Friday, January 31, 2020

The Rhythm Section

My View: The Rhythm Section (2020) R   Stephanie (Blake Lively) will go at any length to seek revenge against those who orchestrated a plane crash that killed her family. I enjoy films about bad ass women that can fight and hold their own against all the odds. One of my favorites in this genre is the Luc Besson 1990 film La Femme Nikita, where a drug addict is kidnapped and is turned into an assassin. Like Nikita, Stephanie, reeling from the death of her family, has become an addict/prostitute who is trained by an ex-MI-6 agent (Jude Law) so that she can wipe out the terrorists responsible for the plane crash. The problem is Stephanie is no Nikita; she sucks at being an assassin, and it gets old very quickly watching Stephanie blunder her way through her attempts to kill people. Why Blake Lively, who I think if given that right part, can be outstanding, along with top-notch actors like Law, Sterling K. Brown would ever take on this project is beyond me. The stops and starts so many times that it seemed much longer than its hour and forty-nine minute run time. The Rhythm Section is meant to be the start of a film series, but I have great doubts that another film will ever be made for us to see Lively as Stephanie gets her butt thoroughly kicked again.   My Rating: Cable    The Rhythm Section Website
My View: Gretel & Hansel (2020) PG-13   A young girl, Gretel (Sophia Lillis), leads her little brother, Hansel (Sam Leakey), into the woods in search of food and shelter. They come across a woman named Holda (Alice Krige) who claims that she wants to help the children, but Gretel senses that there is something evil about the woman. This is a movie that once you have seen it (and I hope you never do), you will go ‘what the heck was that and what happened?”. So, there is a witch, and I guess that she wants to train Gretel to be her replacement (?), while all the while wanting to eat Hansel (I think). The film never delivers any scary moments, and there is a lot of sitting around a table while the witch lectures Gretel on how to be a woman/witch. To say that I hated this film would be an understatement as I had flashbacks to the awful European horror films from the 60s and 70s that I saw as a kid.   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again     Gretel & Hansel Website
My View: 2020 Oscar Nominated Short Films (2020) The live-action and animated shorts that are nominated for the 2020 Academy Awards.     2020 Oscar Nominated Short Films Website
        Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films: There are five films nominated: A Sister (Belgium), Brotherhood (Tunisia/Canada), Nefta Football Club (France), Saria (USA), and The Neighbors’ Window (USA). The two that stood out for me were A Sister, a taut, suspenseful film about a 911 operator that gets a mysterious call and The Neighbors’ Window, an exciting take on mild voyeurism about a happily married couple with two kids and one on the way, who have a young couple move into the apartment across the street that do not have any blinds on their windows. Both films have nice twists that make the movies a smart and clever watch.   My Rating (for all five films): Full Price

       Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films: There are five films nominated: Daughter (Czechia), Hair Love (USA), Kitbull (USA), Memorable (France), and Sister (USA). Note: There are four other excellent animated shorts that fill out the Animated program. I love that three of the films nominated are stop-motion and one, Kitbull, was hand-drawn. The two that stood out for me were Hair Love, a lovely tale about a father trying his best to style his daughter’s seemingly unmanageable hair and Kitbull from Pixar, about a friendship that develops between a homeless kitten and a poor, mistread pitbull.   My Rating (for all five films): I Would Pay to See it Again
Forgotten Film: The Great Mouse Detective (1986) G   Basil (voiced by Barrie Ingham) is a detective in the vein of Sherlock Holmes, and he is on the case of a kidnapping of a toy-maker by Basil’s arch-enemy, the evil Professor Ratigan (voiced by Vincent Price). I love the character Sherlock Holmes, and this film is a treat for fans of the master detective. The animation is beautifully done, back when animation was hand-drawn, and the plot is fun to watch as we see Basil solve a crime that just might even save the Crown. Sadly, this film has long been lost in the vaults of Disney, as it is worth watching if to hear Vincent Price create one of the great villains in the annals of animation.   My Rating: Full Price     The Great Mouse Detective Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Rhythm Section: Storeman

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Times of Bill Cunningham (2018) Documentary on the legendary NYTimes photographer Bill Cunningham who took some of the most iconic pictures in newspaper history and kept shooting pictures until he died at age 87.     The Times of Bill Cunningham Info
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Gentlemen

My View: The Gentlemen (2019) R   Mickey (Matthew McConaughey) is the weed lord of England and wants to settle down with his wife, Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), and sell his drug empire. It won’t be an easy sell. Writer/director Guy Ritchie goes back to his roots when he used to do witty and gritty films like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (2000) and Snatch (1998). The film is a little too flashy and very complicated at the start, and it took me quite a while to warm up to its rather brash language and violence, but about halfway through the film, I really started to enjoy it. McConaughey isn’t given too much to do other than be super cool (which we know he is good at), but the rest of the cast just has a blast playing some fun and off-the-wall characters. Charlie Hunnam, playing McConaughey’s right-hand man, is perfect in the role, and Colin Farrell gives a hilarious performance of a coach of a gang of small-time gagsters slash boxers. The best performance is Hugh Grant playing a con-man who is trying to swindle everyone he deals with. Grant is hilarious, with a thick British accent and twinkle in his eye as he tries to swindle a big score. Not quite a home run but still a good time at the movies, I hope Ritchie keeps making movies like this one instead of dreck that he has done lately (Aladdin, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.).    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Gentlemen Website
My View The Last Full Measure (2019) R  Scott Huffman (Sebastian Stan) is given the task of investigating if thirty-four years after his death, Airman Willam H Pitsegnbarger Jr. (‘Pits’) is worthy of getting the nation’s highest military honor, for his actions on the battlefield. Huffman will discover that there are many secrets being hidden to Pits’ story. This is such a remarkable story that you want the film to be better than it is. With a cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Plummer, Bradley Whitford, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Peter Fonda, Amy Madigan, and Diane Ladd, you would think that this film would just fly by, but instead, it drags as we keep going back to flashbacks to the day that Pitts died. There are a lot of talking head scenes as Vietnam vets anguish over that day, but the film never delivers the emotional punch that is needed to make this film worth watching.    My Rating: Cable    The Last Full Measure Website
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD / Blu-ray)Gemini Man (2019)  PG-13    An over-the-hill hitman (Will Smith) takes on his worst nightmare, a younger clone of himself bent on killing him. Let's get right to what everyone will be talking about, the CGI younger Will Smith in the film. At times, the CGI does a great job and looks like a real person, but there are times, especially when we first meet the clone that looks fake and very animated. This takes away from the film, as you are consistently taken from the storyline or the action, looking at how well or not the film is carrying off this gimmick. I call it a gimmick because, as one of my fellow critics noted after the film screening, it would have been easier (and less costly) to cast a young actor in the part and then add makeup for the older version. The action is well done, but the storyline is weak, and the ending is just stupid and an easy out. Throughout the film, I kept asking, why did two-time Oscar winner Ang Lee want to do this film, and how could it be this bad directed by him.    My Rating: Cable    Gemini Man Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers But Just Looks Like a Bad Idea): Gretel & Hansel (2020) PG-13   A young girl, Gretel (Sophia Lillis) leads her little brother, Hansel (Sam Leakey) into the woods in search of food and shelter. They come across a woman named Holda (Alice Krige) who claims that she wants to help the children, but Gretel senses that there is something evil about the woman. As of writing this, movie critics are not being offered a screening, never a good sign for a movie.    Gretel & Hansel Website
Forgotten Film: Bandslam (2009) PG   Will (Gaelan Connell) is a bit of a geek who's life revolves around music. He is recruited by Charlotte (Aly Michalka), who has put together a band to compete in the upcoming Battle of the Bands competition. Will knows something is missing from Charlotte’s band, and he finds Sa5m (Vanessa Hudgens) and adds her to the band, which instantly begins to gel. What I love about this film (besides the music which is catchy and fun) is how the film treats these teens like actual people, with real feelings and dreams. Hudgens and Michalka can sing, and Connell is perfect as the awkward kid who doesn’t think any girl would be interested in him. It’s a fun ride that reminds me a little of the fabulous 80s teen films that I fell in love with.   My Rating: Full Price    Bandslam Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Gentlemen: Crowd Voice Casting Assistant

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Rhythm Section (2020) R   Stephanie (Blake Lively) will go at any length to seek revenge against those who orchestrated a plane crash that killed her family. I am always interested to see what Blake Lively has picked for her next role.     The Rhythm Section Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Bad Boys for Life

My View: Bad Boys for Life (2020) R   The Bad Boys (Will Smith, Martin Lawrence) are back together for one last ride. The guys have to confront possible career changes and midlife crises, as they join a new task force named AMMO to take down a ruthless leader of a Miami drug cartel. If you are a fan of the first two films in the Bad Boys series, then you will have a good time watching this film. Is the plot stupid and the ending pretty unbelievable? Yes. Are there a lot of high-speed car chases and numerous things blowing up (sometimes for no reason)? Yes. Is the chemistry between Smith and Lawrence still there? Yes (but barely). I didn’t quite have as much fun as the audience I saw the film with, but if you know what you are getting into (watch the trailer), you will probably have a good time watching this ‘popcorn’ movie.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Bad Boys for Life Website
Familyfaire: 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. Dolittle is an unfunny and rather stupid film that only young, and I mean really young, kids will enjoy. Downey has some sort of Welsh accent that I have no idea what he was saying about a third of the time. The plot is predictable, and the only fun animal in the whole bunch is a squirrel (voiced by Craig Robinson) that thinks people are out to kill him. The CGI is unimpressive, with some of the animals looking like they were drawn by eight-year-olds. I hope the paycheck was huge for Downey because he isn’t going to live down this film for quite a while.    My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again    Dolittle Website
Indiefest: The Song of Names (2019) PG-13   Thirty-five years after his close childhood friend, a violin prodigy, disappears on the eve of his big solo concert, an Englishman travels throughout Europe to find him. I wish this was a better film than what it turned out to be. It is intriguing at first, with the mystery of why the violinist disappeared without a trace. Unfortunately, the film takes too long to solve that mystery, and I became rather bored with the movie as it moved back and forth from the past to the present. When the mystery is solved, it’s quite a letdown, making the film feel a little shallow. Tim Roth plays the adult who is looking for the long, missing violinist, and Clive Owen is the man he finds. Both actors aren’t given much to do in this film, and the big, emotional moment just doesn’t deliver.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     The Song of Names Website
Indiefest: Les Miserables (2019) R   A cop (Damien Bonnard) transfers to the 93rd district (where Victor Hugo wrote his 1962 novel ‘The Miserables’) so that he can be near his son after his divorce. He is assigned to the local Anti-Crime Brigade, where cops try to keep the peace between residents. Les Miserables is a gritty, down, and dirty cop drama about the hard streets of a low-income Paris neighborhood, where the cops are constantly harassing the people of the community. What I loved about this film is there are a number of different characters in the movie, all with interlocking stories that all come together at the end of the film. Nominated for an International Feature Film Academy Award, this film is a hard look at a harsh life in the street.   My Rating: Full Price     Les Miserables Website
Indiefest: Weathering With You (2019) PG-13   A high-school boy, Hodaka, runs away to Tokyo, where he meets and befriends a girl who seemingly can manipulate the weather. The animation in this film is beautiful and sometimes a bit haunting. The film is a love story between a 15-year-old boy and a mysterious 18-year-old girl, Hina, who he discovers is called ‘The Sun Girl.’ Tokyo is in the middle of a record-setting weather event, it won’t stop raining. Hina, it seems can through prayer, stop the rain from falling for a short time. They start up a business, selling sunshine for events like a wedding or a ball game. Weathering with You is a love story, and the film is aimed at teenagers (think a Young Adult novel) where we wonder if Hodaka is ever going to get up the nerve to tell Hina just how he feels about her. Hina has a secret, and this love affair could be doomed. I enjoyed this film, and I loved the soundtrack that had a number of Japanese pop songs that perfectly captured the feelings of the characters.   My Rating: Full Price     Weathering With You Website
Forgotten Film: Lady in White (1988) PG-13   Frankie (Lukas Haas) is an 11-year old kid who one night is lured into the school cloakroom by some kids and is left behind, the door locked and Frankie realizes that no one knows where he is. He is visited by a ghost, a young girl who looks sad. As he tries to communicate with the spirit, another figure appears, a masked man who is looking for something in the cloakroom. The masked man decides to spare Frankie, leaving Frankie to figure out if he was visited by one or two ghosts. Lady in White is an excellent ghost story as our hero sets out to discover why he was visited by the young ghost, and if the masked man had anything to do with her death. I loved the fact that the film perfectly captures the look and feel of a small town as it deals with a ghost and a possible murderer. The film has a few nice twists and turns to make this a movie to watch. My Rating: Full Price    Lady in White Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Bad Boys for Life: Elk Set Production Assistant

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Saint Frances (2019)  A young woman (Kelly O’Sullivan) life is falling apart, and she decides to take a new approach, she becomes a nanny to a six-year-old girl who will change her life. The star of the film, O’Sullivan wrote the screenplay, and the trailer looks like this film could be a lot of fun to watch.     Saint Francis Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 10, 2020


My View: 1917  (2019) R   Two young British privates (Dean-Charles Chapman, 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. One of the best films of just 2019 but one of the best films of the decade. Shot and edited as if the film is one long take, the film is a masterpiece in film editing. It’s a roller-coaster ride as we follow the two young soldiers on what very quickly looks to become either an hopeless task to complete at the least and, more than likely, a suicide mission where both men will die in vain. You are immersed rapidly into a deadly and rotten war as our two heroes are given almost impossible hurdles to overcome, all the while the clock is ticking. The film is breathtaking in its scope as we see up close the horrors of WWI and the effect it had on the men who had to fight it. The film will keep you on the edge of your seat, and it’s almost two-hour length will fly by. Please go see this in a theatre, as both the score and the cinematography are breathtaking. The two lead actors, Chapman and MacKay, are outstanding, giving us an everyman feel to their portrayals of two British boys trying to save their fellow soldiers from a horrible death. I gave 1917 my top vote in all three of my critic groups end of the year voting over some other incredible films of 2019.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     1917 Website
My View: Like a Boss (2020) R   Two friends, Mel (Rose Byrne) and Mia (Tiffany Haddish) start a beauty company together. The problem is that Mel is the practical one, and Mia can only see the lavish lifestyle that she thinks she deserves. In walks Claire (Salma Hayek) who wants to invest in their company and make all their dreams come true, that is, until it turns into their nightmare. The only thing I can say positive about this film is that it is mercifully a short 83 minutes long. I felt sorry for Byrne and Haddish as they gamely gave it everything they had, but the story is so bad, there is no way that they could save this horrible film. The plot is paper-thin, and the two lifelong friends turn on each other in a blink of an eye. Salma Hayek gives an incredibly horrific over-the-top performance, and she is not helped by an overacting Karan Soni, who plays her gofer / yes man. The ending seems to have written by a group of 8-year-olds, and if I ever hear the classic song 'Proud Mary' sung by Byrne and Haddish again (it's their go-to Karaoke tune), I know that I have been sent to hell and not heaven.  My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again    Like a Boss Website
Indiefest:  Just Mercy  (2019)  PG -13  A young Harvard grad lawyer, Bryan (Michael B. Jordan), could have the pick of any job in the country. Still, he picks Alabama to set up a law firm specializing in advocating for death row inmates he feels to have been wrongly condemned. He meets and defends Walter McMillan (Jamie Foxx), a man convicted of a notorious murder of an 18-year-old-girl. Led by powerful performances by Jordan and Foxx, this earnest film, while not quite the home run you want it to be, is a good film with the message that every person deserves a chance at justice. The film tugs at the heartstrings but never feels overpowering, letting its message and plot slowly develop to its conclusion. Fans of Brie Larson will be a little disappointed as she isn’t given much to do, other than play the cheerleader for Jordan’s determined lawyer. The film doesn’t break any new ground, but the fact that this film is based on a real story brings home enough of an impact to make it an interesting movie to watch.   My Rating: Full Price    Just Mercy Website
My View: Underwater (2020) PG-13   A crew of aquatic researchers are 7 miles underwater on the Ocean floor when an earthquake devastates subterranean laboratory. They soon discover that they have more than the ocean seabed to fear. A great deal of this film takes place in very dark and murky water with the cast in very bulky, outer-space style diving suits. This means that a great deal of the action is tough to see, and the cast, speaking into their suit’s communication system, are at times incredibly hard to understand. I have a feeling that the film was much longer, and the studio made the filmmakers cut about 30 minutes because some of the transitions from one scene to another are almost unexplainable. Divers complain about not have enough oxygen, and then, in the next scene, they are fine, and sometimes we seem to time travel a bit, as the crew, walking on the ocean floor, moving at incredible speed and distance, while at other times they struggle to go a few feet. Other than a few newspaper clippings in the opening credits, there isn’t much setup, so we never really get to understand what the crew was doing in the laboratory and what their relationships between each other are. The ending feels rushed, and all the scares in this film are the ‘jump out of the dark’ style, which gets old very quickly. I hope Kristen Stewart got a big paycheck for this film, because she looks uncomfortable throughout the film, almost as uncomfortable as I was watching the movie.   My Rating: Cable    Underwater Website
Indiefest: Days of Rage: The Rolling Stones’ Road to Altamont (2020)   At the end of the 60s, the Rolling Stones had become the voice of the new era. It all came crashing down at a rock concert that changed their lives forever. Days of Rage is an excellent and informative documentary on what led to a death at a free rock concert. I loved all the news footage as the film shows us how and why this concert was almost doomed to fail from the start. People remember The British invasion, but what this film points out is that the Stones were, at the time, almost the anti-Beatles, striving to be something new and different from all the other British bands to tour the states in the late 60s. The film gives us great insight into why and how the outlaw biker gang, the Hells Angels, became the security for the concert and just how things got so quickly out of hand. The film has some tremendous classic Stones live concert footage that fans of the group will want to see. I thought I knew about what happened at Altamont but, because of this film, I have a new understanding of what went down that fateful night.   My Rating: Full Price    Days of Rage Info
Forgotten Film: The Others (2001)  PG-13  Grace (Nicole Kidman) moves to a mansion on Jersey with her two children while waiting for her husband to return from the Second World War. Her two children have a disease that means they cannot be exposed to sunlight. Due to her children’s affliction, she has created a series of rules that must be followed, or the children could be harmed. The home and her children become too much for her, so she hires a group of servants who soon learn that breaking the rules will have some unexpected consequences. I love this film, how it slowly, darkly builds the tension without having to resort to tricks or easy scares. Kidman gives one of her best performances as the mother who finds herself in a highly disturbing situation, one that she may not be able to handle. I can’t give away much more of the plot without ruining the movie, but let me say this, it’s one of the best uses of suspense in a film and will probably shock you a few times with the twists and turns the plot takes.   My Rating: Full Price    The Others Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Underwater: Legacy Suit Lighting Technician

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Mulan (2020)   A young Chinese maiden (Yifei Liu) disguises herself as a male warrior when her ailing father is called into the army to protect the country from the Huns. I loved the animated film, and this live-action movie looks terrific.    Mulan Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 3, 2020

The Grudge and Mike's Top Ten Films of 2019

My View: The Grudge (2019) R   A house is cursed by a ghost hell-bent on getting vengeance by dooming anyone who enters will die a violent death. The first The Grudge (2004) was a surprise hit, mostly riding on the coattails of Buffy’s Sarah Michelle Gellar. After two lesser successful sequels, they have decided to reboot the series with this film. While the original movie wasn’t a slam dunk, it did have its scary moments and was worth the watch. I can’t say the same thing about this film. The film does a very clumsy tie-in to the first film and then proceeds to jump back in forth between three or is it four stories (I was too bored to keep track). The film has a bunch of jump out of the dark scares that don’t ever work, and the movie never builds any suspense. I now have a grudge against the writer/director of this film for making sit through ninety-three minutes of boring  My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   The Grudge Website
Indiefest: Cunningham (2019)  PG   Documentary on Merce Cunningham and the history of his iconic dance company. A fascinating film about a cutting-edge choreographer/dancer who created a ground-breaking company that pushed the boundaries of music and dance. When asked if he wrote and performed ‘avant-garde’ pieces, he replied, ‘I don’t describe it, I just do it.’ The film beautifully recreates some Cunningham’s most well-known pieces, often in usual settings such as a forest or the top of a high-rise. There are also behind-the-scenes glimpses of Cunningham at work with his dancers, plus archival footage of the company performing on live television. Cunningham isn’t a film for everyone, but for lovers of theater and dance, it is a must-see.    My Rating: Full Price    Cunningham Website
Forgotten Film: Whale Rider (2002)  PG-13   On the east coast of New Zealand, the Whangara people believe that they were founded by an ancestor, Paikea, who, when his canoe capsized, he rode to shore on the back of a whale. This New Zealand tribe believes that the first-born sons are the only heirs that can become the chief. Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes) believes that it is her destiny to become chief, against the wishes and beliefs of her grandfather, Koro (Rawin Paratene), she fights against a thousand years of tradition to fulfill her place in history. A stirring film of courage, with the unbelievable setting of New Zealand, along with Castle-Hughes giving us a magical and uplifting performance as the determined Pai, make this a film you will want to watch.   My Rating: Full Price    Whale Rider Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Grudge: Special MUFX Show Runner

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Just Mercy  (2019) PG-13   A young Harvard grad lawyer (Michael B. Jordan) could have the pick of any job in the country, but he picks Alabama to set up a law firm specializing in advocating for death row inmates he feels to have been wrongly condemned. He meets and defends Walter McMillan (Jamie Foxx), a man convicted of a notorious murder of an 18-year-old-girl. As I stated before, I will see any film starring Michael B. Jordan.    Just Mercy Website

Mike’s Top Ten Films of 2019

1).  1917   (film comes out Jan. 10th)
2) Parasite   Parasite Review
3)Marriage Story  Marriage Story Review
4) The Peanut Butter Falcon   The Peanut Butter Falcon Review
5)The Irishman    The Irishman Review
6)Little Women    Little Women Review
7)Avengers: End Game   Avengers: End Game Review
8)Knives Out    Knives Out Review
9)Apollo 11    Apollo 11 Review
10). The Little Biggest Farm    The Biggest Little Farm Review

Honorable Mention: Honeyland, Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, Pain and Glory, Uncut Gems, Toy Story 4, I Lost My Body, Booksmart, Ford vs Ferrari, Us, Diego Maradona, The Amazing Jonathan, Jojo Rabbit, One Child Nation, Maiden, Late Night, Dolemite Is My Name

Until Next Time!