Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Family Faire:  Coco  (2017)  PG  Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) wants more than anything to be a musician, but his family has an ancestral ban on music. Miguel will enter the ‘Land of the Dead’ to figure out why his family has followed the ban for so long. This is a beautiful film, both visually and story-wise. The songs are vibrant and fit the film with the song ‘Remember Me,’ one of the focal points of the movie an Oscar contender. Anthony Gonzalez has a fine voice that is made for Mariachi/Ranchera style songs of this film.This film took me back to my childhood summers that I spent in a small town in Mexico as it extraordinarily depicts life in a tiny town. It lovingly explores how much music means to the Mexican culture, and I love how the filmmakers add in cultural heroes like the wrestler Santo or the beloved artist and icon Frida Khalo.  The film really gets going when it goes to the magical ‘Land of the Dead’ with its incredibly colorful buildings and magical creatures. The movie treats the Mexican culture that few American films have, with love and respect. I will caution you, this film deals with death and with loss of family and abandonment. During the screening I went to a child, probably 6 or 7 started crying pretty uncontrollably, but that shouldn’t stop you from seeing this visually stunning and genuinely touching movie.  And yes, the 21 minute Frozen short Olaf's Frozen Adventure is as bad as you have heard. Normally the Pixar shorts are brilliant and moving, this one is stupid and boring.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Coco Facebook Page
My View:  The Man Who Invented Christmas  (2017)  PG  The journey that led Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) to create his magical ‘A Christmas Carol’ which re-defined what Christmas means to us.  I enjoyed this new and imaginative spin on the Dicken’s tale.  We get to see the writing process of Dickens as he struggles to pen a new book under the pressure of needing to provide for his family. As he struggles to write, we see how Dickens uses his imagination to help him overcome writer's block and a very annoying father. What makes this film is the performance of Christopher Plummer as Scrooge. Plummer is perfect in the role of the crabby and despicable Ebenezer, giving what could be an Oscar nomination performance. I think this is the perfect film to get you in the mood for the Christmas season.     My Rating: Full Price     The Man Who Invented Christmas Website

Indiefest:  Novitiate  (2017)  R  Set in the early 1960’s a young woman ( Margaret Qualley) in training to become a nun struggles with issues of faith, the changing ways of the church and her sexuality.  An impressive feature film debut by writer/director Margaret Betts who gives us what it was like to become a nun in the 60s as the Pope was reforming the church during the era of Vatican II. Melissa Leo gives a tour de force performance as the stern Reverend Mother, and Margaret Qualley gives the performance of a lifetime as Sister Cathleen, a young woman who is determined to become a nun, until she has a crisis of self-doubt.  Qualley is brilliant, quietly filling up the screen with her presence as her love for God is shone in every move that she makes. The film throws emotional punches at us throughout. The girls who want to become nuns are challenged at every turn as the Reverend Mother throws roadblocks at the women from the start. There is a painful scene where Sister Evelyn, played by Morgan Saylor, is forced by the Reverend Mother, in front of all the girls, to confront and expound on her faults, as ‘no one can be perfect.’ The film questions the old ways of the church, the power of faith and if someone like the Reverend Mother should be given so much power and influence over impressionable women. Novitiate is not always a comfortable film to watch, but it is worth your time to see a new filmmaker express her voice.    My Rating: Full Price   Novitiate Website

In Case You Missed It (A movie just released on DVD/Blu-ray):  Good Time  (2017)  R    Connie (Robert Pattinson) and his brother, Nick (Benny Safdie), have money problems and decide to rob a bank. The bank job goes bad, and Nick is caught by police. Connie is on the run and wants, somehow, to get his brother out of prison.  Anchored by an unprecedented performance by Robert Pattinson, this is a gritty crime film about a bank robbery that goes bad very quickly. Pattinson, who has come far as an actor from those early Twilight days, gives a powerful and dynamic performance. I don't know if enough Academy Award voters will see this film, but I think it could be on some Indie and film critic awards lists at the end of the year. The cinematography is brilliantly executed and perfectly enhances the mood and feel of the movie. Good Time is an impressive film with a scintillating performance by Robert Pattinson.  My Rating: Full Price   Good Time Website
Forgotten Film:  Ripley’s Game (2002)  R   Tom Ripley (John Malkovich) is a man you do not want to cross as, not only is he a con man, he is a steely-eyed killer. When his past catches up with him, and he is hired to take down a mob boss, he hires Jonathan (Dougray Scott), a down on his luck picture framer, to become his protégé. Malkovich is mesmerizing as Ripley (and yes, this is the same character that Matt Damon played in the 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley) as he doesn’t care what you do or think as long as you stay out of his way. The film has plenty of twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end.    My Rating: Full Price   Ripley's Game Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Coco: Simulation Technical Director

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Call Me By Your Name  (2017)  R  In Northern Italy in 1983, Oliver (Armie Hammer) is visiting Mr. Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) and his family as they do research for a project. Oliver takes Elio (Timothee Chalamet ), a 17-year-old music prodigy, under his wing and teaches him about life and love. Critics who have seen this film are raving about the performances of Hammer and Chalamet.    Call Me By Your Name Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Justice League

My View:   Justice League  (2017)  PG-13  Batman (Ben Affleck) is inspired by Superman’s (Henry Cavill) selfless act in Batman vs. Superman; Bruce Wayne decides to enlist Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to form a team of superheroes to face an enemy that threatens mankind. This film has a troubled history as the director Zack Snyder, left the film right after principal photography finished due to the death of his daughter. Josh Wheadon took over the reigns and reshot about twenty percent of the film, re-writing the script for those scenes. Because Snyder hates Superman (I don’t know why) and likes dark, moody films, his sections of the film seem out of place with the scenes that Wheadon helmed. Like the first Avengers film, the Wheadon scenes have quite a bit of humor and the actors look like they are enjoying playing superheroes, except Affleck who look miserable throughout the film playing Batman. What saves this film from being bad is the absolute delightful performance of Ezra Miller as The Flash. Miller brings joy to the part, giving the film a needed breath of fresh air, as his Flash seems to have maybe a bit of Aspergers syndrome. I also enjoy Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Jason Momoa as Aquaman, both are fun to watch on screen and I liked that Wonder Woman has a bit of character growth, that I am sure will be fully explored in the next film. The biggest problem (beside the fact the the villain of the film sucks) is that unlike The Avengers film, we don’t know some of the characters like Cyborg (I still don’t know who he is and I saw the film) or Aquaman, so I never got that thrill of seeing them all together like I did with the Avengers. I wish Wheadon had directed this film from the start, we would have gotten a film that wasn’t confusing, and at times, dull to watch. Be sure to stay through all the credits as there is a big scene at the end that you will not want to miss.    My Rating:  Bargain Matinee   Justice League Website
IndiefestWonder  (2017)  PG  The story of August (Augie) Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) who was born with a facial deformity, who has been in and out of hospitals for years. Previously homeschooled by his mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts), she decides that August should go to public school so he can try to be an ordinary kid. I absolutely loved this film as it hits all the right notes, touching in come scenes, moving in others and at times very funny. Tremblay is brilliant as Augie, making us feel his joy or his pain as he tries to survive school for the first time. I am not a big fan of Owen Wilson but he is perfect in the role of the supportive father who connects with his kid through humor. Roberts, as you would expect, excels in the role of the mother who loves her kid but realizes that it’s time for him to experience the world on his own. An aspect that I loved about this film is that it’s not always Augie’s centered on Augie’s point of view. We see the story through the eyes of his sister, her best friend, and a couple of Augie’s friends. This gives us more understanding of what Augie’s world is made up of and how Augie doesn’t always know what is going on in his world. Go see this moving film but I warn you, you are going to need a tissue or two.   My Rating:  Full Price    Wonder Website
IndiefestThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri   (2017)  R   After police fail to solve her daughter’s murder, a mother (Frances McDormand), personally challenges the local authorities. Frances McDormand give a tour de force performance as the strong willed mother who doesn’t care who she pisses off to get her daughter’s murder solved. It’s a flawless performance that will get her lots of awards this fall. There isn’t a bad performance in the cast with Woody Harrelson as the police chief who tries to do the right thing and Sam Rockwell as his slightly dim, racist deputy who still lives with his mom and gets drunk on a nightly basis. The film has a few twists and turns to keep your attention but at the heart of this film is the vivid performances that the whole cast gives throughout the film. This is a film that you will be talking about long after you see it.    My Rating:  I Would Pay to See it Again   Three Billboards Website
IndiefestLady Bird  (2017)  R  The adventures of a young woman (Saoirse Ronan), who calls herself Lady Bird, who is living in Northern California as she goes through her senior year of high school, finding love and trying to figure out her future. A lock to be in my top ten films of the year and maybe one of my favorite films of all time. Writer/director Greta Gerwig does the impossible in making an original coming of age film that feels real and shows what it’s like to be young, thinking the world is about to open up for you. You couldn’t ask for a better performance from Ronan, who is so believable as that teen who battles her mom, played by Laurie Metcalf, on a daily basis. As good as Ronan is, Metcalf is even better as the mom who can’t help herself from criticizing her daughter, wanting her to become something more than just a boy crazy girl. The film moves at a quick pace, giving us just slices of Lady Bird life during her senior year. I can’t stress how much I fell in love with this film, but this should give you an idea, I didn’t want it to end.    My Rating:  I Would Pay to See it Again    Lady Bird Website
IndiefestMudbound  (2017)  R  Two men (Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell) come back to their small Southern town after serving in the armed services during WWII. The two men share the experience of having fought a war and how it affects you while you try to adjust to ordinary life and the racism that still exists in the town. Heartbreaking and moving, this tale of two men who go off willingly to fight a war that scars them for life is intensely told. The center of this film is families, how they center us and make us feel safe when times are tough. The story is beautifully told and the performances are top notched. I’t s a film that feels large in scope but because we get to know the families in this story, it feels also very intimate and real.    My Rating: Full Price   Mudbound Website
Forgotten FilmBattle of Britain  (1969)  G  In 1940, the British Royal Air Force was fighting in the air a superior fighting force in the Nazi’s, as the fate of the country hung in the balance. Exciting film with an all-star British cast including Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Ian McShane and Laurence Olivier makes this film worth watching. The dogfight sequences are breathtaking and the cast gives it their all.   My Rating:  Full Price    Battle of Britain Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Justice League:  Make Up Designer to Be Affleck

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Darkest Hour  (2017)  PG-13  During the early day of World War II, the fate of Western Europe was being threatened by the Nazi war machine.  Newly appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) must decide to either make a stand or negotiate a truce that will surely break his country. I can’t wait to see this film as I love the history of WWII and especially Great Britain’s battle to stay alive.    Darkest Hour Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express

My View:  Murder on the Orient Express  (2017)  PG-13  A murder has been committed on the Orient Express, and the world’s greatest detective, Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), is on the case. Branagh makes a perfect Poirot, highlighting his quirks (like wanting his two hard boiled eggs the same height) without making it seem weird. The first half of the film works, especially the opening scenes where Poirot solves a crime in Jerusalem, but once he gets on the train and starts to solve a murder, the film slows down. I like when films don’t spell out everything, but, unfortunately, this movie does just that and gives us far more information than we need. There are some brilliant performances that stand out:  Josh Gad, as a bookkeeper to a gangster, does a magnificent job, flop sweat and all, Willem Dafoe gives a clever performance as a German businessman, and the chemistry between Tom Bateman, who plays the train’s manager and is an old friend of Poirot and Branagh, is one of the best things about this film. All characters play off each other exceptionally well, with most of the humor of the film coming from the conversations. Daisy Ridley gives the worst performance of the bunch with a shallow portrayal of her character.  If you are interested in this film, then see it on the big screen because the cinematography is gorgeous. Overall, it’s an interesting murder mystery, but I just wish it hadn’t felt the need to give us so much information.    My Rating:  Bargain Matinee     Murder on the Orient Express Website
Indiefest:  The Square  (2017)  R   Christian (Claes Bang) runs a contemporary art museum and is a devoted father of two. His world will change when his phone and wallet are stolen. This is an uncomfortable film to watch, scenes go on too long, the humor in the film is due to absurdity (like a chimp in a reporters room that is never even acknowledged), and the film deals with how we see the homeless in our daily life. The film is two hours and twenty-two minutes, and you feels it’s length. I enjoyed some of the absurd moments of the film but much like it’s contemporary art work in this film (like a pile of chairs with sounds of them crashing or piles of pebbles in a room), it might be something you like, but it’s not for me.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The Square Website
Indiefest:  Tragedy Girls  (2017)  R    Best friends Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla (Alexandra Shipp) are on a mission to boost their social media status as they track down a local serial killer. This is a strange and funny black comedy that uses the tropes of horror/slasher films and turns them upside down. Hildebrand and Shipp have superlative chemistry, making their friendship feel genuine. There are lots of blood and body parts, but the humor makes it seem a bit surreal. The film is helped by a stellar supporting cast including Josh Hutcherson, Craig Robinson, and Kevin Durand. If you liked Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, you will like this film.    My Rating:  Full Price    Tragedy Girls Website
In Case You Missed It (Movies that Just Released on DVD/Blueray):  Ingrid Goes West  (2017)  R  An unhinged social media stalker (Aubrey Plaza) moves to LA and figures out a way to become part of an Instagram Star’s (Elizabeth Olsen) life. Not quite a comedy, more like a drama with a few light-hearted moments, Ingrid Goes West works because Aubrey Plaza is a chameleon of an actress. You both pity her character at the same time that you are rooting for her against all the odds that she will find happiness. The film doesn't always work, but those moments that do work are magical. There is great chemistry between Olsen and Plaza, making their almost instant friendship seem real, though you feel that both characters aren't genuine or telling the truth. The film covers a lot of ground in this day of instant gratification and celebrities that make their living endorsing products online. Aubrey Plaza makes this movie worth seeing, and if you follow some of the 'Instagram stars' you just might find that you want to unfollow them after seeing this film.    My Rating: Full Price   Ingrid Goes West Website
Forgotten Film:  Dead Presidents  (1995)  R    A Vietnam Vet (Larenz Tate) struggles to adjust to life after the war while he tries to support his family. Things become so bleak that he has to turn to a life of crime to survive. The Hughes Brothers wrote and directed this tough-to-watch but touching tale highlighted with an exceptional performance by Larenz Tate. The first half of the film works better than the second as we get to know Tate’s character and how he became the way he is in the present.  This is a flawed film but still worth watching because the main character is so interesting.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Dead Presidents Info

Weird Credit:  From the credits of Murder on the Orient Express:  Drapes Supervisor

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Wonder  (2017)  PG  The story of August Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) who was born with a facial deformity, who has been in and out of hospitals for years. Previously homeschooled by his mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts), she decides that August should go to public school so he can try to be an ordinary kid. Based on the best-selling book by R.J. Palacio, the trailer looks like this could be a winner.   Wonder Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok

My View:  Thor: Ragnarok  (2017) PG-13  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela (Cate Blanchett) from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization. This is not the Thor movie that you are used to seeing. This film is filled with jokes and makes Thor look like a bit of buffoon. While the plot is a little weak, you won’t notice because this film is a blast to watch. It’ a delight to watch Cate Blanchett chew up the scenery (like a bad guy should do) as the evil Hela. I loved the hilarious conversations that Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Thor have, even when Hulk has turned back to Bruce Banner. Yes, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) does make his long-rumored appearance, and while it doesn’t add much to the plot, the interaction between Thor, Doctor Strange, and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) are one of the highlights of the film. The action sequences are awesome, and the final sequence is spectacular. What makes this film work is the comedic timing of Chris Hemsworth, making this film one that you will want to see more than once. As with most of the Marvel films, stay for bonus scenes all the way through the credits.   My Rating:  I Would Pay to See it Again   Thor: Ragnarok Website
My View:  Wonderstuck  (2017)  PG  Ben (Oakes Fegley) goes on a journey to New York to try and find his long-lost father, and we also see a young deaf girl named, Rose (Millicent Simmonds), 50 years ago, making her way through the streets of New York to see her mother (Julianne Moore). The film is divided into two stories: one takes place in 1927, is in black and white and is shown like a silent film (dialogue is displayed with title cards and a musical soundtrack), and one story is set in the 1970’s, is in color and uses a soundtrack of popular music from that time period. I loved the silent film part of this film, and Millicent Simmonds (who is deaf in real life) is brilliant as the strong-willed Rose. The story drags a bit in the 70s section. I did enjoy the performance of Oakes Fegley, and I especially enjoyed Jaden Michael as Jamie, a kid who befriends Ben, and who breathes some life into the 70s section. This is a film that I wanted to love but only liked. If only the 70s scenes had lived up to the brilliance of the silent film part.    My Rating:  Bargain Matinee   Wonderstruck Website

My View:  A Bad Moms Christmas (2017)  R   The bad moms (Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, and Kathryn Hahn) are back, and they are tired of creating the perfect Christmas, so they plan on rebelling like the bad moms they are. I liked the first film, but this misses the mark. I only laughed once and giggled a couple of more times, but that’s it because most of the material just isn’t funny. I love the three leads, but they are let down by a very skimpy plot that you can see coming from almost the first frame of the film. I also missed Christina Applegate, who was the villain in the first film but only makes a cameo in this one.   My Rating:  Cable
Indiefest:  Blade of the Immortal  (2017)   Manji (Takashi Kimura), a samurai warrior of immense skill, becomes cursed with immortality after a legendary battle.  He takes on a mission to avenge the parents of a young girl, Rin (Hana Sugisaki).  Filled with blades flying through the air and blood spirting everywhere, this is a big action picture that also has some heart. The almost father/daughter relationship that develops through time between Manji and Rin makes this movie different than your ordinary samurai film. The chemistry between Kimura and Sugisaki is outstanding, making the relationship feel real. The action sequences are stunning and marvelously choreographed. If you are a fan of action films, then this is a film for you.   My Rating:  Full Price   Blade of the Immortal Website

Forgotten Film: Big Night  (1996)  R  Two brothers (Tony Shalhoub, Stanley Tucci) from Italy have come to America to run a restaurant. The restaurant is failing, and their only hope is when a big-time musician agrees to play a special benefit for the restaurant, but will the two brothers get along long enough to put on the big meal? If you are a foodie, you will want to see this funny and touching film that makes food the centerpiece of the story. I guarantee that you will want some Italian food after seeing this film.   My Rating: Full Price    Big Night Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Thor: Ragnarok:  Dental Prosthetics

Coming Soon to a Year Near You: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  (2017)  R  After police fail to solve her daughter’s murder, a mother (Frances McDormand) personally challenges the local authorities.  From what I am hearing from other film critics, Frances McDormand is a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination.    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Website
Until Next Time!