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: Mulan (2020) PG-13 A young Chinese maiden, Mulan (Yifei Liu) disguises herself as a male warrior when her ailing father is called into the Army to protect the country from the Huns. This is a live-action remake of the 1998 animated Disney film, with some significant changes; this isn’t a musical and sorry to disappoint a few people (and kids), there isn’t a talking/flying, wisecracking dragon. Most of the rest of the story is the same as the animated film, with a young woman deciding to become a warrior in her father’s place, hiding that she isn’t a ‘he’ from her fellow soldiers. I was never a huge fan of the animated film, as I was not too fond of the Eddie Murphy voiced dragon, Mushu, finding the comedy relief wanting, and the music seemed a little bland to me. This film has some spectacular cinematography, and the fight/battle sequences are a wonder to watch, so much so that I wish we could all see this film on the big screen where it belongs. The film’s fight sequences reminded me of the 2000 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as our hero Mulan soars through the air, doing acrobatic feats to defeat her opponents. It’s a sweeping film about courage, inspiration, and finding that you can succeed if you believe in yourself and your friends no matter the obstacles. Be sure to look for a appearance by Ming-Na Wen, the original voice of Mulan in the 1998 Disney film. My Rating: Full Price Mulan Website The film is available on the Disney + Platform.
Indiefest: I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) R A young woman (Jessie Buckley) is having second thoughts about dating her boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) and against her better judgment, agrees to a road trip to visit his parents (Toni Collette, David Thewlis) at the family farm. The young woman is about to question the nature of everything she knew or understood about herself and the world around her. I wrote that description before I saw the movie, and now that I have viewed the film, I am not quite sure I could write another one. To say the film bends time and logic is an understatement. This film is not for everyone, including me. The film starts as our couple head out on the road with the young woman (we never get her name) thinking to herself that she is about to break up with her boyfriend. When we arrive at the farm, things go from weird to bizarre as characters go out of a room and come back in a different age. The main character, the girlfriend, is trying to make the best of a very awkward visit as subject matters change almost at a moment's notice. I am not a fan of films like this, that go so far to challenge the viewer's viewpoint that it makes the experience uncomfortable and puzzling. If you enjoy the theatre of the absurd or watching characters debate the finer points of a vocabulary word, then you might enjoy this film. I, on the other hand, did not. I will say that Jessie Buckley is a major acting talent that made this film at least watchable. Buckley’s character had to pivot through the mind-blowing experience, and she handles the role with impressive agility and pathos. I just don’t enjoy this type of film and found myself wanting the whole experience to be over with. My Rating: Cable I'm Thinking of Ending Things Website The film is available on the Netflix Platform and in select theatres.
My View: Critical Thinking (2020) In 1998, a group of intercity teenagers from Miami, inspired by their high school teacher (John Leguizamo) form a chess club and make it all the way to the National Chess Championship. This is an inspiring tale from director/actor John Leguizamo, about a group of misfits who buck incredible odds to make it to the top. I have always been a big fan of chess, impressed by the mental fortitude that it takes to become good at such a complicated game. Based on a true story, the film, at times, plucks on the heartstrings and, occasionally, lays it on a little thick with the us vs. the world plot, but Leguizamo has the charisma to carry it off with an outstanding supporting cast of young performers. The film shows us that no matter how hard the student’s lives are, existing with drugs and death, they still come together and believe in each other to conquer a world that they could never imagine. The film gets a bit bogged down in all the chess moves that the teacher goes on about, but even if you don’t know much about the game, you will be inspired on how a group of kids from a rough neighborhood overcame an incredible amount to become a team. My Rating: Full Price Critical Thinking Website Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: The Mole Agent (2020) A private investigator places an ad for a senior citizen to go undercover at a retirement home where a client suspects the caretakers of elder abuse. This film’s description sounds like a work of fiction, but it is a delightful and, at times, incredibly moving film centered on a wonderful man, Sergio, who has a huge heart and is someone you will fall in love with. The film starts with the PI going through the interview process, and this part of the film is quite funny, as the PI has to find the right person for the job. Anyone with elderly parents/grandparents will love the part where the PI is trying to teach Sergio how to use not only his spy gear, which are pretty cool but also his phone (including how to do FaceTime). The heart of this film is not about trying to catch someone neglecting the people at the home, it’s about just how tough it is to grow old in our modern-day society. The film explores just how lonely it can be at a retirement home, how hard living day to day without someone to care about you is. The film isn’t all about heartbreak and loneliness as Sergio is a bit of a flirt, and the women, who vastly outnumber the men in the home, love his attention. It’s a film that is heartbreaking at times, but it is also uplifting because there are people like Sergio to brighten our world, even when it seems that no one else cares. My Rating: Full Price The Mole Agent Website Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
Forgotten Film: Tigerland (2000) R A group of recruits in 1971 go through advanced training in Louisiana at a place to look and feel like Vietnam, a place called Tigerland. Jim Paxton (Mathew Davis) is a man who dreams of becoming a great writer and volunteers for the Army at a time when serving in the military was a hotbed in a troubling time for the nation. Paxton befriends a fiery young man named Bozz (Colin Farrell) who has a gift for getting into trouble. This is a small, gritty film about how the military and war can break any man, no matter their moral compass. The film is less about action and more about the people in the combat troupe. Farrell gives a breathless performance full of bravado, and Davis, as the intellectual writer, is a perfect companion, making them a dynamic couple that the film revolves around. My Rating: Full Price Tigerland Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Mulan: Speciality Jeweler
Coming Soon to A Screen Near You: 2 Hearts (2020) PG-13 Two couples (Radha Mitchell, Tiera Skovbye, Adan Canto, Jacob Elordi) from different decades are connected in a way that no one could ever guess or predicted. I am a sucker for a romance, and we just don’t get enough of them, so I can’t wait for this one. 2 Hearts Website
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