Friday, March 1, 2024

Dune: Part Two

My View: Dune: Part Two (2024) PG-13  Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) has found love in Chani (Zendaya) and has the Fremen on his side in getting revenge against the conspirators who murdered his family. Paul may have to choose between love and the universe’s fate as he endeavors to prevent a horrible future only he can foresee. Dune by Frank Herbert was one of those books read by ten-year-old Mike that made me love science fiction. It was a magical ride to a world where a hero rode giant sandworms and battled to save a people from a horrible government. I read it thinking that this will never be a movie. Well, David Lynch tried in the 80s and failed, with a performance by Sting that still gives me nightmares. A couple of TV series also tried. Even a crazy director in Alejandro Jodorowsky attempted to make one, but it never got off the planning stage. Now Denis Villeneuve has brought us Dune in 2021, and now, Dune: Part Two, and to my surprise and the joy of the 10-year-old Mike inside me, he has succeeded. I loved the first film, though I did have a complaint that the film didn’t emphasize enough in the movie about the prophecy of a Messiah coming to save a people. Well, in Part Two, the film is basically about that prophecy and how it haunts Paul. It’s a future that he doesn’t want to happen, but as the story goes along, he realizes he will have to face the fact that it is his one and true path. The film has some outstanding performances, with Chalamet leading the bunch. He is perfect as the man/boy who proves at every turn that he is the person who will save the planet. Chalamet has the charisma and the charm that makes you believe he could lead a people to do the impossible. Zendaya is wonderful as Chani, the woman who, against her better instincts, falls for Paul, even though she is sure that he isn’t the messiah that everyone thinks he is. I loved Dave Batista as the villain who believes his brute force will win every battle. I don’t think there are a lot of big men (looking at you, The Rock) that could do this role with all its twists and turns. And then we have Austin Butler, as the main villain in this film, Feyd-Rautha. He gives us a bad guy to root against who doesn’t care who he hurts or destroys. It’s an over-the-top performance needed for the part he plays, and he is brilliant in it. The film does not feel at all it's 2 hours and 46 minutes length, with the action sequences filling the screen with incredible battles. Please see this film in a theatre, on as big a screen as possible, so you can be overwhelmed like I was with the spectacle of Dune: Part Two.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Dune: Part Two Website    Now playing in theatres nationwide. 

My View: Spaceman (2024) R  Jakub Procházka (Adam Sandler) is the first astronaut from Czechoslovakia. He has been isolated in space for six months on a mission to reach a mysterious cluster of space dust. He desperately misses his wife (Carey Mulligan) and begins obsessing over his marriage when he is given an opportunity to see her again. Is this real or all in his mind? I like and admire when Adam Sandler does dramas instead of his Hey, let's make a comedy with my buddies in a vacation spot type of film. My guess is that most people who see this film on Netflix are hoping for some levity in the drama but there isn’t any in this drab film about a man who is on a solo mission and reflects on his life and how he has treated his wife, who is left behind on Earth while she is pregnant. Almost right from the start, the film pushes the boundaries of whether what Jakub is experiencing is real or all in his mind. The film tries and fails to explore themes like loneliness and selfishness, with Jakub slowly realizing the mistakes he has made in his relationship with his wife. By about halfway through, I was bored with the concept and wanted the film to have even a little bit of conflict or action. However, it never arrived, leaving me lost in space.   My Rating: Cable  Spaceman Website Now playing on Netflix

Indiefest: Outlaw Posse (2024) R Chief (Mario Van Peebles) has returned from years of hiding in Mexico to gather a group of outcasts to reclaim stolen gold from the Civil War. It’s a harsh and unfair world, but Chief plans on righting a few wrongs. Outlaw Posse is a film that seems to be made so that Mario Van Peebles could make a western with his son, Mandela Van Peebles, and bring in some fellow actor friends to make cameo appearances to make the film seem filled with stars. Unfortunately, this is a poorly written film with plot holes so badly dealt with that they give you whiplash as the movie jumps around from one concept to another. It’s a film that tries to do too much and give us speeches while almost nothing happens that couldn’t happen in the film's first fifteen minutes. Added to the mess is a villain that seems to be right out of a 60s comic book, played by William Mapother, who chews up scenery like it is going out of style. I love Westerns, but this one is just like Chief continually firing his six-shooters. It’s just shooting blanks.   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again  Outlaw Posse Website  Now Playing in theatres. 

Indiefest: Asleep in My Palm (2023) A father (Tim Blake Nelson) and his daughter (Chloe Kerwin) are living in a storage shed off the grid in rural Ohio, where they hustle to stay alive each day. The problem is the father is hiding from his violent past, and his daughter is no longer a little girl who can accept everything her father tells her. Asleep in My Palm is a small independent film that does exactly what you want it to do: explore characters in an up-close and personal way. The reason to see this film is Chloe Kerwin, who plays the daughter who lives with a father who has raised her off the grid, living in a storage shed and stealing to make ends meet. The problem is that the daughter is growing up, wanting to see what more is out in the world and by her pushing the boundaries, it means that they could be discovered. Chloe Kerwin gives us a magical performance by a young woman who provides us with a character who is much older in smarts and experience than her age. As always, Tim Blake Nelson provides us with a character that is interesting to watch, one who loves his daughter but doesn’t want things to change. The film, directed by Time Blake Nelson’s son, Henry Nelson, lets us see a world we never knew was there because the people who live in it don’t want us to see them.   My Rating: Full Price  Asleep in My Palm Website Now playing in theatres

Forgotten Film: Find Me Guilty (2006) R Jackie DiNorscio (Vin Diesel) is a career mobster once shot four times by his cousin. Jackie is arrested and sentenced to thirty years in person for selling drugs. His crime family, the Lucchese mob, is up on charges, and Jackie is part of the trial. Jackie decides to defend himself in what becomes the longest criminal trial in history. 5-time Academy Award nominee Sidney Lumet, known for his movies 12 Angry Men (1957) and Serpico (1973), wrote and directed the film. Vin Diesel is a lot of fun as the wisecracking and loyal Jackie, who thinks he can do a better job than any lawyer can do. Diesel was hot off his roles in The Fast and the Furious, XXX, and The Chronicles of Riddick when he made this film, and it took me a little while to realize who it was (he wears a wig and prosthetic nose). This film is a fascinating look at a court trial system that has gone off the rails, with a supporting cast that includes Ron Silver, Annabella Sciorra, Peter Dinklage, and Alex Rocco. Find Me Guilty isn’t a great film, but it’s a fun performance by Diesel, and there are some wonderful and sometimes powerful scenes, including a brilliant scene between Diesel and Annabella Sciorra, who plays Jackie’s wife, that shows us the dynamic that made up their relationship. And by the way, the film is based on a true story, and the real Jackie hand-picked Vin Diesel to play him in the movie. My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Find Me Guilty Info   The film is available to rent/buy on Amazon and Apple TV. 

Weird Credits: From the credits of Dune: Part Two: Tube Rigger

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: I Saw the TV Glow (2024) PG-13 Two teenagers (Justice Smith and Brighter Lundy-Paine) bond over a TV show called The Pink Opaque. As their bond grows, things start getting weird. I feel that my description of the film is off a bit because of the buzz it has gotten having just played at Sundance. It’s defiantly a film to keep on the lookout for.   I Saw The TV Glow Website  In theatres in early May. 

Until Next Time!

Friday, February 23, 2024

Drive-Away Dolls

My View: Drive-Away Dolls (2024) R   Jamie (Margaret Qualley) regrets her breakup with her girlfriend and needs to get away to forget her troubles. Her best friend Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan) just wants to get away. The two embark on a road trip to Tallahassee in search of a fresh start. They rent a car intended for a group of inept criminals, and now the chase is on, but the girls don’t know that. I am a huge fan of the Coen brothers movies, especially Fargo. So I was excited when I saw the trailer for this film. Boy, was I disappointed. I wanted this film to end almost as soon as it started. It feels as if it is half a film (maybe brother Joel has the rest of the plot) with storylines that seem to end without any result, characters talking on and on without any rhyme or reason, and an ending that felt too easy. The film is full of stunt casting, so be warned that some actors are on screen for just a few moments. There isn’t a lot of heart in this film, and it feels almost like a parody of the sex romp films of the 80s with a lesbian slant, but that would be giving it too much credit.   My Rating: Cable  Drive-Away Dolls Website  Now playing in theaters.

My View: Ordinary Angels (2024) PG   Sharon (Hilary Swank) is a hairdresser known for getting involved in people’s lives. She finds out about a critically ill young girl whose widowed father, Ed (Alan Ritchson), is in over his head trying to get her treatment. Sharon does what she does best and single-handedly rallies an entire community to help pay for an operation. It will take a miracle, but that’s what Sharon does. Ordinary Angels is a touching story with a bit of Christian overtones that gets a little schmaltzy at times but works because of the message that if we work together and show some human kindness, miracles can happen. Swank has fun as the heart-of-gold hairdresser who has a troubled past and wants to right a few wrongs, primarily through her ability to talk anybody into anything. There are plenty of tears along the way, but it’s a story that loves a good miracle or two.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Ordinary Angels Website  Now playing in theatres.

Indiefest: lo Capitano (2023) lo Capitano is about two teenage boys, Seydou (Seydou Sarr) and Moussa (Moustapha Fall), who leave Dakar in Senegal to go on an epic journey to the greener pastures of Europe. Little do the young men know the hardships and dangers they will encounter along the way. This powerful film takes you on an unbelievable journey of two boys who are forced to become men along the way. lo Capitano is a film that treats its characters with tenderness as they endure horrific times. You are given insight into why the two boys want to go to Europe, but you also see why, once they have left, they miss their families and home. Seydou Sarr gives an incredible performance as a young man who is good at heart, loves his best friend, and is horrified at what he has to deal with and endure. It’s a brilliant performance that hits you in the gut and keeps punching because that's how bad this journey of two teen boys trying to find a better life. lo Capitano is a film about dreams and the journeys we travel to make them come true, no matter the hardship.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  lo Capitano Website Now playing in theaters. 

Indiefest: Stopmotion (2023) R  Stopmotion is the story of Ella (Aisling Franciosi), a stop-motion animator working under the demanding, legendary animator Suzanne (Stella Gonet), who happens to be her mother. When her mother dies, Ella hopes to finally make the films she has always dreamed of. Unfortunately, those dreams may become nightmares when a character she is filming suddenly comes to life. I am a huge fan of stop-motion animation, and this film is packed with incredibly creepy and scary animation. Ella is a frustrated animator who has lived under the shadow and thumb of her mother. When Ella finally starts working on her own creation, it’s actually a story from a neighborhood kid that takes a life of its own. Stopmotion is a story of a woman who doesn’t know what is real and what is made up. The storyline is a little light, but the melding of stop-motion animation with live-action makes this horror film stand out and gives you plenty of scares.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Stopmotion website Now playing in theaters. 

Forgotten Film: Heartaches (1981) R   A young wife (Annie Potts) is pregnant, and she doesn’t want to tell her husband (Robert Carradine) because of one little problem: it’s not his. So she leaves home to get an abortion and meets up with Rita (Margot Kidder). Though the two are opposites, they decide to pair up and soon find they have much more in common than they realize. While not a great movie, the performances of Margot Kidder and especially Annie Potts make this film worth watching. While Kidder’s character is the more outrageous, Potts dominates the film as a woman who has finally realized that she is far more capable than her worthless husband ever lets her be.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Heartaches Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Drive-Away Dolls: Chief of Zoss

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024) The Spengler family has returned to where it all began, the iconic New York City firehouse, to team up with some of the original Ghostbusters. Their mission is to stop an evil force unleashed by an ancient artifact that threatens to turn the world into a second Ice Age. This is the first movie in the Ghostbusters franchise that the late Ivan Reitman won’t be involved in. The film was going to be a Christmas release but was delayed by the actor and writer’s strikes.  Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire Website   The film is out on Friday, March 22nd. 

Until Next Time!

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Madame Web

My View: Madame Web (2024) PG-13  Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson) is a NYC paramedic who develops clairvoyant powers and repeatedly crosses paths with three young women (Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, and Celeste O’Connor). Cassandra realizes these women must be protected at all costs because they are destined to become superheroes. I have become a fan of Dakota Johnson, who has overcome the albatross of those icky Fifty Shades films. Unfortunately, Dakota looks like she has no idea what this film is about, and I understand that because, after seeing it, I’m not sure either. Madame Web is one of the most poorly written films I have witnessed in my 13 years as a film critic. Add to that fact that the studio went the absolutely cheapest route on special effects and gives us a film about spidermen (and ultimately spider-women) without including the man himself. The dialogue is horrible, and the studio thinks Tahra Rahim, who plays the bad guy, can’t speak English. They have ADR’ed his lines so badly that I’ve seen better dubbing in those 1960s Hercules films made in Italy than this one. By the way, the bad guy has had a long time to come up with a plan to kill the three teen girls, but I guess he spent most of his time playing with his spider because it’s a pretty crappy plan. Add all this, and we have three teen characters that are so annoying that we almost want them to die. I didn’t recognize Sydney Sweeney for nearly half the film because she is wearing a wig that looks like it was borrowed from a community theatre that puts on a yearly Christmas play. The editing is incredibly jumpy, so much so that I would have to see the film three or four times before I could tell you what actually happens in the final action sequence. Those hoping, like I was, that we would see Dakota Johnson doing some superhero things will be disappointed, as she mostly does a lot of running, driving, and complaining about how the three girls aren’t taking things seriously. I hope Emma Roberts and Adam Scott enjoyed their two days on the set and got paid big bucks, but we barely see either of them do anything on the screen but be filler for the too-long run time. I don’t think we will see Madame Web and her Spider-girls anytime soon, and I don’t think the studio believes that either, since it’s one of the few Marvel films without a post-credit scene. My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again  Madame Web Website   Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Bob Marley: One Love (2024) PG-13  The story of how reggae icon Bob Marley (Kingsley Ben-Adir) overcame adversity and an assassination attempt to become a beacon for peace in his country and the world. Kingsley Ben-Adir does a wonderful job portraying Bob Marley, perfectly capturing a man who was a force both on the music stage and in person. Disappointingly, Ben-Air is let down by a script that continually falls back on Marley’s music as a crutch when they get stuck with the storyline. When I saw the trailer, I thought the film was primarily about Marley’s return to Jamaica to bring peace and unity to a country that had known so much bloodshed. Unfortunately, the film isn’t really about that. It’s a meandering story about Marley leaving Jamaica for London to record a legendary album. The film should have been more about the relationship between Marley and his wife, Rita (played by the brilliant Lashana Lynch), who put up with Marley and his relationships with other women. We get to see a little of this, but Rita is more than just another bit player in the life of Marley. This isn’t surprising as the Marley family, mainly his son Ziggy, played a big part in producing the film. So, if you love his music, buy the soundtrack, but if you want to know about his life, watch the 2012 Kevin Macdonald documentary Marley, which will give you a better experience of seeing and enjoying the man, the myth, and the music legend Bob Marley.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Bob Marley: One Love Website  Now playing in theaters.

My View: Players (2024)  New York sportswriter Mack (Gina Rodriguez) has spent years developing special and successful hook-up ‘plays’ with her best friend Adam (Damon Wayans Jr.) and their crew. Mack sets her sights on the Big Apple’s most eligible bachelor, war correspondent Nick (Tom Ellis). Mack may have to rethink the ‘game’ entirely when she begins to fall for Nick. I enjoyed this rom-com because of Gina Rodriguez, who has a blast as Mack, a woman tired of playing the field and ready to find true love, not just someone to trick into having a one-night stand. Rodriguez is believable as a sportswriter, specializing in finding human interest stories in strange sports like boxing/chess matches (it is just like it sounds) and has fun with the role. The little gang she runs with is fun, and there is some good chemistry interplay with the group, who each use a play from their vast playbook to seduce both men and women. However, Mack is tired of the game and wants to find someone to share her life with. Mack thinks she has found her man in Nick, played nicely by Tom Ellis. I won’t tell you exactly what happens, but let’s say that, like many rom-coms, love is closer than Mack thinks. Players isn’t a great rom-com, but because of the charisma of Gina Rodriquez, it will satisfy your need for a bit of fun and romance with, spoiler alert, a happy ending.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Players Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: God & Country (2024) PG-13   Documentary that examines the history of Christian nationalism and its rise in the political landscape. God & Country is a film about how the separation of Church and State is getting less and less and how the rise of Christian nationalism has grown over the past 30 years. The insights that the film gives are based on a lot of the people who study religion, and the commentators not only give out information and historical facts but also give their own experiences with Christian churches and the rise of nationalism from the inside. This film is a terrifying depiction of how close we were to complete chaos on Jan. 6th and that if we're not careful, it could happen again and succeed. Using footage from Christian broadcasts, webcasts, and church sermons, we see how, through the years, nationalism has taken hold in so many churches and how it’s used for political power and fundraising. God & Country is a chilling examination of what our country might become, and it's as terrifying as any horror film that Hollywood has produced.  My Rating: Full Price  God & Country Website   Now playing in theaters.

Indiefest: The Space Race (2023)   Documentary on the experiences of the first Black astronauts, telling the story of breaking barriers and the burden they carried. As a kid who grew up in the 60s, I was a space nut. I watched every launch, and I can tell you where I was when significant events like the landing on the moon or the Challenger explosion happened. So, I know a lot about NASA and its astronauts. Or so I thought. I had no idea about Ed Dwight Jr., an astronaut candidate who was part of John F. Kennedy’s push in the space race and whose candidacy ended with Kennedy’s assassination. Or the story of Robert Lawrence Jr., an astronaut candidate who probably would have been another one who would have broken the barrier in the 60s but died in a test pilot crash. The film gives the men and women who blazed the trail the chance to share their stories in their own voices. It’s a fantastic story of overcoming obstacles that took too long to change. The Space Race allows us to learn about a group of men who were trailblazers and let their stories be told.   My Rating: Full Price  The Space Race Website   The review will be up on Friday, Feb. 16th.

Forgotten Film: Lourdes (2009)   Christine (Sylvie Testud) is a wheelchair-bound woman who has had a dream where she talks to the Virgin Mary and can walk. So she goes to Lourdes, the famous place where the water has performed miracles, hoping that something will happen. Sometimes, the journey is more important than the place you are going to. Lourdes is a film that doesn’t ask you to believe; in fact, many of the people you meet in the movie don’t believe at all. However, it’s also about those same people who are trying to live their lives the best they can. Sylvie Testud is marvelous in the role of Christine, a woman not necessarily looking for a miracle, but looking for love and kindness.   My Rating: Full Price  Lourdes Info The film is available on Disc from Amazon.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Bob Marley: One Love: Desk Operator

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Dune: Part Two (2024) PG-13 Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) has found love in Chani (Zendaya) and has the Fremen on his side in getting revenge against the conspirators who murdered his family. Paul may have to choose between love and the universe’s fate as he endeavors to prevent a horrible future only he can foresee. The first film did an excellent job of setting up what will happen in the second film, and we all can’t wait to see it.  Dune: Part Two Website The film will be released on March 1, 2024.

Until Next Time!

Friday, February 9, 2024

Lisa Frankenstein

My View: Lisa Frankenstein (2024)  PG-13  An ordinary teen named Lisa (Kathryn Newton) has a crush on a boy. The only problem is that he is dead and buried. After a set of horrific circumstances brings him (Cole Sprouse) back to life, Lisa has the boyfriend she has always wanted, even if he is still sort of dead. Set in the 80s, Lisa, whose mother was killed by a crazed hatchet welding intruder, is now stuck living with her father and his new bride, along with a step-sister, Taffy (Liza Soberano), who happens to be the most popular girl in school. In walks, or should I say, limps The Creature, whom Lisa has been visiting his grave, and now he has come to life, sort of. This film is by a first-time director, Zelda Williams (Robin Williams's daughter), and it shows. With a script by Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult) that pulls in 80s horror tropes right and left, the film has a lot going for it but fails to fully deliver its promise with a movie that keeps changing its tone and pace. Kathryn Newton is a lot of fun as the shy, mousey girl at first who blossoms with the help of The Creature. Lisa Frankenstein shifts between being campy and dark, sometimes at a moment's notice, and that’s the problem. It never knows quite what it is, much like The Creature himself.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Lisa Frankenstein Website  Now playing in theaters.

My View: Suncoast (2024) R  Doris (Nico Parker) is a high school student whose brother Max's illness has taken a turn for the worse, and he has moved into a hospice where their mother, Kristine (Laura Linney). Doris begins to make friends, especially since her mother is never home, so Doris’s house becomes a place to hang out for parties and sleepovers. At some point, things are going to get messy. Nico Parker is fantastic in this film about dealing with the impending loss of a loved one. I loved the chemistry between Parker and Woody Harrelson, who plays a Christian protestor on a vigil outside the hospice where Doris’s brother is in. They meet by chance and become friends, discussing their lives and why they have become who they are. There are some wonderful moments between the two that make the film worth watching. Laura Linney gives us a woman who is hard to like, as she has put all her time and attention on her son, leaving her daughter to fend for herself. Suncoast is a personal story for filmmaker Laura Chinn, and she lets Nico Parker shine in this coming-of-age story with a unique twist, much like its star. My Rating: Full Price   Suncoast Website Now playing on Hulu.

Indiefest: The Teachers’ Lounge (2023) PG-13  Carla (Leonie Benesch) is a well-liked teacher whose students love being in her class. When one of her students is suspected of theft, Carla tries to find out the truth. However, sometimes times, the truth is best left alone. This is a film where you fall in love with the main character but want to reach into the screen and stop her from doing some of the things she does. This film starts as a quiet little movie about a teacher and suddenly becomes a tense thriller with much to say about the role of teachers and parents as they try to navigate the educational world that gets more complicated each day. The Teachers' Lounge is a story about a teacher who, like a detective, keeps pushing to find out the truth and suffers because of that search. This is a film that, once it ramps up, grabs you by the collar and won’t let go until the final frame.  My Rating: Full Price  The Teachers' Lounge Website  Now playing in theatres.

My View: Upgraded (2024) R  Ana (Camila Mendes) is an art intern who works for an over-controlling, perfectionist boss, Claire (Marisa Tomei). Somehow, Ana has been picked to fly to London to accompany Claire. Ana meets the man of her dreams, William (Archie Renaux). The only problem is that Ana lets William think she is her company's boss. Upgraded is a delightful bit of fluff of a rom-com with a winning paring of Mendes and Renaux, who have sparks from the very start of their ‘meet cute.’ The film is greatly helped by Marisa Tomei as the boss who is never satisfied and by Lena Olin as William's charming mother. Tomei has a blast as the stuffy, demanding boss who starts to see that maybe Claire has something worth keeping. Olin gives the film a bit of class and fun as the famous actress who loves her son and wants him to find someone to love. Mendes has a great presence and makes you want her to succeed in both work and in love. So, find room in first class and take a trip to London to find romance and maybe a little success in work as well.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Upgraded Website  Now playing on Prime Video.

Indiefest: The Taste of Things (2023) PG-13  The story of Eugenie (Juliette Binoche), an esteemed cook, and Dodin (Benoît Magimel), her gourmet benefactor with whom she has been working for over the past 20 years. As they work together, their bond becomes one that each other can’t ignore, but Eugenie is reluctant to commit to Dodin, so he begins cooking for her. This is one of the most beautiful-looking films of the year, made by a filmmaker who loves both food and romance. The Taste of Things is not only a film about culinary arts, it’s about relationships. How we deal with food can tell you a lot about a person, and the cook and her benefactor are in love with preparing a meal. It’s also a film about relationships that build with time between two people who work together and, from time to time, sleep with each other. I fell in love with this film from the first ten minutes, in which we get a full, intense look at the workings of the kitchen and how each person fits in making a meal. Binoche and Magimel work beautifully on the screen as they push the boundaries of their characters' relationships. So, pull up a seat in the kitchen, though don’t be surprised if you are given a task or two.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  The Taste of Things Website  Now playing in theatres. 

Indiefest: Perfect Days (2023) PG  Hirayama (Koji Yakusho) is a toilet cleaner for a company in Tokyo. He takes pride in his work, puts up with his annoying, talkative co-worker, and has a passion for music, books, and trees. Hirayama is about to revisit a past he had hoped to forget because of a series of unexpected encounters. From the start, this film is deceptively simple. It’s about a man who has made peace with his life and his role in it. He is happy finding the routine and tasks of cleaning toilets. However, the film slowly peels back the layers of Hirayama, and we learn why he is the way he is. Perfect Days is a master class in storytelling that gives us insight into a man with just how he deals with situations and people. This film is about finding peace within yourself, finding your center, and reveling in it in small, simple ways. Koji Yakusho is brilliant as Hirayama, as his character finds delight in simple things and can handle both the small and large problems of the day with grace and wisdom. Perfect Days is a film that I will revisit so that I can learn a thing or two about life each time I watch it.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Perfect Days Website  Now playing in theatres.

Indiefest: The Monk and the Gun (2023) PG-13  The Monk and the Gun occurs when an American named Ronald (Harry Einhorn) has been sent to Bhutan to track down a priceless Civil War rifle. Ronald has arrived just as the country is transitioning from a monarchy to a democracy and is rife with change. It turns out that the rifle Ronald is looking for is in the possession of a monk, who has been sent on his mission, one that Ronald will get to know very well. I liked this film, especially the ending, but I didn’t love it. It’s a really slow build and was not as quirky as I would have liked. It’s an interesting premise and has a lot to say about culture and politics, especially the U.S. version that we tend to push onto other cultures. The film hits you over the head at times with symbolism, including naming the American Ronald Colman, who starred in the classic 1937 film Lost Horizon, which is about a lost culture being invaded by outsiders. The film didn’t hit the emotional punch I needed at the end, but I am still happy I went on the journey.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Monk and the Gun Website  Now playing in theaters. 
How to Have Sex (2023) R  Three British teenage girls go on a holiday that promises to be filled with drinking, clubbing, and hooking up in what should be the best summer of their lives. Until one of them goes missing. How to Have Sex is a film about expectations and how they rarely meet them. One of the three teen girls, Tara (Mia McKenna-Bruce), is a virgin and is determined to change that on this trip. I didn’t see this at a preview screening, so I saw a bunch of trailers shown before How to Have Sex. I think it’s fitting that most of the trailers were for horror films because that is what this film is, and the monster is a teen boy. How to Have Sex is a horror film about a naïve young woman who thinks that going out and getting drunk and then hooking up is expected of her. It’s about how social media and reality TV have warped young women to think this is the norm. Like a horror film, we see what will happen before our heroine does, and the tension builds throughout the movie as Tara tries to make her way through betrayal and heartache as her friends are more concerned with partying and Tara getting some. And like horror films where the hero emerges battered and hurt but alive, Tara does too. Mia McKenna-Bruce is brilliant as Tara, the life of the party, but someone worth more than just a few laughs. Near the end of the film, there is a scene where we see what has happened on McKenna-Bruce’s face as she goes through the cascade of emotions that is a moving piece of extraordinary acting. How to Have Sex isn’t an easy watch, but it’s well worth the experience of that final scene. My Rating: Full Price   How to Have Sex Website  Now playing in theatres.

Forgotten Film: They Only Kill Their Masters (1972) PG  A small-town police chief (James Garner) has his first murder case involving a suspicious death where the victim’s own dog might be the killer. This is one of those films that probably would have been better as a movie of the week on TV, but I like this film because of Garner, who is always fun to watch, and the chemistry he has with Katherine Ross, who plays the dog trainer that turns out is one of his main suspects. It’s also fun because the supporting cast is so good, including Hal Holbrook, June Allyson, Tom Ewell, Edmond O’Brien, and one of my favorite character actors, Arthur O’Connell. They Only Kill Their Masters isn’t a great film by any means, but getting to watch James Garner can’t be all bad.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  They Only Kill Their Masters Info  The film is available to rent/buy on Amazon

Weird Credits: From the credits of Upgraded: Chaperone

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Drive-Away Dolls (2024) R  Jamie (Margaret Qualley) regrets her breakup with her girlfriend and needs to get away to forget her troubles. Her best friend Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan) just wants to get away. The two embark on a road trip to Tallahassee in search of a fresh start. They rent a car intended for a group of inept criminals, and now the chase is on, but the girls don’t know that. This is the first film directed by Ethan Coen without the involvement of his brother Joel and has a cast that includes Bill Camp, Colman Domingo, Pedro Pascal, Beanie Feldstein, and Matt Damon.  In theatres on February 23rd.  Drive-Away Dolls Website

Friday, February 2, 2024


My View: Argylle (2024) PG-13  Elly (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a best-selling spy novelist who rarely leaves home. On a train, she meets Aiden (Sam Rockwell), who tells her he is a real spy and has been sent to save her from being kidnapped. Elly is now living the life that she has only written about, and it turns out that her books are the key to saving the world. Elly and her beloved cat Alfie are plunged into a covert world where nothing and no one is as they seem. I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of this film, as Elly and Aiden are thrust together as they try to stay two steps ahead of the bad guys while transporting a cat, who has a window in a backpack that gives him a ringside seat to all the action. Up to that point, the film is fun and light, with great action sequences and witty dialogue between Elly and Aiden. Unfortunately, the film takes a twist that kills all the steam the movie had built and becomes a silly mess that goes on far too long (two hours and nineteen minutes). There are a few scenes after that twist that are just outright painful to watch and far too outrageous to even have a bit of fun with. And the film wastes a few talented actors, including Samuel L. Jackson, who is there just to explain the plot. It’s seldom that when watching a film I feel sorry for the actors, who are trying their utmost to win us over with each scene, but in this case, I do. Especially with Bryce Dallas Howard, who seems game to try just about anything the director asks. There is a bonus scene at the end that ties in with another film, but even that is a letdown.   My Rating: Cable  Argylle Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide. 

Indiefest: The Promised Land (2023) R  Former soldier Ludvig Kahlen (Mads Mikkelsen) arrives in 1755 with a plan for the barren land of the heath of Jutland in Denmark, where he will successfully grow a crop and prove that the land can be fertile. First, he must survive not only the elements but also a neighbor, Frederik de Schinkel (Simon Bennebjerg), a wealthy landowner who has plans of his own for the heath and will do anything to make sure Ludvig fails. Mads Mikkelsen gives a powerful performance as a man determined to defeat both the odds and his fellow man while believing in himself to do what no one thought possible. It’s a film about the will of two men, both determined to defeat the other, but one is willing to do anything to win. The movie reminded me of one of my favorite Robert Redford films, Jeremiah Johnson. Both are men who are escaping the past by trying to succeed in a wilderness that few have before them, and both come by a family in the most unusual ways. The Promised Land is an outstanding film about pride, honor, determination, and, along the way, maybe finding love.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  The Promised Land Website  Now playing in theatres 

My View: The Greatest Night in Pop (2024)  Documentary on the night of January 25th, 1985, when dozens of the era’s most popular musicians gathered in a Los Angeles recording studio to record a song in one night that would make history. In the days of MTV and when radio still ruled the airwaves in cars and homes, there was an attempt to do in America what Bob Geldof did with the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ in Britain. Record a song to raise money for famine relief in Africa. This film takes us from the start, with an idea by Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson, who decided to write a song of their own and record it on the night of the American Music Awards. Lionel Richie gives us a blow-by-blow account of how it all went down, with a lot of help from the singing stars and the people doing the dirty work, like the seemingly impossible task of getting everyone there without it leaking to the press. I loved they were still writing the song while recording it. There are some incredible moments, one involving Bob Dylan and another country star, Waylon Jennings, that are just jaw-dropping. The Greatest Night in Pop is a fascinating look at the recording of a song played worldwide by a group of superstars (and Dan Ackroyd, of all people) that would never be in the same room again. And by the way, It’s a pretty darn good song.   My Rating: Full Price  The Greatest Night in Pop Website  Now playing on Netflix

Indiefest: Fitting In (2023) R   Lindy (Maddie Ziegler) is a teen who has just moved into her grandmother’s old house with her single mother, Rita (Emily Hampshire). Lindy has a new boyfriend, Adam (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), and things are heating up, so Lindy decides to go to a gynecologist to get on birth control. That doctor’s office visit will change everything for Lindy. Maddie Ziegler gives a performance they will talk about for quite a while. Ziegler shines in the role of Lindy, a popular teen who has a budding relationship with a great guy, Adam (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), with whom she is about ready to have sex with. She has a best friend, Viv (Djouliet Amara), with whom she shares everything, and a loving mom, Rita, who tries not to share too much since Rita is a therapist. When Lindy decides to get birth control from a doctor, it takes Lindy on a life-changing rollercoaster of a ride that few young women will ever experience. Ziegler gives a moving and touching performance that seems real and moving. Fitting In explores a wide range of topics, many of which are in the headlines, with a willingness to tackle some issues that are rarely discussed, much less explored on film. So grab a red solo cup and join Lindy on a journey to find her place in this world.   My Rating: Full Price  Fitting In Website  Now playing in theatres.

Indiefest: Scrambled (2023) R  Ever the bridesmaid, Nellie (Leah McKendrick) seems to go from one wedding to another, along with endless baby showers and one-night stands. Nellie decides things may not be in the cards for a romantic ‘soulmate,’ so she decides to freeze her eggs and starts a journey of self-discovery. This is a raunchy comedy about a woman who speaks her mind and is determined to take her possible future pregnancy into her own hands. Nellie is a woman who has a wonderful sense of humor and loves men but doesn’t want to have a child just yet. So, she decides to freeze her eggs, which sets her on a quest to find the money and get her body ready for the operation. Nellie deals with a lot with the constant circle of women she knows getting married and or pregnant. McKendrick not only stars in the film but also wrote and directed it, showing a flair for comedy. Nellie isn’t a woman you will instantly warm up to, but once you get to know her, you will root for her to succeed.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Scrambled Website  Now playing in theatres

Familyfaire: Orion and the Dark (2024) Orion (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) seems on the outside like your average elementary school kid. However, Orion is a ball of anxiety, entirely consumed by every irrational fear you can think of and a few you might not. Of all his fears, the thing he fears the most is the dark. And that’s just who shows up in his bedroom, Dark (voiced by Paul Walter Hauser), to take him on an adventure around the world to prove there is nothing to be afraid of in the night. I had fun watching this film. It’s about a kid afraid of almost anything, including going on field trips and petting dogs. I loved the storytelling, which will keep both kids and their parents interested in Orion and his adventures with Dark. Dark is out to prove to Orion that the world needs both light and dark and that there isn’t anything to fear about the dark; in fact, you just might have fun. The animation is beautiful, and I especially enjoyed the animated drawings of Orion in his journal about things he is afraid of. The storyline changes perspectives a few times, which makes it even more engaging. So get ready to go on a bit of adventure with Dark. He’s a friendly, misunderstood kind of guy.  My Rating: Full Price  Orion and the Dark Website Now playing on Netflix. 

Forgotten Film: The Yellow Handkerchief (2008) PG-13   Three strangers meet in a backwater Louisiana town. Martine (Kristen Stewart), Gordy (Eddie Redmayne), and Brett (William Hurt) are about to go on a road trip and will learn a few secrets along the way. The cast is brilliant, with Eddie Redmayne playing a shy, scrawny teen, Stewart as the bold teen who is just trying to get somewhere else, and William Hurt, who is invited in on the trip just because it’s raining, and Stewart’s Martine feels he should come along. This is a road trip film where we get to know the characters and their stories, including Brett’s fascinating and sordid past. The Yellow Handkerchief is a film made at the height of the Twilight mania for Kristen Stewart, and this film gave us a glimpse of what was to come for the talented actress.   My Rating: Full Price  The Yellow Handkerchief Website The film is available on DVD.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Argylle: Ice Choreographers 

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Love Lies Bleeding (2024) R  Lou (Kristen Stewart) is a gym manager in her small town where her father, Lou Sr. (Ed Harris), runs the town with an iron hand. Into Lou’s gym walks Jackie (Kate O’Brian), a bodybuilder who takes Lou’s breath away. It’s a meeting that will change their lives forever. In fact, someone may die. I love that Kristen Stewart keeps making interesting films that push the boundaries.  Love Lies Bleeding Website The film is in theatres in early March.

Until Next Time!


Friday, January 26, 2024

Miller's Girl

My View: Miller’s Girl (2024) R  Cairo (Jenna Ortega) is a high school student who excels at everything she sets her mind to. Her English teacher, Jonathan (Martin Freeman), sees talent in Cairo and gives her extra attention. When he realizes things may have gone too far, he rejects her, and now Cairo is out for revenge. I am a fan of both Freeman (Sherlock and Fargo TV series, The World’s End (2013)) and Ortega (Scream (2022), X (2022), Wednesday TV series), so I hoped that this wouldn’t be the mess that the trailer made it look like it could be. Sadly, it is a big mess. The film tries too hard to be cutting-edge and controversial, but the writing makes it seem like a bad attempt at a modern Tennessee Williams adaptation. I mean, you have a popular, charismatic high school teacher who can actually talk to his students, married to an alcoholic wife who spends too much of her time on her work, and a brilliant young student who is bored and wants out of the small-town life. So, she sets her sights on her English teacher, and he falls for it. Because of her over-imagination and a script that waxes poetics at the drop of a hat, we never really know if they ever did anything. Did they even kiss? We will never know. The title comes from the assignment that Jonathan gives Cairo to write something in the style of her favorite writer. So she picks Henry Miller, an author known for his pushing the window of eroticism in his writing. And Jonathan says, sure, why not? What could go wrong? The rest of the film, that’s what.   My Rating: Cable  Miller's Girl Website  Now playing in theaters

Indiefest: Sometimes I Think About Dying (2023) PG-13  Fran (Daisy Ridley) is good at her office job but is incredibly socially awkward. Fran spends most of her time alone, which gives her a way to daydream about how she could die. Fran’s world changes when Robert (Dave Merheje) starts working at her office, and he takes a liking to her. Now, the only thing standing in the way of her happiness is Fran herself. I went in thinking that this film was going to be quirky, funny, and fun. While incredibly odd, it’s not a funny film but more of a serious movie about a woman who doesn’t fit in, loves doing her job, and tries to avoid interaction as much as possible. All that changes when she finds herself attracted to her new office mate, Robert. He gives mixed signals to Fran, and she tries as hard as possible to let him know she is interested. The problem is that Fran doesn’t have a clue about how to interact with people. Instead, to escape her office mates chatting on about nonsense, she has daydreams about what it would look like if she died in the forest or on a beach. As much as she wants a relationship with Robert, he isn’t the perfect match, falling asleep on a date or not picking up the signs that she wants more than to be kissed once. Still, it’s an interesting ride that Daisy Ridley takes us on, far from her role as action adventurer roles in the Star Wars films. Fran is a role that Ridley seems to relish in, one that is profoundly understated, even so, she creates a character that we root for. We want Fran to find love or at least acceptance, but we may never know if she will ever see the happiness she finds in daydreaming about her dying.   My Rating: Full Price  Sometimes I Think of Dying Website  Now playing in theaters. 

My View: Badland Hunters (2024)  Badland Hunters takes place after a massive earthquake has transformed Seoul into an apocalyptic wasteland, where civilization has collapsed, and it’s everyone for themselves. Nam-san (Don Lee) protects a group of people living in a wasteland. When he finds out that a friend could be in trouble, he leads a couple of friends on a quest to rescue the friend, who is needed for an evil experiment by a mad doctor. Badland Hunters is a silly, fun romp with lots of grisly fights with lots of kung fu theatrics. It’s a film that includes zombies, a mad scientist, a formula to give everlasting life, and lizard men. What’s not to love when the hero’s primary weapon is a giant machete? What’s better to chop off quasi-zombie soldiers' heads with?   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Badland Hunters Website  Now playing on Netflix.

Indiefest: American Star (2024) R Wilson (Ian McShane) is an assassin who takes a job where he is commissioned to kill a man on a tropical island. The target is delayed, and instead of going home, Wilson decides to stay on the island and becomes involved with the people there. Now, the target has arrived, and Wilson is forced to choose between his job and his newfound friendships. This film is about a man who isn’t used to connecting with people while on the job. He is a man who prides himself on getting in and out of a job before the dust has settled or the blood spatters have dried. Wilson, for reasons we will never know, decides to spend some time on the island and slowly gets to know the people, townspeople, and tourists alike. The film is a slow burn and works only because of the star power and charisma of McShane. It’s a subtle bit of acting by McShane. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t entirely give us anything other than the few interactions that Wilson allows himself with: a pretty bartender who may be involved with the man he is there to kill and a young, lonely kid who spends a lot of his time locked out of his room by his continually drunk parents. I loved the film's cinematography, and there are some beautiful shots of Wilson in his black suit exploring the island. The film ends with a bit of a whimper, which is not what the film needed to give us. What we get has been like Wilson’s constant cigarettes, a long, slow burn.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  American Star Website  Now playing in theaters.

Indiefest: Pictures of Ghosts (2023)   Filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho revisits the downtown of the Brazilian city of Recife, where he explores the now vacant movie palaces that made such an essential part of Brazilian life. This is a deeply personal film about life in the town where the filmmaker grew up and lives. The first third of the film is about Filho’s life in the apartment that he not only grew up in but in the same place where he lives now. His apartment is a place that not only did he live in but also one that has starred in both his childhood films that he made with video cameras and his current professional life as a narrative filmmaker. The 2nd third of the film is about the movie theatres downtown, most of which are long gone. They are the places that Filho and the rest of the community went to from the 30s on to see the world’s best films come to their downtown theatres. He gives us the history of these theatres and shows us what they once were in their glory days and what they have become. It’s a painful journey, one of looking back at the joy that these movie palaces gave to millions and millions of people. The last third is a look at what could be one last theatre trying to survive by becoming a revival house. While sad, the film is also a celebration of movies and the theatres that show them. Pictures of Ghosts show us what those theatres of yesteryear brought to a community, they were part of its lifeblood.   My Rating: Full Price  Pictures of Ghosts Website  Now playing is select theaters.

Forgotten Film: Rembrandt’s J’Accuse…! (2008)  Documentary from filmmaker Peter Greenaway that investigates the mystery of one of the most famous paintings in the world, Rembrandt’s The Nightwatch. Using actors Martin Freeman, Eva Birthistle, Toby Jones, and others, Greenaway takes a forensic look at the painting and the implications that a murder has occurred in it. The film looks at all thirty-four painted characters and points a finger at who could be the shooter. It’s a fun film with plenty of laughs while exploring the world of one of the world’s most famous painters and a painting that has been a mystery for hundreds of years.  My Rating: Full Price  Rembrandt's J'Accuse Info The film is available for rent/buy on Amazon.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Miller’s Girl: Vault

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Road House (2024) R  A down on his luck, former UFC fighter Elwood Dalton (Jake Gyllenhaal) ends up working at a ‘Road House,’ a rowdy bar in the Florida Keys. Hired to clean up the troublemakers in the bar, it turns out the job is a lot more complicated than that. One key thing, don’t piss Elwood off. Road House is a remake of the 1989 film of the same name that starred Patrick Swayze and became a cult classic. Let's see what Mr. Gyllenhaal can do with the role. It should be a lot of fun.  Road House Info  Premiering on Prime Video on March 21st. 

Until Next Time!