Friday, February 28, 2020

The Invisible Man

My View: The Invisible Man (2020) R   Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) is in an abusive relationship with her husband (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), and with the help of her sister (Harriet Dyer), and their childhood friend (Aldis Hodge), she escapes and goes into hiding. When her husband takes his own life, Cecilia is the sole beneficiary of his will, leaving her millions of dollars. Cecilia was always told by her husband that he would hunt her down if she ever left him, even from the grave. Now Cecilia is convinced that her husband has figured out a way to become invisible, making her life a living hell. Over the past couple of months, I have seen some incredibly crappy films that have tried, very unsuccessfully, scare me. I am happy to tell you that finally, we have a suspense film (its not quite a horror film) that, through a smart and skillful script, creates scenes that are filled with tension and fear. In the age of ‘Me Too,’ it is refreshing that a film captures the real horror and panic of a woman being terrorized, and no one will believe her side of the story. What I love about this film is that while most of the characters, including some of Cecilia’s closest friends, feel that she is going nuts, we, the audience know that what Cecilia is experiencing isn’t a figment of her mind, but something that is really happening to her. The film deftly treats Cecilia as a strong woman who has legitimate fears of what her husband is capable of, even if it seems that he is attacking her from beyond his grave. Moss is perfect as the everywoman who is determined to solve what is happening to her, even if she has to do it by herself, powered on by only her wits and will power.   My Rating: Full Price     The Invisible Man Website
Indiefest: Emma. (2020) PG  Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a young, beautiful woman, who much to the delight of her father, Mr. Woodhouse (Bill Nighy), refuses to marry. Instead of matrimony for herself, she feels it is her mission to play matchmaker for her friends and family. Emma’s plans don’t always work out, and Emma may find that love may be just around the corner, whether she wants it or not. Anya Taylor-Joy brightens up the screen in every scene she is in, making it so much fun to watch her character weave her magic with her friend's lives. Emma is a beautiful film to watch, filled with luscious scenery and amazing costumes. The film is a delight for not only your eyes but is filled with very amusing situations as Emma tries to influence everyone she encounters with her ideas about relationships. And, any film that has Bill Nighy as a hypochondriac father who is always on the lookout for a draft that he is convinced is in every corner of his household, is worth the price of admission. This Jane Austin adaptation is a film that the words delightful and enchanting kept coming into my mind as I was watching it.   My Rating: Full Price    Emma. Website
Indiefest: The Traitor (2019) R  The life of Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino), the ‘boss of two worlds’ who was a high-ranking mafia chief who became an informant and brought down the Sicilian mafia in the 1980s. I go every year to the Cinema Italy Film Festival here in Atlanta and have seen some outstanding Italian mafia films. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of them. In what seems like a vanity project for lead actor Pierfrancesco Favino, the film is a slow, meandering film that seems much longer than its 2 hours and 25-minute length. I found the movie incredibly dull as I didn’t care what happened to any of the characters in the film and never truly understood why, after years of service, did Buscetta turn state’s witness for a crime family that made him a lot of money. The film wants to be a Godfather-like saga, but instead, we get a watered-down movie that has minimal action and a lot of scenes of courtrooms with very little substance or style. The film has won some awards and was up for the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, how? I have no clue. The only thing I know is I never want to see this film again.   My Rating: Cable    The Traitor Website
Indiefest: Beanpole (2019)   In 1945, post World War II Leningrad, two women (Viktoria Miroshnichenko, Vasilisa Perelygina) who bonded after fighting side by side as anti-aircraft gunners, are trying to put their lives back together when a shocking accident brings them closer and seals their fates. I want to warn you that very early in this film, there is a scene that is extremely uncomfortable and painful to watch. I have a feeling some people may leave the theatre after that scene, and it’s probably for the best because this is a film that is full of pain and misery. The film is about two women who have been damaged, both mentally and physically, by the horrors of war. Is the movie worth staying for? I believe so, mostly due to the moving performances of the two leads who are playing two characters that aren’t always likable, but you still want some piece of small happiness to happen in their lives. I was struck by how this film looked, where an occasional splash of color, like a green dress, seems like a tiny miracle to a landscape of cloudy days and old, dirty wallpaper. I don’t know if I will ever forget these characters, two women that try to survive with the help of each other.    My Rating: Full Price    Beanpole Website
Forgotten Film: In The Loop (2009)   Shot in mock-documentary style, this hilarious film is about the people who work in the upper elections of government and how one badly miscommunicated statement can mushroom into a major problem. The US and Britain are trying to decide if they will declare war against an unnamed Middle Eastern country. I love this film and its quick and witty dialogue. The cast is brilliant with James Gandolfini, as a US general who is anti-war and Peter Capaldi as the communication director of the British Prime Mister stand out in roles that they just go nuts in. Why this film didn’t do well at the box office is beyond me because there are lines spoken that should be part of the banter of anyone who loves to quote movies.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     In the Loop Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Invisible Man: Head of Music Preparation

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Climb (2019) R   The friendship of two guys (Michael Angelo Covino, Kyle Marvin) as seen in a series of different chapters of their lives through the years. The film was the talk of the Sundance Film Festival as it is shot in a series of long takes. My fellow film critics that have seen the movie haven’t stopped talking about it. have seen the movie haven’t stopped talking about it.     The Climb Info
Until Next Time!

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Call of the Wild

My View: The Call of the Wild (2020) PG   Buck is a beloved family dog whose heart is even bigger than his enormous size. Buck is kidnapped and sent to the frozen tundra of the Yukon. Buck learns to be a sled dog and eventually a companion to John Thornton (Harrison Ford), a man who wants to get lost in the winter wilderness, leaving his former life behind. The film starts out with an introduction of a dog, who is clumsy, running amuck in a large household, destroying the reception of a wedding, and showing up for the family photo with a Turkey leg in his mouth. Is this the latest Scooby-Doo movie? No, it’s an adventure film starring a dog that is created entirely by CGI at the cost of at least 120 million dollars (possibly up to 150 million after retakes). Buck, the dog, never looks real throughout the film, because the filmmakers constantly go to closeups of the dog as he gives expressions that an actual dog would never give us. If you are a fan of Harrison Ford, please note that he is only in about half of the film, the rest of the film is Buck’s experiences of being abducted to be sold as a sled dog in the Yukon and his attempts to become a sled dog for a mail delivery team. The film tries to pull the heartstrings every chance it can, mostly relying on those facial closeups of Buck, but it never comes close to delivering any sort of emotion. Young kids may enjoy some of the action sequences, but even those fail to create any tension as too often they end in attempts at humor. I recommend that you watch the 1935 version of the film instead. While not great movie, it at least has Clark Gable and a real dog as Buck.   My Rating: Cable   The Call of the Wild Website
Indiefest: Ordinary Love (2019) R   Joan and Tom (Liam Neeson, Lesley Manville) have been a happily married couple for years. Their relationship and their marriage are threatened when Joan is unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer. Ordinary Love is one of those small, intimate films that handles the relationship between two people with compassion and exploring how a severe illness can break down even the most robust and most secure couple. Neeson and Manville give us honest and sometimes brutal performances as two people trying to help each other deal with a horrible situation, where the cure (chemotherapy and extensive surgery) are as bad as the disease itself. Underneath the trials and tribulations that they are going through, the couple has already suffered a serious blow in the past. A serious blow which rears up in their relationship to compound the potential tragedy they are presently going through. This isn’t a big, splashy film but one that lets two masterful performers give us something extraordinary.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See This Film Again    Ordinary Love Website
Indiefest: Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) R   On an isolated island in Brittany at the end of the eighteenth century, a young artist, Marianne (Noemie Meriant), is hired to paint a wedding portrait of a mysterious, silent woman, Heloise (Adele Haenel). A beautiful and magnificent look at the love between two women who know that no matter how deep their love is for each other, they are doomed to only experience their togetherness for a brief period of time. The film is a slow and steady look at a relationship where the two women gradually, almost too deliberately, explore their budding feelings for each other through short glances or slight touches of their hands. Writer/director Celine Sciamma shrewdly handles the relationship through the eyes of Marianne as she becomes enchanted by the young woman she has been hired to create a portrait of Heloise so that a nobleman can see her beauty and marry her. Marianne's job is to finish a painting that a male artist wasn’t able to complete because Heloise would not sit for him. There is a secret that the family is Heloise is hiding from the nobleman, one that hangs over Heloise’s almost every move. The film is a movie, much like the painting, that takes time to complete but is worth seeing the finished product.   My Rating; I Would Pay to See it Again     Portrait of a Lady on Fire Website
Indiefest: Banksy and the Rise of Outlaw Art (2020)   Documentary on the world’s most infamous and mysterious street artist, Banksy, and the revolutionary art movement that he/she has inspired around the globe. You got to love a film that opens up with one of Banksy’s famous pranks. A Banksy art piece is auctioned off, with the winning bid of over a million dollars. As soon as the gavel goes down for the final sale, the artwork starts to shred itself. The film, while concentrating on the life and artwork of Banksy, gives us a great background of the history of the graffiti and street art scene that not only Banksy but other artists came from. The film contains excellent footage of Banksy as a young artist, always hiding his identity. I am guessing that Banksy is a male due to the footage in the film, but that’s as close as you get to figuring out who he is. The film contains interviews from some of the leading street artists, including Steve Lazarides, who, for many years, was Banksy’s, right-hand man. If you are a fan of Banksy and his art, you will want to see this film and revel in how Banksy has become one of the most famous artists of the modern age.   My Rating: Full Price    Banksy and the Rise of Outlaw Art Website
My View:  Brahms: The Boy II (2020) PG-13   Unaware of the horrific history of Heelshire Mansion, a young family (Katie Holmes, Owain Yeoman), moves into the guest house on the estate. The couple’s son (Christopher Convery) soon discovers on the grounds a new friend, a life-like doll he calls Brahms. Oh, Katie Holmes, I had so much hope for your career back when you were playing that sweet kid on Dawson’s Creek. Now you are stuck doing horrible horror films, which is sad to me. I will admit the doll is pretty creepy for about the 1st five minutes of the film, but after that, the movie resorts to a lot of music that is meant to be scary and not much else. The ending of the film feels rushed and isn’t satisfying at all, with almost everything leading up to that point predictable. The film never builds any tension, and Convery as the son just isn’t creepy enough to make it interesting. My advice to Ms. Holmes, get a new agent and my advice to you, the moviegoer, skip this sleep-inducing plot of a film.    My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again     Brahms: The Boy II Website
Forgotten Film: The Addiction (1995)   A New York philosophy meek grad student, Kathleen (Lili Taylor), who is obsessed with how evil is portrayed in literature, encounters a stranger (Annabella Sciorra) who it turns out is a vampire. This black-and-white film is hard to describe (part horror/part comedy) but is worth watching just for the performance of Christopher Walken as a vampire that becomes Kathleen’s guide to the blood-sucking life and a college mixer that turns into a party of vampires.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     The Addiction Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Call of the Wild: Buck On Set (a man is listed, not an animal).

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Hunt (2020) R  Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing and don’t have any idea where they are or how they got there. They are about to find out why they have been chosen, chosen for 'The Hunt.' I don’t know if it’s true, but the trailer says that The Hunt is the most talked about film of the year.    The Hunt Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Photograph

My View:  The Photograph (2020) PG-13  Mae (Issa Rae) is the daughter of a famous photographer, a mother she has a troubled past with. Mae falls for a journalist named Michael (Lakeith Stanfield) when a writing assignment crosses their paths. Will the past come between the two lovers? When I see Atlanta based producer Will Packer’s name in the credits, I always know that I will be getting a film that will satisfy in the end, and with this romantic film, we get just that. What I liked about this film is that it treats both sides to the story of Mae and Michael equally, as both fall for each other pretty fast even though both lovers have been burned recently by past relationships. A solid date movie that is perfect for Valentine's Day weekend, the film has just enough twists and turns in the story to keep us interested to see if the couple is going to end up in the end together. The film is greatly helped by the chemistry of the two leads, and Issa Rae is an actress whose presence on the screen demands our attention. I get asked all the time why Hollywood doesn’t make more romantic films, and all I can say is every once in a while they get one right.   My Rating: Full Price    The Photograph Website
My View: Downhill (2020) R  After escaping an avalanche during a family ski vacation, a married couple (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell) are forced to reevaluate their marriage. Based on a Swiss film that I loved called Force Majeure, this Americanized version misses the mark on almost every level. The film has no idea if it is a comedy, a drama or maybe a black comedy and rarely doesn’t it succeed in any genre. Audiences will be disappointed due to the casting of Louis-Dreyfus and Ferrell, expecting an all-out comedy, and it fails to garner many laughs. The audience I saw the film with was desperate to enjoy the movie, laughing early on at scenes that weren’t funny, nor were they meant to be. Ferrell’s character is so unlikeable that almost from the start of the film, you can’t figure out why Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s character puts up with him. The ending feels forced and unsatisfying, but that is par for the course of this dreck of a film. Go out and rent the Swiss version of the film and skip this one.   My Rating: Cable    Downhill Website
Indiefest: What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael (2018)   Documentary on the life and work of controversial film critic Pauline Kael whose work championed new filmmakers in the 60s and 70s. I was never of a fan of Kael’s writing as I found that I rarely agreed with her reviews, but I will say that while I almost always disagreed with her views, I read them every week. A feisty critic who loved to champion the underdog, Kael was a rare breed of critic, a female writer in a field dominated by white males, and a person who wasn’t afraid of putting down any film or filmmaker, no matter how big and mighty. Her reviews could make or break a film, and studios hated her so much that often they wouldn’t screen their films for her. The movie goes into all these factors, as well as pointing out that she struggled to make a decent lying as a critic. I hope that this documentary makes a few of you go back and read some of her film reviews as they are fascinating and incredibly entertaining, even if you don’t agree with what she had to say.   My Rating: Full Price     What She Said Website
Indiefest: The Assistant (2019) R   A day in the life of an assistant, Jane (Julia Garner), to a powerful entertainment mogul. As we see her perform her duties, we discover just how horrible a boss Jane truly has. The question is, will Jane ever fight back? The Assistant is a small, quiet film that follows a young woman who tries her best to perform the duties of her job, all the while waiting for the boss to blow up at her at a moment's notice. The film is quite unassuming in the way it shows just how horrible Jane’ s job is. It's not only that she is expected to be perfect in every way but also must handle the continual beatdown that she suffers not just from her boss but from her coworkers as well. The film doesn’t have any significant moments in the movie, but that’s the point of this movie. It’s the continual degrading, exausting job with a promise that all Jane’s hard work and suffering will pay off someday. The question that Jane must answer is it all worth it?   My Rating: Full Price    The Assistant Website
Familyfaire:   Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) PG   After discovering a blue, incredibly fast hedgehog named Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz), Tom (James Marsden), a small-town police officer, joins forces with the hedgehog to try to defeat an evil genius named Dr. Iva Robotnik (Jim Carrey). I think kids will enjoy this film as the main character is fun, colorful, and a little goofy. Parents, on the other hand, maybe bored when Jim Carey isn’t on the screen. Carey is hilarious as the evil Doctor. I guess that Carey probably ad-libbed about 90% of his lines, and he looks like he is having a great time playing the part. Is the film slightly stupid, sure but you probably already knew that. It’s worth the price of admission to see Carey have fun on the screen. Do stay through the first series of credits as there is a bonus scene that several of my audience actually applauded for.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee      Sonic the Hedgehog Website

My View: Fantasy Island (2020) PG-13   Guests come to Mr. Roarke’s (Michael Pena) island to have their wildest dreams and fantasies come true. The Island isn’t what the guests expected, and now they will have to solve the island’s mystery to escape with their lives. The original Fantasy Island was a crappy TV show from the 70s that did incredibly in the ratings even though the writing was horrible, the plots were stupid, and the acting was 2nd rate. I am sad to report that the 2020 film version keeps the tradition of crappiness going. A horrible film that never is scary and has a plot which took so many twists that I have no idea, nor do I care, what the heck was behind all the drama of the film. The film just keeps going, seemingly twice as long as its hour and fifty-minute length. Like the TV series, the film has a bunch of characters that have come to the island to fulfill some sort of fantasy, most of which you won’t care if their fantasies come true or not. There is a reason why the studio didn’t screen this film for critics, and if I had a fantasy granted by Mr. Roarke, it would be that this film was never made.   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again     Fantasy Island Website
Indiefest: Shared Legacies: The African-American Jewish Civil Rights Alliance (2020)   A modern alliance between African-Americans and Jewish Americans grew to a massive strength during the 60s Civil Rights era as Jewish leaders backed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts to bring racial equality and harmony. Through interviews with activists, Holocaust survivors, and leaders of the movement, the film shows how important was this alliance was, with both sides finding common ground in the blatant racism and segregation that ruled the South. The movie does an outstanding job of setting up the reasons the two sides banded together with leaders of both groups working closely in such landmark protests, such as the March on Selma. Using archival footage, combined with interviews with prominent leaders such as Congressman John Lewis, Rabbi Peter S. Berg, and Ambassador Andrew Young, the film drives home just how moving and vital the fight for civil rights was and how that fight must continue today.  Note: I saw this film at the 2020 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival.    My Rating: Full Price    Shared Legacies Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Website
Forgotten Film: Breaker Morant (1980) PG In 1901, as the Boer War is close to ending, three Australian soldiers (Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Edward Woodward, Bryan Brown) are court-martialed for the murder of Boer prisoners and a German missionary. The three soldiers claim that they were following orders, and the British government is prosecuting them to cover up further war crimes. A thrilling courtroom drama that shows the horrors of war and how honorable young men are ordered to do horrible things, things that they know are unjust but must follow through with their orders. Edward Woodward gives an outstanding performance as the soldier who joined the army under his ideals of what army life is about, only to learn that romanticism has no place in a warrior’s life.   My Rating: Full Price    Breaker Morant Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Photograph: Fixtures Foreman

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The French Dispatch (2020) R   The description is pretty vague with the story something to do with an English paper published in Paris. All you need to know is that it is written and directed by Wes Anderson and the cast includes Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Steve Park, Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson.      The French Dispatch Info
Until Next Time!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Birds of Prey

My View: Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020) R   After breaking up with the Joker, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) joins up with Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) to take on Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) to save a young girl named Cass (Ella Jay Basco). After the disappointing Suicide Squad, I had meager expectations going into this film, but I am happy to reveal that this film is a blast to watch. Margot Robbie dominates the screen as she plays Harley, who is trying to get over her breakup with The Joker. Robbie is having a great time playing this nutty character, and she gives the part her all. The humor in the film is laugh out loud funny, and the action sequences are flat out amazing. I loved the cast, especially Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as Huntress, a woman with quite a chip on her shoulder along with an inferiority complex and Ewan McGregor as the wacky Roman Sionis, a man who when crossed delights in cutting off peoples faces. I hope this film is a big success, and they make a couple of sequels, as Robbie pitched to the studio executives that this film should be part of a trilogy. While it's pretty small, there is a bonus scene at the end of all the credits that is a fun end to the film.    My Rating: Full Price    Birds of Prey Website
Indiefest: The Cave (2019) PG-13   Documentary about a group of doctors who work in a network of secret tunnels under the city of Ghouta, near Damascus, as the area is being bombed continually by government and Russian fighter jets and missiles. The film starts with one of the greatest openings of a documentary that I have ever seen, a visual that is both horrifying and impressive. The film centers on a 30-year-old female pediatrician, Dr. Amani, who has volunteered to stay behind and tend to the sick and hurt as best as she and her fellow doctors can. The film is heartbreaking as innocent people, under horrible conditions attempt to survive an unforgiving onslaught. Dr. Amani is a caring person who we see looks for those little victories, such as bringing a baby back to life or enjoying a spoonful of overcooked rice, to allow her to continue. Not only does Dr. Amani have to deal with the horrible conditions but very often she is confronted with men, that due to their beliefs feel that women should be not working but taking care of their children, refuse to believe that she can be someone whose skill and knowledge can be trusted. The Cave is truly deserving of its Academy Award nomination, you cannot watch this fantastic film without marveling at the bravery of the people, and especially Dr. Amani, that are just trying to survive for another day in 'The Cave.'   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again       The Cave Website    
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD / Blu-ray):  Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep (2019)    Years after the events of The Shining, a now-adult Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) meets a young girl, Abra (Emily Alyn Lind), who has similar powers like his. Dan takes the girl under his wing and tries to protect her from a cult known as The True Knot. Their mission is to find and prey on children with powers so that their members can remain immortal. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know how closely the movie follows the King storyline, but I think most fans of the first film will enjoy this movie that continues the story of Danny. The film effectively uses actors who look like the characters in the first film in a series of flashbacks that Danny keeps revisiting. I appreciated that the filmmakers took this route instead of trying to CGI the original actors into the film. While I never really got scared, I did enjoy the tension that the movie kept building as Danny and Abra try to defeat The True Knot. I don’t know if this film will be considered up there with The Shining, but it certainly does a great job of filling in the story on what happened after Danny’s dad died.   My Rating: Full Price     Doctor Sleep Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers But Just Looks Like a Bad Idea)First Lady   (2020) PG    A woman (Nancy Stafford), not married to the President (Corbin Bernsen) runs for the title of First Lady. I have watched the trailer for this film a couple of times, and I have no idea what the plot of this film is. In fact, I have no clue if this takes place in America or some alternate world. All I know is that this film looks like it was done with the cast of the 1st Baptist Church community players.      First Lady Website
Forgotten Film: Experiment in Terror (1962) Kelly (Lee Remick) is a San Francisco bank teller who comes home one night and is assaulted by a man who tells her she will follow his instructions to steal from her bank or he will kill her sister. Kelly enlists the aid of FBI agent (Glen Ford) to trap the blackmailer, but he is seemingly one step ahead of them at all times. Remick is perfect in the role, making us want her to survive and somehow find the man responsible. Experiment in Terror is an exciting mix of suspense and horror that is gritty in its look and feel. One of the best things about this film is the mix of interesting characters who inhabit the film and the magnificent score that brings the tension to the finale that takes place at Candlestick Park.   My Rating: Full Price     Experiment in Terror Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Birds of Prey: Roller Derby Instructor

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: No Time to Die (2020)  What possibly could be the last performance by Daniel Craig as James Bond, 007 has left active service, but his retirement is short-lived as he goes on the trail of a mysterious villain (Rami Malek) who is armed with a new technology that could be the most dangerous weapon ever developed.     No Time to Die Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Rhythm Section

My View: The Rhythm Section (2020) R   Stephanie (Blake Lively) will go at any length to seek revenge against those who orchestrated a plane crash that killed her family. I enjoy films about bad ass women that can fight and hold their own against all the odds. One of my favorites in this genre is the Luc Besson 1990 film La Femme Nikita, where a drug addict is kidnapped and is turned into an assassin. Like Nikita, Stephanie, reeling from the death of her family, has become an addict/prostitute who is trained by an ex-MI-6 agent (Jude Law) so that she can wipe out the terrorists responsible for the plane crash. The problem is Stephanie is no Nikita; she sucks at being an assassin, and it gets old very quickly watching Stephanie blunder her way through her attempts to kill people. Why Blake Lively, who I think if given that right part, can be outstanding, along with top-notch actors like Law, Sterling K. Brown would ever take on this project is beyond me. The stops and starts so many times that it seemed much longer than its hour and forty-nine minute run time. The Rhythm Section is meant to be the start of a film series, but I have great doubts that another film will ever be made for us to see Lively as Stephanie gets her butt thoroughly kicked again.   My Rating: Cable    The Rhythm Section Website
My View: Gretel & Hansel (2020) PG-13   A young girl, Gretel (Sophia Lillis), leads her little brother, Hansel (Sam Leakey), into the woods in search of food and shelter. They come across a woman named Holda (Alice Krige) who claims that she wants to help the children, but Gretel senses that there is something evil about the woman. This is a movie that once you have seen it (and I hope you never do), you will go ‘what the heck was that and what happened?”. So, there is a witch, and I guess that she wants to train Gretel to be her replacement (?), while all the while wanting to eat Hansel (I think). The film never delivers any scary moments, and there is a lot of sitting around a table while the witch lectures Gretel on how to be a woman/witch. To say that I hated this film would be an understatement as I had flashbacks to the awful European horror films from the 60s and 70s that I saw as a kid.   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again     Gretel & Hansel Website
My View: 2020 Oscar Nominated Short Films (2020) The live-action and animated shorts that are nominated for the 2020 Academy Awards.     2020 Oscar Nominated Short Films Website
        Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films: There are five films nominated: A Sister (Belgium), Brotherhood (Tunisia/Canada), Nefta Football Club (France), Saria (USA), and The Neighbors’ Window (USA). The two that stood out for me were A Sister, a taut, suspenseful film about a 911 operator that gets a mysterious call and The Neighbors’ Window, an exciting take on mild voyeurism about a happily married couple with two kids and one on the way, who have a young couple move into the apartment across the street that do not have any blinds on their windows. Both films have nice twists that make the movies a smart and clever watch.   My Rating (for all five films): Full Price

       Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films: There are five films nominated: Daughter (Czechia), Hair Love (USA), Kitbull (USA), Memorable (France), and Sister (USA). Note: There are four other excellent animated shorts that fill out the Animated program. I love that three of the films nominated are stop-motion and one, Kitbull, was hand-drawn. The two that stood out for me were Hair Love, a lovely tale about a father trying his best to style his daughter’s seemingly unmanageable hair and Kitbull from Pixar, about a friendship that develops between a homeless kitten and a poor, mistread pitbull.   My Rating (for all five films): I Would Pay to See it Again
Forgotten Film: The Great Mouse Detective (1986) G   Basil (voiced by Barrie Ingham) is a detective in the vein of Sherlock Holmes, and he is on the case of a kidnapping of a toy-maker by Basil’s arch-enemy, the evil Professor Ratigan (voiced by Vincent Price). I love the character Sherlock Holmes, and this film is a treat for fans of the master detective. The animation is beautifully done, back when animation was hand-drawn, and the plot is fun to watch as we see Basil solve a crime that just might even save the Crown. Sadly, this film has long been lost in the vaults of Disney, as it is worth watching if to hear Vincent Price create one of the great villains in the annals of animation.   My Rating: Full Price     The Great Mouse Detective Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Rhythm Section: Storeman

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Times of Bill Cunningham (2018) Documentary on the legendary NYTimes photographer Bill Cunningham who took some of the most iconic pictures in newspaper history and kept shooting pictures until he died at age 87.     The Times of Bill Cunningham Info
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Gentlemen

My View: The Gentlemen (2019) R   Mickey (Matthew McConaughey) is the weed lord of England and wants to settle down with his wife, Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), and sell his drug empire. It won’t be an easy sell. Writer/director Guy Ritchie goes back to his roots when he used to do witty and gritty films like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (2000) and Snatch (1998). The film is a little too flashy and very complicated at the start, and it took me quite a while to warm up to its rather brash language and violence, but about halfway through the film, I really started to enjoy it. McConaughey isn’t given too much to do other than be super cool (which we know he is good at), but the rest of the cast just has a blast playing some fun and off-the-wall characters. Charlie Hunnam, playing McConaughey’s right-hand man, is perfect in the role, and Colin Farrell gives a hilarious performance of a coach of a gang of small-time gagsters slash boxers. The best performance is Hugh Grant playing a con-man who is trying to swindle everyone he deals with. Grant is hilarious, with a thick British accent and twinkle in his eye as he tries to swindle a big score. Not quite a home run but still a good time at the movies, I hope Ritchie keeps making movies like this one instead of dreck that he has done lately (Aladdin, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.).    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Gentlemen Website
My View The Last Full Measure (2019) R  Scott Huffman (Sebastian Stan) is given the task of investigating if thirty-four years after his death, Airman Willam H Pitsegnbarger Jr. (‘Pits’) is worthy of getting the nation’s highest military honor, for his actions on the battlefield. Huffman will discover that there are many secrets being hidden to Pits’ story. This is such a remarkable story that you want the film to be better than it is. With a cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Plummer, Bradley Whitford, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Peter Fonda, Amy Madigan, and Diane Ladd, you would think that this film would just fly by, but instead, it drags as we keep going back to flashbacks to the day that Pitts died. There are a lot of talking head scenes as Vietnam vets anguish over that day, but the film never delivers the emotional punch that is needed to make this film worth watching.    My Rating: Cable    The Last Full Measure Website
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD / Blu-ray)Gemini Man (2019)  PG-13    An over-the-hill hitman (Will Smith) takes on his worst nightmare, a younger clone of himself bent on killing him. Let's get right to what everyone will be talking about, the CGI younger Will Smith in the film. At times, the CGI does a great job and looks like a real person, but there are times, especially when we first meet the clone that looks fake and very animated. This takes away from the film, as you are consistently taken from the storyline or the action, looking at how well or not the film is carrying off this gimmick. I call it a gimmick because, as one of my fellow critics noted after the film screening, it would have been easier (and less costly) to cast a young actor in the part and then add makeup for the older version. The action is well done, but the storyline is weak, and the ending is just stupid and an easy out. Throughout the film, I kept asking, why did two-time Oscar winner Ang Lee want to do this film, and how could it be this bad directed by him.    My Rating: Cable    Gemini Man Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers But Just Looks Like a Bad Idea): Gretel & Hansel (2020) PG-13   A young girl, Gretel (Sophia Lillis) leads her little brother, Hansel (Sam Leakey) into the woods in search of food and shelter. They come across a woman named Holda (Alice Krige) who claims that she wants to help the children, but Gretel senses that there is something evil about the woman. As of writing this, movie critics are not being offered a screening, never a good sign for a movie.    Gretel & Hansel Website
Forgotten Film: Bandslam (2009) PG   Will (Gaelan Connell) is a bit of a geek who's life revolves around music. He is recruited by Charlotte (Aly Michalka), who has put together a band to compete in the upcoming Battle of the Bands competition. Will knows something is missing from Charlotte’s band, and he finds Sa5m (Vanessa Hudgens) and adds her to the band, which instantly begins to gel. What I love about this film (besides the music which is catchy and fun) is how the film treats these teens like actual people, with real feelings and dreams. Hudgens and Michalka can sing, and Connell is perfect as the awkward kid who doesn’t think any girl would be interested in him. It’s a fun ride that reminds me a little of the fabulous 80s teen films that I fell in love with.   My Rating: Full Price    Bandslam Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Gentlemen: Crowd Voice Casting Assistant

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Rhythm Section (2020) R   Stephanie (Blake Lively) will go at any length to seek revenge against those who orchestrated a plane crash that killed her family. I am always interested to see what Blake Lively has picked for her next role.     The Rhythm Section Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Bad Boys for Life

My View: Bad Boys for Life (2020) R   The Bad Boys (Will Smith, Martin Lawrence) are back together for one last ride. The guys have to confront possible career changes and midlife crises, as they join a new task force named AMMO to take down a ruthless leader of a Miami drug cartel. If you are a fan of the first two films in the Bad Boys series, then you will have a good time watching this film. Is the plot stupid and the ending pretty unbelievable? Yes. Are there a lot of high-speed car chases and numerous things blowing up (sometimes for no reason)? Yes. Is the chemistry between Smith and Lawrence still there? Yes (but barely). I didn’t quite have as much fun as the audience I saw the film with, but if you know what you are getting into (watch the trailer), you will probably have a good time watching this ‘popcorn’ movie.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Bad Boys for Life Website
Familyfaire: Dolittle (2020) PG   Seven years ago, the famed doctor and veterinarian of Victorian England, Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.), lost his wife and has been sequestered behind the walls of Dolittle Manor with his menagerie of animals for his only company. When Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) falls ill, Dr. Dolittle sets out on an epic adventure to find a cure. Dolittle is an unfunny and rather stupid film that only young, and I mean really young, kids will enjoy. Downey has some sort of Welsh accent that I have no idea what he was saying about a third of the time. The plot is predictable, and the only fun animal in the whole bunch is a squirrel (voiced by Craig Robinson) that thinks people are out to kill him. The CGI is unimpressive, with some of the animals looking like they were drawn by eight-year-olds. I hope the paycheck was huge for Downey because he isn’t going to live down this film for quite a while.    My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again    Dolittle Website
Indiefest: The Song of Names (2019) PG-13   Thirty-five years after his close childhood friend, a violin prodigy, disappears on the eve of his big solo concert, an Englishman travels throughout Europe to find him. I wish this was a better film than what it turned out to be. It is intriguing at first, with the mystery of why the violinist disappeared without a trace. Unfortunately, the film takes too long to solve that mystery, and I became rather bored with the movie as it moved back and forth from the past to the present. When the mystery is solved, it’s quite a letdown, making the film feel a little shallow. Tim Roth plays the adult who is looking for the long, missing violinist, and Clive Owen is the man he finds. Both actors aren’t given much to do in this film, and the big, emotional moment just doesn’t deliver.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     The Song of Names Website
Indiefest: Les Miserables (2019) R   A cop (Damien Bonnard) transfers to the 93rd district (where Victor Hugo wrote his 1962 novel ‘The Miserables’) so that he can be near his son after his divorce. He is assigned to the local Anti-Crime Brigade, where cops try to keep the peace between residents. Les Miserables is a gritty, down, and dirty cop drama about the hard streets of a low-income Paris neighborhood, where the cops are constantly harassing the people of the community. What I loved about this film is there are a number of different characters in the movie, all with interlocking stories that all come together at the end of the film. Nominated for an International Feature Film Academy Award, this film is a hard look at a harsh life in the street.   My Rating: Full Price     Les Miserables Website
Indiefest: Weathering With You (2019) PG-13   A high-school boy, Hodaka, runs away to Tokyo, where he meets and befriends a girl who seemingly can manipulate the weather. The animation in this film is beautiful and sometimes a bit haunting. The film is a love story between a 15-year-old boy and a mysterious 18-year-old girl, Hina, who he discovers is called ‘The Sun Girl.’ Tokyo is in the middle of a record-setting weather event, it won’t stop raining. Hina, it seems can through prayer, stop the rain from falling for a short time. They start up a business, selling sunshine for events like a wedding or a ball game. Weathering with You is a love story, and the film is aimed at teenagers (think a Young Adult novel) where we wonder if Hodaka is ever going to get up the nerve to tell Hina just how he feels about her. Hina has a secret, and this love affair could be doomed. I enjoyed this film, and I loved the soundtrack that had a number of Japanese pop songs that perfectly captured the feelings of the characters.   My Rating: Full Price     Weathering With You Website
Forgotten Film: Lady in White (1988) PG-13   Frankie (Lukas Haas) is an 11-year old kid who one night is lured into the school cloakroom by some kids and is left behind, the door locked and Frankie realizes that no one knows where he is. He is visited by a ghost, a young girl who looks sad. As he tries to communicate with the spirit, another figure appears, a masked man who is looking for something in the cloakroom. The masked man decides to spare Frankie, leaving Frankie to figure out if he was visited by one or two ghosts. Lady in White is an excellent ghost story as our hero sets out to discover why he was visited by the young ghost, and if the masked man had anything to do with her death. I loved the fact that the film perfectly captures the look and feel of a small town as it deals with a ghost and a possible murderer. The film has a few nice twists and turns to make this a movie to watch. My Rating: Full Price    Lady in White Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Bad Boys for Life: Elk Set Production Assistant

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Saint Frances (2019)  A young woman (Kelly O’Sullivan) life is falling apart, and she decides to take a new approach, she becomes a nanny to a six-year-old girl who will change her life. The star of the film, O’Sullivan wrote the screenplay, and the trailer looks like this film could be a lot of fun to watch.     Saint Francis Website
Until Next Time!