Friday, April 24, 2020
My View: Extraction (2020) R Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) is a black market mercenary known for his success rate. He is sent on an impossible mission to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord. I had fun watching this action film and man, does it have action. The film is one bloody ride with Hemsworth’s character putting up a kill every few seconds, sometimes in very creative and gross ways. Things blow up a lot, and there are plenty of close hand to hand fighting scenes, with Hemsworth kicking butt while taking in quite a beating himself. The fighting sequences are so well done. I wish I had seen the film on the big screen, where I think the action would have stood out better than it does on the smaller scale. The film is aided by its location work being shot in India and is also helped by Indian action star Randeep Hooda and actress Golshifteh Farahani (Paterson, About Elly), who plays Rake’s handler. Stranger Things fans of David Harbour are going to be disappointed in his role, as other than getting drunk with Tyler’s character, he doesn’t have much to do. While the plot has a few holes and the dialogue is a little rough, it’s still a fun popcorn film that will satisfy any action fan. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Extraction Website Currently available on Netflix.
Indiefest: The Roads Not Taken (2020) R Leo (Javier Bardem) is living in New York City and is suffering from dementia. His daughter, Molly (Elle Fanning), is struggling on this day to help her dad keep his health appointments, while in Leo’s mind, he is reliving two versions of his past, one in Mexico and one in Greece. The film feels much longer than its 85-minute run time. Bardem is wasted in the present-day scenes that take place in NYC. The film does find some emotional stability in the flashback sequences, especially the scenes that Bardem shares on-screen with Salma Hayek, as a couple that is grieving over the loss of their son. The problem is the film never finds any tug at the heart-strings pull in those father/daughter scenes in the present, and the sections where Leo is in Greece seem lost and almost worthless. The Roads Not Taken is one of those films that after you see it, you wonder if it was worth the time watching. My Rating: Cable The Roads Not Taken Website Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Familyfare: The Willoughbys (2020) PG The Willoughby children are often neglected by their selfish parents, so the kids decide to send their parents on a vacation. Nanny (Maya Rudolph) shows up to take care of the kids, but the siblings decide to embark on their own high-flying adventure to find the true meaning of family. Kids are going to love this loud, vibrantly colored animated film about a bunch of kids who desperately want to get rid of their parents and find a way to stay together as a family. The characters are fun to watch, especially the strange twins, both of who are named Barnaby, and Ricky Gervais, as ‘The Cat’ who narrates the story is hilarious. I got a little bored with the film towards the end, but I think this fun and funny film will be one that children will enjoy. My Rating: Bargain Matinee The Willoughbys Website Currently available on Netflix.
Forgotten Film: Frida (2002) Artist Frida Kahlo (Salma Hayek) overcame the pain of a crippling injury and a marriage to an egomaniacal husband (Alfred Molina) to become one of Mexico’s iconic painters. Salma Hayek gives a moving and brilliant performance, I would have loved that the screenplay was better. The chemistry that is needed between Hayek and Molina never develops and, at times, treats their relationship a little too superficially. The film just can’t find its footing with a clunky storyline, but Hayek is a wonder to watch on the screen. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Frida Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of The Roads Not Taken: Drum Choreography
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Bull (2019) In a rundown subdivision near Houston, a troubled teen, Kris (Amber Havard) breaks into a neighbor’s house, an aging bullfighter, Abe (Rob Morgan), who has seen his better days in the rodeo. Abe decides to take Kris under his wing and their relationship changes both their lives forever. The film was a big hit on the film festival circuit, including winning the Lone Star Award at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival. Bull Info
Until Next Time!
Friday, April 17, 2020
My View: Selah and the Spades (2019) R At a prestigious east coast boarding school, five factions run the underground life of the school. At the head of the most dominant faction, The Spades is Selah Summers (Love Simone). During her senior year, Selah is challenged by a protege, Paloma (Celeste O’Connor), and must fight for control of The Spades. Selah and the Spades is a stylish high school drama where power is what everyone wants. Selah is bound and determined to keep her control over the boarding school with an iron hand. This isn’t a ‘90210’ style film where everyone is hooking up, this is all about how the boarding school is decided into factions, and everyone is out to keep their interests going, even if it means stabbing someone in the back to do it. Love Simone gives a powerful performance that doesn’t always make us like her, but you have to respect her character’s win at any cost attitude. Selah and the Spades gives us a fascinating look at a school where the inmates defiantly run the asylum. My Rating: Full Price Selah and the Spades Website Currently available on Amazon Prime.
Indiefest: Saint Frances (2019) A young woman, Bridget (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. O’Sullivan wrote and stars in this delightful story of a woman who feels life has passed her by. Bridget kind of falls into a nanny job for a lesbian couple, taking care of their 6-year old girl, Frances (Ramona Edith-Williams), while Frances’ mom, Maya (Charin Alvarez0 takes care of Frances’ newborn baby brother. What I found amusing in this film was that the relationship between Bridget and Frances isn’t perfect. In fact, both are kind of misfits. Bridget isn’t the best of nanny’s (she loses Frances at one point), and Frances is a pretty horrible acting kid, but by the end of the film, both have become best buds and are better off for knowing each other. Bridget is also bad in relationships with men, and we see her continually make mistakes in her personal life. This is a film that isn’t always warm and fuzzy, but you will fall in love with Bridget and ‘Saint Frances.’ My Rating: Full Price Saint Francis Website Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: Chichinette: The Accidental Spy (2019) Documentary about Marthe Cohn, a French-Jewish woman who during World War II, was a spy in Nazi Germany. Now 98, Marthe has decided after years of silence, to tell the world her story. You will fall in love with this little fireball of a woman who single handily saved thousands of Allied lives delivering intelligence on the whereabouts of the Nazi army hiding in the Black Forest. The Allied army was able to avoid the trap the Nazis had set, and the war against Germany ended earlier due to her heroics. As we slowly learn Marthe’s story, we follow her and her husband, Major, on a speaking tour in Europe. What I enjoyed about this film, besides Marthe’s unbelievable story, is the relationship between Marthe and her husband, who is always by her side (almost always holding hands) and letting his wife take the spotlight (which he proudly does). Watch this beautiful documentary and wonder how someone hasn’t made this into a narrative feature film. My Rating: Full Price Chichinette: The Accidental Spy Website The film is available on the Kino Now platform and available for rent on iTunes, Vudu and other TOVD platforms.
Forgotten Film: The Man from Snowy River (1983) PG In the rugged, often harsh country of 1880s Australia, a young cowboy, Jim (Tom Burlinson) inherits his father’s ranch and only the young woman, Jessica (Sigrid Thornton) who falls in love with Jim thinks he can handle running the ranch. To complicate matters, Jessica’s father, Harrison (Kirk Douglas), will do anything to not only break up the relationship, but he is also hell-bent on taking Jim’s land. While the storyline is predictable and Kirk Douglas, in a dual role of also playing Harrison’s wacky brother, chews a little too much scenery, the landscape and cinematography is gorgeous and Jim’s relationship with a wild horse is moving, making this an enjoyable film to sit on the couch and watch on a rainy afternoon. My Rating: Bargain Matinee The Man from Snowy River Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Selah and the Spades: Taylor
Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: A Trip to Greece (2020) The fourth and possibly final movie of the ‘Trip’ series with actor Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan as they follow the footsteps of the Odysseus. This is sure to hit the funny bone as the other three films did. A Trip to Greece Info
Until Next Time!
Friday, April 10, 2020
My View: Love Wedding Repeat (2020) Jack (Sam Claflin) is trying to make sure that his little sister has the perfect wedding day. Little did Jack expect that the girl of his dreams (Olivia Munn) that he let get away will come back in his life while the wedding falls apart at the seams. I loved the first half of the film, as everything that could go wrong with the wedding reception does. I didn’t quite enjoy the 2nd half of the film, once a plot twist happens and I felt the ending felt a little rushed and weak. Overall, I enjoyed the film, especially the two leads, Sam Claflin and Olivia Munn, who have incredible chemistry with each other and play off of each other with beautiful results. I also thoroughly enjoyed Aisling Bea, who plays Rebecca, a loudmouth, very opinionated friend of the bride who has a crush on one of the members of the wedding party. Bea has a fabulous, humorous presence that lets her dominate the too few scenes she is in. Overall it’s a fun romp about a wedding that is destined to go wrong, or is it? My Rating: Bargain Matinee Love Wedding Repeat Website Currently available on Netflix.
Indiefest: Extra Ordinary (2019) R Rose (Maeve Higgins) looks like an ordinary driving instructor, but this sweet, lonely Irish woman has supernatural talents. Rose is determined to use her powers to save Martin’s (Barry Ward) daughter from the clutches of a washed-up rock star (Will Forte) that has made a pact with the devil to return to his glory days. This is one of those movies that if you saw it at a midnight showing at a film festival, you would have had a great time. It’s a film full of interesting characters that are put in some humorous situations but doesn’t always hit the funny bone the way you want it to. Barry Ward, playing the widower whose dead wife is a ghost that is still trying to run his life from the afterworld, has some sweet comedic moments in the film and shows a knack for physical comedy. Maeve Higgins, as the driving instructor who reluctantly helps Barry with his wife/ghost, is mildly funny but has a hard time keeping up with the antics in the plot. I got tired of Will Forte as the one-hit-wonder who is willing to do anything to get back into the limelight. Forte lays the act of the pompous rock star a little too thick, and it drags the film down a bit. It has a plot that isn’t quite funny enough to be a hit other than with that late-night crowd. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Extra Ordinary Website Currently available on the KinoNow digital platform.
Indiefest: Almost Love (2019) Ensemble comedy revolving around Adam (Scott Evans) and Marklin (Augustus Prew), whose once hot relationship has forced them to reconcile with each other’s shortcomings while their friend's lives are crumbling around them. I saw this delightful romantic comedy at the Out on Film Festival last year in Atlanta under the title of Sell By. It’s a smart, funny film with a cast that continually hits their performances out of the park. Evans and Prew, as the central couple that everyone revolves around, are perfect as the struggling artist and his hugely successful social influencer. While the film does revolve around Adam and Marklin’s eroding relationship, what I enjoyed was each of the supporting cast is allowed to shine with their own storylines. Michelle Buteau gives an inspired performance as Cammy, a single woman who gets involved with a homeless guy against her better judgment and Zoe Chao, who plays Haley, a young woman who is desperately fighting her attraction to a high-school student who she is tutoring. The film is bolstered by notable actresses Kate Walsh, who plays Adam’s best friend and Patricia Clarkson as a pretentious artist whom Adam moonlights for. Almost Love treats all it’s characters with respect and love, all the while allowing us to have fun with a bunch of people who are all trying to find ‘the one.’ My Rating: Full Price Almost Love Info Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Forgotten Film: Bite the Bullet (1975) PG A motley group of cowboys go on a 700-mile race in the desert to win a monetary prize. Writer/director Richard Brooks gives us a gripping tale of grit, determination, and survival when the cowboy way of life was just about done. Two of the contestants are played by Gene Hackman and James Coburn as two former Rough Riders who are looking for one last bit of glory. Candice Bergen plays an ex-prostitute that can ride with the best of them and Jan-Michael Vincent as a brash cowboy who is willing to do anything to win. The film was shot on location at the White Sands National Monument, and it uses the rough and harsh location to show just how hard the completion is on both man and horse. Made during a time when westerns were out of favor, Bite the Bullet is everything you would want in the genre and more. My Rating: Full Price Bite the Bullet Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Extra Ordinary: Finger Man
Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Green Knight (2020) The story of Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), King Arthur’s nephew, who is determined to make his own legend as he takes on the Green Knight, a gigantic green-skinned stranger. When I studied the classics in college, this was one of my favorite stories. The Green Knight Website
Until Next Time!
Friday, April 3, 2020
Indiefest: Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020) PG-13 After an unintended pregnancy, a pair of teenage girls, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and Skylar (Talia Ryder), travel from rural Pennsylvania to New York City to seek out help for their situation. I will warn you right upfront, this is a story about a teenage girl’s determination to get an abortion. The film shows the torment that Autumn is going through and the quiet, determined support that Skylar gives Autumn without reservations. The film explores all the steps that Autumn has to go through to get the procedure, including going through a clinic that is a sham for a pro-life group. This is not an easy watch, and you go through all of the emotions that Autumn is experiencing, but Flanigan and Ryder are outstanding and director/writer Eliza Hittman slowly, quietly and lovingly, lets us into the girl’s world as they brave the situation. My Rating: Full Price Never Rarely Sometimes Always Website Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: The Other Lamb (2019) For her whole life, Selah (Raffey Cassidy) has only known the world of the cult, a cult in a remote forest commune presided over by a man called Shepherd (Michiel Huisman). When Selah begins getting a series of troubling visions, she begins to question her allegiance to the cult and Shepherd, something that could end her life as she knows it. Selah is in a cult that she knows is wrong but doesn’t have a way to get out of the situation. The film should have been filled with tension, but it never quite delivers the atmosphere that the film sorely needs. I loved Huisman’s performance as Shepherd, a man who, almost with just a look, controls the cult with an iron fist, is mesmerizing in the role. I wish I felt the same about Raffey Cassidy, but her performance is a bit bland, and I never quite got the emotional pull from her character that I needed to get invested in her character's well being. My Rating: Bargain Matinee The Other Lamb Website Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: Uncorked (2020) Elijah (Mamoudou Athie) is torn between his passion to become a master sommelier and the pressure to carry on the family legacy of a Memphis Bar-B-Cue joint. I wanted to like this film because I love wine, even reading The Wine Spectator for many years, and one of my favorite things to eat is Bar-B-Que. Unfortunately, the film feels like a made for TV movie with very wooden and simple characters, a plot that was probably written on a napkin and dialogue that wastes the talents of Courtney B. Vance and Niecy Nash, who play Elijah’s parents. I wish the writing was as good as the Bar-B-Cue looks at the family restaurant, but it makes this film feel like an overcooked brisket, dry and unappealing. My Rating: Cable Uncorked Website Currently available on Netflix.
Indiefest: The Wild Goose Lake (2019) Zenong (Ge Hu) is a gangster who gets caught up in a gang war where Zenong mistakenly kills a cop. Now Zenong is on the run and hatches a plan to have his wife turn him in for the reward, as long as he can talk a call-girl (Lun-Mei Kwei into helping him carry out his plan. What I liked about the film: the look of the film is beautiful and has a very film noir feel to it with a lot of rain thrown in, and the action sequences are extraordinarily fun. The thing that I didn’t like about this film: the plot takes too many turns as it seems Zenong can’t trust anybody not to screw him over. The storyline goes on far too long, and I got confused a couple of times on what exactly was happening to the main character. The film’s first fifteen minutes is so much fun with us getting to know Zenong’s world; I just wish that it had continued in that vein. My Rating: Bargain Matinee The Wild Goose Lake Website Currently available on the Film Movement Virtual Cinema.
Forgotten Film: Blind Faith (1998) R In 1957, John (Courtney B. Vance), a black lawyer, takes the impossible case, a black man (Garland Whitt) is accused of strangling a white boy to death. This isn’t any ordinary case; the accused man has confessed and is John’s nephew. This is a brilliant courtroom drama that is led by the fantastic Courtney B. Vance, who deals with a deck that is stacked against his client from the beginning. Rounding out the cast is Charles S. Dutton, who plays the accused man’s father, and as usual, Dutton gives every scene his all. I wish more people had seen this film when it came out because it has some great performances worth checking out. My Rating: Full Price Blind Faith Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Uncorked: Group Walla Mixer
Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Artemis Fowl (2020) PG Artemis Fowl II (Ferdia Shaw) is a 12-year old who comes from a long line of criminal masterminds. Artemis is on a mission to find his father (Colin Farrell), who has mysteriously disappeared. Artemis is about to find out that the world is full of surprises, including elves, dwarves, and fairies. The trailer looks great, and it’s directed by Kenneth Branagh, so I’m ready to visit this world. Artemis Fowl Website
Until Next Time!