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: Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse (2021) R After a mission that went wrong, Navy SEAL John Clark (Michael B. Jordan) is attacked in his home, and his wife is murdered. Realizing that he and his fellow SEAL team are being targeted, he goes on a mission to pursue the assassins at all cost. I had high hopes for this film because it’s Michael B. Jordan, and yes, he does some serious ass-kicking and looks good doing it, but man, is he let down by a script that could have been a reject from a straight to video Stallone film of the 90s. There is a ton of gunfights and hand-to-hand combat, so action film fans will be somewhat happy. The problem is that the plot is hard to understand, something about the Russians wanting to start a war with the US, or just make us look bad, or the CIA is bad, or heck if I know. I know that this character is a favorite of Tom Clancy fans, but we never quite get a feel of why that is with this film. Also, it reminded me of those Stallone films, where Sly would get hurt, be on death’s door, and then in ten minutes be back to super-soldier like nothing had ever happened. Michael, do us all a favor and go back to the Creed movies or maybe some other superhero, just not this one. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Without Remorse Website The film is available on the Amazon Prime platform.
Indiefest: Limbo (2020) R Omar (Amir El-Masry) is a promising young musician who has fled Syria and is looking for asylum. He is located to a remote Scottish Island to wait with some fellow refugees, all awaiting their fate for their asylum request. I enjoyed this strange, funny, but also dark little film about a bunch of refugees stuck together on an island in a country that doesn’t know what to do with them. The film starts with Omar landing in this tiny, remote town and being thrown into a living situation with a cast of oddball characters. This is a small, slow-moving film about Omar and his experience as a refugee, far from home, guilty about leaving his family and dealing with the depressing existence of being a man without a country and having the prospect of being sent back hanging over his head like a death sentence. El-Masry gives a beautiful and moving performance of Omar, a man who doesn’t like showing his emotions on the outside but inside, we know that he is hurting, mostly because he doesn’t even touch his musical instrument, other than to carry it around everywhere in its case. Sometimes funny, as with a great sequence where two instructors show how to treat a woman through dance, and sometimes incredibly sad, as when Omar talks to his mother on the phone, this film will pull you through the emotional ringer. Limbo is a loving and touching look at the refugee situation that is happening throughout the world as seen through the eyes of people just looking for a better life, one filled with hope, love, and freedom. My Rating: Full Price Limbo Website The film is currently playing in select theatres.
My View: Things Heard & Seen (2021) A couple, Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) and George (James Norton), moves from Manhattan to a historic home in the Hudson Valley. Jane soon learns that not only does her new home have a sinister past, but her husband also may not be the nice guy she thought he was. The film never delivers the scares that it needs to make this horror film work. The plot is pretty easy to see where it’s going; it's laid out for you in the first thirty minutes as Catherine finds clues to the mysterious and possibly murderous past that the house they live in has. I kept flashing back to Rosemary’s Baby, because like the husband in that film, George is hiding something from his wife, and it’s more than just what happened to the former inhabitants of the house. Most of the scares are the ‘jump out of the dark’ kind, and the film does try to throw you off the path a few times, but by then, you have the plot already figured out. Catherine comes off as being pretty stupid about her husband (hint, he’s not all that great of a guy), and the ending is incredibly frustrating. Thing Heard & Seen is an attempt at a gothic horror story that just never delivers. My Rating: Cable Things Heard & Seen Website The film is available on the Netflix platform.
Familyfaire: The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021) PG The Mitchells are a quirky, weird, and, yes, slightly dysfunctional family whose road trip is suddenly upended by a robot invasion that is about to overtake the world. Can the Mitchells ever get it together enough to save the world? Oh, how we need this film and what a joy to watch as the film literally blows up on screen in front of you. I wish I could have seen this film in a theatre because I am sure I missed some things, as it is so full of jokes and visual pranks that you can’t see them all in one viewing. The hero of the story is Katie (voiced by Abbi Jacobson), a young filmmaker who hasn’t always fit in with her fellow classmates but is hopeful and excited about going off to college. In one last attempt to reconnect with his daughter, her father decides that the family is going to drive across the country to take Katie to college, something that Katie does not want to happen. Unfortunately, they pick a time when the world is being taken over by robots who are unleashed upon the world by an unknowing Steve Jobs-like tech guru (voiced by Eric Andre). The film uses Katie’s filmmaking experiences to add to the fun, and I don’t want to let too much out of the bag, but let’s just say that those films are incredibly funny. This is an excellent film for both young kids (who will enjoy the colorful animation and the fast-moving action) and adults, who will understand that the parents want what is best for their kids and for them to be happy. Film lovers will go nuts over the visuals and the inside jokes as the film uses Katie’s knowledge of film to make fun of everything from Zombie films to the latest Indie hits. And I haven’t even mentioned that Olivia Coleman does the voice of the leader of the robot insurrection. Why does she start it? Well, you will just have to go on a little road trip with the Mitchells to find out. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again The Mitchells vs. the Machines Website The film is available on the Netflix platform.
Indiefest: The Outside Story (2020) Charles (Brian Tyree Henry) is having a bad day. After breaking up with his girlfriend, he has decided to live a solitary life by staying inside his apartment. His plan has been working until one day, he locks himself out and must now interact with the outside world and his neighbors. Before the pandemic, there were people that chose to stay inside their apartments and not deal with the world. Charles is one of those guys, a video editor, who likes the fact that he doesn’t know his neighbors, can get food delivered to his door, and can work from home as a video editor. One day, Charles gets locked out of his apartment and is what he considers hell; he is outside and has to deal with people. This is a small film that uses the talents and like-ability of Brian Tyree Henry to make this film work. Charles is a good guy at heart, and he deals with the people of his neighborhood with a wiliness to help people out, even when it seems that he will never get back into his place. Charles becomes the glue that makes the neighborhood function on this day, and he soon realizes what he has been missing by being stuck inside. The Outside Story isn’t a perfect film (there is a sequence where Charles is mistaken for a burglar that becomes very uncomfortable because of recent events with the police). Still, Brian Tyree Henry is so lovable, and the characters in the film are so broad and fun that we can just enjoy our time out on the street with Charles and his new found friends. My Rating: Full Price The Outside Story Website The film is available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: Four Good Days (2020) R Molly (Mila Kunis), a long-time drug addict, has to stay clean for four days before she can enter a life-saving drug program. She asks her mother (Glenn Close) to help her work through those four crucial days of recovery from substance abuse and the scars they have created, both emotionally and physically. This is one of those films that if you are a fan of Close or Kunis, you might have an ok time with this film, but if you are hoping for something other than seeing the two work together on the screen, you can just skip this film. The plot, based on a true story, isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. A mother who wants to believe this time is when her daughter will go clean and a daughter who is so strung out that she will do anything to appear willing to go through with it. I thought that did a good job of giving us an inside look at the torturous relationship of an addict and her mother, but when the film goes outside the house, it feels a bit of manipulation to get our hopes up before possibly dashing them. This film has its heart in the right place but can’t quite figure out how to end the movie, making it feel a little hollow in the attempt. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Four Good Days Website The film is currently playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: Wet Season (2019) Ling (Yann Yann Yeo) is a teacher who is in an unhappy marriage where they have become even further apart, brought on by their fruitless attempts at becoming pregnant. Ling becomes slowly drawn towards a promising student (Koh Jia Ler), who his parents have seemingly abandoned. Anytime I hear or read about another teacher/student romance, I wonder just how did that happen. Wet Season attempts to show us just how and why this might happen as two lonely people, who have been abandoned by their loved ones, might turn to each other for kindness and solace. The film shows us slowly just how these two people are drawn to each other, and the film does a masterful job of building up the relationship between the two in small stages. We see how alone the teacher feels as she struggles to get pregnant while being ignored by her husband. The film doesn’t over-romanticize the relationship, and I give points to the movie for doing that. Wet Season is a slow slide down in a relationship that we see coming and dread that it is going to happen. It doesn’t matter the teacher, along with us, knows that the union is doomed before it starts. I found the ending a little disturbing and abrubt but that didn't diminish my enjoyment of the film. My Rating: Full Price Wet Season Website The film is currently playing in select theatres.
Forgotten Film: Music Within (2007) R Richard (Ron Livingston) comes back from the Vietnam War deafened and discovers that the government is not going to help him find or train for a job. He meets Art (Michael Sheen), a wheelchair-bound man with cerebral palsy, and they instantly hit it off, becoming fast friends. Richard meets other people in the disabled community and realizes that the government isn’t doing enough, and he becomes a disability rights activist. The film has a few flaws, mostly due to making Richard the sole reason the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act passed (watch the incredible documentary Crip Camp to get more on this subject) but what I love about this film is the friendship that Richard and Art have. Their friendship is a joy to watch, making this film enjoyable that you can forgive its flaws. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Music Within Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse: Webbing Master
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Dream Horse (2020) PG Jan (Toni Collette) lives in a small Welsh town, working two jobs, dreaming of doing something different. She decides to breed a racehorse and get her neighbors to chip in, raise the horse and race it. Against all the odds, this small band of neighbors take a horse called Dream and try to make it to the big race. The film also stars Damian Lewis (Homeland, Billions) and is based on a true story. Hey, Toni Collette and horse racing, what more do you want in a movie? Dream Horse Website