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: Cherry (2021) R Cherry (Tom Holland) is an Army medic suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who becomes addicted to drugs and starts robbing banks to feed his addiction. This is an interesting pick for the Russo brothers to make after their incredible run of Marvel films (including one the best of the series Avenger: Endgame) with one it those Marvel stars, Spider-man’s own Tom Holland. This is a sometimes funny but mostly dark look at how someone who seemed to have a promising life ahead of him went into a dive down a hole of addiction and crime. Tom Holland gives a magnetic performance of Cherry, who meets the love of his life, Emily (Ciara Bravo), while in college, and their fate is tied together when the two decide to get married right before Cherry goes into the Army. Cherry comes back from war, a wrecked man, and their life together begins a downward spiral that no one would have seen back when they were in college together. Holland leaves behind the squeaky-clean Peter Parker behind and gives a gritty performance of a man who is so broken, he must escape, no matter the cost. Ciara Bravo is brilliant and moving as the woman who falls for Cherry and sticks by him, even if it means she goes down that dark rabbit hole along with Cherry. Cherry isn’t a perfect film, and I felt the ending felt a little rushed, but I look forward to what both Holland and Russo brothers can do beyond the superhero world. My Rating: Full Price Cherry Website The film is currently playing in select theatres and is available on the Apple TV+ Platform on March 12th.
My View: Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry (2021) R We ride along as Billie and her brother Finneas are shown behind the scenes as they go from writing and recording Billie’s debut album in their parent’s home to winning six Grammy’s. I didn't know much about Billie Eilish, having only seen her perform on SNL, but I fell in love with her and her family. The film is a little long, and the first part of the film starts very slowly, as we see her and her brother write and record the songs for her debut album. It’s a fascinating look at the process, and I am sure fans of Billie are going to eat it up but having very little knowledge of her or her songs, I found this part a little slow. The second half of the film is more about Billie dealing with the rigors of touring and dealing with fame and nagging injuries, both that overwhelm her for a time. After seeing the Britney Spears doc, the best part of this film is how wonderful and supportive her family is. Besides the fact that she writes and performs with her brother, they have a loving and fun relationship that gives her a great deal of support, which makes Billie feel real and not some manufactured pop star. I loved the concert footage where we see the impact that Billie’s music makes on people, especially young women. Because of this film, I am now a fan of Billie Eilish and her music, and I think you will be too. My Rating: Full Price Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry Info The film is available on the Apple TV+ Platform.
My View: Crisis (2021) R Three stories about the opioid’s 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. This film never quite fits all its pieces together, with Lily's storyline as the grieving mother out for revenge the weakest of the stories. Hammer is fine as the undercover agent trying to take down the source of the illegal drugs, but his storyline is hampered by his attempt to keep his sister off drugs while conducting the big hit. Oldman is given much to do as the college professor who uncovers something wrong about a new pain drug, and the film tries too hard to bring all three stores together in the end. Like its characters, Crisis is well-intentioned but never fully delivers the gut punch that it needs to make the film feel successful. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Crisis Info The film is currently playing in select theatres and is available to rent on participating on-demand services on March 5th.
Indiefest: The Vigil (2019) PG-13 Yakov (Dave Davis) agrees to provide an overnight watch to a deceased member of his former Orthodox Jewish community. Soon after his watch starts, Yakov discovers that something in the house is very, very wrong. I really enjoy horror films that create their scares not from the j’ump out of the dark’ action but build tension by making you wonder if what you are seeing and hearing is real or just a figment of the character’s imagination. Dave Davis is perfect in the role of Yakov, a man who reluctantly takes the job of ‘shomer,' someone who watches over the dead body and reads prayers to protect the person until they can be put to rest. From the start, we realize that Yakov is a damaged individual as he is meeting in a support group. Yakov must watch the body for 5 hours, which will become to longest 5 hours in his life. The film lets us settle in and learn not only about Yakov but also about the man who he is protecting, slowly giving us information that builds the tension that comes to a thrilling conclusion. My Rating: Full Price The Vigil Website The film is currently playing in select theatres and is available to rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: The United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021) The Feds target blues singer Billie Holiday (Andra Day) with a sting operation led by an undercover Federal Agent (Trevante Rhodes), with whom Billie has an affair with. Andra Day is wonderful in the role, but boy, is she let down by a script that is just downright bad. I cringed very early on at some of the dialogue, and the story never finds a hold of you the way it should. Billie Holiday was a tragic figure, done in by both the time she lived in, her demons (both past and present), and the men she kept getting involved in. Unfortunately, the film never can figure out how to present Billie’s life, and the film comes off feeling stale and unemotional. Skip this film and go listen to Billie's songs instead. You will get more information and get to know more about Billie from those songs than you will ever get from this bloated, slow, badly done film. My Rating: Cable The United States vs. Billie Holiday Website Available on the Hulu platform.
Forgotten Film: The Host (2006) R Don’t confuse this film with the 2013 film of the same name starring Saoirse Ronan; this film is written and directed by three-time Oscar winner Bong Joon Ho (Parasite). After the US Army has polluted a river in Korea, a monster emerges from the depths to cause death and mayhem. When the monster takes a young girl, an ordinary family resolves to get her back at any cost. The monster is scary, the storyline is compelling and brilliantly told, and it out do’s any Godzilla film you have ever seen. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again The Host Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Cherry: Boot Camp Tech Advisor
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Boogie (2021) R Alfred ‘Boogie’ Chin (Taylor Takahashi) is a basketball star in the making in Queens, New York, who dreams of playing in the NBA. Boogie has battle prejudices while navigating high school, on-court rivals, and his parent's expectations. The film is written and directed by Eddie Huang, the man whose story is told each week on the great TV series Fresh Off the Boat. Boogie Website