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