Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Little Women

My View: Little Women   (2019) PG    In the aftermath of the American Civil War, the movie explores the lives of the March sisters, Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen), all under the watchful eye of their beloved mother, Marmee (Laura Dern). I am a massive fan of the writer/director of this film Greta Gerwig, both as an actor (Greenberg (2010), Frances Ha (2012), and as a director (Lady Bird (2017), which I thought was one of the best films of 2017. Gerwig has done it again, bringing freshness and light to the Louisa May Alcott story that has been adapted to the screen seven times before. I loved the performances of the cast, especially Saoirse Ronan as, Jo, the young woman who is filled with passion for writing and Florence Pugh, as the self-centered Amy. Ronan brings a fierceness to the role; you can see the determination in her eyes as she wills Jo to succeed where almost everyone, including some in her family, feels that she is battling against windmills. Pugh is delightful as Amy, a young woman who is quite as mature as her fellow sisters, sometimes making decisions based on her heart and not her head. Little Women is a beautiful film, full of heart and occasionally, heartbreak, about growing up and having to face the harsh world, but always knowing that your family is there to fall back on. Take the whole family and enjoy the wonderful world of a group of four sisters experiencing the trials and tribulations of life.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Little Women Website
Familyfaire: Spies in Disguise  (2019) PG   The world’s best spy, Lance Sterling (voiced by Will Smith), is turned into a pigeon; he must join forces with a low-level inventor, Walter (voiced by Tom Holland), to save the world. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this animated feature. A new take on the super spy saving the world genre, this time with a young inventor who thinks there is a better way to defeat the bad guys, with non-violent gadgets. Will Smith is perfect as Sterling, Lance Sterling, a spy who is used to saving the world daily, all the time with an ego to match. Lance is a lone wolf, but when he is set up by the evil Killian (voiced by Ben Mendelsohn) and Lance is forced to team up with Walter, who turns Lance into the ultimate disguise, a pigeon. The animation gives off a cool James Bond-like vibe, and the action is almost nonstop, with quite a few explosions and car chase scenes spread throughout the film. The bit younger crowd may be a bit bored, but the 6-12-year-olds will have a great time going on an adventure to save the world with Walter and his spy partner, Lance the pigeon.    My Rating: Full Price     Spies in Disguise Website
My View: Uncut Gems (2019) R   Howard (Adam Sandler) thinks his life is about to change due to the delivery of an uncut gem that could be worth millions. Howard is all about taking chances, and he starts a series of high-stakes bets that he could win big on or also lose everything. Adam Sandler is an actor that, most of the time, pisses me off. My problem with Sandler is not because of his continual compulsion to make incredibly crappy films with his friends, like Grown Ups (2010), That’s My Boy (2012) and one of the worst movies I have ever seen, Jack and Jill (2011). No, it’s not that, it’s that Sandler can be an excellent, even great actor when he chooses the right material. The list is small but notable with outstanding work in films such as Punch-Drunk Love (2002), Reign Over Me (2007) and Spanglish (2004), where Sandler brings a quiet force to make an ordinary film worthy of watching. Add to the list Uncut Gems, where Sandler plays a man you probably won’t like or maybe even not root for, going so far as to hope that he fails. Still, you can’t deny that Sandler fills the screen with a magical, almost hypnotic performance as a man who is desperate to keep pushing his luck, even if it means he has to beat impossible odds. Uncut Gems is not a film that you will be able to sit back and enjoy, as Sandler and the directors of the film, Benny and Josh Safdie, take you on a journey of the high’s and low’s of a gambler. It’s like taking a ride on a roller coaster but one that rarely takes an uphill break, as Howard’s life quickly moves down from one get rich scheme to another. I loved the cast, including Kevin Garnett, the NBA all-star who plays himself, Julia Fox, who plays Howard’s combative girlfriend and Idina Menzel as Howard’s long-suffering ex-wife, who has seen Howard’s life on the edge in close-up. After seeing this film, you may need to take a few minutes to gather your thoughts and your senses before exiting the theatre.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Uncut Gems Website
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD / Blu-ray): Abominable (2019) PG   Yi (voiced by Chloe Bennet), a young girl, finds a friendly Yeti that longs to go back to his mountain. Yi and two other friends make it their mission to help ‘Everest’ return to its homeland. The gang will have to avoid a wealthy man named Burnish (Eddie Izzard) who wants to put Everest in his collection. While very predictable and at times a little slow, the film is a warm look at friendship and how those friends will try their best to make their friend's dreams come true. Abominable is a sweet film that families will enjoy, and kids will love the action sequences. Sure the plot is a little too paint by numbers kids film, but Everest and his buddies may make you forget that.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Abominable Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers But Just Looks Like a Bad Idea): 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. Just watch the trailer and see if you want Downey to talk to anything, including animals in this film.  Hollywood, quit remaking movies that were bad to begin with. Did I mention the animals talk?    Dolittle Website
Forgotten Film: Children of a Lesser God (1986) R   James (William Hurt) has taught at some of the best institutions in the country but is always looking for a new challenge. James begins teaching at a school for the deaf and quickly notices a young cleaning woman named Sarah (Marlee Matlin), who is deaf, and learning that she has been at the school since she was five. Sarah chooses not to speak, haunted by her childhood, especially her relationship with her mother, who she has not seen in eight years. They begin a slow ride to romance as they learn about each other, and James will soon learn that Sarah does not speak because it allows her to live her life in solitude. As they fall in love, will the divide between the world of the hearing and the deaf be too much for their devotion to endure? The reason to see this film is the Oscar-winning performance of Matlin, as the headstrong, combative and angry Sarah, a woman who doesn’t want to enter into the land of speech, happy to live her life on her terms. It is a moving and beautiful performance, filled with fear, fear of the unknown, and the fear that if she lets someone in, she will get hurt again.   My Rating: Full Price     Children of a Lesser God Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Spies in Disguise:  Fur Supervisor

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: A Quiet Place Part II (2020)   After escaping from their home, now the family (Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Noah Jupe ) must go into the outside world and soon realize that the world is far more dangerous than they ever experienced or imagined.     A Quiet Place Part II Facebook Page
Until Next Time!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

My View:  Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) PG-13   The surviving Resistance faces the First Order in a showdown to close out the final chapter in the Skywalker saga, as both Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) struggle with the power of the Dark Side. I wanted to love this film as I did with The Force Awakens, but alas, I only liked it. The film feels somewhat incomplete and, at times, rushed, especially the ending sequence. I did thoroughly enjoy the fighting sequences that Rey is involved with, and it’s always a blast to watch Driver do anything on the screen. There are some significant plot holes in this film, and I felt terrible for Oscar Issac playing Poe, whose big scenes seem overshadowed by the other characters in the movie. Unfortunately, the film clumsily incorporates the scenes with the late Carrie Fisher (Leia), making them stand out for how badly they were patched together (Fisher died before she could film her part, so they used old footage of her). I am a big fan of the Star Wars saga, but I felt a little let down by this film. It just didn’t deliver everything I wanted in a conclusion to an epic series.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Website
My View: Bombshell  (2019) R   A group of women, including anchors Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman and Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), decide to take on Fox News chief Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) and the toxic atmosphere he created and presided over at the network. The film is a certainty to make the Oscar nomination for makeup, because Charlize Theron, as Megan Kelly is one of the best impersonations of a real person I have ever seen in a film. The film starts a little unnerving as Theron as Kelly gives us a tour of the Fox News building, breaking the fourth wall. The film teeters between drama and comedy, sometimes to the determent of the movie. Bombshell is an interesting film to watch, but I wonder who is the audience this film is meant for. Fans of the Fox Network won’t want to watch it, and people who don’t like the network already know the story of Ailes and his downfall. I thought it was fascinating that the film used a lot of very familiar actors to round out the cast, even in smaller parts, like Jennifer Morrison as Juliet Huddy, a former Fox reporter who was demoted when she spoke up about Ailes plays on women. I enjoyed this film, especially the performances of Theron and John Lithgow as the villain of the film, Roger Ailes himself.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee      Bombshell Website
My View: Cats (2019) PG   A tribe of cats called the Jellicles must decide every year which one of their clan will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new Jellicle life. Ok, if you love the Broadway musical, you will probably like, maybe even love this film. For the rest of us, it is just a bizarre movie-going experience. With the only human character in the film showing up at the beginning to toss a cat into an alley, the movie is populated by singing and dancing cats. There is almost no plot to this film, as we go from song to song, introducing us to the cast of characters in the movie. The most famous song, Memories, is sung several times, by Jennifer Hudson, playing the down and out cat Grizabella and Francesca Hayward as the innocent newcomer, Victoria. At times, the film feels like a bad parody that Saturday Night Live might put on, as some of the songs/dances are just unbelievably campy. There is a lot of talent in this cast, but most, including Idris Elba and Ian McKellen, are given roles that are on the verge of embarrassing. And yes, Taylor Swift sings a song, Golden Globe nominated 'Beautiful Ghosts', as the cat, Bombalurina, where she gets everyone high on catnip. My viewing of this film was not helped by several of the audience members who thought the film was a comedy (it’s not) and were laughing out loud throughout the film. Stay at home and watch a classic musical like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, you will have a much better viewing experience.   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again     Cats Website
Indiefest: A Hidden Life (2019) PG-13   Bl. Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), with the support of his wife, Fani (Valerie Pachner) and his children, refuses to fight for the Nazis in World War II, even when threatened with execution for treason. I am not a big fan of filmmaker Terrence Malick ( Tree of Life, Knight of Cups). A Hidden Life is another Malick film that takes forever to tell the story as Fraz gets jailed about an hour into the film and spends the rest of the two hours languishing in various prisons. As with most Malick films, he tells his story through a plethora of shots, so many so that it must have taken over a year to shoot this film. I also did not enjoy the fact that sometimes the cast said their dialogue in English, but at other times, especially in times of anger or anguish, the exchange was in German, making us in the dark on what was being said. The film moves at an incredibly slow pace, and because Franz is never going to back down to the Nazi’s, we know how this film is going to turn out. The two leads are outstanding in their roles; I just wished I had seen quite a bit less of them and the numerous shots of the Austrian countryside.   My Rating: Cable    A Hidden Life Website
Forgotten Film: Victor Victoria (1982) PG   A struggling singer (Julie Andrews) in 1934 Paris, with the help of a gay cabaret singer Toddy (Robert Preston), pretends to be a man named Victor and gets a job at a club as a female impersonator named Victor, with his on stage persona named Victoria. Victor becomes the hit of Paris. Things get complicated when Chicago nightclub owner, King (James Garner), falls head over heels for Victoria, only to find out that Victoria is a man, or is he? Andrews is brilliant in the role, and Garner is perfect as the man who has to reconcile his romantic feelings for ‘Victoria.’ Lesley Ann Warren practically steals the movies as King’s very jealous girlfriend, Norma, who is determined to take Victor/Victoria down. A great cast with some beautiful and fun cabaret songs makes this film so much fun to watch.   My Rating: Full Price      Victor Victoria Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Cats: Magic Consultant

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Call of the Wild (2020)   A grizzled explorer (Harrison Ford) finds a dog named Buck, and they go on an adventure of a lifetime in the wilderness of the Yukon. I am a sucker for a movie that features a dog, plus its got Karen Gillan and Harrison Ford, so I am going to make sure I see this one.    The Call of the Wild Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Jumanji: The Next Level

My View: Jumanji: The Next Level (2019) PG-13   The gang (Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan) is back, and this time it’s a rescue mission. In order to escape the most dangerous game, they will have to go into an unknown country full of arid deserts and snowy mountains. While not quite as fun and inventive as the first film in this series, it’s still a thrilling and hilarious ride. The same characters are back, but there is a twist (quite a good one) that lets everyone in the cast have a blast. I don’t want to give away who or what Awkwafina plays in the film, but as with everything she is in, she steals the film from the regular cast. If you enjoyed the first film or even the original Jumanji that starred Robin Williams, I think you will have a great time on this adventure.   My Rating: Full Price    Jumanji: The Next Level Webpage
My View: Richard Jewell (2019) R   A security guard Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) is initially hailed a hero when he saves thousands from an exploding bomb at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Soon the FBI and the press believe that Richard is not a hero but the bomber himself. Clint Eastwood, in the last ten years, has had somewhat up and down success with the movies he has directed. There were a couple of winners with The Mule (2018) and American Sniper (2014), but too often his films lately have felt like Eastwood has just been going through the motions, like the horrible Jersey Boys (2014) and the boring The 15:17 to Paris (2018). While not the quality of Eastwood's earlier work like Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) or Million Dollar Baby (2004), Richard Jewell is still a good film with some outstanding performances. Paul Walter Hauser does an exceptional job as Jewell, a man who wanted so badly to be a law enforcement officer who when given chances to become one, blew it by being overzealous in his methods. Kathy Bates is almost sure to get a supporting actress nomination for her portrayal of Richard’s mother, a woman who always believed her son was a hero. For me, the actor that hit it out of the park was Sam Rockwell, as Jewell’s attorney, a crusty lawyer who sees that Richard is the victim of a system looking for a quick villain to prosecute. My one problem with the film is the two characters that are instrumental with Richard being persecuted; Olivia Wilde’s reporter character, who will go as far as to sleep with someone for inside information and Jon Hamm, playing the lead FBI agent who is willing to give her that information. Both characters feel like something out of a bad daytime soap opera and bring the story down quite a bit. These two characters lessen the film’s impact, but the film still has the performances of Hauser, Bates, and Rockwell to keep it upright.   My Rating: Full Price     Richard Jewell Facebook Page
My View: The Two Popes (2019) PG-13   The conservative Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) reign is plagued by a corruption scandal. He invites the liberal and future Pope Francis Jonathan Pryce) to the Vatican to discuss life and try to find common ground. Watching the two actors in Hopkins and Pryce work on the screen together is a joy. The two actors are let down by a second half of the film that can’t match the quality or charm of the first half of the film when we get to know the two men. The second half feels a little too much like a stage play and at times, becomes slightly boring. I did enjoy the back and forth of the two characters as they slowly find common ground and while each man may not agree with the other, they can, by the end of the film, acknowledge that the other man has made some good points for his side of their outlook on the Catholic church and its traditions.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     The Two Popes Website
My View: Black Christmas (2019) PG-13   A group of female students are stalked by a stranger during their Christmas break, only to learn that the killer is part of an underground college conspiracy. Well, we are close to the end of the year, and I have to say, this film could have just made it to the top of the worst films of 2019. With a plot that makes no sense and dialogue that had to written by an Autobot, this film seems twice as long as its 93 minutes run time. There is a plot twist so out of left field that it took me a full five minutes to make sense of what happened. There is a reason that this movie was not screened ahead of time to film critics, because it is rotten. There is a short bonus scene at the end of the initial credits at the end but its not worth staying for.    My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again     Black Christmas Website
Forgotten Film Son of Rambow (2007) PG-13   The story of two unlikely friends; Will (Bill Milner), a young boy who loves cartooning, inventing things and 80s action movies and Lee (Will Poulter) whose life is strictly limited due to his family’s religious beliefs. The two boys bond over the Rambo film First Blood and they decide to film their own Rambo movie. The making of the movie will involve stealing a guide dog, setting off their school’s fire alarm, and almost getting run over by a Jeep. Both boys have home lives that are less than ideal and use the movie making to escape into a world of their own creation. While the storyline is a little weak, the chemistry between the two boys is off the charts, and the fun that they have creating their movie is infectious. Let’s hope that Will and Lee went on to make many more films.    My Take: Full Price     Son of Rambow Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Jumanji: The Next Level: Greens Coordinator

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Way Back (2020)   A former high school basketball star (Ben Affleck) is struggling to overcome his alcoholism and is offered a job to coach at his alma mater. When his team starts on a winning stream, his old demons resurface to try to stop his road to redemption. This film seems right up in Affleck’s wheelhouse, though the trailer leaves me a little worried that it might be just a little sappy.      The Way Back Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Playmobil: The Movie

FamilyFaire: Playmobil: The Movie (2019)  A brother and sister, Charlie (voiced by Gabriel Bateman) and Marla (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy), are still getting over the death of their parents. Charlie sneaks out to visit a toy museum with a Playmobil exhibit. Marla goes after Charlie, and after she scolds him, a lighthouse in the display illuminates them and transports them to the Playmobil world. The film is an attempt to ride the coattails of the Lego series of movies but fails on almost every count. The starts and ends with live-action, before the two kids are transported into the world of Playmobil. The songs in the film, making this a quasi-musical, are boring, except for a Meghan Trainor song where she plays, yes, the kid’s Fairy Godmother. Very young kids may enjoy the brightness and colors of the Playmobil world, but adults will be looking for the exit as soon as the first song starts.    My Rating: Cable     Playmobil: The Movie Facebook Page
My View: The Aeronauts (2019) PG-13   Scientist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) is convinced that he if learns more about the weather conditions in the upper atmosphere that he can eventually predict the weather, helping farmers know when to plant/harvest their crops and warn citizens of impending bad weather. James convinces a balloon pilot, Amelia Rennes (Felicity Jones), to build and fly the largest ever gas balloon to fly almost into outer-space. It turns out that the flight will be an epic fight for their survival, a trip they might not return from. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, which took the difficult task of making a balloon flight seem mysterious and deadly. As you would expect, there is outstanding chemistry between Redmayne, as the meek scientist and Jones as the bold, outspoken pilot. The film unveils the flight in real-time, as we watch both the clock and the altimeter as the balloon flies up to heights that no one had ever gone before. I loved Felicity Jones’ character of Amelia, a woman who overcomes a tragedy in her life to push the boundaries of science.    My Rating: Full Price    The Aeronauts Website
Indiefest: Little Joe (2019)     Alice (Emily Beecham) is a single mother and a scientist who specializes in plant breeding. She has been working on a plant that she has called Little Joe, which can ‘make you happy.’ Alice brings one of the plants home to her son, Joe (Kit Connor), as a gift. Alice notices that as the plant grows, it begins changing her fellow worker’s personalities, and ‘Little Joe’ might be not as harmless as the nickname suggests. Little Joe is an exciting suspense film with a bit of Sci-Fi thrown in. Emily Beecham gives a moving and multifaceted performance as a woman who knows something is wrong with the plant she created, having seen the changes in her child first had, but she can’t get anyone to acknowledge that anything could be wrong. The film effectively builds the tension through the film, with us the audience wanting Alice to find a way to win what seems to be an impossible fight. The film does the unthinkable, makes a beautiful little flower an evil force that could ultimately destroy humankind.    My Rating: Full Price    Little Joe Website
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD / Blu-ray):  Ready or Not (2019) R   A bride, Grace(Samara Weaving), is told that she must participate in a game of hide and seek before coming a part of the groom’s family. What she doesn’t know is if they find her in the family home before sunrise, she will be killed. This film is the perfect example of the definition of a ‘dark comedy,’ a movie that makes light of a subject that is generally considered taboo. In this case, the family that is hunting her is made up of a bunch of crazy individuals, all who believe that if they don’t kill Grace, something horrible will happen to the family. You will be laughing one moment at the ridiculous events that occur, and other moments you will be scared at the jump out of the dark moments in the film. This film does an excellent job of building the tension until the end of the film. The performance of Sara Weaving makes this film worth watching, as she shows she has the chops for both comedy and drama, all in one character. Weaving is a delight to watch on the screen as she starts as the innocent bride, then turns into a victim who is running for her life, and finally, an in your face antagonist who is willing to fight for her life. Go see this film, it’s so much fun to watch and the audience I saw it with had as good a time as I did.   My Rating: Full Price   Ready or Not Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers But Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):  My Spy (2019)  PG-13   A legendary CIA agent, JJ (Dave Bautista), has been demoted and is sent undercover to surveil a 9-year-old, Sophie (Chloe Coleman) and her family. Sophie is a tech genius, and she discovers where JJ’s operation is set up. She blackmails him into letting her hang out with him and learn what it means to be a spy. I love Bautista in the Guardians series, but I don’t think he has the acting chops or the charisma to overcome this horrible plot.    My Spy Website
Forgotten Film: Oh! What a Lovely War (1969) G    Three brothers go into World War I with hope and love of country only to discover that the songs they sing in the trenches gloss over the reality of death and destruction of trench warfare. Directed by two-time Academy Award-winning director Sir Richard Attenborough, this is a rather strange musical where all the songs that are sung are from the time period of WWI. Many of the scenes depicted are critical moments in the war, showing the folly of warfare and how it destroys lives. The film is full of some of the most significant British stars of the time and was made at a time that America and the world were discovering the horrors of the Vietnam War. One of the great films in the history of cinema that dealt with the madness and atrocities of war.   My Rating: Full Price      Oh! What a Lovely War Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Aeronauts: Knitted and Crochet Textile Artist

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  1917 (2019) R    Two young British privates (Sam Mendes, George MacKay) during the First World War are given what most likely is an impossible task: to deliver a message deep behind enemy lines that will stop a massacre of 1,600 British soldiers. This film is already gathering awards, including a top ten listing on the Atlanta Film Critics Circle 2019 Awards.     1917 Website
Until Next Time!