Note to readers: I currently am not willing to risk my health (I’m 62 and an asthmatic) by visiting a theatre. All films that I have seen for review have been screened in my home. I am not going to tell you whether or not to attend a theatre. Just be aware of the risks, do your research, and please, if you do, follow all the safety procedures to the letter.
My View: Antebellum (2020) R Bestselling author Veronica Henley (Janelle Monáe) has everything going for; a successful career and a loving family. Veronica finds herself trapped in a horrifying reality from the past and must uncover the mind-bending mystery before it’s too late. This film wants to be in the tradition of Jordan Peele’s horror films, with a lot to say about race in America today while pushing the boundaries of horror. Unfortunately, it fails badly in both cases, especially in the horror side. The first third of the film takes place on a plantation during the civil war, where the white Southern soldiers gravely mistreat slaves. We then jump to modern times where a famous author, played by Janelle Monáe, is the toast of the media world, selling books on the empowerment of women of color. There is a twist in this film that is so dissatisfying that I can’t explain how frustrated I felt at the end of the movie. The film never develops into any style of horror film and almost seems to be a throwback to the exploration films of the 70s, with villains so severely drawn that the movie practically becomes a comedy. Antebellum tries to make a statement about race but is so horribly executed that it becomes an absolute failure. Skip this film and go back and watch Get Out or Us instead. My Rating: Cable Antebellum Website The film is currently in select theatres.
Indiefest: The Way I See It (2020) PG-13 This documentary looks at the eight-year Obama presidency through the eyes of former Chief Official White House Photographer Pete Souza. Souza worked in the White House once before during the Regan years as a photographer and was given the job to be the official photographer for the Obama administration, giving him access to every meeting, event, and speech that involved the President. The job gave Souza a unique look at the workings of both the presidency and the man and his family. When Souza left the job at the end of the Obama term, he because an outspoken critic of President Trump, using his pictures of the Obama presidency to comment on what he says were the failings of the Trump presidency. The film does an outstanding job of letting Souza narrate his dealings with Obama during the presidency while also showing Souza on a book tour, giving talks to both the public and the media. Trump supporters are not going to be happy with this film but history buffs are going to have a blast seeing a glimpse into the world of the White House. My Rating; Full Price The Way I See It Website The film is currently in select theatres.
Indiefest: H is for Happiness (2019) Candice (Daisy Axon) is a bit of a loner in her school, as she asks too many questions, but this doesn’t keep Candice from a boundless optimism that gives her a unique view of the world. With the help of her newfound friend, Douglas Benson from Another Dimension (Wesley Patten), Candice is determined to mend her parent's relationship after they are still giving at the loss of Candice’s baby sister. I never quite got into this film, and it’s not because it doesn’t try to charm or that it’s bad; it just never quite finds its footing, never finding its voice. The film tries very hard to make Candice a likable character, and her relationship with Douglas is adorable, but the film tries too hard to make the movie a little too cute in its handling of the storyline. There just isn’t a lot of substance to the story and the film tries too hard to tie everything up in a neat, tight bow at the end of the film. I think kids, especially young girls, will enjoy Candice and Douglas' adventures, but adults will be very bored with the long and pointless plot. My Rating: Bargain Matinee H is for Happiness Website Available for rent on participating on-demand services,
Indiefest: Last Call (2019) Scott (Daved Wilkins) is a bitter and lonely man who calls the Suicide Prevention Hotline but accidentally calls Beth (Sarah Booth), a janitor. It’s a phone call that both won’t ever forget. The film is shot in one long take using two cameras, one centered on each character, using a split-screen to show what each character is doing. The film is a serious and heartfelt look at one person in pain and another person, a total stranger, who tries to help with compassion and caring. What I loved about this film is that frequently the camera doesn’t give us all the information, as often a character will wander off the screen and we, along with the person on the other line, don’t know what is happening. Last Call is a film that, at first, you will be more into how the two storylines connect, but by the end of the movie, you will be enthralled by the action on the screen and not how we see it. This is a well done, beautifully acted film that builds the tension slowly, to where you become immersed in the two people and their conversation. Director/co-writer Gavin Michael Booth gives us a powerful film perfect for September, Suicide Prevention Month. My Rating: Full Price Last Call Website Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: The Nest (2020) R Rory (Jude Law), an ambitious entrepreneur, decides to move his family from suburban America to his native England so that he can rejoin his former firm. They lease a centuries-old country manor, and everything seems to be working out until Rory and his wife (Carrie Coon) soon have to face the unwelcome truths lying beneath the surface of their marriage. This film works as well as it does because of the lead performances of Jude Law and Carrie Coon, playing a couple that on the surface have everything and below that surface, have almost nothing. The film is a psychological drama about a marriage falling apart as a husband blindly keeps trying to capture the magic of the past. At the same time, the wife is no longer willing to go along for the rollercoaster ride that has become their lives. Coon and Law have a brilliant chemistry up on the screen, as their scenes turn from loving to contempt in almost a moment's notice. The characters are complex, and the film uses this to its advantage, making us slowly put the pieces together, clawing away at the truth, a truth that, at times, neither character wants to acknowledge. The Nest is a film about unhappy people and the lies they tell themselves to keep that sadness buried, even at the expense of their family's welfare. My Rating: Full Price The Nest Website The film is currently in select theatres.
My View: The Secrets We Keep (2020) R Maja (Noomi Rapace), after suffering horribly in Europe during World War II, has relocated to America and is living happily in the suburbs with her husband (Chris Messina). One afternoon Maja encounters a man she believes attacked her and her family during the war. On impulse, Maja kidnaps the man and seeks vengeance for the heinous war crimes she thinks he committed. I have been a big fan of Noomi Rapace since her groundbreaking role as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Swedish film series, so I was excited to see this film. Rapace doesn’t disappoint in an intense and complex role of a woman who is a prisoner of her memories. She gives us a gritty and thought-provoking role in which we are asked are what she does justified or not. From the moment that Maja hears a man's whistle from her tortured past, we are captivated by what Maja will do and how far will she and her husband go. The Secrets We Keep gives an electrifying thriller that keeps us guessing if the man Maja has kidnapped is her man from her past, and if she finds out he is who she thinks he is, what will she do to him. My Rating: Full Price The Secrets We Keep Website The film is currently in select theatres.
My View: The Devil All the Time (2020) R Taking place between World War II and the Vietnam War, Arvin (Tom Holland) fights evil forces that threaten him and his family. This is a hard film to describe because there are a lot of moving and connected parts. The film revolves around Arvin and his family, as we see how his parents met, along with other characters in the movie, that will keep popping up throughout the years. The film is a profoundly disturbing look at how much religion hung over rural America in the ’50s and 60s and how evil seems to be always just around the corner. I liked some of the film's performances, including Bill Skarsgard, who plays Arvin’s father, a man who has come back from World War II deeply scared but finds hope in a young woman (Haley Bennett) he meets and marries. Alvin has a stepsister, Lenora (Eliza Scanlen), who has a scary connection with a local couple (Jason Clarke, Riley Keough) who love to pick up hitchhikers. Lenora gets involved with a preacher, played by Robert Pattinson, who takes advantage of his power and post. I don’t want to get too involved with telling the story because I did enjoy how all the parts come together by the end of the film. It’s a complicated tale, bloody and, at times, gruesome, but besides the film feeling a bit long, I enjoyed the outcome and was glad that I spent time watching Alvin grow up in such a weird and troubled world. My Rating: Full Price The Devil All the Time Website The film is available on the Netflix platform.
Forgotten Film: The Devil’s Backbone (2001) R Carlos (Fernando Tielve) is a 12-year-old boy whose father has died in the Spanish Civil War. Carlos arrives at a boys’ orphanage run by opponents of Franco’s fascists. The boy soon discovers that the bed he has been assigned to belonged to Santi, a boy who died and is said to haunt the grounds. This horror film is from two-time Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro and is well worth the watch. The movie is full of creepy images and, at times, is truly scary. I will warn you that if you don’t know the history of the Spanish Civil War, which took place right before WWII, there are a few things that will go over your head. But del Toro is a master of creating suspense, and this film might be his best in the horror category. Hey, any movie with a giant unexploded bomb hanging out in the middle of the courtyard ticking away is a film filled with tension. My Rating: Full Price The Devil's Backbone Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Antebellum: Police Advisor
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Friendsgiving (2020) R Molly (Malin Akerman) and Abbey (Kat Dennings) host Thanksgiving that is meant to be a small affair and turns into a whole slew of close friends and acquaintances making a dinner that becomes more and more bizarre, dysfunctional and comical as the day goes on. Besides Akerman and Dennings, the cast includes Aisha Tyler, Jane Seymour, Chelsea Peretti, Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, and Ryan Hansen. Hey, I need a little comedy in my life about now. Friendsgiving Info