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) 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. 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