Friday, March 27, 2020


Indiefest: Swallow (2019) R   Hunter (Haley Bennett) is a pregnant housewife who finds herself increasingly compelled to consume dangerous objects. Feeling the pressure from her husband (Austin Stowell) and her family, she must come to terms with the dark secret that is behind her new obsession. Swallow is not an easy film to watch, just because Hunter starts swallowing larger and more dangerous objects as the film progresses. Haley Bennett is mesmerizing as a woman whose troubled past, along with her miserable marriage, causes her to try to find solace in swallowing objects. I loved the look of this film, with its post-modern furniture and Hunter’s outfits that could make the 50s TV moms jealous. While not a horror film, it is terrifying at times, as Hunter goes through both mental and physical travails. What I love about this film is that through Bennett’s performance, we are always on Hunter’s side, even when it seems that she is hell bent on harming herself.   My Rating: Full Price    Swallow Website      Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: The Bygone (2019)   A young rancher, Kip (Graham Phillips), falls for a Lakota woman, named Waniya (Sydney Schafer) from a nearby reservation. When the young woman goes mysteriously disappearing, Kip goes on a search that uncovers a harrowing past and a possibly deadly future. The Bygone is one of those films that tries too hard to tug at the heartstrings. The film covers prostitution, sex trafficking, fracking, prejudices, greedy landowners, and the dying of the family ranch. Add in a young cowboy who instantly falls in love with a Lakota woman who has been taken into a life of prostitution, and you have just about the whole plot. The ending feels rushed and not well thought out, as all the bad guys seem to want Waniya at the same time, while our hero, Kip, puts on a pair of antique six-shooters to save the woman. The film starts with such promise but ends with a resounding thud.   My Rating: Cable    The Bygone Website     Currently available on Netflix.
Indiefest: Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (2020)   Documentary on Camp Jened, a camp in the Catskills ‘for the handicapped.’ The camp was an attempt to create a place for teenagers with disabilities in the early 70s that shaped lives and celebrated a group of teens who had faced discrimination and institutionalization. It’s hard to think of a time that we didn’t have bathrooms that could accommodate wheelchairs, much less sidewalks, and entryways. Nevertheless, before the 80s, this was the life of people with disabilities. The film does a magical job, through home movies and videos, of showing us how much the camp made an impact on teenagers that had never been around other teens like themselves. The film follows many campers as they went on to be crusaders in the fight for disabled equality. I had a great time watching this film as we get to know so many of these brave and interesting people who made a difference in the world. Have a blast, and go back to camp with a great group of kids.   My Rating: Full Price    Crip Camp Website      Currently available on Netflix.
Revisit Theatre (Mike watches and reviews a film he didn’t like the first time he saw it): Blow (2001) R   The story of George Jung (Johnny Depp) who goes from small-time pot dealer to being responsible for over 70 percent of all cocaine brought into the US in the 70s and early eighties. I didn’t like this film the first time I saw it in the theatres, and I still don’t. I will admit that I am not the biggest Johnny Depp fan, and I feel his performance in this film is a pretty smooth ride for Depp. Other than the early scenes of George making his mark in pot selling, I just never liked the character. George only cares about himself, and yes, near the end of the film, George finds a conscious and devotes himself to his daughter, but I thought that was an easy plot point to make him likable. The film has a hard time balancing the light and sometimes funny scenes during the first half of the film, with the dark and seedy scenes that fill out the 2nd half of the film. Still, not one of my favorites, and I stand by my original call.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Blow Info
Forgotten Film:   Just One of the Guys (1985) PG-13   Terry (Joyce Hyser) is smart, popular, and a great writer, but when she loses a summer intern at a newspaper because she is a woman. Terry decides to turn the tide, dress as a boy and go to a different school, and write an article on how easy guys have it in the world. At first glance, this looks like another 80s teen comedy, and at times it does go there, but at its heart, the film has a very timely quality about it, dealing with a lot of subjects that we are still debating today. Hyser gives a winning performance, though, at times, it’s tough to see how any of her classmates can’t figure her secret out. While the music and the fashions are dated, the subject matter still works today.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Just One of the Guys Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Bygone: Animal Colorist

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Always Sometimes Never (2018) PG-13   Alan (Bill Nighy) Is a tailor who, for years, has been searching for his missing son, Michael. Alan last saw his son when Michael stormed out of the house. Now with his younger son Peter (Sam Riley), Alan goes on a quest to find his missing son. Hey, anything with Bill Nighy is worth watching!     Sometimes Always Never Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Blow the Man Down

Indiefest: Blow the Man Down (2019) R   In a fishing village on Maine’s coast, two sisters (Sophie Lowe, Morgan Saylor), grieving the loss of their mother, cover up a gruesome run-in with a dangerous man. To keep their crime a secret, the sisters must go into the criminal underbelly of their hometown and uncover some of the town’s darkest secrets. I really loved this quirky film that has some great twists and turns to make the plot keep moving along. The two sisters cover up a crime, but little do they know that their small town has a lot of secrets, secrets that have been kept for a long time. The film’s atmosphere is aided by an incredible supporting cast including Margo Martindale, a whorehouse madam operating under the disguise of a B&B, and Annette O’Toole, the wonderful June Squibb and Marceline Hugot as the three old ladies who control the town. Can the sisters get away with murder? Only in a town that is used to covering up a crime or two.    My Rating: Full Price      Blow the Man Down Website
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD / Blu-ray): Uncut Gems (2019) R   Howard (Adam Sandler) thinks his life is about to change due to the delivery of an uncut gem that could be worth millions. Howard is all about taking chances, and he starts a series of high-stakes bets that he could win big on or also lose everything. Adam Sandler is an actor that, most of the time, pisses me off. My problem with Sandler is not because of his continual compulsion to make incredibly crappy films with his friends, like Grown Ups (2010), That’s My Boy (2012) and one of the worst movies I have ever seen, Jack and Jill (2011). No, it’s not that, it’s that Sandler can be an excellent, even great actor when he chooses the right material. The list is small but notable with outstanding work in films such as Punch-Drunk Love (2002), Reign Over Me (2007) and Spanglish (2004), where Sandler brings a quiet force to make an ordinary film worthy of watching. Add to the list Uncut Gems, where Sandler plays a man you probably won’t like or maybe even not root for, going so far as to hope that he fails. Still, you can’t deny that Sandler fills the screen with a magical, almost hypnotic performance as a man who is desperate to keep pushing his luck, even if it means he has to beat impossible odds. Uncut Gems is not a film that you will be able to sit back and enjoy, as Sandler and the directors of the film, Benny and Josh Safdie, take you on a journey of the high’s and low’s of a gambler. It’s like taking a ride on a roller coaster but one that rarely takes an uphill break, as Howard’s life quickly moves down from one get rich scheme to another. I loved the cast, including Kevin Garnett, the NBA all-star who plays himself, Julia Fox, who plays Howard’s combative girlfriend and Idina Menzel as Howard’s long-suffering ex-wife, who has seen Howard’s life on the edge in close-up. After seeing this film, you may need to take a few minutes to gather your thoughts and your senses before exiting the theatre.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Uncut Gems Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers But Just Looks Like a Bad Idea): 2099: The Soldier Protocol (2019)   A former soldier (Jackson Gallagher) volunteers for an experiment that will return full function to his legs, but at what price? Not a good sign when the only actor you recognize in the cast is David Arquette.   2099: The Soldier Protocol Website
Forgotten Film: Mr. Jones (1993) R   A man (Richard Gere) is arrested during a manic episode and is put into a hospital to treat him for bipolar disorder. He slowly starts to fall for his psychiatrist (Lena Olin), who also develops feelings for him. I have not always been a fan of Richard Gere, but this in this challenging role, he shines giving us insight on what it is like to experience the incredible highs and the depths of the lows of his mental illness. Gere and Olin have great chemistry together, and both overcome a script that, at times, is a little weak.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Mr. Jones Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Uncut Gems: Dental Prosthetics for Adam Sandler

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Black Widow  (2020)   The Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), goes back home to settle a few scores from the past. You had me with a cast that includes Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, and David Harbour.    Black Widow Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, March 13, 2020


My View: Bloodshot (2020) PG-13   Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) was an elite soldier who was killed in battle and is brought back to life by an advanced technology that gives Ray the ability of superhuman strength and almost immediate healing. Ray soon learns that what he thinks is real or knows may not be what is happening to him. I am guessing that Vin Diesel had a lot to do with the script since, at least three times, his character’s sexual prowess is brought up. You can also tell by how much Diesel is on the screen (try in almost every shot). I didn’t care about any of the characters in the film, the action sequences are some of the worst I’ve seen in quite a while, and the plot is just plain silly. Elza Gonzalez, as a fellow recipient of the technology (she can breathe air that has been poisoned), gives a woefully acted performance in a cast full of bad acting. The film seemed long, and it is for this type of action film, almost 1 hour and 50 minutes of dull.   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again     Bloodshot Website
My View: I Still Believe (2020) PG   Jeremy (K.J. Apa) goes off to college, where he meets and falls in love with Melissa (Britt Robertson). As Jeremy’s singing/songwriting career starts to take off, the young couple learns that Melissa has cancer. Their beliefs in God and each other will be challenged in this troubling time. If you don’t like faith-based films, then this film isn’t for you. Based on the real love story between Christian superstar singer Jeremy Camp and his wife, I Still Believe works due to the chemistry of K.J. Apa as Jeremy and Britt Robertson as Melissa. The film is greatly helped by the singing of Apa, who, as TV’s Riverdale fans will attest, can belt out a tune and has the charisma of Camp when he is on the stage performing. Unlike a lot of faith-based films that seemingly fill out their casts with players from the local Baptist church community theatre, I Still Believe is helped by Gary Sinise, who plays Camp’s father. I will warn you that you will need to bring a few tissues along when you see this film.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    I Still Believe Website
My View: The Hunt (2020) R   Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing and don’t have any idea where they are or how they got there. They are about to find out why they have been chosen, chosen for 'The Hunt.’ I can’t say too much about this film because, right from the start, this wacky and fun gorefest breaks a lot of rules in creating an inventive storyline that I really enjoyed. If you have seen the commercials or the trailer, you may think you know what this film is about, but I am telling you that you are probably wrong. I can tell you that Betty Gilpin, who has shown some spark in the TV series GLOW, is brilliant as a woman who decides that she is going to take charge and survive. My only regret about the film is I wish they had played up the comedy (think absurd plot lines) a bit more. Still, I had such a good time watching this film, that I told one of the critics after the screening, that I wanted it to be longer so I could enjoy the crazy world the film created.    My Rating: Full Price    The Hunt Website
Indiefest: Wendy (2020) PG-13   Retelling of the classic story of Peter Pan, wherein a land that aging and time have become unglued, Wendy (Devin France) must fight to save her family. In undoubtedly one of the biggest disappointments of the 1st quarter of films, two-time Oscar-nominated writer/director Benh Zeitlin, brings us a mess of a movie that felt more like a play put on by a bunch of neighborhood kids, than a film from a filmmaker that brought us the magical Beasts of the Southern Wild. Be warned that this is not a kid's movie, as it tells a muddled story of Wendy and Peter who run around quite a bit but never seem to do anything more than speak dialogue which is painful to hear and a plot that I have no clue what was about. I wanted this film to end ten minutes after I started watching it because I was bored out of my mind. It took eight years for Benh Zeitlin to bring us this movie, maybe he spent too much time with the project and got lost because when I watched it, I was also lost.   My Rating: Cable     Wendy Website
Indiefest: Balloon (2018)   In the summer of 1979, two families plot to escape East Germany to the West by making a homemade hot-air balloon. Based on an incredible true story, this film will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. The film perfectly creates the anxiety and fear that permeated everyone under the Communist rule in East Germany, where you couldn’t trust anyone, and your neighbor might be a snitch for the secret police. The film builds the tension throughout the movie and can’t believe how creative the families were in their attempt to find freedom in the West. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and you will be on the edge of your seat, rooting for their escape.   My Rating: Full Price     Balloon Website
Indiefest: Hope Gap (2019) PG-13   An adult son (Josh O’Connor) is caught in the middle when after 29 years, Grace (Annette Bening) learns that her husband, Edward (Bill Nighy), is leaving her for another woman. Grace is caught unaware of her husband's unhappiness, and her life comes apart at the seams. Hope Gap is a film that is about two miserable people who spent too much time in their routines, not to notice their unhappiness. Bening has the toughest part in the movie, as you never like Grace. Bening’s character is selfish, a bully, and not very loving, making Bening’s performance stand out from the other two cast members. Bill Nighy isn’t given much to do with the milk-toast, reserved Edward. The film does turn around a bit near the end of the film as each character seems to right themselves and start living again, but it takes quite a while to get to that part, making the film drag a bit.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Hope Gap Website
Forgotten Film: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2011) R   Tucker and Dale are best friends who are headed to their new vacation cabin (a fixer-upper), but there is something you need to know about them: they are hillbilly rednecks. A bunch of preppy college kids are headed to the same section of the woods near an isolated lake. There is one thing that they all find out once they get to their camps…twenty years ago, five college students mysteriously disappeared there. The two groups encounter each other, and the college kids start dying. The difference between this and other slasher films is this is a comedy, and the deaths are all accidental.  This is a funny film that uses all of the horror stereotypes to play for laughs. Tyler Labine, who plays Dale (from TV programs Reaper and Mad Love), and Alan Tudyk (Transformers: Dark of the Moon), who plays Tucker, are brilliant as the dim-witted hillbillies who don't quite get why anyone could be afraid of them. If you are a fan of films like Shaun of the Dead and Attack the Block, you should see this delightful movie.  My Rating: Full Price     Tucker and Dale vs. Evil Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Hunt: Truck Costumer

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Soul (2020)   A musician (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. All you have to say is Pixar, and I’m in.    Soul Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, March 6, 2020

The Way Back

My View:  The Way Back (2020) R   A former high school basketball star, Jack (Ben Affleck), is struggling to overcome his alcoholism and is offered a job to coach at his alma mater. When his team starts on a winning stream, his old demons resurface to try to stop his road to redemption. While technically a ‘sports’ film, the movie focuses more on the struggles of Jack, who is dealing with demons from his past through alcohol, and the relationships he develops with the members of the team he takes over. Affleck gives one of his best performances as a man who reluctantly takes over a team that barely has enough players to fill out a team. Jack deals with coming back to the place of his glory days and tries to inspire his team to play for each other and believe in themselves. The beauty of this film is the emphasis on the people in the story and not the outcome of the games themselves. My guess is that this might get Ben Affleck the two-time Oscar winner the Academy Award nomination for acting that he has long deserved.   My Rating; I Would Pay to See it Again     The Way Back Website
Familyfaire:  Onward (2020) PG    Two brothers (voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) go on a magical quest to try and revive their dead father for one day, a father the two barely remember. While not quite the gold standard that past Pixar movies (Toy Story franchise is the model) have brought us, Onward is still a fun and at times, moving tale that is perfect for young children to learn about the importance of family and how we have to believe in ourselves in order to succeed in life. The film has quite a few funny moments and takes a couple of twists and turns to keep the storyline moving at a quick and smart pace. Pratt, as the older, almost bumbling brother and Holland as the younger and less adventurous younger brother, make a great pair and play off each other with ease. While not a home run, Onward is still an enjoyable film that lets us tag along on a journey of two brothers who would do anything to bring their father back, even if it’s for a brief instant.    My Rating: Full Price     Onward Website
My View:  Burden (2018) R   When a museum celebrating the Ku Klux Klan opens in a small South Carolina town, the Reverend Kennedy (Forest Whitaker) tries to broker a peace all the while sheltering a former Klansman, Mike (Garrett Hedlund), much to the shock of his family and his church. While its heart is in the right place, Burden just doesn’t quite hit the mark, making the film feel a little too long and slightly flat in tone. I enjoyed Hedlund as Mike, a man who’s troubled past he must overcome with the help of the Reverend and Mike’s long-suffering girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough). I thought Hedlund went a little too far in his performance until I saw the real Mike talk in the closing credits, and I realized that Hedlund had captured the essence of the man. The film feels a little too much like a Lifetime movie, going for some of the easy emotional pulls, especially when Mike turns his back on the Klan. Whitaker is enjoyable as the Reverend, but this is a part that he probably could have played in his sleep, as the Reverend is portrayed as a one-trick pony, a man who never wavers in his beliefs that he can overcome evil with love and kindness.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Burden Website
Indiefest:  Greed (2019) R    Sir Richard McCreadie (Steve Coogan), a billionaire fashion mogul, is determined to celebrate his 60th birthday in the grandest scale on the Greek island Mykonos, even if it kills him. This satire badly misses the mark, making the film feel shallow and way too long. Coogan gamely gives the part of the very unlikeable Sir Richard, but he can’t overcome a script that feels like it wanted to be a harder hit on the super-rich and their life of excess but never quite has power or message to hit its mark. The ending of the film feels very unsatisfying and rushed, with a setup that takes way to long to come to its climax.    My Rating: Cable     Greed Website
My View:   The Banker (2020) PG-13    Two African American businessmen, Bernard (Anthony Mackie) and Joe (Samuel L. Jackson), devise a plan to help other African Americans get bank loans. The two men hire a working-class white man, Matt (Nicholas Hoult,) to pose as the face of the banking empire, while the two businessmen pose as his janitor and chauffeur. Their plan succeeds beyond their wildest dreams, that is, until the federal government begins snooping around. I loved the relationship between the straight-laced Bernard and the free-wheeling, hard-drinking Joe, making them the ‘odd couple’ of banking. Mackie and Jackson seem to enjoy being on screen together, and the two play off each other with an ease that makes their success and their friendship seem real and genuine. I wish the film wasn't so slow in developing and so bland in its storytelling. I had a bit of a problem with Nicholas Hoult in the part of the ‘aw shucks’ Matt, who is pretty dull in the part, especially when on the screen with Mackie and Jackson. The film seems to be on the verge of making some real and exciting points about race in America but never quite can figure out how to deliver that message.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     The Banker Info
Indiefest:  Seberg (2019) R I  nspired by real events, Seberg chronicles the life of actress Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart), an actress that rose to fame during the French New Wave films of the 1960s. Hoover’s FBI targeted her because of her politics, and the fact that she was dating black activist Hakim Jamal. When I was a kid, I saw the 1969 film Paint Your Wagon and fell in love with Jean Seberg. As an adult, I always wondered what happened to her and her promising career, so I read several books about her. I am sad to report that though Kristen Stewart valiantly tries, this film falls way short in bringing anything new to the story of Seberg, a woman who was deeply troubled. The film never really explores or even tries to explain Seberg’s mental troubles, seemingly blaming all her misfortunes on the harassment by the FBI. A great many people tried to help her throughout her short life, but Seberg never scratches the surface of this complicated, talented woman. Instead of this film, watch her landmark performance in the 1960 classic Breathless or heck, even Airport (1970). Anything in her early career would be better than this film.    My Rating: Cable    Seberg Website

Forgotten Film: The Killer (1989) R    An assassin (Chow Yun-Fat) accidentally blinds a singer during a hit gone wrong. He falls for the singer and decides to take one last hit in order to pay for an operation to hopefully restore the singer’s sight. He is double-crossed and must now team up with a cop to take down the mob boss who was out to kill him. Written and directed by John Woo ( Broken Arrow, Face/Off), this is a movie that blends perfectly action (which can get quite bloody) and drama. The reason to see this film is the final gunfight, one of the best gunfights that I have ever seen.    My Rating: Full Price     The Killer Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Way Back: Face Painter

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The New Mutants (2020) PG-13   Five young mutants, who are still discovering their abilities, are held against their will and now must learn to fight on their own. The cast includes Anya Taylor-Joy, who just wowed us in Emma. and Maisie Williams, who I loved in as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones.      The New Mutants Website
Until Next Time!