Friday, December 25, 2020

Wonder Woman 1984

 Note to readers: I currently am not willing to risk my health (I’m 62 and an asthmatic) by visiting a theatre. All films that I have seen for review have been screened in my home. I am not going to tell you whether or not to attend a theatre. Just be aware of the risks, do your research, and follow the instructions to the letter.

My View: Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) PG-13    We fast forward to 1984, and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is facing new challenges and new enemies in Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) and Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), also known as The Cheetah. First, let me warn you that you will need those Christmas dinner leftovers to make it through the two hours and thirty-minute length of this film. Unfortunately, you feel all of this movie's length as it takes forever to move forward. I thought the first Wonder Woman film was one of the best films of 2017 and that director Patty Jenkins did an outstanding job of giving us a DC character that we could fall in love with. This time, instead of Wonder Woman’s love for a man as one of the sources of her strength, Jenkins makes it a weakness, and the film suffers because of it. The film is set in the mid-80s, and other than a funny shout-out to the crappy clothes of the time, we get very little feel for that time period, other than the thought that I was back in the 80s watching those bad Superman sequels. I would have liked this film to have been more about Wonder Woman versus The Cheetah, a villain who never quite gets the center stage that she deserves. The plot of Max Lord trying to take over the world had a very late 60s, early 70s DC comic book feeling, a time when the DC comics had one-dimensional villains who didn’t make it past the one issue they were in. Overall, after watching this film, I felt let down by the plot. I wanted the fire and passion I got from the first film; instead, I got a lot of Max Lord acting like a real estate pitchman on coke.  There is a small scene after the first bit of closing credits that you will enjoy.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Wonder Woman 1984 Website    Now playing in select theatres and on the HBO Max platform.

My View: Soul (2020) PG     A musician, Joe (Jamie Foxx), who has lost his passion, is transported out of his body and must now find his way back, helping an infant soul (Tina Fey) learn about herself. Finally, a Pixar movie for adults! Now, children will enjoy some aspects of the film, especially the time that Joe spends in ‘The Great Beyond’ with his charge, soul number 22. By the way, Tina Fey is delightful as 22, and the Pixar people did the smart thing and let her deliver a lot of her own lines as the character who wants nothing more than to stay where she is, no going back to Earth for her. The film deals with many adult themes; when to let your dreams die, if your life is full without fulfilling those long-lost dreams, and how much would you give to get what you always have longed for. The animation is beautifully done, sometimes simplistically so, and the score by Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor, and Atticus Ross is a mix of glorious jazz with a score that simply matches the film and its tone. Now, I might have enjoyed a few other Pixar films more (Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Up), but Soul is a film that fills you up with hope and warm feelings, and that’s all we need from a Pixar picture right now.   My Rating: Full Price    Soul Website    Available on the Disney + platform.

My View: News of the World (2020) PG-13    Five years after the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) makes his living going town to town as a storyteller, reading from news accounts, telling stories of all kinds. In the plains of Texas, he finds Johanna ( Helena Zengel), a ten-year-old girl who was raised by the Kiowa people as their own. Against her will, the Captain agrees to take Johanna to her relatives in a remote town hundreds of miles away. The two will travel a great distance to meet the tremendous challenges of both human and natural forces to find Johanna a home. Everything you want in a Tom Hanks performance is in this film and maybe, just a little more. We all know that Hanks has experience playing a cowboy, if one that is animated and loved (Woody), but this is the first time Hanks has appeared in a live-action western. It reminded me of the westerns that Jimmy Stewart did in his 50s and 60s, the grizzled, seen it all hero who had a past he would rather not bring up. Hanks is reliable in the role, an instant father figure to a young girl in need of understanding and love. This is an old-fashioned tale of a single man who undertakes a job no one else is willing to do. A man with a moral backbone who knows he must do what is right, no matter the consequences. What I have always loved about westerns is that they take a simple story and make it relevant to modern times. Instead of making the Indians the bad guy, it's Captain Kidd’s fellow ex-confederate soldiers that he once fought along with are now the enemy. This film wouldn't have worked as well without the instant chemistry that Hanks has with his co-star, Helena Zengel, who gives a touching and sometimes powerful performance as the little girl taken twice against her will from her families. The News of the World is a modern tale that has just enough of the old west to make it a western for everyone.    My Rating: Full Price     News of the World Website     Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: One Night in Miami (2020)  R  Fictional account of one night where Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cook, and Jim Brown gathered to discuss their roles in the civil rights movement in the turbulent 1960s. While not as flashy as another recent stage to screen adoption Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, One Night in Miami has competing and forceful performances from a cast that is given the challenging task of portraying characters that are well-known and distinct. Like Black Bottom, director Regina King has taken what could have been stagey and stiff and breathed life into a story that mostly occurs in and around a hotel room. The cast does a wonderful and fascinating portrayal of four men trying to find their way in an increasingly complex and complicated world. You have the brash, brilliantly charismatic boxer Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), the confident, strong football star Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), the slick and talented singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), and the fiery, bombastic Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir). The four good friends are all dealing with a time of significant change, with the civil rights movement gaining speed on the national front. Two of the men will soon be gone (Cooke and Malcolm X) but will leave behind works and legacies that have survived long after they were gone. The other two, Brown and Clay (soon to be Ali), are men whose fight for equality and change was just starting. The film shows all the torment and thought that went on behind the scenes as the four try to figure out what their roles would and should be to help a movement move forward. The four actors are dynamic in their roles, with Odom Jr. and Goree standing out in their roles of iconic entertainers who want to make their mark on history.   My Rating: Full Price      One Night in Miami Website    Now playing in select theatres and available on the Amazon Prime website on Jan. 15th.

My View: The Midnight Sky (2020) PG-13    Augustine (George Clooney) is a scientist in the Arctic who learns of a mysterious global catastrophe. He now races to stop Sully (Felicity Jones) and her fellow astronauts from returning home to an uncertain future. This isn’t a great film as it slowly wanders along to tell a story filled with dread and despair. Visually, the film is beautifully brought about, with it going back and forth from the arctic's bleak world to the grandeur of space travel. The film has a hard time not hitting you over the head with the idea that we are our own worst enemy, and it seems that there is nothing more to do but accept it. This is a film that tries too hard to make a point; Augustine made a mistake in his past and now has a chance to make up for that mistake, the human race has made a mess of Earth, but maybe our space explorers can save a bit of humanity for the future. There are a few good action sequences in space, but most of the action is predictable and is put there just to give our characters more obstacles to overcome. The film never delivers the emotional moment you need for it to do, making the whole movie feel pretty empty, like being in the arctic or space.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     The Midnight Sky Website    Now playing in select theatres and available on the Netflix platform. 

Indiefest: Promising Young Woman (2020) R    A young woman (Carey Mulligan), traumatized by a tragic event in her past, seeks revenge against those she feels to have wronged her, getting vengeance against those who crossed her path. What a performance Mulligan gives as Cassandra, a woman whose life is dedicated to getting revenge, sometimes just against men who take advantage of women and other times, at the people responsible for bringing her world crashing down while she was in college. Mulligan is breathtaking as a woman with a nasty, dark sense of humor that isn’t afraid to push any boundary to get the results she wants. The film is so much fun to watch, as you delight in far Casandra will go to take her revenge. I hope that no one spoils all the twists and turns because it is an engaging and surprising story that keeps you wondering just how far will Cassandra go and will it have consequences. One of the best films of the year, and I hope that you are willing to go on this bumpy ride with Mulligan’s incredible performance as a woman you can’t help yourself root for, no matter how far, or wrong she goes down the slippery road of revenge.     My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Promising Young Woman Website   Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Sylvie’s Love (2020) PG-13    Set in the summer of 1957 in New York, Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) is an up and coming saxophonist who meets Sylvie (Tessa Thompson), a young woman who dreams of a career in television while she waits for her fiancé to return from the war. This is one of those films where the heart is in the right place, the leads are perfect in their roles, but the movie never finds the spark it needs to keep us interested. I loved Tessa Thompson in this role, as the strong-willed Sylvie, who doesn’t need a man to provide for her and is tenacious in her desire to succeed in a career that she loves. This is a love story not only between two star-crossed romantics but also a love story of a woman in love with television. The film takes too many twists and turns, with one too many obstacles put in the way of our two lovers, making the story slow down to a crawl. I did love the soundtrack, capitalizing on Robert’s and Sylvie’s love of music to accompany them on their journey. However, any momentum that our stars find is quickly extinguished by the complications of the script. Sylvie’s Love heart is in the right place, but it never finds the momentum to keep us wanting more.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Sylvie's Love Website    Available on the Amazon Prime format.

FamilyFaire: We Can Be Heroes (2020) PG    When alien invaders capture the earth’s superheroes, their children must band together to save their parents and the world. If you saw The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D, then you know what you are getting in this quasi-sequel. Robert Rodriguez continues to pour out these low budget, kid action films that constantly tarnish what was at the start of a promising career. The action and the special effects are cheaply done, and the acting by most of the kids is rough. The storyline is simple, so very young children will enjoy the costumes and the bright colors, but adults will be put the sleep by a plot written for a five-year-old. The fact that he got Pedro Pascal, hot off The Mandalorian, and Christian Slater to do this film is either a miracle or really sad. We Can Be Heroes can be summed up by saying a six-year-old will enjoy the character Guppy, a 5-year-old with super strength, but parents are going to cringe at the preformance.    My Rating: Cable    We Can Be Heroes Website   Available on the Netflix platform.  

Forgotten Film: Anna and the Apocalypse (2017) R   Anna (Ella Hunt) just wants to survive high school and go off traveling for a year before college. Anna has an overprotective dad (Mark Benton) and a job at a bowling alley with her best friend John (Malcolm Cumming). Little do they know that soon a zombie apocalypse will come to their sleepy, tiny town of Little Haven. Part Shaun of the Dead, part High School Musical, this is the Christmas movie for you if you like funny, sometimes bawdy songs combined with killing zombies. Little seen when this film came out, it is a blast to watch as Anna and her high school chums rack up the zombie kills as they sing about tweeting, not fitting in with the cool crowd and sex. Anna and the Apocalypse is a smart, hilarious film with some fun songs and lots of great zombie deaths. What more could you want from a Christmas film?   My Rating: Full Price    Anna and the Apocalypse Website

Weird Credits: From the credits of Wonder Woman 1984: Movement Artist

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Little Things (2021) R Former L.A. Sheriff Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) comes back to Los Angeles for what should be a quick evidence gathering assignment. Instead, he becomes involved in a hunt for a serial killer led by L.A. Sheriff Jim Baxter (Remi Malek). All roads lead to a man (Jerod Leto) who may be involved with Deacon’s shadowy past. This movie looks to be right up Denzel Washington’s sweet spot, a determined man with a tortured past.       The Little Things Info

Until Next Time!

Friday, December 18, 2020


 Note to readers: I currently am not willing to risk my health (I’m 62 and an asthmatic) by visiting a theatre. All films that I have seen for review have been screened in my home. I am not going to tell you whether or not to attend a theatre. Just be aware of the risks, do your research, and follow the instructions to the letter.

My View: Greenland (2020) PG-13   News that cities around the world are being leveled by the fragments of a comet that has entered the earth’s atmosphere. John (Gerard Butler), his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and their young son, Nathan ( Roger Dale Floyd), are on a desperate trek to find a possible safe haven as the world around them evolves into chaos and madness. I liked the first third of this movie as it sets up nicely the stakes; no one expects the comet to do any damage and when it is apparent there is a real danger, that John and his family must make hard choices. The problem with this film is after the comet starts its destruction, the plot becomes full of holes, some as large as the craters that are being made by Clarke (the comet is named after Sci-Fi writer legend Arthur C. Clarke). We are repeatedly hit over the head with the fact that Nathan is diabetic, so much so that it seems the kid is constantly in need of his insulin. I’ve seen addicts on horrible TV dramas that didn’t need a hit as much as Nathan does. The plot goes even thinner to create problems for the family, including separating all three members from each other, and (small spoiler alert) I’m not clear exactly how they find each other again. One of the fun things about disaster films is watching all the destruction as our heroes navigate through the wreckage and carnage. Greenland keeps hinting at the destruction, but it rarely interacts with our characters; it just left out there as a possible occurrence. The film asks us to think about the possibility of the end of the world, but I just kept wondering only about the possibility of how soon this film would end instead.   My Rating: Cable    Greenland Website    The film is available to rent on participating on-demand services.

My View: Fatale (2020) Derrick (Michael Ealy), a successful sports agent, has a one-night stand with a sexy and mysterious woman (Hilary Swank). Derrick picked the wrong woman to mess with, and now his life, his family, and his career are in peril as he tries desperately to put the pieces together as he falls deep into her trap. I had hope for this film about 20 minutes in when the plot could have gone two ways; unfortunately, the film took the easy route, and we get a movie about a man who makes a mistake and the bad cop that is determined to take him down to pay for it. Swank plays a decorated cop who likes to blow off steam in Vegas and sleeps with our ‘hero’ Derrick, who feels like his wife just might be cheating on him. After a break-in and assault at their home, Derrick is surprised to find out that the lead detective is the woman he slept with in Vegas. The plot gets messy after that reveal, and it never finds its way back to reason, with an ending that will have you saying ‘really?’ to the screen.   My Rating: Cable   Fatale Website   Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Hunter Hunter (2020)   Joseph (Devon Sawa), his wife Anne (Camille Sullivan), and their daughter Renée (Summer H. Howell) are a family living in the remote wilderness, struggling to survive as they earn a living as fur trappers. To their dismay, a rogue wolf has returned and is robbing their traps. Joseph leaves his family behind to trap the wolf, with Anne and Renée to fend for themselves in woods that have become dark and deadly. Okay, let us get this out in the open right now; this movie's ending is one of the most brutal scenes I have seen. A real blow that will have you stunned. That being said, this is an immensely enjoyable film full of wonderful moments and a plot that ramps up the suspense as the film goes along. The world that Joseph and his family live in is challenging, harsh, and not easy. They are bringing up their daughter Renee in this world of hunting and trapping, all the while, staying away as much as possible from the outside world. Anne is starting to feel maybe this isn’t the world for her daughter to grow up in, that Anne chose this life when she got involved with Joseph but that Renee didn’t. All this is moot when it is evident that a lone wolf that has terrified the family in the past has returned. Joseph is determined to hunt down the wolf and leaves his family behind to do so, leaving his family venerable to an attack. I love this film and the robust and compelling performance of Camille Sullivan, who gives a gritty, impassioned role that makes her character feel real and moving our emotions to tears.    My Rating: Full Price   Hunter Hunter Website   Now playing in select theatres and is available to rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: Modern Persuasion (2020)   Wren (Alicia Witt) is a successful working woman who has never gotten over a lost love from college. In walks Owen (Shane McRae), her old college sweetheart who wants to hire Wren’s company to promote his new app. Can Wren juggle working with Owen with her past staring her in the face? I have a soft part in my soul for Indie films that don’t try to be too arty, don’t try to be so cutting edge with their movie. Modern Persuasion is a fun, light romantic movie that uses Jane Austin’s Persuasion as a basis for its plot. While not breaking any new ground, the film is aided by a strong supporting cast that includes Mark Moses, Liza Lapira, and the marvelous Bebe Neuwirth, making it stand out from the Hallmark Chanel films it will be compared to. The likable, dependable Alicia Witt in the lead role as the forlorn Wren also helps the film move along at a nice pace. It’s an enjoyable foray that, while is predictable, is just what you want from this genre, a romance with everyone getting what they want and need in the end.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Modern Persuasion Info    The film is available to rent on participating on-demand services.

Forgotten Film: The Birdwatcher (2015)   Saffron (Camille Sullivan) is a single mother of two who discovers that her cancer has turned terminal. Saffron goes on a quest to find her birth-mother, Birdy (Gabrielle Rose), a woman that never wanted to see her after giving up Saffron for adoption. Saffron wants to find her birth mother to see if she will take in her children after she dies. The Birdwatcher is a wonderfully filmed movie that takes place mostly outdoors, as Saffron’s birth-mother is an ornithologist. The film isn’t always a comfortable watch because most of the characters, including Birdy, are not easy to like. Most of the relationships in the movie are strained, with people who have a hard time feeling connected to one another. The film is worth watching because the performances are so compelling, with Camille Sullivan standing out as the flawed but determined Saffron, a woman forced to make tough decisions as her world crashes around her.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     The Birdwatcher Website

Weird Credits: From the credits of Hunter Hunter: Animal Wrangling Coordinator

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You Chaos Walking  (2021)  PG-13  In a world where a virus killed all the women and living creatures have the ability to read each other’s minds, Todd (Tom Holland) encounters Viola (Daisy Ridley), a strange woman who others on the planet want to hunt her down. Todd vows to protect Viola and discovers that he has a hidden power that can help to unlock his planet’s dark secrets. Hey, a sci-fi film directed by the guy who did Edge of Tomorrow and stars Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley? It sounds like a fun film to watch.    Chaos Walking Facebook Page

Until Next Time!

Friday, December 11, 2020

The Prom

 Note to readers: I currently am not willing to risk my health (I’m 62 and an asthmatic) by visiting a theatre. All films that I have seen for review have been screened in my home. I am not going to tell you whether or not to attend a theatre. Just be aware of the risks, do your research, and follow the instructions to the letter.

My View: The Prom (2020) PG-13   Two down on their luck Broadway stars (Meryl Streep, Jame Corden) travel to a small Indiana town to support a high school girl, Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman), who, against the wishes of the townspeople, wants to take her girlfriend to the prom. First, I didn’t expect that this film would go longer (2 hours eleven minutes) than some proms have. The film must have twenty musical numbers. So many musical numbers that they kind of all just crash into each other. I loved the lead actress, Jo Ellen Pellman, who has a beautiful singing voice and is perfect as the sweet, innocent Emma. The film is based on a somewhat actual event and was performed on Broadway. This film's star power should have made it much more fun than it is with a cast that includes Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells, Tracey Ullman, Kevin Chamberlin, and Mary Kay Place. The film feels slapped together with a storyline stretched so thin it collapses under its own weight as it goes over the top, time after time. Now, don’t get me wrong, Meryl Streep steals the spotlight every time she is on the screen, and her numbers are bright and campy. That being said, I never found myself loving or even liking most of the film that was, for this musical film-loving critic, a chore to watch.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Prom Website     Available on the Netflix platform and currently playing in select theatres including Landmark Midtown Art  and Springs Cinema and Taphouse in the Atlanta area.

Indiefest: Wild Mountain Thyme (2020) PG-13   Rosemary (Emily Blunt), against her family's wishes, is head over heels in love with her neighbor Anthony (Jamie Dornan). The problem is Anthony is cursed, as madness runs in the family, and he remains oblivious to Rosemary and her advances. In walks, an American (Jon Hamm), who wants to buy Anthony’s family farm and also, just might take Rosemary away too. I wanted this film to be as good as its premise, but unfortunately, the film fails to capture any magic that its location of Ireland deserves. The on-location shots are beautiful, but the film never can find its footing, as it tries to get us interested in what the movie feels are star-crossed lovers, but we never quite get a hold of why the characters are supposed to be together in the first place, other than the fact that they grew up next to each other. Christopher Walken plays Anthony’s father, a man who I couldn’t understand where he was coming from, what his reasoning was because he seems to change his mind as many times as he lights a pipe. I love Emily Blunt, and she is the best part of this film, but the chemistry between her and Jamie Dornan isn’t there. In fact, as soon as Jon Hamm shows up, there are more sparks between him and Blunt in just a few scenes than there is for the rest of the movie between the two main characters. The last third of this film will baffle you, making you wonder what the heck happened and also ask: ‘What the heck kind of accent was Christopher Walken using?”   My Rating: Cable    Wild Mountain Thyme Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres including Landmark Midtown Art and Springs Cinema and Taphouse, and is available to rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: Wander Darkly (2020) R   New parents Adrienne (Sienna Miller) and Matteo (Diego Luna) are in a troubled relationship that gets harder when they are forced to reckon with trauma. They must revisit their past while trying to unravel the truth to face their uncertain future. This film takes you a while to get into as Adrienne is dealing with a horrible tragedy, but about halfway through the film, I started to really enjoy the format the movie used to let Adrienne explore her feelings and grief. It’s a film that allows Sienna Miller to shine, and she is brilliant as the difficult, headstrong woman who has trouble even admitting that she loves Matteo, much less think their love can last. What I loved about this film is that we see everything through Adrienne's eyes that it is her story to explore and understand. I wasn’t sure where this film would end up, but I was pleased with the exploration of Adrienne and her life that the movie took us on.   My Rating: Full Price    Wander Darkly Website    The film is available to rent on participating on-demand services 

Indiefest: The Dark Divide (2020)  Urged on by his wife’s (Debra Messing) last wish, renowned butterfly expert Robert Pyle (David Cross) barks on a trip he has long put off, to trek through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The problem is Robert has never hiked on his own for such a dangerous and lengthy journey, a trek full of beauty and challenges. Oh, man is this a beautiful, gorgeous film to watch that makes me miss movie theaters so much. The scenery is breathtaking, and the musical score is perfect for the film. Shot on location, the film makes the forest its main character, full of beauty but also full of danger and, at times, a mystery. The Dark Divide isn’t a high-action film but a movie about a man who has suffered a devastating loss and has gone on a trip to explore not only the wilderness but also deal with his own personal grief. While a good deal of the film is Robert by himself, he does come across a few people during his travels, and that lets us explore how man deals with the wilderness in various ways. As an Everyman, David Cross is very relatable in the film, as he plays a man who isn’t an outdoorsman but is willing to keep going on his journey of discovery, no matter how hard or scary it gets. If you love the wonder and beauty of nature, along with the exploration of the human character, then this is a film for you.   My Rating: Full Price    The Dark Divide Website    The film is available to rent on participating on-demand services. 

Indiefest: Minding the Gap (2018)   Documentary on three young men who grew up together in the Rust-Belt, using their love for skateboarding as an escape from their volatile family life and the adult responsibilities they now have. It would be easy to say that this is a simple film about three young men trying to grow up in a tough time, but that would be too simple. The filmmaker, Bing Liu, uses his camera to explore what it means to be a man in this modern world. Liu explores not only the lives of his two best friends, the easy going Keire and the charismatic but troubled Zack, but also looks at his own unhappy childhood with a father who abandoned his family and a stepfather who beat both Bing and his mother. Liu, as well, turns the camera on Zack, who has a baby with a girlfriend who he constantly fights with, and Keire, a black teen whose own father died just when he needed him the most. Liu was one of those kids who always had a camera on him, so that we see the three grow up before our eyes and how skateboarding became the base of a family that they needed to go to when things got tough. Minding the Gap is a film that is profoundly moving and is brilliantly shot and edited. It is worthy of its nomination at the 2019 Oscars and is worth your spending time with this skateboarding gang.   My Rating: Full Price    Minding the Gap Website   The film is available on the Hulu platform.

Forgotten Film: Heartbreakers (2001)  PG-13 Max (Sigourney Weaver) and Page (Jennifer Love Hewitt) are a mother and daughter con team. Their specialty; Max romances wealthy men into marrying her, and then Page slides in to seduce the husband, thereby letting Max take them to the bank in a divorce settlement. Their next mark is supposed to be their last, a zillionaire named William B. Tensy, who just might bring the con duo down. Two reasons to watch this comedy; Gene Hackman and all the small roles of actors who soon made it big that fill out the supporting cast. Hackman is hilarious as a wisecracking, awful man who can’t stop being a jerk or smoking. The supporting cast includes Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis, and singer/songwriter Shawn Colvin. It’s a fun film that is a little dated, but it is a blast to watch Hackman have so much fun with a role that he obliviously loved playing.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Heartbreakers Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Dark Divide: Lepidoptera Consultant

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Hunter Hunter (2020) Joseph (Devon Sawa), his wife Anne (Camille Sullivan), and their daughter Renée (Summer H. Howell) are a family living in the remote wilderness, struggling to survive as they earn a living as fur trappers. To their dismay, a rogue wolf has returned and is robbing their traps. Joseph leaves his family behind to trap the wolf, with Anne and Renée to fend for themselves in woods that has become dark and deadly. The trailer looks great, and the film seems to have a lot of twists and turns, which should make it a fun, scary ride to watch.     Hunter Hunter Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, December 4, 2020


Note to readers: I currently am not willing to risk my health (I’m 62 and an asthmatic) by visiting a theatre. All films that I have seen for review have been screened in my home. I am not going to tell you whether or not to attend a theatre. Just be aware of the risks, do your research, and follow the instructions to the letter.

My View: Mank (2020) R   In 1940, with Germany taking over Europe and the US on the brink of entering WWII, Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), some considered the finest screenwriter of all time and others, a washed-up up has-been, is hired to write a script in sixty days. That script was Citizen Kane, maybe the greatest film of all time. As a lover of classic movies, I found this film fascinating with its use of 30s and 40s style filmmaking and the possible origins of a legend of a movie. Director David Fincher, along with shooting in Black and White, uses old-style techniques like montage sequences in the film to give it a classic look and even puts the ‘cigarette burns’ in the upper right-hand corner of the film, which used to signal the person operating the projector that there was a reel change. The dialogue is spot-on, with Mankiewicz spewing one-liners right and left, something his legendary film characters were known for. Gary Oldman gives a masterful performance as Mank, a witty screenwriter who was reckless with both his money and his opinion. The film takes place in 1940 when Orson Welles hire Mank to write a screenplay, while we also flashback to Mank’s early days in Hollywood when he was the toast of the town and was a frequent guest of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hurst and his mistress Marion Davis, a Hollywood star. The film goes back in forth between time periods, giving us the background for a screenplay that would become one of the great films of our time. I loved Amanda Seyfried as Davies, a talented actress who was smarter than she allowed people to see, and Lily Collins, as a plucky British secretary, hired to keep Mank focused on his writing and not on the whiskey bottle. Seyfried is terrific as a woman straight out of a 30s screwball comedy, and Collins reminded me of 40s star Teresa Wright, who seemed to always play the slightly troubled girl next door. Mank is a delight to watch, especially for Oldman’s performance, and a must for any lover of old-school Hollywood films.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Mank Website    Available on the Netflix platform and currently playing in select theatres.

My View: Half Brothers (2020) PG-13   Renato (Luis Gerardo Mendez) is a successful Mexican aviation exec that finds out his estranged father is dying. Renato is shocked that he has an American half-brother, Asher (Connor Del Rio), that he never knew about. Now, Renato’s father is sending him and Asher on a scavenger hunt trip to trace the path their father took on his journey a long time ago. Another boring attempt at a road trip picture that never finds its comedic footing and tries too hard to push two opposite characters together to make something funny happen. The storyline is weak, often relying on stereotypes even when making fun of those games stereotypes (stupid Americans think Mexicans in their country zip line everywhere because that’s what the tourists do in Cabo). The filmmakers try on occasion to tackle some serious immigration issues, but they never quite hit any nerves, just a lot of trying to tug on the heartstrings without giving us any heart. The two leads don’t have the chemistry to make the comedic situations funny, and Connor Del Rio comes off trying too hard to be the zany, weird one. I loved some of the scenes in a town I used to visit as a kid, San Miguel de Allende, but those are too far and between many tired, boring bits trying to be funny.   My Rating: Cable     Half Brothers Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Black Bear (2020) R   At a remote lake house in the Adirondack Mountains, a couple (Sarah Gadon, Christopher Abbott) host a filmmaker, Allison (Aubrey Plaza), who wants to spend some time at their house because she is at a creative impasse with her work. Little does the couple know that the woods' isolation will bring out Allison’s inner demons sho could destroy the couple’s peaceful life. This film has quite a few twists and turns, some that I never saw coming. The three leads are outstanding but make no mistake about it, this is Aubrey Plaza’s movie, and she shines in the role. Her character is as complex as the plot is, and Plaza is asked to give us a performance that asks here to turn on a dime, making her character one to watch throughout the film. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but it makes for an interesting and sometimes surprising trip.  My Rating: Full Price     Black Bear Info    The film is currently playing in select theatres and is available to rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: Dear Santa (2020)   Documentary on the 100-year-old tradition of the ‘Operation Santa’ program of the United States Post Office, which offers letters from children whom the public can adopt and make a child’s Christmas wish come true. First, this is absolutely a movie you can watch with your kids as the film goes to great lengths to not give away any of Santa’s secrets. The film is a joy to watch as Santa’s ‘elves’ volunteer time and money to make sure that families in need get a Christmas that they will be sure to remember. The film follows some of the volunteers throughout the process, from cities like New York and Chicago to small towns across the country, like the town of Chico, which grew immensely after the devastating fires wiped out so many California homes. The volunteers are wide-ranging, from an elementary school in Brighton Beach, NY, to ironworkers in a big city. You will need to keep your tissues near you as you will surely wipe away a few tears as Santa does his magic.   My Rating: Full Price     Dear Santa Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres and is available to rent on participating on-demand services. 

Indiefest: Another Round (2020)   Four middle-aged friends, all teachers, feel that they are in a rut and decide to embark on an experiment from an obscure philosopher: to see if a constant level of alcohol in their blood will help them find happiness and freedom. At first, the experiment seems to work, then that past comes up to the surface, and the friends must decide to face the music or keep going. The idea sounds like fun, and the four friends are happy with the results; they seem freer, able to do their jobs with joyless abandon. Then reality starts to sink in, as the group pushes the boundaries further, they go down a slippery slope that could have some harsh consequences. The characters are multi-layered, and the performances run the gamut of joyful to morose. The film has a sense of humor to it, but at the same time, there is a forbidding that this experiment could come crashing down on the four at any time. Another Round is a film that, at times, you will laugh at and other times will be uncomfortable and might squirm a bit in your seat. Mikkelsen gives a bravo performance that is ripe with emotion and pain.   My Rating: Full Price    Another Round Website   The film is currently playing in select theatres and is available to rent on participating on-demand services on Dec. 18th.

My View: I’m Your Woman (2020) R  Set in the 70s, a young mother, Jean (Rachel Brosnahan), is forced to go on the run with her baby when her husband betrays his partners. The film takes a crime genre and turns it around to focus on a woman who is in over her head. Jean is thrown into a situation that she did not make and one that she might not escape. Along with Jean, we slowly learn more about her situation, and as it goes along, the more hopeless it seems. Brosnahan gives us a woman who at first seems doomed, as she is clueless on how to survive in the mean streets but, Jean is a smart, tough woman who tries to roll with the punches and is willing to do anything so that she and her baby survive. The film has a great supporting cast, as Jean must find some allies to help her survive and figure out what the end game of this adventure is. Jean is far from the wisecracking standup comic that Brosnahan has played in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but she is up to the task and gives us an adventure on the dark side of life.   My Rating: Full Price    I'm Your Woman Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres and is available on the Amazon Prime platform on Dec. 11th.

Forgotten Film: Stories We Tell (2013)  PG-13  In this documentary, Actress/Director Sarah Polley has known that her family has harbored some secrets for some time now. So, Sarah decides to interview members of her family and let them, in their own words, tell what really happened. Stories We Tell is an incredibly moving documentary about a woman who is determined to get to the truth. It’s a fascinating film that explores how people remember events in their lives and how their own beliefs shade those stories. It’s a funny and touching film that is not to be missed.  My Rating: Full Price     Stories We Tell Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Mank: Table Person

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Wild Mountain Thyme (2020) Rosemary (Emily Blunt), against her family's wishes, is head over heels in love with her neighbor Anthony (Jamie Dornan). The problem is Anthony is cursed, as madness runs in the family, and he remains oblivious to Rosemary and her advances. In walks an American (Jon Hamm), who wants to buy Anthony’s family farm and also, just might take Rosemary away too. Hey, a comedic romance with Emily Blunt, Jon Hamm, and Christopher Walken? You had me at Emily Blunt.      Wild Mountain Thyme Website

Until Next Time!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Croods: A New Age

Note to readers: I currently am not willing to risk my health (I’m 62 and an asthmatic) by visiting a theatre. All films that I have seen for review have been screened in my home. I am not going to tell you whether or not to attend a theatre. Just be aware of the risks, do your research, and follow the instructions to the letter.

Familyfaire: The Croods: A New Age (2020) PG   Your favorite prehistoric family, the Croods, are back! There is a new family in the neighborhood, the Bettermans, led by Hope (Leslie Mann) and Phil (Peter Dinklage), who claim to be better and more evolved. Can Grug (Nicolas Cage) and Ugga (Catherine Keener) keep their family on the right track, or will their kids lose their way when shown how the Bettermans live? I liked the first The Croods film, immensely enjoying the antics of Grug, voiced by Nicolas Cage, who as the dim but caring caveman made the film seem fun and enjoyable. This time around, there isn’t much to add to the story other than the Bettermans, a modern-like family that makes the Croods seem like, well, cavemen. The Croods: A New Age isn’t a bad film, it just doesn’t bring much more to the storyline. Kids will enjoy the movie, and there are plenty of colorful, wild animals to keep the smaller kids involved.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     The Croods: A New Age Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres.

My View: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) R   In 1927 Chicago, tensions rise between Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), her ambitious horn player, Levee (Chadwick Boseman), and the management determined to control the headstrong Ma Rainey, the ‘Mother of the Blues.’ It’s hard to take a stage play and make it work on the screen, but boy, this film makes it work. Boy, does it! The late Chadwick Boseman gives us one last performance, and it is one for the ages. Using all his energy and charisma, Boseman provides us with a man who has talent and lets everyone know it, but there is something wrong with Levee, a man who is haunted by his past. Not to be outdone, Viola Davis, almost unrecognizable behind all the makeup and costume padding, is powerful and commanding as the demanding Ma Rainey, a woman who knows she has a gift and is willing only to share that gift when her demands are met. This is a film that will move you and, at times, will shock you. It is a fitting tribute to a man who we will all miss, and once the movie ends, is filled with the sadness of knowing that a great career was cut way too short.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Website   The film is playing exclusively in the Atlanta area at Landmark Midtown Art.

Indiefest: Stardust (2020)   A young David Bowie (Johnny Flynn) comes to America for the first time in 1971 on a trip that inspires the invention of Bowie’s iconic alter ego Ziggy Stardust. It’s hard to make a film about a legendary musician like Bowie without playing his songs, but that’s what we get with Stardust. Johnny Flynn does a fine job playing Bowie, and his singing voice is a nice copy, but the problem is that we never get the feeling from the film why Bowie was such a magnetic force on stage. The movie just slowly moves along, as we get depressed as much as Bowie does when he realizes that his dreams of becoming a big star are crumbling away. The film never finds its footing, and while we get a short vision of Bowie’s creation of an alien rock star named Ziggy at the end of the film, it has nothing of the impact that it should have. David and Ziggy deserve more than what this film gives them.    My Rating: Cable     Stardust Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Last Call (2020)   Before there were rock stars, there was writer Dylan Thomas (Rhys Ifans). In 1953, Dylan Thomas is on his final tour, where he was captivating audiences with his poetry and stories. In New York City, Thomas walked into a Tavern and pondered his life as he downed eighteen doubles scotches. This is not an easy film to watch as a man slowly before our eyes drinks himself to death. I’m not a big fan of Thomas’s work and therefore didn’t enjoy the constant reciting of his work as we flashback to his performances before an audience on his tour. The film feels somewhat like a stage play, as most of the action takes place in the bar as Thomas downs each shot, giving the bartender and the other fellows at the bar his thoughts of love, life, and death. It’s a mesmerizing performance by Rhys Ifans, but it's not enough to keep the film moving at even a slow pace. The film becomes almost repetitive as we watch Dylan keep downing his drinks. The film moves from the bar to flashback to happier or sad times in his past, along with imagined appearances by his wife, Caitlin (Romola Garai). The film slowly moves along, and like Dylan Thomas, it very quickly wears out its welcome.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Last Call Info      The film is currently playing in select theatres.

My View: Uncle Frank (2020) R   In 1973, college professor Frank Bledsoe (Paul Bettany) and his Eighteen-year-old niece, Beth (Sophia Lillis), journey back to South Carolina to attend Frank’s father’s funeral. Frank has many secrets that he wishes would remain hidden, but this trip home will be painful, and those secrets will spill out. Uncle Frank is an interesting film because even though Beth is the narrator of the film and the first third of the film is from her viewpoint, the main story and character is her Uncle Frank. Frank has a secret, one he has kept hidden and is ashamed of. It’s a shame because I really enjoyed Beth and her view of the world. The switch to focus on Frank is a bit sudden, and we never quite get the focus back on Beth. Instead, it’s Frank's story for the rest of the film. Bettany shines as the likable but troubled Frank, and his journey back home brings back memories that he would like to forget. It’s a complex performance that is full of passion and pain. Because of the performances in the film, it’s worth taking a road trip with Beth and Uncle Frank.   My Rating: Full Price    Uncle Frank Website     Available on the Amazon Prime platform.

My View: Happiest Season (2020) PG-13   Harper (Mackenzie Davis) and Abby (Kristen Stewart) are in love, so much so that Abby is going to propose to Harper when they go to Harper’s childhood home for Christmas. The problem is that Harper’s family doesn’t know Harper is a lesbian, and now Abby will have to pretend that she and Harper are just roommates. What could go wrong? This is a nice addition to the ‘home for the holidays’ genre with a wonderful twist on the romantic comedy to spice it up. Davis and Stewart have brilliant chemistry on screen together, and while a few of the comedy pieces are a bit too broad, the film is still fun, sweet, and a blast to watch. Mary Steenburgen is funny as the high-strung mom trying to coordinate not only a Christmas holiday but also her husband's (Victor Garber) bid to become mayor. The cast that stand out are Dan Levy as the gay best friend of Abby, who is more interested in his problems until he realizes Abby’s world is crashing down and Mary Holland as the odd, overeager younger sister Mary. Both bring an energy to the storyline and are a delight to watch. So grab some cocoa, put up the stockings, and watch Abby and Harper try to survive the holidays.   My Rating: Full Price     Happiest Season Info    Available on the Hulu platform.

My View: Hillbilly Elegy (2020) R    The story of J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso), who goes back to his Appalachian home to revisit his childhood and the two women, his strong-willed grandmother (Glen Close) and his troubled mother (Amy Adams). What a colossal waste of talent. The film moves back and forth from when J.D. is a kid and in the present where J.D. is in law school. The biggest problem is while the younger J.D. is somewhat enjoyable as a kid who needs guidance and love, the adult J.D. is a stupid jerk who is mad at the world and doesn’t deserve his loyal and loving girlfriend. The film feels like one of those movies that can’t live up to the book's complexity. The storyline seems skimpy as we never get enough depth to understand why the characters are the way they are. Sure, there are some flashbacks, but the film seems like just trying to throw as much stuff on the screen as it can without a lot of substance. I was bored by this film, didn’t care about its characters, and wanted it to end as soon as possible.   My Rating: Cable     Hillbilly Elegy Website   Available on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest:  Zappa (2020)   Documentary that looks at the life and work of legendary rock musician and composer Frank Zappa. Zappa was a very complex man who put out an incredible amount of music in his lifetime, which makes tell his story so hard to do. Filmmaker Alex Winter, who has already had a good year with his documentary Showbiz Kids and starring as Bill in Bill & Ted Face the Music, tries to give us the life story of a man who was a rock legend but considered himself a composer. Using vast amounts of previously unseen home movies, concert footage, and behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage, the film is a treasure trove of sights and sounds for any Frank Zappa fan. The film using past interview recordings, let’s Frank tell his own story because if there was one thing that Frank liked to talk about, it was himself. The documentary interviews  band members, fellow musicians, and Gail, Frank's long time wife. The film doesn’t pull punches as we find out that Frank considered only his immediate family as his close friends, and that he wasn’t shy about sleeping with other women while on the road. I learned a lot about Frank from this film; his strange childhood (he liked to make bombs), that he never studied music but was self-taught (impressive for a man who composed for orchestras), and while Frank loved his family, he wasn’t close to them. In fact, his daughter Moon Unit made Zappa’s only hit Valley Girl with him just to get him to pay attention to her. The film is packed in its little over two hours run time with information, but it doesn’t seem like enough time as his early career is given the bulk of the film, and what some consider his best work in the late 70s into the 80s is barely talked about. Frank Zappa wasn’t for everybody; in fact, often, he pissed off audiences at his concerts as he played what he wanted to, not what they wanted him to. This film also isn’t for everyone, but if you are a fan or want to know more about a fascinating musician whose work is vast and impressive, this is a movie for you.    My Rating: Full Price    Zappa Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: Columbus (2017)   Jin (John Cho) is a Korean-born man who finds himself stuck in Columbus, Indiana, because his father is in a coma. He meets Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a young woman who is staying in Columbus because she has to support her mother, who is a recovering addict. Writer/director Kogonada brings us a magical film about family, relationships, and dreaming of things that you think can't come true. The film takes place in Columbus, Indiana, the “Midwest Mecca of Architecture,” and it's magnificent buildings are the backdrop for this film. Every shot utilizes these brilliant buildings, making you feel a part of the landscape. What I love about this film is that the two characters slowly peel back the layers of Jin and Casey as their conversations continue. The characters become part of the architecture, interacting with it and exploring it. Casey has even-numbered her favorite buildings like a film lover would rate movies. Columbus is a movie that will hold you spellbound as it explores the importance of relationships, the ones we honor, and the ones we have to leave to better ourselves.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Columbus Info  

Weird Credits: From the credits of Stardust: Intimacy Coordinators

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Let Them All Talk (2020) R   A famous author (Meryl Streep) is having trouble writing her latest book. She decides to go on a cruise trip with her two best friends (Dianne Wiest, Candice Bergen) and her nephew (Lucas Hedges). On it, she hopes she finds inspiration, reconnects with her friends, and maybe even come to terms with her troubled past. The film is directed by Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich) and stars Meryl Streep. I think that is all I need in a movie.       Let Them All Talk Info

Until Next Time!