My View: Unhinged (2020) R After a minor traffic confrontation with an unstable man (Russell Crowe), a woman, Rachel (Caren Pistorius), and her son become a target of his rage. Not exactly the type of film you want to re-open movie theatres with, this feels like it was meant for a drive-in. With a script that is about as thin as the weird accent Crowe tries to use (slightly Southern, maybe New Orleans adjacent), this film has plot holes that a mac truck could drive through. The film opens with a ton of news reports about how society is falling apart and how that is reflected on our roadways. We cut to Russel Crowe, murdering his ex-wife and her partner, then setting their house on fire. Russell is having a bad day, and when Rachel honks her horn at him, it sets him off to make her life a living hell. Crowe gets to go over the top, and it looks like he is having fun with the performance, I just wish the script had given him a little more to work with. The film ends about how you expect, with a cringe-worthy final line that had me wincing. If you have been waiting for theatres to open up to see a new movie, you might want to wait a bit and let a few other films open before taking that trip to your local movie palace. My Rating: Cable Unhinged Website Now playing at a theatre near you.
My View: Words on Bathroom Walls (2020) PG-13 Adam (Charlie Plummer), halfway through his senior year, has a breakdown in his chemistry class and is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Adam doesn’t just hear voices, he sees the people talking to him. Adam transfers to a new school, with thoughts of graduating and going on to cooking school. He then meets Maya (Taylor Russell), and she gives him hope that together he can make it in the world. Words on Bathroom Walls isn’t your typical teen romance film, as it goes deep into what it is like to be a teenager with schizophrenia. From the start, I rooted for Adam as Charlie Plummer gives us a multi-faceted performance that provides us with insight on a complicated and perplexing world, one that is hard to stay grounded in. It’s a world that most of us can’t even come close to understanding, but the film tries to give us some insight into just how much a scary world it is for someone with this illness. Russell and Taylor have an excellent rapport together and makes the off-kilter romance believable. The film has a few nice twists and turns, making the film moving at an interesting pace, keeping you guessing a bit on how Adam is going to survive high school and the outside world. My Rating: Full Price Words on Bathroom Walls Website Now playing at a theatre near you.
My View: Chemical Hearts (2020) R Seventeen-year-old Henry (Austin Abrams) has never been in love. On his first day of senior year, he meets transfer student Grace (Lili Reinhart), and his luck changes when they are picked to co-edit the school paper. Grace is hiding a secret that deeply impacted her life and will come between her and Henry. I enjoyed this film that features Lili Reinhart in an impressive performance as a damaged (both physically and mentally) teen, Grace, who Henry falls for. Sure the film is a little cliched in its plot, but I think fans of Young Adult romance will enjoy the pull of heartstrings at the two young people find love and heartbreak. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Chemical Hearts Website Now playing on the Amazon platform.
Indiefest: Desert One (2019) Documentary on the daring and failed mission in 1980 to rescue the 52 hostages being held in the American Embassy in Iran. The story up to now hasn’t been entirely told, and legendary two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple brings us a documentary that will explore both sides of the story. When student radicals in Iran invaded the American Embassy, it shocked the American public and became a huge story, so much so that the late-night news program Nightline was created to give us a daily report on the crisis. President Carter was running for reelection and was running against a strong and outspoken Ronald Regan, who wanted military action to save the hostages. This documentary explores the little known rescue effort that ended in disaster, with 8 Americans losing their lives and the hostages remaining at the mercy of Iran and bringing Carter an overwhelming defeat, one he never recovered from. The film uses footage from the time and never before heard communication between President Carter and his military advisors, giving us an insider look at an essential part of American history. The film is a fascinating look at how the rescue attempt came about, with incredible interviews with most of the principals, including President Carter, Vice President Mondale, and the soldiers who went on the mission and the families they left behind. It is time that we salute and celebrate the brave men who went willingly on a mission that failed but not because they didn’t give the mission everything, including their hearts, their minds, and in some cases, their lives. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Desert One Website Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: Tesla (2020) PG-13 Visionary inventor Nikola Tesla (Ethan Hawke) fights to bring his revolutionary electrical system to fruition, battling fellow inventor Thomas Edison (Kyle MacLachlan), who is determined that his system will win the battle to bring electricity to the US. I knew we were in trouble right away when J.P. Morgan’s daughter gave us background information about the main characters of the story using Google. The film isn’t your ordinary bio-pic as it uses unique sets (such as a green screen of cattle on a plain, as Hawke as Tesla, is in front of the green screen offering the cattle an apple) and jump cuts to show us that this isn’t your orthodox story. I have a feeling that some film critics are going to love this offbeat movie that has Hawke, as Tesla, singing a modern-day song, but I found the film taxing and tedious. The film continually hits you over the head that Tesla is an inventor, not a businessman. While he might be smarter than Edison, Tesla has no way to match Edison in money-making or getting publicity. The underlining theme of the film is that greed is bad, that a man like Tesla was doomed from the start because he couldn’t compete with the greed of Wall Street. The film also does a horrible job of letting us know exactly what Tesla was working on and whether his inventions were indeed better than Edison’s ideas. I never felt I never knew what made Tesla tick and, therefore, never quite got in his corner to root for him. My Rating: Cable Tesla Website In theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: The Sleepover (2020) Two siblings ( Maxwell Simkins, Sadie Stanley) discover that their mom (Malin Akerman) has a big secret, she used to be a high-end thief who has been in the witness protection program. When their mom is forced to pull one last job, the two kids decide to rescue her over the course of an action-packed night. Lately, Netflix has given us some quality films that have been hitting them out of the park; this isn’t one of them. In fact, when Netflix first talked about creating its own movies, I worried that they would go the low budget, low-quality route, and this film gives us just that type of product. The film goes for the easy joke, including a horrible sequence in which Ken Marino, playing the clueless dad, gets sick a number of times, always for the easy, atrocious bit. The film wants to be a poor man’s Spy Kids, but it fails on almost every level, including several fight sequences that feel like the kid actors themselves choreographed them. Kids may enjoy some of the highjacks, but I guarantee that parents are going to bored senseless. My Rating: Cable The Sleepover Website Now available on the Netflix platform.
Forgotten Film: Defending Your Life (1991) PG Daniel Miller (Albert Brooks) unexpectedly dies and is sent to Judgement City where your life goes on trial to determine if you can move on to the ‘next stage’ of existence or are sent back to earth to spend another life as a human. While on trial, Daniel meets Julia (Meryl Streep), who is also there to defend her life. Daniel and Julia fall in love, but it seems that Julia is destined to move on, and it sure looks like Daniel is heading back to earth. One of my favorite movies of all time, Albert Brooks, not only stars in this beautiful comedy/romance, but he also directed and brilliantly wrote the screenplay. I can’t tell you how many lines of this film I can recite, and I have the original movie poster hanging on my wall. The storyline is creative and funny, and the chemistry between Brooks and Streep is off the wall. The film is greatly enhanced by an outstanding performance by Rip Torn as Daniel’s defense attorney. So go on a journey with Daniel, maybe visit the Past Live Pavillion (hosted by Shirley MacLaine) and have fun watching him defend his life. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Defending Your Life Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Unhinged: Grip Nifty 50
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) PG-13 Bill (Alex Winter), and Ted’s (Keanu Reeves) lives haven’t quite turned out the way that they were told they would. Both are middle-aged dads that have never produced that big hit song they thought they were destined to. Now it’s time for the guys to dream big and fulfill their destiny. I didn’t like the sequel, but I sure enjoyed the first Bill & Ted, and Keanu has been on a hot streak lately, so let’s˜Party on Dudes!’ Bill & Ted Face the Music Website