Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Croods: A New Age

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.

Familyfaire: The Croods: A New Age (2020) PG   Your favorite prehistoric family, the Croods, are back! There is a new family in the neighborhood, the Bettermans, led by Hope (Leslie Mann) and Phil (Peter Dinklage), who claim to be better and more evolved. Can Grug (Nicolas Cage) and Ugga (Catherine Keener) keep their family on the right track, or will their kids lose their way when shown how the Bettermans live? I liked the first The Croods film, immensely enjoying the antics of Grug, voiced by Nicolas Cage, who as the dim but caring caveman made the film seem fun and enjoyable. This time around, there isn’t much to add to the story other than the Bettermans, a modern-like family that makes the Croods seem like, well, cavemen. The Croods: A New Age isn’t a bad film, it just doesn’t bring much more to the storyline. Kids will enjoy the movie, and there are plenty of colorful, wild animals to keep the smaller kids involved.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     The Croods: A New Age Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres.

My View: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) R   In 1927 Chicago, tensions rise between Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), her ambitious horn player, Levee (Chadwick Boseman), and the management determined to control the headstrong Ma Rainey, the ‘Mother of the Blues.’ It’s hard to take a stage play and make it work on the screen, but boy, this film makes it work. Boy, does it! The late Chadwick Boseman gives us one last performance, and it is one for the ages. Using all his energy and charisma, Boseman provides us with a man who has talent and lets everyone know it, but there is something wrong with Levee, a man who is haunted by his past. Not to be outdone, Viola Davis, almost unrecognizable behind all the makeup and costume padding, is powerful and commanding as the demanding Ma Rainey, a woman who knows she has a gift and is willing only to share that gift when her demands are met. This is a film that will move you and, at times, will shock you. It is a fitting tribute to a man who we will all miss, and once the movie ends, is filled with the sadness of knowing that a great career was cut way too short.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Website   The film is playing exclusively in the Atlanta area at Landmark Midtown Art.

Indiefest: Stardust (2020)   A young David Bowie (Johnny Flynn) comes to America for the first time in 1971 on a trip that inspires the invention of Bowie’s iconic alter ego Ziggy Stardust. It’s hard to make a film about a legendary musician like Bowie without playing his songs, but that’s what we get with Stardust. Johnny Flynn does a fine job playing Bowie, and his singing voice is a nice copy, but the problem is that we never get the feeling from the film why Bowie was such a magnetic force on stage. The movie just slowly moves along, as we get depressed as much as Bowie does when he realizes that his dreams of becoming a big star are crumbling away. The film never finds its footing, and while we get a short vision of Bowie’s creation of an alien rock star named Ziggy at the end of the film, it has nothing of the impact that it should have. David and Ziggy deserve more than what this film gives them.    My Rating: Cable     Stardust Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Last Call (2020)   Before there were rock stars, there was writer Dylan Thomas (Rhys Ifans). In 1953, Dylan Thomas is on his final tour, where he was captivating audiences with his poetry and stories. In New York City, Thomas walked into a Tavern and pondered his life as he downed eighteen doubles scotches. This is not an easy film to watch as a man slowly before our eyes drinks himself to death. I’m not a big fan of Thomas’s work and therefore didn’t enjoy the constant reciting of his work as we flashback to his performances before an audience on his tour. The film feels somewhat like a stage play, as most of the action takes place in the bar as Thomas downs each shot, giving the bartender and the other fellows at the bar his thoughts of love, life, and death. It’s a mesmerizing performance by Rhys Ifans, but it's not enough to keep the film moving at even a slow pace. The film becomes almost repetitive as we watch Dylan keep downing his drinks. The film moves from the bar to flashback to happier or sad times in his past, along with imagined appearances by his wife, Caitlin (Romola Garai). The film slowly moves along, and like Dylan Thomas, it very quickly wears out its welcome.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Last Call Info      The film is currently playing in select theatres.

My View: Uncle Frank (2020) R   In 1973, college professor Frank Bledsoe (Paul Bettany) and his Eighteen-year-old niece, Beth (Sophia Lillis), journey back to South Carolina to attend Frank’s father’s funeral. Frank has many secrets that he wishes would remain hidden, but this trip home will be painful, and those secrets will spill out. Uncle Frank is an interesting film because even though Beth is the narrator of the film and the first third of the film is from her viewpoint, the main story and character is her Uncle Frank. Frank has a secret, one he has kept hidden and is ashamed of. It’s a shame because I really enjoyed Beth and her view of the world. The switch to focus on Frank is a bit sudden, and we never quite get the focus back on Beth. Instead, it’s Frank's story for the rest of the film. Bettany shines as the likable but troubled Frank, and his journey back home brings back memories that he would like to forget. It’s a complex performance that is full of passion and pain. Because of the performances in the film, it’s worth taking a road trip with Beth and Uncle Frank.   My Rating: Full Price    Uncle Frank Website     Available on the Amazon Prime platform.

My View: Happiest Season (2020) PG-13   Harper (Mackenzie Davis) and Abby (Kristen Stewart) are in love, so much so that Abby is going to propose to Harper when they go to Harper’s childhood home for Christmas. The problem is that Harper’s family doesn’t know Harper is a lesbian, and now Abby will have to pretend that she and Harper are just roommates. What could go wrong? This is a nice addition to the ‘home for the holidays’ genre with a wonderful twist on the romantic comedy to spice it up. Davis and Stewart have brilliant chemistry on screen together, and while a few of the comedy pieces are a bit too broad, the film is still fun, sweet, and a blast to watch. Mary Steenburgen is funny as the high-strung mom trying to coordinate not only a Christmas holiday but also her husband's (Victor Garber) bid to become mayor. The cast that stand out are Dan Levy as the gay best friend of Abby, who is more interested in his problems until he realizes Abby’s world is crashing down and Mary Holland as the odd, overeager younger sister Mary. Both bring an energy to the storyline and are a delight to watch. So grab some cocoa, put up the stockings, and watch Abby and Harper try to survive the holidays.   My Rating: Full Price     Happiest Season Info    Available on the Hulu platform.

My View: Hillbilly Elegy (2020) R    The story of J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso), who goes back to his Appalachian home to revisit his childhood and the two women, his strong-willed grandmother (Glen Close) and his troubled mother (Amy Adams). What a colossal waste of talent. The film moves back and forth from when J.D. is a kid and in the present where J.D. is in law school. The biggest problem is while the younger J.D. is somewhat enjoyable as a kid who needs guidance and love, the adult J.D. is a stupid jerk who is mad at the world and doesn’t deserve his loyal and loving girlfriend. The film feels like one of those movies that can’t live up to the book's complexity. The storyline seems skimpy as we never get enough depth to understand why the characters are the way they are. Sure, there are some flashbacks, but the film seems like just trying to throw as much stuff on the screen as it can without a lot of substance. I was bored by this film, didn’t care about its characters, and wanted it to end as soon as possible.   My Rating: Cable     Hillbilly Elegy Website   Available on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest:  Zappa (2020)   Documentary that looks at the life and work of legendary rock musician and composer Frank Zappa. Zappa was a very complex man who put out an incredible amount of music in his lifetime, which makes tell his story so hard to do. Filmmaker Alex Winter, who has already had a good year with his documentary Showbiz Kids and starring as Bill in Bill & Ted Face the Music, tries to give us the life story of a man who was a rock legend but considered himself a composer. Using vast amounts of previously unseen home movies, concert footage, and behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage, the film is a treasure trove of sights and sounds for any Frank Zappa fan. The film using past interview recordings, let’s Frank tell his own story because if there was one thing that Frank liked to talk about, it was himself. The documentary interviews  band members, fellow musicians, and Gail, Frank's long time wife. The film doesn’t pull punches as we find out that Frank considered only his immediate family as his close friends, and that he wasn’t shy about sleeping with other women while on the road. I learned a lot about Frank from this film; his strange childhood (he liked to make bombs), that he never studied music but was self-taught (impressive for a man who composed for orchestras), and while Frank loved his family, he wasn’t close to them. In fact, his daughter Moon Unit made Zappa’s only hit Valley Girl with him just to get him to pay attention to her. The film is packed in its little over two hours run time with information, but it doesn’t seem like enough time as his early career is given the bulk of the film, and what some consider his best work in the late 70s into the 80s is barely talked about. Frank Zappa wasn’t for everybody; in fact, often, he pissed off audiences at his concerts as he played what he wanted to, not what they wanted him to. This film also isn’t for everyone, but if you are a fan or want to know more about a fascinating musician whose work is vast and impressive, this is a movie for you.    My Rating: Full Price    Zappa Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: Columbus (2017)   Jin (John Cho) is a Korean-born man who finds himself stuck in Columbus, Indiana, because his father is in a coma. He meets Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a young woman who is staying in Columbus because she has to support her mother, who is a recovering addict. Writer/director Kogonada brings us a magical film about family, relationships, and dreaming of things that you think can't come true. The film takes place in Columbus, Indiana, the “Midwest Mecca of Architecture,” and it's magnificent buildings are the backdrop for this film. Every shot utilizes these brilliant buildings, making you feel a part of the landscape. What I love about this film is that the two characters slowly peel back the layers of Jin and Casey as their conversations continue. The characters become part of the architecture, interacting with it and exploring it. Casey has even-numbered her favorite buildings like a film lover would rate movies. Columbus is a movie that will hold you spellbound as it explores the importance of relationships, the ones we honor, and the ones we have to leave to better ourselves.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Columbus Info  

Weird Credits: From the credits of Stardust: Intimacy Coordinators

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Let Them All Talk (2020) R   A famous author (Meryl Streep) is having trouble writing her latest book. She decides to go on a cruise trip with her two best friends (Dianne Wiest, Candice Bergen) and her nephew (Lucas Hedges). On it, she hopes she finds inspiration, reconnects with her friends, and maybe even come to terms with her troubled past. The film is directed by Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich) and stars Meryl Streep. I think that is all I need in a movie.       Let Them All Talk Info

Until Next Time!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Sound of Metal

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:   Sound of Metal (2019) R  A heavy-metal drummer, Ruben (Riz Ahmed), life is changed when he begins to lose his hearing, and he thinks that his life and music career are over. With the help of his band and his girlfriend (Olivia Cooke), Ruben checks into a secluded sober house for the deaf in hopes it will prevent a relapse with heroin and help him adapt to his new world. What would happen if you had something taken away from you that you loved doing? How would you handle it? That is what Sound of Metal explores. Ruben is happy, touring in a band with his girlfriend, Lou. They live in a motor home where Ruben makes smoothies and puts on jazz records to wake Lou up. It's all good, and because of Lou, Ruben has been clean and sober for four years. Then Ruben suddenly loses his hearing, learning that he will never hear properly again. Fearing for his life and his sobriety, Lou persuades Ruben to go to a sober house for the deaf, and now Ruben has to figure out how to live in this world of silence. Riz Ahmed gives a brilliant and moving performance as the troubled Ruben. It’s stunning how good Ahmed is, how he can convey so much by doing so little. The tension slowly builds as we wonder if Ahmed will adapt and accept his new life or is he going to rebel and go down a terrifying rabbit hole. Ahmed gives one of the best performances of the year, and the storyline does not disappoint as it treats him and his fellow sober housemates with dignity and lets you in to see them working on themselves and each other. The ending of this film will have you thinking about Sound of Metal for a long time to come.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Sound of Metal Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres and available on the Amazon Prime on Dec. 4th.

Indiefest: The Last Vermeer (2019) R   During World War II, Joseph Piller (Claes Bang) was fighting in the Resistance while Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce) was hosting parties and selling Dutch art treasures to the Nazis. Now that the war is over, the two men cross each other's path as Piller is investigating war crimes and van Meegeren has been accused of collaboration. As Piller investigates, he becomes convinced that van Meegeren is innocent and tries to save his life. I enjoyed this mystery that turns into a bit of a courtroom drama. Guy Pearce is the reason to see this film as his performance as the outlandish and flamboyant Han van Meegeren is a sight to be seen. With his mop of hair and his eyebrows turned up at an angle, Pearce is a force on the screen as he commands us to watch him weave his magic. After wars, people must justify how they acted, and van Meegeren is no different. Did he do what he is accused of? Did he do it for the money and fame? We will probably never know the full truth. The amazing bit about this story is that it is based on actual events, and that makes for a good story.    My Rating: Full Price   The Last Vermeer Website      The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Dating Amber (2020)   Eddie (Fionn O’Shea) is gay but is afraid that his parents and classmates will find out. Amber (Lola Petticrew) is a loner with an attitude. The two decide the only way they will survive their last year of school is to pretend that they are in a straight relationship. I loved this movie, which is a new take on the coming of age, romantic comedy film. O’Shea and Petticrew are hilarious together, as two start up a friendship that begins with necessity but ends with a meaningful and deep relationship. Set in Ireland in the 90s, the fashion and music is fun, and the situations the two characters get into seem real and have emotional pull. Both Eddie and Amber don’t want to disappoint their parents. Eddie’s parents are on the verge of splitting up, and Eddie’s dad (Barry Ward) wants his son to follow in his footsteps and join the Army. Amber is dealing with her mom is dealing with a tragedy in her past. Amber has accepted her homosexuality and is planning to escape to London as soon as she graduates. Eddie is deep in the closet, resigned to the fact that he will join the Army, even if it kills him. The film moves at a quick pace, and I was surprised by how emotional the ending was for me. Dating Amber is a wonderful film full of funny and sweet moments, with two characters that you will want to spend time with and root for.    My Rating: Full Price    Dating Amber Website   Available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: Born to Be (2019)   The documentary follows the work of Dr. Jess Ting at the groundbreaking Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City. The film follows the doctor as his work impacts his patients' lives while he becomes a pioneering gender-affirming surgeon. This is an emotional and sensitive film on how one doctor is almost single handily changing the lives of men and women who have longed to physically be what they have always mentally seen themselves. We follow Dr. Ting as his practice grows, so much so that by the end of the film, he has a waiting list just to be considered for the surgery. We get an inside look at how complex the decision is to have this type of surgery and its toll on the psychological makeup of the patients who are getting the work done. We see what a great man Dr. Ting is as he treats each person with compassion and respect, wanting only to change how his patients feel about themselves. Born to Be brings the world of transgender to the front and lets us see and feel how it is to accept who you are.   My Rating: Full Price    Born to Be Website   The film is currently playing in select theatres and is available to rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: Crazy, Not Insane (2020)   This documentary examines the research by forensic psychiatrist Dorothy Onto Lewis, a pioneer in the study of the psychology of murderers and serial killers. Fans of the ‘true crime’ genre will love this film about controversial forensic psychiatrist Dorothy Lewis's life and work. The film goes through Dr. Lewis's career as she looks at her past case files, including video and audiotapes. Dr. Lewis has been at the forefront of diagnosing people with multiple personalities and how those personalities can cause some to commit murder. Dr. Lewis is a feisty woman with a rich sense of humor, who isn’t afraid to speak her mind (she has a great showdown with Bill O’Reilly over what the definition of evil is), and she has many people in her field that don’t believe in multiple personalities. The film even brings out the star of ‘true crime,’ serial killer Ted Bundy, who gave Dr. Lewis his last interview with. I think by the end of Crazy, Not Insane, you will be either on Dr. Lewis's side, or you won’t believe in her theories, but you won’t be able to say that this film didn’t entertain you.   My Rating: Full Price     Crazy, Not Insane Website    Available on the HBO platform.

Forgotten Film: Beauty Is Embarrassing (2011)   This is a funny and fascinating documentary about the extraordinary life of artist and performer Wayne White. Wayne grew up in the Tennessee mountains and, after graduating college, moved to New York City. There he got a job designing sets and puppets on the first season of the Saturday morning TV show, Pee-wee’s Playhouse. He was the creative force behind the legendary music videos, Peter Gabriel’s "Big Time" and The Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight." He also branched out as an artist of paintings and sculptures. White is a fascinating man, and the film does an exceptional job capturing his humor and energy in a movie about a highly creative man.   My Rating: Full Price    Beauty is Embarrassing Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Last Vermeer: Lead Matchmover

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Loss Adjuster (2020)   Martin (Luke Goss) is having a bad day. His wife Angie (Kym Marsh) Leaves him for another man one week before Christmas. His job as an insurance loss adjuster is hard, especially when you deal with a flirtatious widow, a corrupt Doctor, and a dead rat, all while trying to do your job. The world seems to be set against Martin, but thanks to a few new friends and a bit of Christmas magic, life might turn out for the better. This looks like a film to get us in the mood for the holidays.    The Loss Adjuster Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, November 13, 2020


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: Freaky (2020) R  Millie (Kathryn Newton) is just a teenage girl trying to survive the rigors of high school. She becomes the target of The Butcher (Vince Vaughn), her town's infamous serial killer, and then they switch bodies. Millie has 24 hours before the change becomes permeant. Freaky isn’t your typical slasher film as it has quite a bit of comedy in it. Taking a premise stolen from every teenager switches bodies with an adult, this film also makes fun of all the horrible deaths that we see in the normal teenagers are in trouble horror films. Vaughn and Newton are hilarious as they portray each other’s character inside their bodies. Vaughn does a masterful job of playing a man who is now inhabiting a teenage body. The film is buoyed by Millie’s ‘Scooby gang’ of her best friend (Celeste O’Connor), Josh (Misha Osherovich), her gay sidekick, and the boy Millie is secretly in love with (Uriah Shelton). Freaky is fun, sometimes silly, and the plot has a few holes in it, but who cares when trying to bring down a serial killer who is inhabiting your body.    My Rating: Full Price    Freaky Website  The film is currently playing in select theatres.

My View: Come Away (2020)  PG   Alice (Keira Chansa) and her brother, Peter (Jordan A. Nash), let their imaginations take them on fantastic journeys while enjoying the summer in the English countryside. When their older brother (Reece Yates) unexpectedly dies, Alice seeks temporary refuge going down a wondrous rabbit hole, while Peter escapes the harsh reality of the real world by entering the magical realm of the ‘Lost Boys.’ Come Away is one of those films that you want to love because the premise is so cool, but boy does it fail to capture any magic whatsoever. This is a beautiful looking movie, with some gorgeous scenes, but the story never quite gets on track, making the film seem incredibly long with an ending that is meant to inspire but fails to make sense. The film flirts with both the Peter Pan storyline and the Alice in Wonderland plot, but every time it visits those places, the film just doesn’t deliver the charm and wonder that it needs so desperately. I thought Keira Chansa carried the film, and she needed to because, unfortunately, Jordan A. Nash as Peter doesn’t have the charisma that the part requires. The movie is undoubtedly helped by the presence of David Oyelowo and Angelina Jolie as the parents, but they aren’t the focus of the film, the kids are. Ultimately, the story doesn’t deliver the wonder and amazement that Wendy and Peter deserve.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Come Away Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: The Climb (2019) R   Mike (Michael Angelo Covino) and Kyle (Kyle Marvin) are best friends, that is until Mike sleeps with Kyle’s fiancee (Judith Godreche). For a while, Mike and Kyle are enemies, but they can’t stay mad at each other too long, and soon they make up their friendship. Now Kyle has a new fiancee (Gayle Rankin), and Mike is determined to break that romance up also. First, let me say that there is one long tracking shot in this movie that has to be seen to be believed. This is a buddy picture where the two ‘buddies’ don’t always like each other. In fact, several times during the film, at least one of the two hates the other. The movie's humor is harsh and biting, as the two men always seem to be on a collision course filled with tension and words that often hurt. Covino and Marvin play off each other with incredible timing, making the film fun to see what they will say or do to each other next. As Kyle’s fiancee, Gayle Rankin almost steals the movie as she is determined to make sure that no matter what Mike does, she will be married to Kyle. The Climb is a film to watch and enjoy, filled with characters that you soon won’t forget.    My Rating: Full Price     The Climb Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: The Life Ahead (2020) PG-13   In a small seaside town in Italy, a Holocaust survivor, Madame Rosa (Sophia Loren), with a daycare business takes in a street kid, Momo (Ibrahima Gueye), who recently robbed her. Sophia Loren gives a beautiful and heartfelt performance as the tough but caring Madame Rosa. Madame Rosa has made her living taking care of the children of local prostitutes, something she has done since she quit the business. Rosa is in need of money when her doctor (Renato Carpentieri) brings the hard to handle Momo to her with a proposition that he will pay Rosa to take in the boy for a few months. Rosa reluctantly lets Momo stay with her, and an uneasy beginning starts a relationship between the aging madam and the street-smart boy. I enjoyed the slow warming between Rosa and Momo, as the two learn about each other, both learning to respect each other’s boundaries, with Rosa treating Momo like a young adult and Momo treating Rosa like a mystery that is needed to be solved. The Life Ahead is sure to bring a tear or two as the story is filled with love and heartbreak, just as it is in life.   My Rating: Full Price    The Life Ahead Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres and on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Ammonite  (2020) R  In 1840s England, Mary (Kate Winslet) lives in a seaside home with her aging mother. Mary is a well-respected fossil hunter. One day Roderick (Jame McArdle) and his wife, Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan), come into Mary’s shop with a proposition. Roderick will pay Mary to teach Charlotte about fossils while he is away on a scientific expedition. That fateful day will change Charlotte and Mary’s lives forever. First, the good: Winslet is terrific as the stone-faced, reserved Mary, who wants to be left alone with her fossils. Winslet often doesn’t speak with words but with just the slightest movement or facial expression, and we get precisely what Mary is thinking and feeling. Saoirse Ronan is up to the task as the depressed Charlotte, a woman who has lost the light inside her that her husband adored. The problem with this film is that it is incredibly predictable. Each move that is made by the characters is so laid out, it takes away from any spark the film has with the chemistry of the two leads. It’s always fun to watch Kate Winslet weave her spell on the screen; I wish I didn’t know what her character was going to do throughout the whole film.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Ammonite Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Fatman (2020) R   Times are hard for Chris Cringle (Mel Gibson), also known as Santa Claus. He takes a one-time deal to deliver some items for the U.S. military, but there is a problem. After getting a lump of coal for Christmas, a kid hires a hitman (Walter Goggins) to kill Santa. Little does the hitman know that this isn’t the first time someone has come after the jolly fat man. I don’t think this film will get you into the mood for Christmas, maybe a trip to the shooting range, but Christmas, no, I don’t think so. Santa is an unhappy old man who is worried that he has lost his touch and is about to go broke. Billy (Chance Hurstfield) is a ‘Richie Rich’ kind of kid who isn’t above hiring a hitman so that he can win a science fair. That hitman is someone who hates Santa (we find out why near the end of the film) and eagerly takes up the hit when Billy gets a lump of coal for Christmas. The film doesn’t always work, especially the second story of Santa having to work for the government. I kind of wish they had just left that out of the storyline. Goggins is just flat funny as the grumpy, Santa-hating hitman, as his character hits the road determined to bring down Christmas and everything it stands for. Fatman is an amusing idea that probably would have been better as an SNL skit, the plot doesn’t justify the feature-length treatment.   My Rating: Cable     Fatman Website    The film is currently playing in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services on Nov. 17th.

Familyfaire: Wolfwalkers (2020) PG  A young apprentice hunter, Robyn (Honor Kneafsey), and his father journey to Ireland to wipe out the country’s last wolf pack. Once there, Robyn befriends Mebh (Eva Whittaker), a member of a mysterious tribe rumored to have the ability to transform into wolves. Robyn uncovers a secret that could make her turn against her father. The team that brought us the Academy Award-nominated films The Secret of the Kells (2009) and Song of the Sea (2014) bring their animated talents again to the screen to bring us the imaginative and visually striking Wolfwalkers. This is a fun play into the land of myth and legends, as our hero Robyn discovers that there are always two sides to a story. Convinced by her father that wolves are to be killed because they are evil, she soon finds herself alone in the forest, confronting the very beasts her father seeks to kill. This is a dazzling coming of age tale that is perfect for children, especially young girls, to try to understand those who you oppose. Wolfwalkers is a superb film filled with bewitching animation and a brave girl who takes a chance on friendship.    My Rating: Full Price     Wolfwalkers Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: The Ipcress File (1965)   Several vital scientists have been kidnapped and, after a few days, are released, with each scientist brainwashed with all of their knowledge gone. The British send counter-espionage Agent Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) to investigate. Palmer feels that he has been chosen for this mission because he feels he is expendable. The Ipcress File is a fascinating spy thriller with a very un-James Bond character. Caine is perfect as a spy with a weird sense of humor, tries too hard to impress the ladies, and isn’t the dapper spy that we think of when picturing a British agent. The storyline is intriguing, and there are plenty of twists to keep you interested. I love this film's feel and look, making it seem more like a film noir type of movie than just a spy caper.  My Rating: Full Price    The Ipcress File Info

Weird Credits: Credits from Come Away: Coffee

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouNews of the World (2020) PG-13 Five years after the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) makes his living going town to town as a storyteller, reading from news accounts, telling stories of all kinds. In the plains of Texas, he finds Johanna ( Helena Zengel), a ten-year-old girl who was raised by the Kiowa people as their own. Against her will, the Captain agrees to take Johanna to her relatives in a remote town hundreds of miles away. The two will travel a great distance to meet the tremendous challenges of both human and natural forces to find Johanna a home. Hanks is reunited with his director from Captain Phillips (2013), which is all I need to know to want to see this western.    News of the World Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, November 6, 2020

Let Him Go

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: Let Him Go (2020) R   Retired Sheriff George Blackledge (Kevin Costner) and his wife Margaret (Diane Lane) leave their Montana ranch to find their dead son’s wife, Lorna (Kayli Carter), and their grandson. Lorna has moved to an isolated ranch in North Dakota with her new husband, Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain), where the family's matriarch, Blanche (Lesley Manville), lives. George and Margaret soon discover that the Weboy family have no intention of letting the child go and that the Blackledge’s are going to have to fight for their family. I am a fan of modern westerns and of Kevin Costner, and in both cases, I was not let down. The movie moves at a slow pace (until the third act), letting us get to know George and Margaret’s relationship with both each other and their daughter-in-law. I love the performance of Diane Lane, who plays Margaret as a strong, independent woman who is going to rescue her grandson with or without George’s help. Costner gives a subtle, understated performance as a former lawman who wants what his wife wants but wants to try reason instead of hard action. The interaction between the two is perfect, and we see that they will always back each other up, no matter what obstacles mount in their way. The ease that the two work together on the screen makes this film worth watching. The Weboy family is effectively creepy, and Lesley Manville gives us a family leader who is ruthless and downright nasty. Let Him Go does have some rather disturbing violence, but I feel that it makes its impact even stronger as George and Margaret’s world comes crashing down on them.   My Rating: Full Price    Let Him Go Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Love in Dangerous Times (2020)   With the world shutting down due to the pandemic, Jason (Ian Stout) and Sorrell (Tiffany Groben) meet on a dating app. Can their relationship be built on the fact that they may never meet in person? Love in Dangerous Times is an interesting experiment of making a film about relationships during a pandemic. Shot mostly in Jason’s apartment as a base, we see most of the rest of the cast via Zoom or FaceTime on iPhones and computers. The film uses this premise to show us the slow but steady up building of the relationship between Jason, a struggling playwright, and Sorrell, a teacher, both who are not necessarily looking for love but more like a buddy to help ride out the boredom of a pandemic. I liked the chemistry between the two leads of Stout and Groben, which felt real as they explored each other’s likes, opinions, and personalities. Overall, Love in Dangerous Times has a pleasant feel to it, and I enjoyed seeing Jason and Sorrell court online.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The film is available for rent on participating on-demand services.

My View: Kindred (2020)   When her boyfriend, Ben, suddenly dies in an accident, Charlotte (Tamara Lawrance), a mom-to-be, is taken in by his family in a crumbling manor house in the middle of nowhere. Ben’s family is determined to take care of Charlotte until the baby arrives. The grief-stricken Charlotte is increasingly haunted by visions that intensify as she begins to doubt Ben’s family’s intentions, feeling that they are trying to control her and her unborn baby. Kindred isn’t a horror film but more a thriller, where our heroine can’t trust anyone. Is her boyfriend’s family trying to keep her under lock and key because they care about her, or are they trying to keep her under wraps in order to steal the baby from her and claim the child as their own? The film slowly brings to the screen of impending doom with her constant nightmares, a blackbird that keeps appearing when she is alone, waking up without knowing how she got there, and a domineering twice-widowed matriarch, Margaret (Fiona Shaw), who rules her family and her home with an iron hand. To further complicate matters, her dead boyfriend did not have the best relationship with his family before his death, making Charlotte distrust them even more. Added to the mix is Thomas (Jack Lowden), Margaret’s devoted stepson (from another marriage) who goes back and forth between being a servant of Margaret’s wishes and trying to be, at times, Charlotte’s friend. Kindred is a creepy and sometimes unpredictable film that will have you guessing its outcome all the way to the end.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Kindred Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest:   Chuck Leavell: The Tree Man (2020)   Chuck Leavell has played piano and keyboards with some of the most extraordinary acts of the last 40 years, including the Allman Brothers Band, the Black Crowes, Blues Traveler, Pink Floyd, and The Rolling Stones. For sure, Chuck Leavell has had an impressive career. The film shows him with the Allman Brothers Band, and he played the piano on the legendary track ‘Jessica’ from their Brothers and Sisters album. That would be enough, but then we learn that in 1981 he joined The Rolling Stones and not only played with them but became their Musical Director for their legendary tours. But wait, the film tells us, there is more. He’s played with Train, The Black Crowes, Blues Traveller, and not only played keyboards/piano on Eric Clapton’s iconic MTV Unplugged performance but also played with Clapton on George Harrison’s last tour. Chuck’s story is told by giving us his three loves; music, the environment (especially forestry), and his long-time marriage. All that said, the film doesn’t give us enough of the music and too much of Chuck talking. The film has some interviews with some all-time great musicians, including Mick Jagger, Clapton, and David Gilmour but other than praising Chuck’s style, we never get any interesting stories from the road, nothing about the recording sessions and the legendary songs he has played on. Ultimately Chuck Leavell: The Tree Man leaves you wanting more.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Chuck Leavell: The Tree Man Website      The film is currently playing in select theatres and available for rent on participating on-demand services

Forgotten Film: Searching for Sugar Man (2012)   Documentary that won the Oscar in 2013, this is a fabulous film about a man who was an incredible singer long forgotten until he was re-discovered in all places, South Africa. It perfectly uses Rodriguez’s music to highlight the story with interesting interviews and an intriguing use of animation to recreate scenes in the past that builds a fantastic story and makes this a film one to be enjoyed. Searching for Sugar Man is a great film that celebrates a long-lost musician who was never appreciated in America but became an important musical figure for so many people worldwide and helped bring down a government. This is a story that will put a smile on your face, and you will fall in love with Sugar Man.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Searching for Sugar Man Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Let Him Go: Key Dyer Breakdown Artist

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Life Ahead (2020) PG-13   In a small seaside town in Italy, a Holocaust survivor (Sophia Loren) with a daycare business takes in a street kid show recently robbed her. You had me at Sophia Loren, her first acting role since 2010. Added to the mix is that this is a remake of the 1978 Best Foreign Language Film Madame Rosa.     The Life Ahead Website

Until Next Time!