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