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: Coming 2 America (2021) PG-13 Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) is celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary, and he learns that he has a long-lost son (Jermaine Fowler) and has returned to the United States to meet him and possibly bring him back to Akeem’s homeland. What made the first film work so well was the ‘fish out of water' story of the sweet, innocent Akeem learning to live and love in America. This film tries to rekindle the magic, but it fizzles almost from the start. Murphy seems bored by the role and the plot, and the film tries to pull us back to the first film, overloading us with characters from the first film, including the whole gang from the barbershop. It’s kind of like seeing a reunion show on TV. It’s great to see the whole gang back together, but after a few minutes, you realize that it's hard to recapture that magic a second time. The film is also hurt by adding Tracy Jordan, Wesley Snipes, and Leslie Jones, all overplaying their roles, with Snipes chewing up so much scenery it becomes boring. The plot is flimsy, and Jermaine Fowler doesn’t have even close to Eddie Murphy's charisma from the first film. The first film was magic in a bottle that hit a sweet spot at the time and is one of those films where a sequel should have never even been attempted. My Rating: Cable Coming 2 America Website Now playing on the Amazon Prime platform and in select theatres.
Family Faire: 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 and rescue her father. I love Disney animation, and this film does not disappoint. Beautifully done that begs to be seen on the big screen, the film is full of wondrous world-building and characters with imaginative and robust storylines. Raya is a strong character with a great sense of pride in both her parents and her heritage. Raya encounters Sisu (voiced by Awkwafina), and they go on a journey to save the world. Awkwafina is brilliantly cast and is hilarious as the adventurous Dragon who sees the good in everyone. This is a film that is perfect for the time like now when we all need to come together, and both adults and kids will find a storyline full of joy and surprises. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Raya and the Last Dragon Website The film is currently playing in select theatres and is available on the Disney+ platform.
Indiefest: 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. Boogie is the type of movie I would expect to see at a small-town film festival, a movie with a lot of heart but tries too hard to cover too many bases, making the film feel a bit amateurish and weak. The film never quite can find its tone, and it doesn’t has the emotional punch that you want from the end of the film. It’s a story with its heart in the right place but never quite finds its footing to bring the storyline together. There is a quick ending that attempts to make all the pieces fit, but I was left wondering by the end exactly what happened and where the characters were going next. I liked Taylor Takahashi in the role, giving us a complex character that was being pulled by so many forces. The script never could quite figure out what type of film it wanted to be. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Boogie Website The film is currently playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: My Salinger Year (2020) R Joanna (Margaret Qualiey) is a young woman who plans to be a writer and moves to New York to follow that dream. She takes a clerical job working for the literary agent (Sigourney Weaver) of the renowned, reclusive writer of Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger. This is a sweet, funny coming of age story that follows a character as she grows into a strong, independent woman, something that she may not have done if she hadn’t taken the chances that life put out there for her to take. Margaret Qualiey does a remarkable job as Joanna, giving us a character that is full of hope and promise and is so charming to watch in the role. As the set in her way’s boss, Weaver is wonderful in the role of a woman who soon becomes a guiding force for Joanna. The film slows down a bit when Joanna gets involved with a new boyfriend (Douglas Booth) that, from the start, we know is wrong for her. Luckily, most of the film takes place in the office, and that is where the film shines, as Joanna finds her path to become the person she was meant to be. My Rating: Full Price My Salinger Year Website The film is currently playing in select theatres.
My View: Chaos Walking (2021) PG-13 In a world where a virus killed all the women, and living creatures have the ability to read each other’s minds; Todd (Tom Holland) encounters Viola (Daisy Ridley), a strange woman who others on the planet want to hunt her down. Todd vows to protect Viola and help her contact her people. I am guessing from the choppy, muddied plot that there were a lot of problems with the script. Knowing that the source material is three books makes me believe that originally, this film was to be much longer than its one hour and fifty minutes run time. There are some plot points that at the start seem very important and then are almost thrown away. The idea that all men's thoughts can be heard out loud by others becomes old very quickly, as we get tired of our hero Todd always thinking about how much he wants to kiss Viola and her hearing it. The film wastes a stellar cast of Mads Mikkelsen as the main bad guy, David Oyelowo as a religious fanatic, Nick Jonas as Mikkelsen’s stupid son, and Demian Bichir and Kurt Sutter as Todd’s family. We never really understand why Viola is so important for Mads Mikkelsen’s character to track down. The film is also hurt by the total lack of chemistry between Holland and Ridley. The chase sequences are clumsy and end almost as suddenly as they start, and the finale that seems sudden and predictable. I had some thoughts about this movie while watching it, and I am glad nobody could hear them. My Rating: Cable Chaos Walking Website The film is currently playing in select theatres.
My View: Moxie (2021) PG-13 Inspired by her mother’s (Amy Poehler) rebellious past and an outspoken friend (Alycia Pascual-Pena), Vivian (Hadley Robinson) decides to anonymously publish a zine name Moxie that takes on the sexist and toxic culture of her high-school, and it sparks a school-wide, ‘coming-of-rage’ revolution. This is an enjoyable film that has a lot of fun with high school angst and the awaking of young women and their power to contest how fellow students treat and see them. Hadley Robinson is perfect in the role of the mild, meek student who decides to use a zine as a protest tool and becomes empowered because of it. I liked this film until the end when the film took a bit of a turn that the film has a hard time dealing with. I did enjoy Nico Hiraga, as Vivian’s love interest and their chemistry from the start is fun and playful. However, despite a few missteps in the third act, the film is a delight to watch and probably inspire a few zines of its own. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Moxie Website Now playing on the Netflix platform.
My View: Boss Level (2020) Roy (Frank Grillo), a special forces veteran, is stuck in a time loop, destined to repeat the same day over and over again while being hunted by dozens of deadly assassins. Each time he is killed, he returns to relive the same day as he struggles to climb out of his predicament. I had a blast watching this film. Is it a great film? No, but it is a fun ride, and Frank Grillo does a masterful job of making us care about his character. How many times can we see a guy die? A lot, and most of it is done with a sense of humor, though that humor can be a little dark. The storyline is fun and sure, has a few holes in it, but it moves so fast, and the action is so incredibly fun that who cares, as long as we keep coming back for the ride. It has a few stars like Mel Gibson, Naomi Watts, and Ken Jeong to spice up the non-action scenes, and I loved the score of the film, including the use of the great Boston song ‘Long Time’ and some really hilarious characters that are out to kill Roy. Like Roy, just accept what is going to happen and try to stay alive long enough to see how it turns out in the end. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Boss Level Info Now playing on the Hulu platform.
Indiefest: Stray (2020) This documentary follows three dogs, Zeytin, Nazar, and Kartal, as they struggle for survival on the streets of Istanbul. I love dogs, and I was hesitant to see this film, worried that the dogs in the film would be living lives too tough to watch. Instead, we see just how resilient dogs are, how they find friendship and happiness in the streets as life goes on around them. Shot almost from the dog's point of view, we follow three dogs that are vastly different in their approaches to living on the streets. Zeytin is a strong, independent soul that loves to explore the city at night. Nazar is a friendly dog that finds friends (both dogs and humans) at almost every turn, and Kartal is a puppy who is looked after by security guards. All three dogs have incredible, expressive faces, and yes, you do get attached to each of them, but Istanbul is a different culture and seems to treat these street dogs as just part of living in the city. Watching this film, as we hear conversations the humans carry on around the dogs, you will come away feeling that the dogs live their lives the right way. My Rating: Full Price Stray Website The film is currently playing in select theatres and is available to rent on participating on-demand services.
Forgotten Film: Real Women Have Curves (2002) PG-13 In East L.A., Ana (America Ferrera) wants more for her life than just settling for what everyone else in her neighborhood has. Ana wants to go to college, but her mother (Lupe Ontiveros) insists that she work in the dress factory until she can find a man and get married. In her first role, America Ferrera is magical as the headstrong Ana who knows who she is and is going to break out of her neighborhood and her family's rule. I love this film, and it is full of real characters, with actual emotions and feelings. It is a film filled with love, laughs, and a young woman who knows what she wants and is sure she knows how to get it. Ana may be going on a different path, but she knows that her family will come around and support her in the end. My Rating: Full Price Real Women Have Curves Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Coming 2 America: First Hands
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Last Call (2021) R Mick (Jeremy Piven) comes back to his old Philly neighborhood and must decide to help raze the area for a new casino or kiss the big opportunity goodbye and resurrect his family’s bar. The cast includes Taryn Manning, Zach McGowan, Jamie Kennedy, and Bruce Dern. I am a big fan of Dern, so I’m in. Last Call Website