Indiefest: How to Build a Girl (2019) Johanna (Beanie Feldstein) is a sixteen-year-old girl who desperately wants to escape her humdrum life in Wolverhampton. She decides to reinvent herself as Dolly Wilde, a music critic who takes the rock world of the 90s by storm. If you haven’t fallen in love with Beanie Feldstein from her appearances in Booksmart and Lady Bird, well, you will now. Feldstein is a blast to watch as she transforms from the nerdy, book smart girl to a critic that took the London music world by storm. Feldstein is one of those rare actors who can be silly and funny in one moment, and heartbreakingly real in another. Director Coky Giedronyc and writer Caitlin Moran (Dolly Wilde/Johanna in real life) give us a film that is a quirky (Johanna’s wall of heroes pictures continuously talk to her with advice) and amusing look at a girl whose dreams come true but at a price. The film is aided by some stellar supporting roles, including Paddy Considine as Johanna’s father, who still has dreams of being a rock star, and Alfie Allen as a rock star who becomes a good friend to Johanna early in her rock critic career. The film slows down a little when Johanna lets success go to her head, but I loved the ending of the film, and Feldstein is a talent to keep your eye on in both this film and in the future. My Rating: Full Price How to Build a Girl Website Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: Bad Education (2019) Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) seemingly has everything going for him; he’s superintendent of New York’s Roslyn school district, where he is loved by his employees, his students, and their parents as their kids get into the best colleges. He is aided by his confidant and second-in-command Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney). Frank and Pam are hiding a deep, dark secret that is about to be exposed by a high-school-student (Stephanie Kurtzuba) who is about to break a story on the local school paper. Jackman doesn’t disappoint as the vain and overconfident Frank, who depends a little too much on his good looks and his charm to smooth over any problem. Allison Janney, playing the smart mouth financial wizard of the school, dazzles the screen with her brash style of a woman who feels entitled because of how successful the school is. I loved the performance of Stephanie Kurtzuba, who as the student who is given a small ‘puff piece’ for the student newspaper and smells something fishy is going on at the school. Bad Education is one of those films that you start taking sides at the beginning, but you might have to change your mind as the film moves along. My Rating: Full Price Bad Education Website The film is currently playing on HBO.
Indiefest: Spaceship Earth (2020) Documentary on a science experiment that captivated the world where a group of people spent two years quarantined inside a self-engineered replica of Earth’s ecosystem called Biosphere 2. This is a fascinating film about something that you continually wonder how this experiment ever even made it to the planning stage, much less successfully building a complex and completing the first mission. It is almost as if your high school drama teacher said ‘Hey, let's put on a play’ and the next thing you know, you are on Broadway. The film interviews most of the participants in the project, including the ‘biospherians’ that lived inside and the people that were in charge of the project on the outside, so we get a feel of what it was like during that time. We get a look into life in the biosphere from the extensive footage shot inside and by the constant news coverage that kept the experiment at the forefront of the news cycle for those 2 years. The film looks at all the controversies, including if the operation itself was part of a cult, whether the experiment was based on scientific principles and how a series of events caused the public to believe that the Biosphere 2 ultimately was a flop. And, wait until near the end of the film, when a twist you couldn’t see coming happens: it will blow you away. My Rating: Full Price Spaceship Earth Website Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Forgotten Film: Police Story (1985) PG-13 A Hong Kong police officer (Jackie Chan) is framed for murder by a drug lord. Now, against the odds, the officer must fight to clear his name all the while trying to protect a woman (Bridgett Lin) from the mob intent on killing her to stop her testimony. As with a lot of Chan films, there is a lot of funny gags and Chan doing impossible stunts that most stuntmen could only dream of doing. While not a great movie, it does have one of the most impressive and possibly the greatest stunt of all time, especially when you realize that Chan did it all on his own without tricks or CGI. After seeing this film, you will wonder how Chan is still alive at the end of the movie. My Rating: Full Price Police Story Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Bad Education: Hand Model
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The High Note (2020) PG-13 Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross) is a superstar singer who is resting on the popularity of her past hits. Maggie (Dakota Johnson) is Grace’s overworked and under-appreciated assistant. When Grace’s push for a new album is shot down by her manager (Ice Cube), Maggie pushes Grace to record songs on her own, and Grace decides that Maggie is just the one to produce them. I’m not a big fan of Dakota Johnson, though I loved her in The Peanut Butter Falcon) and I am a massive fan of Traces Ellis Ross, so I am game. The High Note Website