along the way to becoming the star she thinks she wants to become.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Pleasure Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Hold Your Fire (2021)   In 1973, four young African-American men were caught stealing guns from a sporting goods store in New York City. Quickly, the store was surrounded by the police, starting the longest hostage siege in NYPD history. In walks NYPD psychologist Harvey Schlossberg into the scene, and he is credited with starting a movement to get the police to end hostage negotiations not through violence but through using words. This is a fascinating documentary about how far things have changed in dealing with hostage crises and, then again, how things haven’t changed in how police see the people that take those hostages. What Harvey did was try to change how we deal with the people who take hostages, working to find a way to settle the standoff peacefully instead of the standard of the time, waiting a few hours and then going in with guns blazing. The film interviews not only the men who took the hostages but the hostages themselves or relatives of those hostages, some of who never recovered from the experiences. The film uses a ton of on the scene photos and video from the siege and gives you an inside look at what happened from both sides of the story. The most fascinating story is about the store owner, a hostage who constantly plans how to overtake the four men who have taken the store. He is a man who seems to, almost from the start, figure out the dynamics of the four men and who he could find a weakness in, possibly someone to attack or exploit to escape. There are some shocking interviews with former police officers that were there on the scene, along with some heartbreaking stories about the aftermath of the siege. It’s a fascinating tale that seems, in some aspects, a million years ago and in other aspects, seems like it was just yesterday.  My Rating: Full Price    Hold Your Fire Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: Return to Me (2000) PG   A year after his wife dies tragically in an accident, Bob (David Duchovny) meets Grace (Minnie Driver) and instantly hits it off. It’s one of those romances where the two seem perfect for each other. Then Grace finds out that the life-saving operation she had a year ago was where she was given Bob’s dead wife’s heart. I am a sucker for romance films, and this is a sweet, cute one that works because of the chemistry between Minnie Driver and David Duchovny. They just make the romance seem real, and you want their romance to work out.   My Rating: Full Price   Return to Me Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Men: Chaperone 

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Lost Girls (2022) Four generations of Darling women have dealt with and struggled in the aftermath of their adventures with Peter Pan (Louis Partridge) in Neverland. As her daughter (Ella-Rae Smith) is about to be put under Peter’s spell, Wendy (Emily Carey) must fight to save her relationship with her daughter while dealing with the past. The cast includes Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson as the Darling women of the past and Iain Glen as Hook. The story of Peter Pan has always fascinated me from the time I saw the play as a four-year-old, and I look forward to this new exploration of the legend.    The Lost Girls Info

Until Next Time!

Friday, May 13, 2022


My View: Firestarter (2022) R   As a result of a secret government experiment, a young girl, Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), has gained the power to start fires with her mind. Subsequently, Charlie is now being hunted by a group named The Shop, but Charlie isn’t going without a fight. It’s sad when the only positive thing you can say about a movie is that the film's score was enjoyable (by Halloween director John Carpenter, no less). The 1984 film starring Drew Barrymore and a host of early 80s icons (with a rare motion picture appearance by Heather Locklear) was a lousy film, and this remake doesn’t improve on the storyline one bit. The plot is pretty much the same (there are a few changes to try to update it) that don’t make any difference to us caring about any character in the film. Ryan Kiera Armstrong does, from time to time, looks a little like Barrymore, but that doesn’t help her center a picture where we don’t care if little Charlie gets found or not. The bad guys of the film, Gloria Reuben as the Captain (of what, I don’t know) who chews up the scenery at a regular interval and Michael Greyeyes, as a mysterious bounty hunter who kills without any plan, are toothless and not at all scary. Firestarter is supposed to be a horror film, but it comes off as even more boring than the original film, which was, I thought, impossible. There is a reason why the studio did not give film critics a screening and only offered screener access after it had premiered on the Peacock platform. I would light a fire to burn this film to the ground, but I am all out of lighter fluid, much like the film.  My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again    Firestarter Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide and on the Peacock platform.

My View:  Senior Year  (2022) R   Stephanie (Rebel Wilson) is a high-school student who, after a cheerleading accident, is left in a coma for 20 years. Now she is awake and ready to return for her senior year of high school…as a 37-year-old. I like Rebel Wilson, and as a side-kick in films like Pitch Perfect and JoJo Rabbit, she has been hilarious and scene-stealing. As a lead actress in such duds as Isn’t It Romantic and The Hustle, she hasn’t shown that she can handle the main spotlight. After taking a few years off to remake herself, now comes Senior Year. Unfortunately, Wilson has picked a film that is dull and unfunny right from the start. The film continually mines the ‘fish out of water’ premise, constantly bringing up horrible references to what was essential to teens 20 years ago with lines about MTV videos or mistaking Lady Gaga for Madonna. The film feels every bit of its hour and fifty-minute runtime taking forever to get going with the plot and running some jokes into the ground(like the fact that the high school is constantly making sure no one is offended by anything, including positive message cheers). I had high hopes when I saw the trailer, but now, I wish that Stephanie had stayed in the coma a bit longer for the writers to work on the script.    My Rating: Cable   Senior Year Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Happening (2022) R   Anne (Anamaria Vartolomel), a student in 1963 France, is about to finish her studies when she finds out that she is pregnant. Consequently, she decides to abort the baby against the law and goes on a journey to do so in a society that censures women’s rights and desires. I won’t lie to you; this is a tough film to watch as we follow Anne through the weeks of her pregnancy that she is desperate to end with some scenes that will be upsetting to watch. This is a painful and sometimes very graphic and chilling story about a woman who can’t see her future with a baby in tow and finds that everyone, including her friends, abandon her in her time of need. Anamaria Vartolomel is mesmerizing as Anne, letting us see her every emotion on her face, even when trying to be stoic or lying (especially in her moments with her unsuspecting mother). Truly a painful and full of despair look at the plight of a woman whose society has put up so many obstacles to overcome that it seems to be doomed from the start. Happening is an amazing movie that will be talked about for a long time and maybe, just maybe, open some hearts and minds to this complex issue. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Happening Website   Now playing in select theatres.

My View: Operation Mincemeat (2022) PG-13   In order to try and fool Germany during WWII about the planned Allied invasion of Sicily, a group of intelligence officers come up with a plan to take a deceased man, dress him up as an officer, and place fake plans about an alternate invasion and place him via submarine on the coast where German soldiers can find him. This is based on an incredible true story that saved countless Allied lives by tricking the Germans into thinking Greece was the next invasion target instead of Sicily. The plan is a fantastic bit of deception that worked only because of the brilliance of the people who planned it and then kept working on it, even when others doubted it would succeed. I loved the secondary story of Colin Firth’s character, Ewen Montagu, a married man whose marriage is in trouble and starts working with a brilliant and funny woman, played perfectly by Kelly Macdonald, who is attracted to the dashing Ewen. I also loved that Ian Fleming, the creator of the iconic James Bond books, is a character in the film that always seems to be in the right place at the right time to collect material for his future books. Operation Mincemeat is a spy film where the main spy is a dead man, a remarkable tale about a group of people who created one of the greatest spy tricks of all time.   My Rating: Full Price     Operation Mincemeat Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest:  Monstrous  (2022)  PG-13   Laura (Christina Ricci), traumatized and fleeing from an abusive relationship, who takes her 7-year-old son, Cody (Santino Barnard), to a remote house in the woods. The two should be safe; however, there is something in the pond, a bigger, more terrifying monster than an ex-husband. This is a fun little horror movie that is bolstered by the performance of Christina Ricci and the 1950s setting. Ricci plays a woman who has taken her son to an isolated home in a small town. Her son begins saying that a monster is in the pond and is coming for him. Laura thinks, at first, that Cody is just scared, settling into a new environment, but Laura starts experiencing troubling feelings and sights herself. Like many fifties horror films, there is the conflict of thinking that everything is good and safe in a small town, but as always, there is something evil lurking behind the petticoats and the commercials for dishwashers built with the housewife in mind.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Monstrous Website  Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.

Forgotten Film: A Month in the Country (1987) PG   In the summer of 1919, a battle-scarred veteran, Tom (Colin Firth), comes to a small village to work on restoring a mural that is believed to be hidden inside the thick walls of a medieval era church. While working on finding and repairing the mural, Tom befriends a fellow vet, John (Kenneth Branagh), an archeologist working on a dig nearby. The two develop a friendship, and the two friends begin a long road to recovery with the help of their work, the village, and a vicar’s wife (Natasha Richardson). A Month in the Country is an enjoyable movie about healing and coming to terms with the past. Very early in their careers, the three stars show why they all went on to make their mark on cinema.   My Rating: Full Price   A Month in the Country Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Firestarter: Fire Stunt Safety

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Where the Crawdads Sing (2022)   Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is an outsider in her community. Kya is called the ‘Marsh Girl’ by the locals since she was abandoned in the marshlands of North Carolina and raised herself to adulthood. Kya begins to explore outside the world of her marsh when a young man she has befriended is found dead and is immediately cast by the community as the main suspect. Now Kay’s life will be under the microscope, and many secrets of the marsh are about to be revealed. Based on the best-selling book by Delia Owens and an up-and-coming star in Daisy Edgar-Jones (Normal People), this has the makings of a really cool movie to see this summer.     Where the Crawdads Sing Website

Friday, May 6, 2022

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

My View: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) PG-13   Due to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) casting a forbidden spell, the doorway to the multiverse has been opened. Consequently, alternate realities are now running rampant, including multiple versions of Doctor Strange. It's a threat to humanity that Doctor Strange, Wong (Benedict Wong), and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) will need their power and skill to repair before it's too late.  I was always a fan of Doctor Strange when I was a kid, mostly because he always had an attitude when doing superhero stuff, and this film continues that trend. Part fantasy, part horror, this film is a fun and enjoyable mix that takes you on an adventure into the multiverse. If you didn’t see the Wandavision TV series, you might be a little lost on some of the plot as Wanda plays a massive part in this film. Small kids may have a tough time with this one as there are some rather horrific characters in this film, both on the good and bad sides. There are some really cool surprises in this film, and the action is almost non-stop, with a final faceoff that keeps you guessing until the end. There are two extra scenes in the credits, one setting up the next Doctor Strange film, and the other is just a blast from the past (at least the director, Sam Raimi's past) . So go on an adventure with the Doctor and help him save not only our time but the rest of the multiverse. My Rating: Full Price
 My Rating:  Full Price  Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Website   Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Indiefest: The Duke  (2020) R   The Duke takes place in England in 1961, where a priceless painting has been stolen from the National Gallery, Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington. Was it a master thief? A gang of thieves working for an underground collector? Surprisingly, it was Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent), a 60-year-old taxi driver who has hidden the painting in his wife's closet. Jim Broadbent is marvelous as a kind of modern-day Robin Hood (or maybe Don Quixote) as he is intent on fighting for the little man, especially the war veterans from WWI, who are in their twilight years. The interplay between Broadbent's Kempton and his long-put upon wife, Lily, played by Helen Mirren, is a wonder to watch. Mirren gives a restrained performance as the wife who continously puts up with Kempton's attempts to protest against the government, all the while the two are both still grieving the loss of their daughter many years ago. The Duke is a heartwarming true tale (though they fudge a bit with some of the story) about a remarkable man who steadfastly fought for the Everyman and his genuinely unique family.   My Rating: Full Price  The Duke Website   Now playing in select theatres.

My View: Along for the Ride (2022)   Auden (Emma Pasarow) has spent her whole life studying with her nose in a book. When Auden goes to a coastal town to spend the summer before college with her divorced father, she decides to live a little. On a late-night stroll, she meets Eli (Belmont Cameli), and the two embark on a nightly quest to help Auden experience the carefree life she never knew she needed. This is an enjoyable summer romance film with a likable cast. Emma Pasarow reminded me of a teenage Jennifer Garner with a winning presence about her that is very appealing. Pasarow has excellent chemistry with Belmont Cameli, the mysterious young man who has decided to become Auden's guide to living. Andie MacDowell and Dermot Mulroney have very little to do in this film besides being distant parents, but this film isn't meant to be hard-hitting. It's an enjoyable fling that follows a script that we all know too well but still enjoy, where everyone is happy in the end.   My Rating; Bargain Matinee  Along for the Ride Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Petite Maman (2021) PG   Eight-year-old Nelly (Josephine Sanz) has just lost her maternal grandmother. Her parents and Nelly travel to the grandmother's home to empty it out. Nelly's mother can't handle the sorrow of being back in the house and leaves in the middle of the night. The next day Nelly goes out into the surrounding woods to play and meets a girl her age named Marion building a fort. Unquestionably, there is magic in this forest of Nelly's. Petite Maman is a short, sweet, heartwarming tale of a young girl dealing with one of life's hardest lessons, the act of grieving. This is a film that oozes with warmth and heart, brought forth by a breathtaking performance by Josephine Sanz, giving us a look into a little girl's life and her ability to deal with life, and all the problems that it presents to us. I just wish we all had a magical forest to retreat to, but at least we have Nelly's.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Petite Maman Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: Undertow (2004) R   Two brothers (Jamie Bell and Devon Alan) are being raised by their father (Dermot Mulroney), who still mourns the loss of their mother while living on an isolated pig farm in rural Georgia. Things change when the father's ex-con brother (Josh Lucas) comes to the farm. Things get ugly over a family mystery surrounding some gold coins, and the two brothers run away, going on an adventure throughout the deep south that will change their lives forever. This film is a mix of Mark Twain and Southern Gothic, with a cast of characters that sometimes don't feel real but always pack a punch of emotion. The cast is outstanding, with even an appearance by a young Kristen Stewart as one of the boy's girlfriend. This film is a little strange at times but is full of emotional moments that will not be forgotten. My Rating: Full Price   Undertow Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Duke: Rushes Runner

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Elvis (2022)   The look at the life of the man, the myth, and the legend, Elvis Presley. The film stars Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker, Olivia DeJonge (The Visit) as Priscilla, and Austin Butler (Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood) as Elvis. Written and directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, The Great Gatsby), this should be interesting to watch. I hope it captures the magic of Elvis.   Elvis Website  Scheduled for a late June 2022 release.

Until Next Time!

Friday, April 29, 2022


My View: Memory (2022) R   An assassin-for-hire, Alex (Liam Neeson), becomes a target himself after he refuses to complete a job for a notorious criminal organization. Now Alex must hunt down the people who hired him. However, Alex is hampered by a memory that is beginning to falter, blurring the lines between right and wrong. We have all seen this plot before; an aging hitman wants to quit but decides to take one last job, then decides not to go through with it because it involves killing a kid. The twist in this film is that the hitman is suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s. Neeson has, of late, been doing the hitman done wrong in quite a few films lately, and it's getting really old. Sure it has a nice twist where our hero is having such trouble with his memory that he writes stuff on his arm with a sharpie to help him on his hits, but this film drags on and on. There is so much exposition with characters explaining every detail of what they find out (or don’t) that it probably makes this film last 15 minutes longer than it should. What could have been an interesting look at an aging hitman becomes a dull story of revenge that just seems to go on and on.   My Rating: Cable   Memory Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide.

My View: Crush (2022)    Page (Rowan Blanchard) is a talented art student in her senior year of high school. In order to be close to her ‘crush,’ Gabby. Page joins the track team. Although Page stinks at track, she is about to discover that love can be complicated when she finds that she is falling for someone else, Gabby’s sister AJ (Auli’i Cravalho). It’s fun to see a film where ‘coming out is not the main subject and is even used a couple of times as a source of jokes. Instead, being gay is just a part of the high school way of life. This is a pleasant and funny look at high school crushes and romance with a cast that has fun with it. Rowan Blanchard is delightful as Page, a slightly goofy, clumsy girl who has a crush on a fellow high school student. Page joins the track team to be close to Page, but instead of being paired with Gabby, she seems always to be paired with Gabby’s twin, AJ. I had fun watching this film, and while it’s not anything to get excited about, it’s still a blast to watch Page try her best to get close to Gabby, all the while, we know that she will end up with AJ in the end.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Crush Website  Now playing on the Hulu platform.

Indiefest: Anaïs in Love (2021) R  Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier) is a 30-year-old woman floundering in life. She meets Daniel (Denis Podalydes), an older man who almost instantly falls for her. However, Daniel lives with his long-term girlfriend, a writer named Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). Anaïs becomes obsessed with Emilie and makes it her mission to have Emilie fall in love with her. Anaïs is a young woman you will fall in love with despite being impulsive, self-centered, and flighty. She is the type of young woman who thinks nothing of letting a boyfriend know that she is pregnant and will have an abortion while breaking up with him. She gets by because she is beautiful and is full of life, the kind of young woman who can talk her way out of owning back rent or taking off at the last minute to go to a conference that she hasn’t been invited to. Anaïs is floating by in life until she meets Emilie, an older woman who is a distinguished writer. It doesn’t matter that Emilie is involved with Daniel, a man that Anaïs has had an affair with. She has set her sights on Emilie, and nothing will get in the way of getting close to her. Anaïs Demoustier is perfect in the role, an actress that fills the screen with life and self-confidence, something that Anaïs, the character, is abounding with. Anaïs in Love is a fun and lovely film that makes you want to fall in love and have that excitement and thrill of seeing a person who makes your world go around.   My Rating: Full Price   Anais In Love Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Charlotte (2021)   Charlotte is a young German-Jewish painter who comes of age in Berling on the eve of the Second World War. Charlotte has dreams of becoming a famous artist but realizes that her world is changing quickly and dangerously, and she leaves Berlin for the safety of the South of France. She finds new love and begins painting again, but a family secret threatens her work and life. This is an animated story of Charlotte Salomon, an artist who died in a concentration camp but not before creating 1000 paintings that told her life story. Charlotte is a gorgeous film that lovely tells her story and gives us an insight into many of her paintings. It’s a sad story but one that is also full of love and beauty.   My Rating: Full Price   Charlotte Website  Now playing in select theatres.
My View: The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes (2022)    The life and death of Marilyn Monroe has fascinated the world. Now a documentary explores the end of the icon with unheard interviews with both Marilyn and her inner circle. Will these previously secret tapes uncover the mystery of Marilyn? The life and death of Marilyn is probably one of the world’s most documented lives. Marilyn continues, even after so long to fascinate us, and her death has always been shrouded in mystery and conspiracy theories. Does this film give us much more insight into her life and her untimely death at age 36? Not really. I didn’t learn much more about Marilyn than I already knew. There certainly isn’t anything shocking or revealing about what was most likely an accidental overdose or a suicide. We do get to hear interviews with some somewhat shady individuals, but mostly they only confirm that Marilyn had affairs with both the Kennedy brothers while John was the President and maybe long before. Overall, if you don’t know much about Marilyn’s life, it’s a good primer, but will you learn anything new? The answer is no as I think the mystery has long been solved.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Forgotten Film: The Art of Getting By (2011) PG-13   George (Freddie Highmore) is a high school kid who just doesn’t try to do anything in life. He is proud of the fact that he has never done anything in high school because George doesn’t see why he should. Then he meets two people, Sally (Emma Roberts), a fellow student who suddenly takes a liking to him, and his art teacher (Jarlath Conroy), who thinks that George has talent and could be an artist if he just found some inspiration. George has a lot of people in his life that want him to apply himself, but until Sally, there was never a reason to do so. I love this movie because of the chemistry between Highmore and Roberts, who work incredibly well on screen. The plot is a little predictable, and I am not totally happy with the 2nd half of the film, but Roberts and Highmore make it a movie worth watching.   My Rating: Full Price   The Art of Getting By Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Crush: Mural Scenic

Coming Soon to a Screen Near Your:  Senior Year (2022) A cheerleading accident left her in a coma for 20 years. Now she is awake and ready to return for her senior year of high school…as a 37-year-old. Senior Year stars Rebel Wilson, and that’s enough for me to see it.    Senior Year Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, April 22, 2022

The Bad Guys

Familyfaire: The Bad Guys (2022) PG   The Bad Guys is about a gang of master thieves led by the Big Bad Wolf (voiced by Sam Rockwell). When the gang is caught trying to steal a priceless award, Professor Marmalade (voiced by Richard Ayoade) vows to turn the gang into ‘The Good Guys.’ Undoubtedly, Wolf and his gang will turn the attempt into another way to steal the award back. I liked the Ocean’s Eleven aspects of the plot with slow motion and split screens, and I loved Craig Robinson’s Shark character, who though a giant shark, is a master of disguise. Kids will love the not stop action and the silly characters, though I quickly got tired of the farting piranha. There is enough substance to the plot, including a very cool twist at the end, to keep parents from getting bored. Overall, not a bad way to spend some time with a motley group of thieves led by a big, bad wolf who has a weakness for a little kitty.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Bad Guys Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide.

My Take: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent   (2022) R  A cash-strapped Nicolas Cage (yes, that Nic Cage) has decided to retire from acting and agrees to make an appearance for 1 million dollars at a billionaire’s (Pedro Pascal) birthday party. It gets complicated when Nic learns that the billionaire is not only a fan but is a drug kingpin, and the CIA wants Nic to spy on him and save a kidnapped teenager. I am a big fan of Nicolas Cage (having discovered him in a Forgotten FIlm of mine, Valley Girl), and I love it when actors aren’t too full of themselves to be able to make fun of their personas. Well, Mr. Cage, I salute you. Unbearable Weight is a fun film full of letting Nic Cage be Nic Cage. If you are a fan of any of his movies, this is one for you. There are constant references to Cage’s films, both good and bad. Pedro Pascal is hilarious as the billionaire with a Nic Cage crush. The scenes where Cage and Pascal go to town while on LSD had me constantly cracking up. The plot is a little silly, and I had a tough time with Tiffany Haddish’s over-the-top portrayal of a CIA agent who forces Cage to become a spy looking for a kidnapped girl. However, this is too much fun of a film to be ruined by one bad performance. So go and take a ride on the Nicolas Cage experience. You won’t be disappointed.   My Rating: Full Price   The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide.

My Take: Polar Bear (2022) PG  Polar Bear is about a new mother as she raises her cubs in a world that has become increasingly hard due to the polar bears shrinking habitat. I am going to warn you right off the bat that you will need some tissues while watching this film. Nature can be cruel, and this film is about how polar bears are quickly losing their habitat, and very soon, if things don’t change, they won’t be able to survive. Yes, there are some beautiful shots of the two cubs playing with each other in the snow and scenes where we see just how much the mother loves her cubs. And there is a wonderful scene where two adult bears play and dance about on the snow and ice. But, and this is big, there is also hardship and death, where the film doesn’t pull any punches in its hard-hitting reality. The film is beautifully narrated by Catherine Keener, who lets us experience the movie through the eyes of one of the young cubs as they grow up under the protection and guidance of their fierce but loving mother. Polar Bear is a film that will touch your heart and maybe, just maybe, inspire you to help protect these magnificent creatures. My Rating: Full Price   Polar Bear Website  Now playing on the Disney+ platform.

My Take: The Northman  (2022) R   The Northman is a tale about a Viking prince, Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård), who, after years away, has come back to avenge his father’s (Ethan Hawke) death and rescue his mother (Nichole Kidman). Filmmaker Robert Eggers is known for making films that are a little strange, a little weird. I was expecting a whole lot of strange, but instead, I got a fantastic Norse tale that has some magic and a few horse-riding gods, but overall it’s a bloody story of revenge and fate, with a little bit of Shakespeare thrown in. Alexander Skarsgård fills the screen with his hulking body as he fights his way, one bloody step at a time, to get revenge on his father’s brother, who killed his father, stole his crown, and took Amleth's mother as his bride. Amleth witnesses all this as a boy, and as he escapes, he vows revenge. We skip to years later, and Amleth is on the search for his mother and his uncle. Along the way, he meets a slave, Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), who is eager to help Amleth in his quest, and little by little, Amleth starts killing his uncle's tribe, all the while hiding out as a slave. The Northman is a magical tale full of blood and chopped-off heads, along with a healthy dose of Viking lore and a landscape that is beautiful but harsh. The fight sequences are savage, and the revenge is ruthless, but so are the people that inhabit this world. This is a tale of one man’s obsession and how far he will go for that revenge he can almost smell and taste.    My Rating: Full Price  The Northman Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Forgotten Film: Birth (2004) R   It’s been ten years since losing her husband, Sean, to a heart attack while jogging, and now Anna (Nicole Kidman) is about to get re-married. At the party to celebrate a family birthday, a mysterious young boy shows up uninvited and tells everyone that he is Sean, Anna’s late husband. And so starts the strange and captivating film Birth. As you can imagine, Anna is so slow to believe that her husband has been reincarnated into this little boy, but as she gets to know the new ‘Sean,’ she learns that he knows facts about her and her family that only the original Sean could know. The question is, will you, the viewer believe that Sean the boy is Sean the husband. Kidman gives a spectacular performance of a woman who loved her first husband and wants that feeling to return. Cameron Bright is convincing as Sean, who takes his place in the world very seriously and wants Anna back in his life. Birth is a film that takes a turn near the end that may or maybe not answer all your questions.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Birth Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Bad Guys: Wolf’s Car Design

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is trying to deal with the aftermath of the Avengers' battle with Thanos. Should he retire and give up being a superhero? But there is a new foe to fight, Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), and Thor asks his friends to help take down Gorr, who intends to make the gods extinct. Directed by Taika Waititi, appearances by the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Christian Bale? I think that’s enough to see this next Marvel film, don’t you?   Thor: Love and Thunder Website

Until Next Time!

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

46th Annual Atlanta Film Festival and Creative Conference April 21 - May 1, 2022


It’s time for my favorite event in Atlanta, the Atlanta Film Festival! With 29 feature-length films, including 11 Marquee screenings and a total of 155 creative works from around the world, the Atlanta Film Festival is an event film lovers won’t want to miss. ATLFF is presenting some of the best upcoming films that Hollywood has to offer, including movies from top studios and films that previously played at Sundance.  

ATLFF 2022 will be more accessible than ever, offering a mix of in-person and virtual screenings and virtual Q&A sessions with filmmakers. Screenings will be held at three venues, the Plaza Theatre (1049 Ponce De Leon Ave NE), Dad’s Garage (569 Ezzard St SE), and The Carter Center (453 Freedom Parkway). All virtual screenings and events will be presented via Eventive. 

The long-running festival has always been a distinguished event, recognized as the ‘Best Spring Festival’ by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and one of the ’25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World’ and one of the ’50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee' by MovieMaker Magazine.

The Opening Night Presentation, taking place at the Plaza Theatre on Friday, April 22, 892, is a dramatic thriller starring John Boyega, the late Michael K. Williams, Nicole Beharie, and Connie Britton. 892 follows a Marine war veteran who faces mental and emotional challenges when he tries to reintegrate back into civilian life. Screenwriter Kwame Kwei-Armah will be on-hand for the red carpet screening. 

The Closing Night Presentation on Saturday, April 30, at the Plaza Theatre is the Disney+ documentary Mija. Directed by Isabel Castro, the film follows Doris Muñoz, who began a career in music talent management and met Jacks Haupt, an auspicious young singer, and both share the ever-present guilt of being the first American-born members of their undocumented families.

The narrative features lineup is outstanding, including Cha Cha Real Smooth starring Dakota Johnson and written and directed by Cooper Raiff, Emily the Criminal starring Aubrey Plaza and Theo Rossi, and Summering, a coming of age story directed by Georgia-native and celebrated ATLFF alumni James Ponsoldt. Documentary feature highlights include Look At Me!, an inside look at a gifted young rapper's tumultuous rise to fame before his death at the age of 20, with never-before-seen footage as XXXTentacion's inner circle speaks out, and REFUGE, a story about fear and love in the American South from local Atlanta directors Erin Levin Bernhardt and Din Blankenship. 

The festival is also known for its short film categories and is one of the few festivals in the country that offer Academy Award-qualifying for all three of the short categories: Narrative, Documentary, and Animated. One hundred twenty-four short films make up the festival, 24 of which are from Georgia.

The popular Creative Conference will be ongoing again at the festival, with workshops, panels, talks, and demos will delve into the world of filmmaking, focusing on topics such as screenwriting, pitching, acting, producing, casting, funding, and distribution, and how they all come together to make a film or television episode. The highlights include Masterclasses, panels, and conversations with actress Antonia Gentry (star of Netflix’s Ginny and Georgia), actress Priah Ferguson (Stranger Things), actor Atkins Estimond (Hightown), producer/director Cherien Dabis (Only Murders in the Building, Ozark), actress Danielle Deadwyler (The Harder They Fall), showrunner Nick Antosca (Candy), cinematographer Daniel Patterson (The Last OG), director Stacey Muhammed (Black-ish, Queen Sugar), comedy writer Robert Peacock (Mad About You), VFX editor Barry Murphy (1883), and many more.

The full schedule of films and events is now available at Festival passes and tickets for individual events are on sale now on the site.

The Atlanta Film Festival is the chief annual operation of the Atlanta Film Society (ATLFS), one of the oldest and largest organizations dedicated to the promotion and education of film in the United States, which enriches the community through screenings, classes, workshops, and other events year-round.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

My View:  Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore  (2022) PG-13   Professor Dumbledore (Jude Law) has entrusted Newt (Eddie Redmayne) to lead a team of wizards, witches, and one brave Muggle baker to go on a dangerous mission to stop the powerful Dark wizard Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) from seizing control of the wizarding world. Newt and his team will encounter old and new beasts and clash with Grindelwald’s legion of followers to save the world. The question is, just how long can Dumbledore remain on the sidelines? So this is the third (and possibly final) film in the Fantastic Beasts series. I enjoyed the first film but didn’t like the 2nd one, finding it confusing and lacking the wonder and fun of the first film. I am also not a fan of Johnny Depp, who, after a stellar career early on, has become someone who mails in his performances and brings a campiness to films that don’t need it. I’m happy to say that for this third installment, Depp has been replaced by Mads Mikkelsen in the role of Grindelwald, the villain of the story. Mikkelsen gives a much more restrained version of Grindelwald and makes the villain more menacing than Depp’s cartoonish interpretation. That being said, while I enjoyed this film much more than the 2nd installment, it is very evident that J.K. Rowling, who wrote the script of the first two films and the Harry Potter books, is making this film about the politics of the last ten years and the film suffers for it. I also had trouble with the fact that Porpentina ‘Tina’ (Katherine Waterston), the love interest of Newt and his main supporter in the previous two films, is barely in this film, with almost no explanation. Now, all that being said, I still enjoyed the movie, primarily because of Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Newt, who has this wonderful screen presence, making Newt someone who sees the wonder in the world and wants to protect these fantastic, magical creatures. Also, the film is helped by Dan Fogler, as the love-lorn Jacob Kowalski, the Muggle baker who, with his good nature and humor, helps the team in sticky situations, all the while morning that his beloved Queenie has gone to the bad side. It is rumored that there will only be more Fantastic Beasts films if this one does well at the box office. I’m ok, either way, as this is a fine ending to the Fantastic Beasts saga.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Fantastic Beasts Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Father Stu  (2022) R  Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) has been a boxer and a wannabe actor, constantly failing and getting into trouble. After a near-fatal accident, Stu decides to become a priest. Along the way, Stu will be given many more obstacles to overcome along his journey from self-destruction to redemption. Father Stu is one of those films whose heart is in the right place but can’t deliver the power or emotional impact that this film sorely needs. It is very evident that Wahlberg put a lot into the role of Stuart, and it has come out that Mark also put a lot of his own money into the film. I wish that passion made it to the screen. The film moves along at a barreling pace, packing Stuart's life into a series of ups and downs (mostly downs), including getting drunk a lot and getting arrested even more. The film wants us to love Stuart, but it’s hard even to like the guy, as we wonder what Carmen (played by the fantastic Teresa Ruiz) sees in him, as Stuart clumsily romances a woman who will only consider dating Stuart if he becomes Catholic. The film is helped by an outstanding supporting cast, including Jacki Weaver as Stuart's long-suffering mother and Mel Gibson as Stu’s not-so-loving deadbeat father. The film is based on a true story, and I wish that Stuart’s remarkable transformation from a troubled young man into an inspirational priest was made into a better, more nuanced movie. But instead, we get a predictable film that never captures the magic of what the real Stuart must have been like.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Father Stu Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Choose or Die (2022)   Down on her luck, coder Kayla (Iola Evans) finds a mysterious 1980s video game that has the possibility of having unclaimed prize money. Straightaway, Kayla, with the help of a fellow coder, Isaac (Asa Butterfield), fire up the game, and they step into a surreal world of next-level terror where the game brings pain and death to reality. I think that people who will enjoy this film are the older viewers who remember the early years of computer gaming, where you used a cassette tape and a monochrome monitor to play games that mostly asked you questions like ‘Do you want to go left or right?’. Otherwise, this film is a pretty ordinary horror film where the characters are forced to choose one bad choice versus another bad choice. Like a lot of horror films of the past ten years or so, this is another in a long line of horror films where the hero of the film must make hard choices, often where the hero must decide who dies while trying to figure out how to get the game to stop. While not a horrible film, Choose or Die doesn’t bring much to the horror table other than an initial nostalgic look at a gaming past that kind of sucked.   My Rating: Cable    Choose or Die Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Dual   (2022) R   Sarah (Karen Gillan) has been given a terminal diagnosis and has opted for a cloning procedure. After the procedure is done, Sarah finds out that she isn’t dying. Consequently, Sarah tries to have her clone decommissioned, only to be told by a court that she will be dueling her clone to the death in one year. This is a strange little film about a woman who doesn’t seem to care that she is dying until she realizes her replacement double is a better version of herself and that even her mother likes her more than the real Sarah. This is a dark comedy that doesn’t always work, a film that skims the line too much between being deadpan and outlandish. I am a fan of Karen Gillan, especially her work on Doctor Who, but the film seems to have lost that Gillan can play with her roles, making them seem fun and energetic. Gillan’s Sarah is lost in restraint, and that makes this film feels slow and dull, even in a quite funny sequence where Sarah’s ‘duel’ trainer, played by Aaron Paul, tries out ‘killing dancing’ with Sarah as another way Sarah can attack her double in the upcoming duel. I never could get into this film where the main character was so dull, even when she wasn’t supposed to be.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Dual Website   Now playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: House of Sand And Fog   (2003)  R  Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) is a woman whose life is slowly crumbling around her. She is a woman who has had a drinking problem in the past, her husband has left her, and now, her family home has been taken away from her. Behrani (Ben Kingsley) is a man who once was successful in his home country of Iran but now works two jobs to support his family here in America. He buys Kathy’s house in an auction hoping that his fortunes have turned around. Instead, the two people are on a collision course that could destroy both their lives. House of Sand and Fog is a film where the two main characters are both right, and that’s the problem. One or both most lose in this game. Jennifer Connelly gives a brilliant performance as the troubled woman who sees Behrani as the enemy, someone who has taken her life from her. As only he can, Kingsley gives us a man who is full of grace until he is pushed to the edge and his family is threatened. House of Sand and Fog is a film that will stay with you and make you wonder who was right and who was wrong.   My Rating: Full Price    House of Sand and Fog Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore: Animal Coordinator

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You:  Top Gun: Maverick  (2022) PG-13  Maverick (Tom Cruise) has for 30 years served his country but has done it his way, as one of the Navy’s top aviators, pushing the envelope as a test pilot. Maverick has been able to dodge the advancement in rank that would ground him until now. Maverick is back where he started, and he is still flying by the air tower, rank be damned. Finally, we get a film that has been pushed back due to COVID for what seems like forever. Can Tom capture the magic again? We all will be there to see it.   Top Gun Website