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: 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 hunter, Miquel (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. This is an enjoyable film about a woman who wants to escape and goes to the extreme of living by herself in an unforgiving wilderness. If you are expecting something like the Reese Witherspoon 2014 film Wild, you will be disappointed, as this is a much slower burn of a movie. Wright doesn’t let us know too much about her character; we just know that she is unhappy, misses her family, and doesn’t want to be around people. The film slowly reveals her makeup, but it’s not through talking, even when Miquel is around. The reveal is through her actions, as she develops the skills to live on her own, living off the land and immersing herself in the beauty that surrounds her. Land is a small, one character-driven story that allows us to connect with Edee as she connects with the land around her. My Rating: Full Price Land Website The film is currently playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: Minari (2020) PG-13 Jacob (Steven Yeun), with his loving wife, Monica (Yeri Han), moves his family to Arkansas to start a farm in hopes of creating their own American dream. They are soon joined by Monica’s mother, Soonja (Yuh-jung Youn), and their lives will never be the same. Minari is one of those films filled with extraordinary, small moments that make watching a movie so enjoyable and moving. We fall in love with this brave and flawed family as they work to fulfill what they think is the American Dream. The film is full of sometimes funny but often also heartbreaking moments about a family that is fighting to survive on their own against the odds. We see much of this film through the eyes of the children, who are thrown into this new world, as they watch their parents argue, struggle and react to the harsh realities of trying to succeed against the odds. Steven Yeun gives a brilliant and impactful performance of a man who is sure he is right, determined to succeed. Also outstanding is Monica’s mother, played by Yuh-jung Youn, who dominates the screen every time she is on as the headstrong but loving and funny older woman who wants the best for her daughter and grandchildren. Minari has been a staple on the best movies of the year critics lists and deservedly so. It’s a magical film about a family that you will marvel at their strength and love for each other. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Minari Website The film is currently playing in select theatres and available to rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (2021) PG-13 Mark (Kyle Allen) is living the same day over and over. He thought he was the only one who realized it when he meets Margaret (Kathryn Newton), who also knows they are reliving the same day. They decided to join forces and have fun, but soon, will they get bored with living the same day or each other? Have we seen this before where a character is stuck in a loop? Why yes, we have, and the characters bring up Groundhog Day over and over to let us know; they know we have. This is a fun romp that is a modern-day rom-com between two people who realize that they are the only ones who know that the same day is playing out every morning. Allen and Newton are perfect as the two people who decide to have fun in this crazy world, looking for ‘perfect moments’ in their town while enjoying each other company. Romance is sure to follow, but there is a reason why Margaret is fine reliving the same day over and over, and she isn’t willing to share it with Mark. The Map of Tiny Perfect Things isn’t a flawless film, but I enjoyed its mix of nerd and romance, wanting to spend more time with these two characters, hoping that they will one day find what each one is looking for. My Rating: Full Price The Map of Tiny Perfect Things Website The film is available on the Amazon Prime platform.
My View: To All the Boys: Always and Forever (2021) Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter (Noah Centineo) are seniors and dreaming about going to college together, but two long-distance trips could change their lives forever. I loved the first film of this series; the big Netflix hit To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I liked the 2nd film (To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You), but this third film sure feels like they are pushing things. The film feels much longer than the one hour and forty-nine-minute run time. The chemistry that made the first film work so well is still there, but the storyline feels very padded, especially the trip at the beginning of the film to South Korea. I am sure that young girls are still going to love this film (I noticed at one point the film made a cut just to show what shoes Lara Jean was wearing), but I just didn’t find this film as much fun to watch as the first two. I like Lara Jean and her family but let's let her go off to college on her own, we don't need another film in the series. My Rating: Bargain Matinee To All the Boys: Always and Forever Website The film is available on the Netflix platform.
Indiefest: 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). This is one of those films that you know how it will end, but you keep hoping against hope throughout that it will turn out differently. Daniel Kaluuya gives us a gripping and powerful performance of Fred Hampton, a man whose charisma and speeches instilled people of all types to follow him. That very ability to turn enemies into allies made him so dangerous in the FBI's eyes and especially J. Edgar Hoover (portrayed by a heavily made-up Martin Sheen). The story is told through William O’Neal, a two-bit car thief who is wined and dinned into becoming an informant for the FBI. Through a little luck and a lot of bravado, O'Neal becomes the right-hand man of Fred Hampton, giving vital information to his handler, FBI agent Mitchell, played by the always interesting Jesse Plemons. We see that the impressionable O’Neal is talked into betrayal by Agent Mitchell, and O’Neal is happy to play his role until the stakes get too serious and messy. Judas and the Black Messiah is a forceful film that shows just how far the FBI was willing to go to take down the man they called the ‘Black Messiah.’ Like many before him, Fred Hampton was a man who pushed boundaries, and because he could move people to action, he was deemed too dangerous to be allowed to continue. Judas and the Black Messiah is a film that brings to light a story of American history that has been kept in the shadows for too long. My Rating: Full Price Judas and the Black Messiah Website The film is currently playing in select theatres and the HBO Max platform.
Indiefest: The World to Come (2020) R Along the mid-19th-century American East Coast, Abigail (Katherine Waterston) is grieving and is in a loveless marriage to Dyer (Casey Affleck). Abigail’s world is changed when Tallie (Vanessa Kirby) moves with her husband (Christopher Abbott) near their farm. Tallie bristles at the jealous control of her husband, and the two women start a friendship that leads to something much, much more substantial. It's a beautiful tale of the love between two women, who, however slowly, start a relationship that each one needed but never thought could exist. From the first scene, when Tallie and Abigail steal glances at each other across a field, we see the sparks that the two characters have for each other. That underlying passion makes this film work, as we wait for the two women to discover the love that we know is there from the start. It’s a fleeting romance that will stay with you as long as it does for the characters involved. My Rating: Full Price The World to Come Website The film is currently playing in select theatres and will be available to rent on participating on-demand services Mar. 2nd.
My View: 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. This film never quite delivers what it needs, feeling a bit clunky at times, about a story that needed to be told. Tahar Rahim gives us everything he can in a role that had to be hard for him to do both mentally and physically. The weak point of this film is the editing, which never allows the film to flow and makes some of the supporting characters seem very small and un-noteworthy, not what you want when you have a cast that includes Shailene Woodley (who isn’t allowed to do much more than push a few papers around and stumble in a few key scenes) and Zachary Levi. I have always loved Jodie Foster, but she isn’t given that much to do either, and when she is asked to really emote, it feels right out of the Foster bag of tricks, just nothing special. I wanted more from this film, wanted to feel the outrage and the sorrow I felt when I found out what was happening in Guantanamo, but I never got that feeling from this film. It’s like it swung for the fences and missed. My Rating: Bargain Matinee The Mauritanian Website The film is currently playing in select theatres.
My View: Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021) PG-13 Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) decide to leave their small Midwestern town for the first time and go on an adventure to Vista Del Mar. Oh, the trouble they will get into. I am convinced that the two stars, when writing the script, were high because the only way you will enjoy this mess of a film is also to be high. It’s a mix of a bad rip-off of spy films with a dash of a failed SNL sketch mixed in with some odd musical numbers (not enough to call it a musical). Jamie Dornan plays Edgar, the spy sent to kill everyone at the Vista Del Mar Hotel (not to be confused with the Vista Del Mar Motel, one of the fine jokes this film makes) by an evil mastermind (also played by Kristen Wiig) via poisonous mosquitoes. To show you the quality of the jokes in this film, there is a running gag of a lounge singer at the hotel, who only sings songs about ‘boobies.’ I wanted this film to stop as soon as the first musical number went on but if you must see Jamie Dornan (the Fifty Shades guy) sing and dance, then go ahead and see this film. I wish I hadn’t. My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar Website The film is available to rent on participating on-demand services.
Indiefest: Happy Cleaners (2019) The Choi family is losing their dry-cleaning business, and the family, especially the young adult children, struggles to find a way to survive the crisis. The film does a wonderful and moving job giving us insights into the immigrant experience, from both the perspective of the first generation that came here with hopes and dreams and the children that grew up in America, watching their parents struggle every day to make their dreams come true. The parents are trying their best to survive a challenging world, and their adult children are torn between the obligations they feel to help their parents out while wanting to branch out and make their own choices in life. Happy Cleaners is a film that shows, while there are heartbreaking moments, the love for each other will help them survive, no matter what the future brings. My Rating: Full Price Happy Cleaners Website The film is available to rent on participating on-demand services.
In Celebration of My Ten-Year Anniversary of this Review Blog, Here is the First Forgotten Film I Published: My Bodyguard (1980) PG Chris Makepeace plays a kid going to a new school, trying to fit in and gets on the wrong side with the school bully. He decides to hire a bodyguard played by Adam Baldwin, the meanest, toughest guy in the school. A friendship ensues with both learning about life and each other. A great supporting cast, including Martin Mull and Ruth Gordon, helps make this film stand out from some of the other coming of age films of the '80s. My Rating: Full Price My Bodyguard Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar: Swing Assistants
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Yes Day (2021) PG Allison (Jennifer Garner) and Carlos ( Edgar Ramirez) are parents who decide to give their kids a ‘yes day’ where for 24 hours they have to say yes to everything their kids suggest they do. I don’t know about you, but I have watched a ton of serious, downer films this past year. It’s about time to just have fun with a movie, and this looks like one we all could use right now. Yes Day Website