Friday, October 30, 2020

Come Play

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 follow the instructions to the letter.
My View: Come Play (2020) PG-13   Oliver (Azhy Robertson) is a lonely little boy who feels different from everyone else. Desperate for friends, Oliver turns to his cell phone and tablet. There he discovers Larry, a mysterious creature using Oliver’s devices to break into our world. I enjoyed the nice play on using modern-day devices to access horror folklore, but this film is filled with scares that never really develop. Oliver is a boy whose communication problems are so severe he has to use an iPhone to talk and have a helper keep him on track at school. I never could figure out if Oliver was scared of Larry or if he genuinely thought Larry could be a friend because it seemed that every time Oliver could have run away, he instead went toward Larry. I liked the last ten minutes of Come Play, but the film is so poorly paced and takes so long to set everything up (how many times must we see the Larry story on an iPhone or other device?) that the film never ramps of the tension to make the movie feel scary. Sure there is a message about kids and too much time on iPhones in there somewhere, but what we really care about is just how scary Larry is or isn’t.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Come Play Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Martin Eden (2019)   Martin (Luca Marinelli) is a humble sailor who saves a man, Arturo (Giustiniano Alpi), from a beating. Arturo takes Martin to his family home, where he meets Elena (Jessica Cressy), Arturo’s beautiful sister with whom Martin falls instantly in love with. Martin decides to become the man that Elena is worthy of and pursues his dream of writing for a living. However, these are challenging times, and Marin begins to write about things he cares about, all of which will bring him in conflict with Elena and her world. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I never got into this film. I don’t know if the fact that this film is highly political in nature, as the main character slowly evolves into a spokesperson for individual rights, or if I just haven’t cared for the study of philosophy, because that is all that Martin does, study and talk about philosophy. I found some of the direction jarring, with some strange edits that tried but failed to set a mood for the film. Martin starts a likable character, but by the end of the film, he tends to scream and shout about things that he thinks everyone should think are important. I never could connect with Martin, and that took me down a long road of a film where I didn’t care what happened to him and his ideas.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Martin Eden Website   The film is currently playing in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: Radium Girls (2018)    Bessie (Joey King) and Josephine (Abby Quinn) are two sisters who work in a watch factory painting a radioactive liquid to the faces of watches so that they glow in the dark. When Josephine becomes deathly ill, Bessie leads a group of factory workers to advocate for safer work conditions after Bessie discovers the effects of radium poisoning. This true story is one that needed to be told, I wish the writing on this film was better. Bessie is the main focus in the movie, and she is probably the weakest, least interesting character. Josephine, her sister, is far more engaging, but because she is hit early on with an illness, her character is more of just a supporting one. The film uses quite a bit of footage from newsreels of the twenties, but instead of giving us a feel of the times, it just slows down the storyline. The last third of the film feels rushed, giving us some closure on a storyline that needs a little more time to develop. It’s a valiant try, but it just never finds its footing, and we don’t get that emotional pull we need from the story.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Radium Girls Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services.

My View: The Craft: Legacy (2020) PG-13   When Lily’s (Cailee Spaeny) mother re-marries, Lily moves into a new home, feeling like an outsider. After a horrible first day, she meets three fellow students (Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, Zoey Luna) who invite Lily to join their group, a group of witches. Soon the four discover that their newfound powers are more than they bargained for. I enjoyed the first two-thirds of the film, which seemed to find a new angle to the storyline of four outcast girls coming together to become powerful witches. There are some fun moments in the film, and I enjoyed the modern take that the film goes on, with a few enjoyable twists and turns. With such a great start, it's sad that the last third of the film became highly predictable and almost laughable. You will see the ending coming from nearly ten minutes into the film, and unfortunately, the ending you predict happens. The cast is fun, and Cailee Spaeny is likable in her role as the spunky Lily. I just wish the film didn’t end like a bad episode of Charmed.  My Rating; Bargain Matinee     The Craft: Legacy Website   The film is available for rent on participating on-demand services.

My View:  Bad Hair (2020)   In 1989, Anna (Elle Lorraine) works for a music television station. She has the talent but is told that she doesn’t have the right hair, the right face, or the right look to make it in the image-obsessed world of TV. She strikes a bargain with the new head of the music network, Zora (Vanessa Williams), who sends her to get a weave, but Anna soon discovers that this new hairstyle has a mind of its own and people around her are dying. Bad Hair is a strange, sometimes funny, sometimes weird horror film that feels like a B-picture from the 70s with an 80s vibe. Is it campy? Yes, but in a fun way with some rather inventive deaths that always don’t make sense but is still enjoyable to watch. I wish the film was a little shorter than its 115 minutes, but there are enough campy horror bits to go around.  My Rating: Full Price    Bad Hair Website    The film is available on the Hulu platform. 

Indiefest: Us Kids (2020)   Documentary on the student activists that came out of the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The film follows the March For Our Lives movement from the point of view of three of the students; Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, and Samantha Fuentes. This is a fascinating look at the lives of the students who started a movement that swept the country, a movement which shocked the political system and hurt the powerful NRA. The film does an outstanding job of letting us inside look at how the students mobilized, what their motivations were, and just how deeply they were affected by not only the shooting but the aftermath of all the attention that they got. We get to see the pressure that these kids were under and how a horrible event changed their lives. That they survived not only the shooting, but the spotlight is remarkable, and Us Kids gives us a beautiful and moving look into their lives, letting them tell us in their own words what it meant to them. For once, adults and politicians weren’t telling them how to feel or react; instead, the students of Parkland showed us the way.   My Rating: Full Price   Us Kids Website   The film is available to view for free on the Alamo Drafthouse Virtual Cinema Website


Forgotten Film: Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)    As a boy in Germany, Dieter Dengler, witnessed firsthand the bombing of his city. In fact, he tells us that at one point, an American airplane flew so close to where Dieter was that he could see the pilot’s eyes as he rumbled by. Dieter emigrated to America and joined the air force, where he flew during the Viet Nam War. Dieter was shot down and captured by the Viet Cong and became one of the few American soldiers to escape from the prison. Little Dieter Needs to Fly is a remarkable tale of sorrow and triumph as director Werner Herzog masterfully brings us Dieter’s tale in his own words. It is an unbelievable story about a impressive man told by a master storyteller. A deeply moving and sometimes funny tale that needs to be seen.    My Rating; I Would Pay to See it Again    Little Dieter Needs to Fly Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Holidate: Security Badge Support 

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Sound of Metal (2019) R   A heavy-metal drummer’s (Riz Ahmed) life is changed when he begins to lose his hearing. Film critics who have seen this movie are raving about Ahmed’s performance and say that this film is one of the best of the year. Sound of Metal Website 

Until Next Time!


Friday, October 23, 2020

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

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 follow the instructions to the letter. 

My View:   Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020) R   Our favorite Kazakh television journalist Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) is back as he travels around the country in disguise as an attempt to blend in with the American public after believing he is popular due to the first film. Borat is on a mission to give a gift to Vice President Pence, Borat’s own daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova). I enjoyed the first film, especially when Borat fooled politicians and officials into interviews that often were hilarious and uncomfortable. This time around, there is a bit more of a story as Borat is trying to train his long-lost daughter, Tutar, to become worthy of being a gift for the Vice President. Maria Bakalova absolutely steals this movie and is the reason to watch it. Her comic timing is equal to Cohen, and at times, she outshines Cohen, taking the spotlight from him and his Borat character (something I thought might be impossible). Now, this is a raunchy and bawdy film, filled with Cohen’s sense of humor that pushes the boundaries of good taste far beyond what many comics would do. Unlike the first film, I didn’t always believe the people that Cohen was interacting with didn’t know who he was, and that often made the situations a bit slow and forced. That being said, I was surprised how much I enjoyed this film, mostly due to the blooming relationship between Borat and Tutar. And yes, there is a big scam near the end of the movie with a famous politician that has to be seen to believed. This Borat film isn’t for everyone, but as a fan of the first film, I did enjoy my travels with Borat and Tutar. Just remember that if you encounter Borat out on the streets of your town, try and keep your social distance and maybe wear a mask or two.   My Rating: Full Price    Borat Subsequent Moviefilm Website   Available on the Amazon Prime platform.

Indiefest: 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. Friendsgiving is one of those films that on paper was a good idea but once filmed, it never got off the ground. It is very obvious a good deal of the dialogue is improvised, and while Dennings and Aisha Tyler shine, most of the rest of the cast has a hard time creating anything remotely funny. Too many gags are weak, and often, just when you think the film is starting to pick up steam, a bit brings the movie to a screeching halt. Even the outtakes that are shown during the credits don’t work. It's a get-together that I can do without.   My Rating: Cable     Friendsgiving Info    The film is currently playing in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services.

My View: Rebecca (2020) PG-13   A young newlywed (Lily James), after a whirlwind romance, arrives at Manderley, her husband’s (Armie Hammer) imposing family estate on the English coast. Soon after she arrives, the bride realizes that the estate is haunted by the legacy of her husband's dead first wife, Rebecca. When you remake a classic, you must bring something new to the screen, otherwise why not just watch the original. I am telling you right now, skip this film and go back and watch Hitchcock’s Rebecca, which won seven Academy Awards and made Joan Fontaine a star. What the 1940 film has that this modern version doesn’t? How about a lack of suspense and style? This version does a horrible job of building tension, making us feel sorry for Lilly James’s character, but we never feel like she is in any danger. Hammer’s Maxim de Winter comes across as not a tortured soul who mourns his beloved Rebecca. Instead, he comes off as just a jerk who thinks he can make things up to his wife with a cuddle in bed. Kristin Scott Thomas never captures the evil that her character must have under the surface, but we never get the menacing undercurrent that is needed to be there. Hitchcock’s film left us with a final scene that is shocking and scary; this Rebecca leaves us with a whimper.   My Rating: Cable     Rebecca Website  Available on the Netflix platform and is currently playing in select theatres.

My View: The Witches (2020) PG   In 1967, in the rural Alabama town of Demopolis, a young orphaned boy (Jahzir Kadeen Bruno) goes to live with his Grandma (Octavia Spencer). There they discover that the town is filled with witches. Grandma takes the boy to a seaside resort, only to find out that the world’s Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway) has gathered her fellow witches from around the globe to carry out her nefarious plans. First, I must warn parents that very young children may find the witch characters quite scary, with their sharp teeth filled incredibly wide mouths and claws for hands. The film starts promising, with a great introduction to the witches when the young boy encounters one at a store. The film loses its way when the boy and his grandmother go to the hotel, slowing down to a crawl as we learn that the Grand High Witch has plans to turn all children into mice. The sad thing is that they didn’t give Octavia Spencer anything to do in a role that she could have played in her sleep. I was bored with the storyline, and Hathaway going way overboard in her portrayal of a villain just doesn’t work. The ending feels rushed, and the CGI looks like a throwback to a 90s film. By the end of the film, I didn’t care what happened to the kids or the witch; I was just ready for it to end.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The Witches Website    Available on the HBO Max platform.

Indiefest: I Am Greta (2020)   Documentary about the teenage claimed activist Greta Thunberg who captivated the world with her global crusade to get people to listen to scientists about the environmental problems that confront the world. I enjoyed this film, which looks at how a 15-year-old girl went from sitting outside a government building in Sweden by herself to speaking at the UN with the world watching. Greta is one determined young woman who believes deeply in what she preaches that governments worldwide have talked a big game but have done very little to help the environment, and she isn’t going to put up with it any longer. The film follows Greta on a year-long quest to call attention to climate change, but the film fails to fully explore Greta’s home life and as well-meaning her parents are (her father is shown as a loving and caring parent), the immense pressure that has been put on a teenager that is on the autism spectrum. I came away from the film admiring Greta and her passion to change the world, but I was left a feeling that I never quite got to know her.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee      I Am Greta Website    In select theatres now including Landmark Midtown Art Cinema in Atlanta and available on the Hulu platform starting Nov. 13th.

Forgotten Film:  The Short Game  (2013) PG   The World Championship of Junior Golf brings 1500 young golfers from 54 different countries to compete in a tourney that will crown the next possible “Tiger Woods.”  This entertaining film follows 8 young golfers, ages 7 and 8, from around the world, in their quest to win the championship.  Some of the kids are adorable, including little Sky Sudberry, who is a tiny little girl with a big heart, and Zamokuhle Nxasanna, a roly-poly kid from South Africa, who is just there to make friends, play as well as he can and have fun.  There are a couple of kids that you sort of root against, including Alan Kournikova, the brother of tennis star Anna, who is the epitome of the rich, stuck up kid who thinks he’s God’s gift to golf (and he maybe, since he is that good), and Amari “Tigress” Avery, who is coddled by her dad and has temper tantrums on the course when she hits a bad shot.  This is a must for any golfer, though throughout the film,  you will say to yourself “Man, why can’t I hit the ball like that?”    My Rating: Full Price     The Short Game Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Witches: Drapesmaster

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Nomadland (2020) R   After her company town is devastated by the economic recession, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs up her possessions in her van and sets off on the road to take a journey through the American West, living as a modern-day nomad. The film has been winning a ton of awards on the film festival circuit and is a sure Oscar contender.      Nomadland Info

Until Next Time!

Friday, October 16, 2020

The Trial of the Chicago 7

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 follow the instructions to the letter. 

My View: The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)    In 1968, the war in Vietnam has divided the country, and the Democratic Party Convention convened in hot, sweaty Chicago. The convention was met with protests from activists led by Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, and Abbie Hoffman. Eight protesters were put on trial, and the country was torn farther apart. The film is written and directed by Oscar and Emmy winner Aaron Sorkin, who does a magnificent job of creating the atmosphere of the unrest in the 60s that led up to the confrontation between the police/national guard and the demonstrators during the convention. The film shows us just how crazy the trail was, as the defendants went from the extreme of fiery Black Panther leader Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), the two ‘Yuppie’ leaders Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong) and Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), who used humor and confrontation to make their points and the conservative Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) and David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch) who looked like they belonged to the Republican party. The film is full of incredible moments, some of which will feel like they are not real, but that is just how outlandish this trial became. Of the cast, Sacha Baron Cohen as Hoffman and Eddie Redmayne as Hayden stand out. Cohen is masterful in his performance, giving us a charismatic, smart, and beguiling Hoffman. It’s a performance that you can’t take your eyes off of him. Redmayne has a much different and challenging role of the more diplomatic Hayden, who seems put together and a voice of reason, but as the story unfolds, becomes a flawed character that Redmayne allows us to see his warts and all. The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a fascinating look at a trial that has to be seen to believe and is sure to be a major Oscar contender.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     The Trial of the Chicago 7 Website     The film is currently in select theatres and is available the Netflix platform. 

My View: 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. The film is based on a true story, but I would love to know just how much of this story is true because the further this film moves along, the less reality is involved. 2 Hearts is a movie that is designed to pull you in, with two love stories that seem to be totally unrelated, until the big twist (that can be seen coming for a long time) at the end. If you are a fan of films that have overlying religious tones to them, where love conquers all, this is a film for you. The film almost feels like it belongs in a Twilight Zone anthology series rather than a weepy, romantic film, with a plot that is a bit bizarre. It’s a movie whose heart (no pun intended) is in the right place but badly bungles a storyline that can’t be believed.   My Rating: Cable     2 Hearts Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres.

My View: Evil Eye (2020)   Pallavi (Sunita Mani) is a single woman whose Indian mother, Usha (Sarita Choudhury), is convinced that her daughter is destined never to marry. Pallavi’s fate changes when by chance, she meets Sandeep (Omar Maskati), and they quickly start a relationship. Usha is haunted by her past and is afraid that Pallayi is making a horrible mistake in choosing Sandeep. Evil Eye is another film in the Welcome to the Blumhouse film series. As with most of the other films that I have seen in this series, this is more a psychological thriller than a horror film. I enjoyed the two leads, Sunita Mani as the independent daughter and Sarita Choudhury as the meddling mother. The two have an easy chemistry together that makes their scenes feel real and impactful. The plot is simple; is this man who seems perfect for Pallavi genuine and loving as she feels it is, or as the mother believes, someone that has harmful intentions. The film slowly builds to an ending that, frankly, felt a bit of a letdown. It’s not a bad film, but it never grabbed me where I really cared about these characters' outcome. I think I would have liked a little more in-depth look into the characters' religious beliefs, making the stakes of the film feel higher than they do.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Evil Eye Website   Available on the Amazon Prime platform. 

My View: Honest Thief (2020) PG-13 Tom (Liam Neeson) is a brilliant bank robber who has always been two steps ahead of the law; in fact, no one knows his identity. Tom then meets Annie (Kate Walsh) and falls in love. He decides to surrender to the FBI and return the money to get a reduced sentence so that he can start his life with Annie. The problem, the two FBI agents (Jai Courtney, Anthony Ramos) Tom deals with are crooked and want the money for themselves. If you are a fan of Neeson and his action films, then you probably will be satisfied with the result; otherwise, like me, you wonder how much longer to we have to see Liam Neeson do these type of he’s a good guy but don’t push him to become a killer type of film. There is nothing special to this film; the action sequences are weak, the plot is pretty thin, and it has an ending that feels a little too easy to come about. Honest Thief is one of those films that the minute you finish watching it, you won’t remember anything about the film, other than Liam is in it.   My Rating: Cable    Honest Thief Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: John Bronco (2020)   The story of the rise and fall of the legendary pitchman John Bronco (Walter Goggins), who made the Ford Bronco a household name. This is a relatively short film (39 minutes) that is a little too long for its own good. The film is a mockumentary about how John Bronco became a famous for a short while, a man whose fame is tied with a Ford truck of the same name. I enjoyed a couple of the people who are ‘interviewed,’ including basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who delivers some witty lines and makes fun of himself with some clips from commercials that Kareem has done over the years. There are some funny scenes in the film, including a ‘lost’ commercial about a certain white Bronco, but overall, the film's humor runs a little flat. I enjoyed Goggins in Bronco's role, a man who just wants to ride a Bronco, horse, or truck, but the film tends to linger on jokes too long and not let Goggins really go wild with the role.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    John Bronco Info     Available on the Hulu platform.

My View: Nocturne (2020)   Juliet (Sydney Sweeney) is a talented pianist but is overshadowed by her outgoing and equally talented sister Vivian (Madison Iseman). After a classmate commits suicide, Juliet discovers the classmate's notebook that contains a secret for Juliet to get everything she wants but at a price. Another film in the Welcome to the Blumhouse series, this is the first film in the series that can be considered a horror film. I liked the idea of this film, but I just don’t think they made the movie scary or creepy enough. Nocturne felt like a run of the mill film that lacked the fun or the style of a good horror film. Sydney Sweeney is subtle as the mousey Juliet, but I never felt fear of her character, and at no time felt like she would do much more than what her character ended up doing, causing a bit of mayhem before her story ends. The film never builds the tension it needs, and I didn’t care enough about Juliet to care what happened to her. Overall, this was a more about a cautionary tale of how stress can cause us to do things we might not ever do, but is that the basis to build a horror story on? In this case, no. My Rating: Cable      Nocturne Website     Available on the Amazon Prime platform.

Indiefest: Totally Under Control (2020)   Torn from the pages of the news, this documentary is an in-depth look at how President Donald Trump and the United States government handled the COVID-19 outbreak during the crucial early months of the pandemic. I have always enjoyed Alex Gibney’s films, who has the ability to take a complex subject and make it both interesting and understandable. If you are a Trump supporter, this is a film you will want to skip as the President is one of the film's main targets. If you want to understand how COVID so quickly and easily took over our lives, this film gives you a play by play rundown on what happened and why. Totally Under Control is a film that will shock you, make you mad, and if you have wondered how this happened, how did we get to this point that over 200,000 Americans have died, this film will explain just how it happened. It is an important film that documents a time in American history, giving us insight into handling a crisis (South Korea is used as a country that has dealt with the pandemic with success) and how not to handle one. I learned a lot about COVID-19, much more than I ever thought I would, and it does celebrate some of the people that have tried and are still trying to protect us from this horrible pandemic. My guess is that it is just part one of this film, and it will be interesting to see how Gibney and history see the result.   My Rating: Full Price     Totally Under Control Website     The film is  available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Forgotten Film: sleepwalk with me (2012)   Matt (Mike Birbiglia) is a struggling stand-up comedian whose career has come to a standstill. To make things worse, his relationship with his girlfriend (Lauren Ambrose) is also is failing, and Matt has a nasty case of sleepwalking.  This is a funny, smart film based on writer/director/lead actor Mike Birbiglia’s own life. Birbiglia shows how hard it is to break into the stand-up comic business, and once you get into the business, how tough the life is. He does it with humor, and his dialogue is just so dead-on, and captures a sort of sad-sack type of humor. Ambrose is excellent as the girlfriend who supports Matt at first but soon learns that their relationship will be tested by his profession, especially after he starts using his real-life experiences for material. I picked this film as one of my top ten films of 2012.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again      sleepwalk with me Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Trial of the Chicago 7: Wig Ventilator

Coming Soon to Screen Near You: One Night in Miami (2020) Fictional account of one night where Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cook, and Jim Brown gathered to discuss their roles in the civil rights movement in the turbulent 1960s. Directed by Oscar-winning actress Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)), there is already Academy Award talk about this film, and it is slated currently to come out on Christmas Day.      One Night in Miami Info

Until Next Time!

Friday, October 9, 2020

The War with Grandpa

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 follow the instructions to the letter. 

My View: The War with Grandpa (2020) PG   Peter (Oakes Fegley) is thrilled when he learns that his Grandpa Ed (Robert De Niro) is coming to live with his family. Thrilled until Peter finds out that Grandpa is taking over Peter’s room, forcing Peter to move into the creepy attic. Peter comes up with a plan to make Grandpa surrender his room. However, Grandpa has other plans, to never give in and to get even. Right now, this film is my top pick for the worst movie of the year. You can see why, regardless of a cast that includes two-time Academy Award winner De Niro, Oscar winner Christopher Walken, Oscar-Nominated Uma Thurman, and Grammy winner Cheech Marin, this film sat on the shelf since 2017. Right from the start, the film isn’t even remotely funny and many times becomes uncomfortable to watch, including a painful scene where De Niro, Walken, Marin, and two-time Golden Globe winner Jane Seymour try to play dodge ball on trampolines. There is a scene that sums up this film where a bully has been terrorizing Peter, and De Niro, Walken, and Marin appear at school to scare the bully. They show up in tracksuits, and we are led to believe that Walken and Marin have the ability/agility to lift the bully up high enough to put him in a dumpster. Sorry filmmakers, but like with the rest of the film, I just don’t believe it.    My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again    The War with Grandpa Website    The film is currently in select theatres.

My ViewBlack Box (2020)    After a horrific car accident, Nolan (Mamoudou Athie) lost more than his wife in the crash; he also lost his memory. Struggling to raise his daughter by himself with a memory that won’t let him remember the simplest things, Nolan decides to trust a doctor (Phylicia Rashad) and undertake an experimental treatment. The treatment begins to work, but soon, Nolan discovers that his memories are possibly too dark to explore without losing his mind. Part of the Welcome to the Blumhouse anthology film series on Amazon would feel more a part of a Twilight Zone TV show than a Blumhouse horror movie. Part mystery, part sci-fi movie, we follow Nolan as he goes under the care of a doctor who claims she can bring back his lost memories. But Nolan’s memories aren’t clear, and each time he goes under for treatment, a mysterious creature shows up threatening him. The beast is one of those creatures we have seen time and time again that is some sort of human that walks upside down on all fours as we hear crunching sounds. That’s it. That’s about all the scare this film has a crunchy upside-down man, and oh yeah, people with no faces. The film never delivers any of the horror/scares and gives us a twist that I saw coming from the first time Nolan goes under for the treatment. Let's hope the next films in the Blumhouse anthology series do a better job at scaring us than this slow turn film does.     My Rating: Cable     Black Box Website   The film is currently available on the Amazon platform.

Indiefest:  The Devil to Pay (2019)    After her husband mysteriously disappears, Lemon Cassidy (Danielle Deadwyler), living on a farm in an isolated Appalachian community, must fight back against the cold-hearted matriarch of the family that controls the mountain. Danielle will do anything to protect her son and her land. A hit at both the Atlanta and Georgia Film Festivals last year, The Devil to Pay is a tight, well thought out thriller about a woman who fights the odds with grit and determination. The film is filled with rich characters like Catherine Dyer’s Tommy Runion, an iron-fisted ruler of a clan with a cold heart but a woman who is continuously and sweetly talking about her cooking. Deadwyler is fantastic as Lemon, a woman who accepts that her husband has a debt which has to be paid, that is, until Tommy decides the rules have changed and Lemon has no other way to get out of her predicament other than with violence. The film is a thrilling ride in a world seemingly set in a place time has forgotten, one that is ruled by grit and overcome by heart.     My Rating: Full Price   The Devil to Pay Info    The film is currently in select theatres.

Indiefest:  The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020) R  Officer Marshall (Jim Cummings) is an alcoholic who is raising his teenage daughter, caring for his ailing father, and has aspirations of one day being the sheriff. Terror grips the small town that Officer Marshall works in as bodies are being discovered after each full moon. Officer Marshall is the only one in town unwilling to consider that a werewolf is doing the killings. Part comedy, part horror film with a ton of quirky characters thrown in, describes this well-meaning film that never quite finds its footing in the icy snow covering the town. I wanted more from this film, especially since it is the last film of the late great actor Robert Forster but it never quite can get a handle on what it wants to do. The film does have some funny bits, like a running gag where sad sack Marshall can’t convince anyone that the killer is a man and not a werewolf. The problem is that the situation's strangeness isn’t wild enough; the story never quite feels consistent in its tone. The center of the problem is Cummings, who, besides starring in the film, also is the writer/director, and Cummings can’t find a handle on his character or his performance, which gets old pretty quickly. I did enjoy Riki Lindhome as the put-upon Officer Robson, Marshall’s 2nd in command, that keeps things on track. In fact, by the end of the film, I wanted more of Officer Robson and less of Officer Marshall. I think it would have had a better experience spending my time watching the movie from her perspective. The Wolf of Snow Hollow isn’t a bad film, and I had some fun watching it; I just wish it had gone with a different, more interesting lead character.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee      The Wolf of Snow Hollow Website    The film is currently in select theatres and is  available for rent on participating on-demand services.

My View:  The Lie (2018) R   A father (Peter Sarsgaard) and his daughter, Kayla (Joey King), are on their way to dance camp when they stop to pick up the daughter’s best friend (Devery Jacobs) by the side of the road. Those good intentions have horrible consequences, and now Kayla’s parents are part of a cover-up that soon begins to unravel. Part of the Welcome to the Blumhouse anthology film series on Amazon, The Lie doesn’t even come close to what you would consider a Blumhouse horror film. Horror films, even the bad ones, are supposed to be fun to watch but The Lie, pardon the pun, just lays there with a plot that gets increasingly stupid as it goes along. If you haven’t stopped watching somewhere in the middle, there is a twist near the end of the movie that is so poorly handled, the gang on the podcast How Did This Get Made will be able to talk about it for hours. The tension never builds, and frankly, by the end of the film, you hope that bad things will happen to all three of the family members just so that the movie will end.    My Rating: Cable     The Lie Website     The film is currently available on the Amazon platform.

Indiefest:  Time (2020) PG-13    Fox Rich fights for the release of her husband, Rob, who is serving a 60-year sentence in prison. This documentary uses video diaries that Fox personally recorded over the years with family and friends for Rob. Meet Fox Rich, a force of nature who is determined to get her husband and father of her children released from prison. The film pulls no punches as Fox tells you just how and why she and her husband ended up in jail. What she is upset about, and rightfully so, is that her husband was sentenced to 60 years without parole for a bank heist where no one got hurt. Using mostly footage shot by Fox on her iPhone or camcorder, the film follows the journey of this mother trying to raise a family while campaigning for her husband to come home from a system set up for her to fail. Fox is charismatic and well-spoken, a woman who can get her point across with passion and fire, while also charming. We see the frustration that she feels and the love keeping her hope alive, ever hoping that her twin boys will see their father out before they turn into men themselves. Time is a moving tribute to the love a woman has for her family and showcases a penal system that has long been broken.    My Rating: Full Price     Time Website  The film is currently playing in select theatres and will be available for rent on the Amazon platform on Oct. 16th.

Indiefest:  Spontaneous (2020) R    Mara (Katherine Langford) and Dylan (Charlie Plummer) are two high-school-students who meet during their senior year and fall in love. Just one problem, students in their school are exploding without any warning, and so, each moment may be their last. I see a few films every year that make me want to go on the rooftops and shout how great they are, and this is one of them. If you are a fan of films like Edgar Wright’s early work ( Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The World’s End), Warm Bodies, or even Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, this is a film for you. Led by a dazzling performance by Katherine Langford and a sharp, funny script, this is a film that you will fall in love with. Langford is brilliant as the smart as a whip high school girl who really is too cool for school. Langford’s character Mara, pals around with her best friend Tess (Hayley Law), someone she is so close with that they are already scouting beach houses to retire to. Mara has cool parents (Piper Perabo, Rob Huebel) who adore her and add to that, she meets a boy, Dylan, that has a sense of humor that can keep up with Mara’s. Things seem up until, for no reason, seniors start exploding into a bloody mess. Combine the sweet and wonderful chemistry Langford has with Plummer, dialogue that is a blast, and a performance  Langford hits out of the park (you will want to be Mara’s best friend), and you have one of those films that you don’t want to end. I wish this film was being released at a time that it could build an audience because it is worthy of one. Go rent this Spontaneous, and you won’t be sorry. Not every movie can span the line between horror and comedy, but this one does, even if it is a little bloody.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Spontaneous Website   The film is  available for rent on participating on-demand services

Forgotten Films: The Professionals (1966)   A group of grizzled cowboys (Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Woody Strode, Robert Ryan) are hired by a rich man (Ralph Bellamy) to rescue his kidnapped wife (Claudia Cardinale) from a ruthless Mexican rebel leader (Jack Palance) who has an army of desperados. The film is a beautifully filmed western that is filled with great performances and has a brilliant story with a twist that is incredibly well scripted. I love Lee Marvin, and he is outstanding as the leader of the four men but its the performance of Jack Palance that makes this film work. Palance is so good as the evil leader, giving us a low-key but deadly bad guy to go against our heroes. If you are a fan of westerns like I am, this is one not to be missed.   My Rating: Full Price    The Professionals Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The War with Grandpa: Chef Driver

Coming Soon to A Screen Near You: The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) R   In 1968, the war in Vietnam has divided the country and the Democratic Party Convention convened in hot, sweaty Chicago. The convention was met with protests from activists led by Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, and Abbie Hoffman. Seven protesters were put on trial, and the country was torn farther apart. The film is from the mind of Aaron Sorkin and has a cast that includes Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong, Mark Rylance, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. In a strange movie landscape, this film has become one of the few Oscar contenders out there.      The Trial of the Chicago 7 Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, October 2, 2020

The Glorias

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 follow the instructions to the letter. 

My View: The Glorias (2020) R   The story of feminist icon and Ms magazine creator Gloria Steinem, as we follow her story from childhood to adult as she becomes a writer, activist, and organizer for women’s rights worldwide. This movie wears out its premise so soon into the film that the two hour and twenty-minute run time seems like five hours. The film looks at Steinem's life, a much more interesting person than this film makes her out to be. Various actors play Steinem in the movie, including Alicia Vikander, Julianne Moore, and near the end, Steinem herself. The film feels as if a high-school student who composed her college entrance essay was given the green light to write a screenplay. The film jumps over backwards to show us just how great Steinem is, including a too-long sequence at the National Women’s Conference, where Steinem is practically given by the film sainthood by her words and actions. I am a fan of Steinem and believe she has done more for women’s rights than just about anyone other than Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but the film does such a poor job of showing us how brilliant Steinem was, that the film feels as if she was lucky to be where she was. This is one of those films where a twelve-year-old Gloria talks to a six-year-old Gloria while a twenty-something and a forty-something Gloria look on. Gloria’s life is worth more than this confusing and meandering tale gives us.    My Rating: Cable     The Glorias Website   Now available on Amazon Prime Video. 
My View:  On the Rocks (2020) R   Laura (Rashida Jones) is a wife and mother who feels like her life is stuck in a rut. Enter her larger-than-life playboy father, Felix (Bill Murray), who is convinced that Laura’s husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans), is cheating on her. Now Laura and her father are on a mission to find out if Dean is cheating or not. This film works because Murray and Jones are a delight to watch as they banter back and forth, as Felix tells Laura how men are built to cheat, and Laura begins to believe him. Murray is picture-perfect as Felix, a man who has such charm and charisma that he can get away with just about anything and often does. Murray seems to glide through scenes, so slick as he flirts with every woman he meets. Jones is his daughter, who knows how her father operates and is still swayed by his words, enough to begin to doubt her husband's fidelity. On the Rocks isn’t a big laugh film, but more of one that will continually put a smile on your face as the story moves on, delighting with each scene that Murray and Jones share on-screen. Other filmmakers would have taken this subject and made a sitcom out of the story, but filmmaker Sophia Coppola lets the story develop slowly, but that gives us more time to savor Bill Murray on the screen.  My Rating: Full Price    On the Rocks Website    The film is currently in select theatres and will be available on the Apple TV+ platform on Oct. 23rd.

Indiefest: Dick Johnson is Dead (2020) PG-13   Filmmaker Kirsten Johnson is dealing with her dad’s declining health and eventual death. She decides to use her filmmaking skills to stage inventive and often fantastical ways to kill off her 86-year-old father as she explores her relationship with him. Having lost my father a few years ago, this was a difficult film for me to watch. The film starts off literals with a bang as we see Dick walking along on a street when a computer falls out a window and hits him on the head, killing him. It’s a great start to the film and hilarious as we realize that it was staged for the camera and is fake. The movie is full of heart and love, which is very evident between the filmmaker and Dick's actions as the film follows the difficult trek of Dick getting old, losing his memory, and his ability to live on his own. I enjoyed the relationship between Dick and his daughter and his delight at playing along, staging the fantasies of his own death. The film doesn’t always work, as Dick’s abilities slowly degrade to the point of uncomfortable moments where he seems to no longer enjoy the filming. Dick Johnson is Dead is a film that celebrates a man who is loved and loves life, with his family and friends' help, creating moments he won’t remember, but his loved ones will.   My Rating: Full Price    Dick Johnson is Dead Website      The film is available on the Netflix platform.

My View: A Call to Spy (2019) PG-13   When WWII starts, Britain looks to every means possible to combat the Nazis in Europe. Prime Minister Churchill orders a new spy agency, the Special Operations Executive, to recruit and train women in the art of espionage. SOE’s ‘spymistess,’ Vera Atkins (Stana Katic) recruits two unusual candidates, Virginia (Sarah Megan Thomas), an American, and Noor Inayat (Radhika Atpe), a Muslim pacifist, to go on a mission to undermine the Nazi regime in France. This is a story that needed to be told and one that is based on three real-life women who, against the odds, were willing to risk their lives to fight a war. The film does a great job of setting the story up, showing us the three women and how they got to become a team of spies. The problem is once Noor and Virginia get out into the field, the film loses its way, and the film never finds it footing after that. The film has a very run of the mill BBC TV production feel to it, running out of steam rather quickly. While the characters are frequently in danger, the tension never builds, making the story seem ordinary and bland. I wish the film lived up to the truly amazing women that their story deserves.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee    A Call to Spy Website     The film is currently in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: Kingdom of Silence (2020)   An in-depth look at the life of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s life, work, and murder. The film features interviews and footage exploring his personal and professional relationships with Saudi rulers, Jihadists, and fellow journalists. The fascinating story of a man that I knew almost nothing about other than that he was murdered and dismembered while visiting a Saudi embassy. The film does a great job of telling the story of a complex man living in an increasingly complicated world that kept changing. Khashoggi lived a life that let him see history up close and personal. The film reveals a man who very early on was at the feet of people like Osama bin Laden and some of the Saudi princes that shaped history. We follow Khashoggi’s career as well as the history of Saudi Arabia, as both are intertwined. The filmmaker is given access to a lot of inside information, and it can be overwhelming in its scope, but that’s the point. The world has become a place where people or countries that should be your enemies are seen as allies and vice versa. I will warn you that Khashoggi’s grisly death is covered in some detail, but it is necessary as we all should be shocked and outraged that a journalist was killed, and our government did nothing to protest his death. Khashoggi lived a life full of danger and intrigue, one that eventually got him killed, but we are better for knowing him and celebrating his courage.   My Rating: Full Price     Kingdom of Silence Website    Available on the Showtime platform.

Indiefest: Save Yourselves! (2020) R   A young Brooklyn couple (Sunita Mani, John Reynolds) decide to turn off their computers and cell phones and spend a week in an upstate cabin to unplug and reconnect with each other. The couple, blissfully unaware, have picked the wrong time to disconnect with the world; a world that has fallen into chaos as aliens invade the planet. I loved the plot of this film, and there are some amusing scenes, where we, as the audience, are aware that something is wrong with the world. Still, our couple is so caught up in themselves that it literally takes a significant event to happen before they realize what is happening. The film is made because the chemistry between the two leads so believable and real. Mani and Reynolds play off each other with an ease making their relationship one you want to last; the question is will they realize there is a bigger problem confronting them than some of their minor relationship issues that the couple keeps focusing on. I especially enjoyed the performance of Sunita Mani, who has a comedic flair and a comfortable screen presence that makes you want to like her from the start. The film loses a bit of its bite once the couple realizes what is going on, and the ending is a bit of a letdown, but it’s still a fun ride to go on.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Save Yourselves! Website     The film is currently in select theatres.

Indiefest: Possessor Uncut (2020)   Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) is an agent who works for a corporation that specializes in using brain-implant technology, which allows her to inhabit other people’s bodies, driving them to commit assassinations. Her job has caused damage to her health and well-being, and she soon finds that she has lost control over her latest victim (Christopher Abbott). This film won’t be for everyone, as its story is as murky as the world that Vos operates in. It's an extremely violent film, filled with killings that go beyond savage. A movie that is filled with rage that seems to erupt at a moment's notice. The film looks at the psychological toll that Vos goes through with each mission, all the while trying to keep her sanity when she reenters the real world. Part spy film, part horror movie, is a dive into a harsh and cruel world, one that makes you pay a price for.    My Rating: Full Price     Possessor Uncut Website    The film is currently in select theatres.

My View: American Murder: The Family Next Door (2020)  In 2018, 38-year-old pregnant Shanann Watts and her two young daughters disappeared without a trace from their suburban home in Colorado. Soon the whole world was watching, wanting to know what happened to Shannan and why. With the word Murder in the title, it is not much of a spoiler to tell you that this story does not end well. This is a fascinating film that uses Shanann’s need to show the world her life to its advantage. As we all know, what someone chooses to show us with their postings isn’t always the whole story, and in this case, that is very true. The film does an outstanding job of showing us the development of this family, going forward slowly from the start of Shanann and the kids going missing, while also going backward, showing us how their family got started and how their story builds up to the time of the disappearance. There isn’t a narrator, letting Shanann and Chris, her husband, tells the story through their posts and texts. Add in the police footage during the investigation, and it becomes a revising tale that slowly reveals itself to the viewer. It’s a film that, at times, feels a little creepy as we get a look at the secrets that this family kept, all the way until the end.    My Rating: Full Price     American Murder: The Family Next Door Website      The film is available on the Netflix platform.

Forgotten Film: North Dallas Forty (1979) R   Phillip Elliott (Nick Nolte) is a star wide receiver for the North Dallas professional football team. Phillip has given the game his all, and it shows every morning when he slowly gets out of bed, his body wrecked from the years of playing the game. Phillip’s best friend is Seth (Mac Davis), the charismatic quarterback of the team. Their team is coached by B.A. Strother (G.D. Spradlin), a man who is cold, calculating and expects his rules to be followed. Phillip is a maverick and is continuously at odds with the coaching staff and management, who he believes has turned a game he loves into a ruthless business. This is a hilarious film, filled with outlandish characters, some played by real players like the legendary John Matuszak, but it also has a serious side to it, showing how much players sacrificed to win. The film is based on a legendary book of the same name by Pete Best, who played for five seasons on America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys. Nolte is brilliant as the old pro, but the actor that shines in this film is Mac Davis. In his first acting role, Davis is picture-perfect as the leader of the team that gets his guys to give their all. The film is a little strange in that it is not your typical sports film. North Dallas Forty isn’t about winning the big game. It’s about the men who give up everything, including their future, to win at any cost.     My Rating: Full Price     North Dallas Forty Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of A Call to Spy: Immigration Consultant

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020) R   Officer Marshall (Jim Cummings) is an alcoholic who is raising his teenage daughter, caring for his ailing father, and has aspirations of one day being the sheriff. Terror grips the small town that Officer Marshall works in as bodies are being discovered after each full moon. Officer Marshall is the only one in town unwilling to consider that a werewolf is doing the killings. The reason to see this film: it is the last role of legendary actor Robert Forster.       The Wolf of Snow Hollow Website

Until Next Time!