Friday, January 29, 2021

The Little Things

 Note to readers: I currently am not willing to risk my health (I’m 63 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 Little Things (2021) R   Former L.A. Sheriff Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) comes back to Los Angeles for what should be a quick evidence gathering assignment. Instead, he becomes involved in a hunt for a serial killer led by L.A. Sheriff Jim Baxter (Remi Malek). All roads lead to a man (Jerod Leto) who may be involved with Deacon’s shadowy past. The Little Things should be a better movie with a cast like this. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, but it’s one of those films that feels frustrating watching it because somewhere, under a sluggish plot, is a good movie. Now, anything Denzel is in makes it a better movie, but Remi Malek doesn’t give us much more than a confused, in over his head man, and Jerod Leto doesn’t have a lot to do than be creepy and walk with a limp to strip clubs. The film feels like the detectives in this film; they have a few clues but can’t quite put things together to get the story right.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     The Little Things Website   The film is currently in select theatres and also on the HBO Max platform.  

My View: Palmer (2021) R   Palmer (Justin Timberlake) is back in his small hometown after serving twelve long years in prison. Palmer moves in with his grandmother (June Squibb) and becomes involved in the life of a young boy, Sam (Ryder Allen), who lives next door with his drug-addicted mother (Juno Temple). I like this film, even if it pushes a few plot points out of the way to make the story move to a conclusion we all want. Timberlake does a fine job as a felon just trying to do the right thing, even when the odds are stacked against him. The film is helped by the supporting cast, including the always enjoyable June Squibb, Juno Temple going full out for her drugged-out destructive mother role. Ryder Allen is the adorable Sam, a kid who knows he is different and is ok with it, brightening the screen every time he is on it. The film doesn’t break any new ground, and the results are predictable, but that’s ok in a feel-good film about finding love and support from unexpected places.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Palmer Website   The film is available on the Apple TV+ platform.

Indiefest: Supernova (2020) R   Sam (Colin Firth) and Tusker (Stanley Tucci), partners of twenty years, are going on one last road trip to visit friends and family before Tusker’s dementia gets the better of him. Break out the tissues, you are going to need them. Supernova is a moving, touching story of two people in love that have to say good=bye to the life that they have led before it changes forever. Firth and Tucci are magic together, as the relationship is perfectly summed up in the first five minutes of the film as the two playfully argue over whether to use printed maps or the on-board navigation system that Tusker thinks sounds like Margaret Thatcher barking out orders. The movie is full of small, beautiful moments where we get to see the two show their feelings for each other, like having Tusker give Sam lessons on stargazing while looking at a chart in the bed. There are also both big and tiny scenes that show us what a difficult route their life is about to take as Tusker starts to lose his ability to function in the world without help. Supernova is a film that doesn’t disappoint, giving us the emotional scenes full of depth and meaning by two actors at the top of their form.    My Rating: Full Price  Supernova Website  The film is currently playing in select theatres and will be available to rent on participating on-demand services Feb. 16th.

Indiefest: Malcolm & Marie (2021) R   After a night where Malcolm (John David Washington), a director, has had his big movie premiere, he returns home with his girlfriend, Marie (Zendaya), where their relationship is tested and explored. This film has a lot to say; about life, relationships, filmmaking, critics, and co-dependency. Unfortunately, I didn’t like either character, and by the end of the film, I just wanted them to stop talking. The film feels like it’s trying to be a showcase for these two fine actors, but this film gets very tiring quickly, as the two characters go back and forth between a loving, supportive couple to a couple that seems intent on hurting each other as much as possible. I got bored of both characters very quickly and didn’t want to spend this much time (100 min run time) with them because I didn’t care what they had to say. I think both actors are incredibly talented, and it takes guts to take on parts that are so raw and out there, but I just wanted the film to stop long before it did.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Malcolm & Marie Website     The film is currently playing in select theatres and will be available on the Netflix platform Feb. 5th.

My View: Penguin Bloom (2021)   Sam (Naomi Watts) is a young mother left unable to walk after a near-fatal accident. She and her family must adapt and learn to deal with her new life and the struggles it brings. In walks a bird named Penguin, who gives Sam hope in an unlikely hero. Penguin Bloom is a movie that has its heart in the right place but never can deliver the emotional moments you want from the film. The film feels a little too much like the script had its moments written down in a list and then checked them off when those moments are shown on the screen. We have seen Watts do better before in this type of role (I kept thinking about the determined mother searching for her family in The Impossible), and her performance, like the script, is very predictable. Sure, it’s an inspiring story about a woman who finds hope and strength through a bond with a bird and don’t get me wrong, it’s a cute bird, but I never felt like I really cared about this family or Sam. I just couldn’t get connected enough with the family to get immersed in the by the numbers storyline.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Penguin Bloom Website  The film is available on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Dear Comrades (2020)    When the communist government raises food prices again in 1962, the workers in a small industrial town, Novocherkassk, go on strike. The massacre, which then ensues, is seen through the eyes of the rebellious workers. The film centers on Lyuda (Yuliya Vysotskaya), a government official in a working-class town. She lives with her rebellious factory working daughter and her grandfather, who has an opinion on everything. As the strike progresses, Lyuda must deal with her feeling that the Soviet way of life is the most important thing in her life versus her love for her daughter. Lyuda is soon confronted that the government she has given her life to has betrayed her and her family. Yuliya Vysotskaya gives a multi-faceted performance as a woman whose life was used to getting her way because she believed with her whole heart that the Soviet way was the right way, only to have her heartbroken when she finds out the truth.    My Rating: Full Price   Dear Comrades! Website  The film is available to rent on participating on-demand services and will be available on the Hulu platform on Feb. 5th.

Forgotten Film: Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)  PG   Shaun the sheep (Justin Fletcher) decides to shake things up and take the flock to the big city to find their farmer. That was a big mistake, and now it’s time to get back to the country. Shaun the Sheep is an imaginative animated film from the same people that brought us the Wallace and Gromit series and the very funny Chicken Run. The kids will enjoy the action of the stop-motion animation, and adults will enjoy the humor, some of it very subtle. The storyline is creative, and the animation is fun to watch. Shaun the Sheep Movie should be a staple film in your family's life.   My Rating: Full Price   Shaun the Sheep Movie Website

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Penguin Bloom: Child Dramaturg 

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Crisis (2021) R   Three stories about the opioids crisis: an undercover agent posing as a drug trafficker (Armie Hammer) arranges a complicated smuggling operation, an architect (Evangeline Lilly) recovering from an OxyContin addiction tries to find the truth about her son’s disappearance and his involvement with drugs and a university professor (Gary Oldman) finds out that the research he is working on is about to bring a highly addictive drug to the market. The film is from Nicholas Jarecki, who brought us the 2012 film Arbitrage, and the supporting cast includes Greg Kinnear, Michelle Rodriguez, and Lily-Rose Depp.    Crisis Info

Until Next Time!

Friday, January 22, 2021

Our Friend

 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: Our Friend (2019) R   Matt (Casey Affleck), his wife Nicole (Dakota Johnson), and Dane (Jason Segel) are best friends. Their lives are upended when Nicole is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Their friendship will be put to the test as the three, along with Matt and Nicole's two young daughters, must deal with the impact. Based on a true story, the film constantly tugs on your heartstrings but never finds its center, mostly due to the storyline, which jumps around in the timeline to the point that it becomes confusing. The illness is at the forefront of the story, right from the start, not giving us time to fully understand the relationship of the three people, who are so connected that Dane is just as important to Nicole as Matt is. I would have liked to have seen some of Matt and Nicole's courtship, but instead, we join the story as they have been already married, and Dane is introduced to Matt by Nicole, as Nicole and Dane work with each other in a theater. Both Affleck and Johnson have nice chemistry together, but I wanted more from Dakota Johnson. I wanted to feel more emotion about her character and feel more deeply about how her loss impacts family, but I don’t know if Johnson isn’t up to the task or Affleck just dominates every scene they are in. I did love Jason Segel’s performance, as the man who holds the family together and is so in love with this family that he is willing to wreck any chance for a family on his own. It’s a brilliant performance that makes this film work as well as it does. I never got the emotional moment from this film that I needed and wanted, possibly because I kept seeing Nicole in her different stages, never quite giving us the ending, but instead jumping back in time to ‘before the diagnosis’.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Our Friend Website   Now playing in select theatres and available to rent on participating on-demand services.

My View: No Man's Land (2021) PG-13   There is a 'no man's land' between the Rio Grande and the actual border between Mexico and the US. Jackson (Jake Allyn) is a promising baseball prospect waiting for a tryout while working on his parent's ranch. Out trying to stop rustlers stealing his family's cattle, he accidentally kills a Mexican immigrant boy and goes on the run to Mexico to find the boy's father and find forgiveness. The film has its heart in the right place but tends to make the hero of the story, Jackson, the victim too many times, and its message of, hey, Mexico isn’t so bad as we thought, gets old very fast. I had a hard time believing that a family that grew up on land so close to Mexico had so little knowledge of both the culture and the language. The story throws a lot at us, like Jackson, without knowing the language or even where he is going, is off to find the father of the child he shot, going on an adventure where Jackson is repeatedly shown the goodness and warmth of the Mexican people, all the while being tracked down not only by the father of the boy he killed but a troubled gang leader who, for some reason, goes on a quest to hunt Jackson down. The story goes on forever, with Jackson barely escaping both the law and the men bent on revenge until we get the final confrontation that just doesn’t quite deliver.   My Rating; Bargain Matinee   No Man's Land Website   Now playing in select theatres and available to rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: Identifying Features (2020)   Magdalena (Mercedes Hernandez) embarks on a dangerous journey to find her missing son. Along the way, she encounters Miguel (David Illescas), a young man who was recently was deported from the US. This story of a mother’s love for her son and the need to find out just what happened to someone she loves more than life itself. Mercedes Hernandez gives a powerful, moving performance as she encounters both sides of humanity, the dark side that kills without thought or reason and the goodness, where strangers lend a helping hand and a warm place to lay down for the night. It’s a movie where Magdalena often observes others before she acts or speaks, always moving forward, never giving up until she gets the answers she needs. Identifying Features is a film where the main character doesn’t care about politics, who is in power, or what the dangers are; she just wants the answer to what happened to her son, her beloved son.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Identifying Features Website     Now playing in select theatres and available to rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: Acasa, My Home (2020)   Documentary on a family of nine children and their parents who live in the wilderness of the Bucharest Delta, right in the middle of a busy city. After 20 years of living off the land, they are forced to move into a tiny apartment in the city when the government decides to make their home a nature reserve. First, let me tell you the cinematography on this film is some of the best work I have seen, making the beauty of wilderness stand out to the life in the concrete jungle of the city. At first, you are amused by this family and how they survive and flourish in the wilderness, but soon reality creeps in, and you realize that their ideal existence isn’t so ideal. The family is living in a shack with no electricity or running water. The kids are running wild and not getting any schooling, and the parents are more concerned about avoiding the authorities than making sure their kids are prepared for the outside world. The tragedy of the film is that while the family is not ready for city life, neither is the government prepared for the family to flourish in this new environment. We watch as this close family falls apart under the constraints of living in the harsh city world, as they wish they were still back living on their island among the wilderness.   My Rating: Full Price    Acasa, My Home Facebook Page  The film is available to rent on participating on-demand services.

Forgotten Film: A Mighty Wind (2003) PG-13   Co-written and directed by Christopher Guest (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show), A Mighty Wind is about a reunion concert of 60s folk singers to celebrate the life of a late, beloved folk promoter put on by the promotor’s son (Bob Balaban. He assembles the New Main Street Singers, the legendary group The Folksmen (Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean), and the headliners, the once power couple, Mitch and Mickey (Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara). This is Levy and O’Hara’s movie and fans of their TV show Schitt’s Creek will love their interactions and as always, amazing chemistry. Levy is hilarious as a man who has serious doubts about his talents and is still broken up about his unrequited love of Mickey. Fred Willard is along for the fun as a washed-up TV star who is only known for his catchphrase, along with a supporting cast that includes Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, and Ed Begley, Jr. The songs are a little too spot-on to be always enjoyable, but the Levy and O’Hara make this a film worth watching.    My Rating: Full Price   A Mighty Wind Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Our Friend: Rope Swinger

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Mauritanian (2021) R   Captured and believed to be the chief recruiter for 9/11, Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim) has been in prison for years without a trial or even charges leveled against him. After losing all hope, attorney Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and her associate Terri Duncan (Shailene Woodley) come to Slahi’s defense. They are opposed by military prosecutor Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch), who eventually uncovers a shocking, far-reaching conspiracy. The cast alone is enough to want to see this film.      The Mauritanian Info

Until Next Time!

Friday, January 15, 2021

The Marksman

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 Marksman (2021)  PG-13  An Arizona rancher, Jim (Liam Neeson), finds a young Mexican boy on his land near the border fleeing the Cartel, and the assassins sent to find him. Jim decides to take the boy to his family in Chicago with the Cartel’s men in hot pursuit. Liam Neeson plays a rancher who is recently widowed with a bank about to auction his ranch off because of the doctor bills due to his wife dying of cancer. Jim is a patriot, flying the Stars and Stripes over his ranch and calling the border patrol anytime he sees people on his land. Then a Mexican boy’s mother's dying wish is that the boy be taken away from the Cartel and to his relatives in Chicago. Along the way, Jim and his trusty rifle and dog learn that he and the boy can bond after a few tense days. If this sounds like a Clint Eastwood movie, you would be right, since the director and co-writer of the film is Robert Lorenz, long-time partner, and producer for Clint Eastwood. You get exactly what you expect from this film, from the standard plot to the outcry of the working man being screwed by the big banks, to a sexy Border Patrol agent (Katheryn Winnick) who seems to have the same powers as an FBI agent, to a bad guy so evil he kills everyone he meets. Nothing new here with this film, just more of Neeson shooting bad guys and acting tough but vulnerable.   My Rating: Cable   The Marksman Website     Now playing in select theatres.

My View: Outside the Wire (2021) R   In the not so distant future, a disgraced drone pilot, Lt. Harp (Damson Idris), goes on a classified mission with Capt. Leo (Anthony Mackie) an android soldier. Their mission to locate a doomsday device before the insurgents do. While he has a ton of hours flying a drone, Harp is a young kid who doesn’t know what it is like to be in combat in person. We know this because he: one, eats gummy bears while killing people from the air, and two, he does the right thing, saving 38 soldiers but disobeys the Marine code of never leaving a man behind. He gets assigned to help Capt. Leo, a maverick soldier who is part man, part robot (no spoiler alert, it's in the first 30 seconds of the trailer). It turns out that Harp has been picked for this mission because his commanding officers hope he dies to make up for his mistake and because he is a human MapQuest. The film tries to have a message that we are on a dangerous path to making war less human (not only are drones used, but robot warriors are used on both sides of the conflict) and that robots/cyborgs/androids/whatever are evil. There are plenty of action sequences, lots of things blowing up, but those robots don’t seem to be any better at war than we do, and the plot, right from the start, gets really complicated with so many twists and turns that you will need a whiteboard to keep track of all the changes. I kept wondering while watching Outside the Wire if the writers/director would come up with an ending that was complete and satisfying, and all I can say is, they didn’t.   My Rating: Cable   Outside the Wire Website    Now available on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: The Dig (2021) PG-13  In the days before the outbreak of WWII, a professional excavator Ralph Fiennes) of historical sites begins a dig on the land of Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan). The excavation becomes one of the most important archaeological finds in English history. Having been on a few digs and having a degree in Archaeology myself, I had high hopes for this film, especially with the likes of the two leads. Unfortunately, unless you are looking for the Holy Grail, it’s hard to make Archeology interesting, as it is a slow and time-consuming process, and even with the impending doom of WWII literally flying over the character's heads, the storyline tends to lag a bit at times. The film tries to add a bit of drama with Cary Mulligan’s character sickly and a mother, a heavy-handed government official trying to take over the dig, and an affair from an unhappily married archaeologist (Lily James) with a dashing amateur photographer (Johnny Flynn). The film has some beautiful cinematography, and both Mulligan and Fiennes give outstanding performances, but the film lacks a spark that it needs to make it fully work. It’s like being on a dig and only finding a few small arrowheads as your reward. Sure, you found something but was it worth the effort?   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     The Dig Website    Currently playing in select theatres including Landmark Midtown Art Cinema and available soon on the Netflix platform.

My View: The Ultimate Playlist of Noise  (2021)   After learning that surgery to remove a tumor in his brain will render him deaf, Marcus (Keean Johnson), an audio-obsessed high-school student, decides to take a road trip across America to record a bucket list of all his favorite sounds. He encounters along the way, Wendy (Madeline Brewer), a struggling musician who is on her way to New York for her big break. They decide to go on this massive adventure together. I enjoyed this film, which is very reminiscent of the road trip romantic comedies of the 80s and 90s. Johnson and Brewer have a light, playful chemistry that makes their relationship work between two people that both have rough patches in their lives to mend. This is a sweet, funny movie whose message is to treasure the little things in life because life is fragile and fleeting; those little things can be milestones. Yeah, there are times when the film lays on the plot a little thick, with Marcus, a shy teen who is kidded for never having a girlfriend, who is losing his hearing and getting involved with a singer who is slightly older and more experienced in life. But that’s ok. It's a fun time with the two as they travel on Marcus's quest to find sounds to record before he goes deaf. You will need a tissue or two, but that’s just another reason to appreciate the little things in life, like a cry during a movie.    My Rating: Full Price     The Ultimate Playlist of Noise Website   Available on the Hulu Platform.

Indiefest: Rock Camp: The Movie  (2021)   This is a documentary on the legendary summer camp that, for 25 years, has brought together ordinary people who want to learn how to rock like ‘rock stars’ from their music heroes like Meat Loaf, Sebastian Bach, and Gene Simmons. The campers spend four days jamming, and the camp concludes with a live performance at a legendary venue. The film follows four campers as they pursue their dreams (at least for four days) to become rock stars. I loved this film because it shows just how much the camp counselors (i.e., rock stars) get out of the camp as the campers themselves. It reminds the most grizzled rock veterans of the 70s, 80s and 90s how much fun playing music can be when you are with people who love the music. You will be surprised by some of the rock stars that have participated and how seriously they take their teaching. The film spends a little too much time on the man who started the camp, super-agent David Fishof, but it is able to give us behind-the-scenes footage of the campers working with their mentors (counselors), and the impact that this camp has on everyone involved. And yes, there are some pretty bad musicians in the camp, but also, there are some great ones, including a guitar wiz teenager Blake, who has autism and lets his talking come from his guitar. It's a fun look at a camp many of us can’t afford but would love to attend.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Rock Camp: The Movie Website   The film is available to rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: The White Tiger (2021)   Bairam (Adarsh Gourav) has been trained by society to be a servant since he was a little kid. Now Bairam has worked his way into becoming the driver for Ashok ( Rajkummar Rao) and Pinky (Priyanka Chopra-Jonas), a wealthy couple who have recently returned from America. Bairam makes himself indispensable until one fateful night changes everything. I imagine that many reviews of this film are going to compare it to Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, and while both take place in India and both are rags to riches plot lines, that is where the similarities stop. The White Tiger is a biting look at India's caste system, where literally you are born in servitude. Bairam, a young man, who is constantly questioning his own behavior and always plotting how to escape his poverty, looks at life with the idea that the freedom that he seeks will not come at a cheap price. What I found fascinating is that the film doesn’t go where you think it will go. This is a pull that goes on with Bairam, between what society has always told him his lot is in life and what his guts tell him to do to get out of this trap. The film slows down a bit in the middle, taking too long for Bairam to make his next move, one that will change his life and how both he and the audience look at Bairam himself.   My Rating: Full Price     The White Tiger Website   Currently playing in select theatres including Landmark Midtown Art Cinema and available Jan. 22nd on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: MLK/FBI (2020)   Documentary based on newly declassified files that detail the US government’s surveillance and harassment of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The film looks at what is described in the movie as a dark period for the FBI. The man running the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, was convinced that the Communist Party was targeting Blacks and that MLK threatens the government. What started as a look into King’s possible ties to communism soon turned into how the Bureau could blackmail King and his supporters with information on MLK’s personal life. The FBI went as far as sending threatening anonymous letters and recordings to King and his wife. The film shows us just how heroic and strong Martin Luther King, Jr. was, who kept fighting for civil rights through nonviolence even though horrible tactics were being used to fight against him.    My Rating: Full Price    MLK/FBI Website   Currently playing in select theatres including Landmark Midtown Art Cinema and available to rent on participating on-demand services.

Forgotten Film: The Queen of Versailles (2012)   In this day and age of mic-mansions, I think a lot about this documentary profiling the Siegel’s, a billionaire couple who build the largest private house in the United States - a 90,000 square foot mansion inspired by Versailles. The economic downturn, however, and the banking crisis in 2008 may crush their dreams. This is a fascinating film that shows how out of touch the super-rich are with ordinary America, and the movie is full of great contrasts, such as when they go pick up McDonald's takeout in a stretch limo. What really makes this an interesting film is that Jackie isn't your normal trophy wife.  She once worked as a computer engineer at IBM, so you begin to wonder what sort of life she would have had if she had stayed at IBM instead of pursuing a modeling career and later meeting her now-husband at a beauty pageant. The Queen of Versailles is one of those documentaries where you are continually changing your opinion about the film's subjects.   My Rating: Full Price    The Queen of Versailles Info 

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Ultimate Playlist of Noise: Paperwork PA’s

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) R   The story of the Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaiuuya), and his betrayal by FBI informant William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield). I am hearing great things about this film that has a cast that includes Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Martin Sheen, and Ashton Sanders.      Judas and the Black Messiah Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, January 8, 2021

Stars Fell on Alabama

 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: Stars Fell on Alabama (2021) PG-13    A Hollywood agent (James Maslow) is returning to Alabama for his 15th-year high school reunion. When discovering that he is the only one who is not married among his old friends, he convinces a client of his, star Madison Belle (Ciara Hanna), to pose as his girlfriend. The popularity of the Hallmark Channel has grown over the years. Just the amount of romantic Christmas films that were released on not only Hallmark but all the other cable networks this year will attest to that. So it’s not surprising that Hollywood has decided to get on the light romantic film trend. Stars Fell on Alabama would be right at home on Hallmark as it fits its criteria; two good-looking leads whose characters are not attracted to each other at the start of the film but are somehow pushed together, a small town that welcomes one of the characters back after years of being away, both characters have never found their one true love, and of course, a happy ending (sorry for the very obvious spoiler) where the characters come together in the end after breaking up for a short time due to a mistake or misunderstanding. Add in a plot that includes stereotypes, like a monster truck as a rental in the deep south and how everyone, even the Hollywood types, know how to line dance, and you have this film. I will say that the two stars have some great chemistry, and both have a likable, easy presence on the screen. You aren’t going to get much on the drama side, and the writing is pretty weak on plot, but the film delivers what it advertises, a magical romance where everything turns out just fine.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Stars Fell on Alabama Website    The film is available to rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: The Reason I Jump (2020)   Documentary explores the world of non-speaking autistic people worldwide, opening a window into an intense and overwhelming, but often joyful, sensory universe. The film is based on the best-selling, ground-breaking book by Naomi Higashida, written when he was just thirteen. This film has instantly moved onto my best movies of 2020 list. The film lets Naomi Higashida, through his book, tell us how autistic people see the world differently from you and me. The film uses the story of five ‘non-verbal’ autistic teenagers to give us their side of what life is like to live in our world from their perspective. My mother was a teacher at the elementary school level of children with special needs, so I have always been interested in this subject. I wasn’t ready for such a profoundly moving film that gave me such insight into a world that is incredibly difficult to understand. I was blown away by not only the teens in this film, one of which is a fantastic artist, but also by the love and attention that each child gets from both their parents and their teachers. There is a moment in this film that just astounded me, that I never realized could happen and made me reevaluate what I thought I knew about people who are autistic. The Reason I Jump is a unique, breathtakingly beautiful adventure in cinema, an experience and exploration of a world that we never knew was there, but now, through this sensational film, we do.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   The Reason I Jump Website    The film is available to rent on participating on-demand services including the Plaza Atlanta Virtual Screen.

Indiefest: Zombie Bro (2019)   When Francine (Lauren Grego) catches her brother in a full zombie rage, she must convince her parents that her brother, up to now a fairly docile zombie, is out to change his family into his kind. This film takes a funny idea and turns it into a movie that only little kids will enjoy. The film feels as it was made for a kids-only film festival, with a plot that tries to be humorous but never finds its funny bone. The story takes place from Francine's perspective, who is much smarter than her classmates or her parents. Her father, a policeman, is a horrible person who constantly makes fun of Francine while blindly loving his zombie son, always at his daughter's expense. The mother is only slightly more sympathetic to Francine’s viewpoint but still can only see the good in her un-dead son. The film's jokes may delight a five or six-year-old, but adults will find the attempt at comedy amateurish and clumsy. There are a few running gags that are mildly funny, as when Francine and her zombie brother attempt at doing anything normal, like brushing their teeth, but even that becomes quickly tiresome. I don’t have a problem with low budget filmmaking, but I have a problem with bad writing and horrible storylines. Your six-year-old may enjoy some moments in Zombie Bro, but I can almost guarantee that you won’t.   My Rating: Cable   Zombie Bro Website    Now playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: Lovely & Amazing  (2001)  R   The story of four women, a mother, Jane (Brenda Blethyn), who in her fifties, has adopted an eight-year-old girl, Annie (Raven Goodwin), and her two adult daughters, Michelle (Catherine Keener) and Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer). Michelle makes tiny art pieces from wood to escape her loveless marriage to Bill (Clark Gregg), and Elizabeth is an actress who cares more about trying to adopt every homeless dog she meets than advancing her acting career. All the women in this film are smart, unhappy, and obsessed with what they think are their flaws. Jane gets liposuction and dreams of being seduced by her doctor. Elizabeth has constant doubts about her ability as an actress, and if she is attractive enough to make it. Even Raven, who is African American, wonders if she eats too much and if she will ever fit in with this family. It is a fascinating look, sometimes humorously, about the troubled lives of four women trying to survive in a society that seems to want perfection in their women.   My Rating: Full Price    Lovely & Amazing Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Stars Fell on Alabama: Roto Supervisor

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Land (2021)   PG-13  Robin Wright (Forrest Gump, House of Cards, Wonder Woman) makes her directorial debut about a woman, Edee (Robin Wright), who, after suffering an unfathomable event, decides to cut herself off from society and live on her own in the wildness of the Rockies. After a local hunger (Demian Bichir) discovers Edee on the brink of death, he decides to teach her how to survive in this harsh but beautiful land. Edee must find a way to live again and put her past behind her. All I needed to know about this film was it stars Robin Wright and Demián Bichir. That’s enough for me to see it, and it should be the same for you.      Land Info

Until Next Time!

Friday, January 1, 2021


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.

Indiefest: Herself (2020) R   Sandra (Clare Dunne) decides to take her two young girls and leave her abusive husband. Stuck working two jobs just to get by and frustrated by the system that seems to punish more than helping her out, Sandra decides to build a home on her own, for herself and her family. I thoroughly enjoyed this film because of the winning, moving performance by Clare Dunne. Sandra is a character that you can fall in love with; a hardworking, determined woman who is trying as hard as she can, against all the odds, to give her children a better life, no matter what obstacles, the system and her jerk of a husband put in front of her. I loved a scene where Sandra is in court to keep her husband from taking custody of her kids. When Sandra is at her breaking point, she tells the court when is the judge and the system she represents going to ‘Ask better questions.” Herself isn’t a perfect film as the plot gets a little conventional and predictable, but it never loses its heart, and Dunne is always there to give us a moving look into her character’s life and how much she loves her children.    My Rating: Full Price    Herself Website   Now playing in select theatres including Landmark Midtown Art in Atlanta and on the Amazon Prime platform Jan. 8th.

Indiefest: Pieces of a Woman (2020) R   Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf) seem to have everything going for them; both have great jobs, are in love, and they are about to have their first child. When the child’s birth goes horribly wrong at home, their relationship begins to fall apart under the strain of the loss of a child. First, let me warn you that if you have been a part of the childbirth experience, this is a tough, brutal watch of a movie. The film explores, sometimes too simply, how a marriage can fall apart after the loss of a child. The film centers on Martha, and Vanessa Kirby gives a beautiful, complicated, and painful performance that will have you amazed at just how raw she allows her character to be seen on the screen. It’s a performance that could get Kirby a nomination, and it’s that good. I just wish that the rest of the film's characters were interesting and as complex as Martha. Sean, played by Shia LaBeouf, is fine as Martha’s husband, who is, at first, a loving and supportive partner, but once things go wrong, he becomes predictable as a man whose failings get the best of him. The film is brought down by Martha’s overbearing mother, Elizabeth, played by Ellen Burstyn. Elizabeth is a character you are supposed to hate, someone who continually reminds us that she is a horrible person and not the one that Martha needs to survive this tragedy. That being said, this film is worthy of watching because Vanessa Kirby gives us an incredible, real performance of a woman who is grieving and needs time and love to slowly, but only slightly recover from a horrible loss. My Rating: Full Price    Pieces of a Woman Website    Now playing in select theatres including Landmark Midtown Art in Atlanta and on the Netflix platform Jan. 7th.

Indiefest: Shadow in the Cloud (2020) R   A female WWII pilot, Maude (Chloë Grace Moretz), snags a seat on a B-17 Flying Fortress to deliver top-secret documents. While in flight, the crew and Maude encounter an evil presence on board the flight. This is a film that I would have fallen in love with if I had seen it at a midnight showing at a film festival. This is a fun film that plays off the old Twilight Zone story of a person that sees a ‘gremlin’ while in the air but can’t convince the others on the plane that it’s real until it’s too late. Add in the fact that it’s WWII, and there are enemy planes in the area, and you get some cool action sequences. Sure it’s a little corny, but it’s meant to be that in the best way. Moretz is a blast as the fiery female pilot with a mysterious, top-secret package. I just wish I had seen this film with an audience to hear their reaction to the end of the film. I can only hope that this film becomes a staple on the horror film festival circuit once theatres fully open back up.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Shadow in the Cloud Info    Now playing in select theatres.

In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers But Just Looks Like a Bad Idea): Stars Fell on Alabama (2021) PG-13   A Hollywood agent (James Maslow) is returning to Alabama for his 15th-year high school reunion. When discovering that he is the only one who is not married among his old friends, he convinces a client of his, star Madison Belle (Ciara Hanna), to pose as his girlfriend. Right out of the Hallmark Channel handbook, the film stars two unknowns, and the trailer features a monster truck as their rental car, line dancing, and the two having to wear Alabama sweatshirts to a function.     Stars Fell on Alabama Info

Forgotten Film: Bubble (2005) R   Three people carry on their ordinary lives while working in a doll factory when they become the focal point of a murder in their small midwestern town. Cast with people from a city in Ohio and using their own houses as sets, director Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven) creates a magical little film about three nobodies. Known for its novel release (it was one of the first films to be released in the theatres and on Video on Demand at the same time), this slice of life film with a twist is much better than some of Soderbergh’s bigger budget films because it feels as real as the people playing the parts.   My Rating: Full Price     Bubble Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Shadow in the Cloud: Senior Fur Groomer 

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) PG  In a world inhabited by an ancient civilization, a warrior named Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) is determined to find the last dragon. The first Walt Disney animated film from the 2020s and their 59th feature film.     Raya and the Last Dragon Website

Until Next Time!