Friday, April 2, 2021

Godzilla vs. Kong

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: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) PG-13   Just as a squadron embarks on a mission to try to unearth clues to the Titans’ origins, a conspiracy is about to threaten the creatures that could wipe them out forever. Ok, you aren’t going to see this film for its fantastic dialogue or the brilliant acting, though Julian Dennison (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) is a lot of fun as the Millie Bobby Brown sidekick. No, you go to this type of film to see the monster or, in this case, the kings of the monsters, Godzilla and Kong. We want to see Kong and Godzilla duke it out, this time on both land and sea. We want to see Kong with a battle axe in the middle of the earth, a lost land of wonders, screaming out his jungle roar. And we want to see a final battle sequence full of destruction and mayhem with giant bodies flying through the air. Well, you get it in this film. Is it a great film? Heck no, but is it a lot of fun? Yes, yes, it is. I think Kong comes off a little better in this film, aided by the adorable Kaylee Hottle, who plays Jai, an orphan who has been adopted by Dr. Andrews (Rebecca Hall) after Jai’s parents were killed in the Skull Island fight. Jai has a special bond with Kong, and this makes Kong far more relatable than Godzilla, who just seems pissed all the time. Yeah, there is a bad guy, played by Demi├ín Bichir, who wants to…I have no idea; we just know he is a bad guy. The plot is tough to figure out; there are some spaceships that belong in the Star Trek franchise, not this film, and some characters that are just thrown in the movie to make it connect to the other two (I’m looking at you, Kyle Chandler). But hey, you don’t go to see this film for the imaginative plot points or the sparkling dialogue, do you? You go to see Godzilla and Kong destroy a ton of stuff and look good doing it.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Godzilla vs. Kong Website  The film is available on the HBO Max platform and in select theatres. 

Indiefest: 2021 Oscar Nominated Short Films (2021)   The collection of short films that have been nominated for the 2021 Academy Awards. The films are broken up into three categories: Animation, Live Action, and Documentary, as shown in theatres as separate film packages. 

  In the Animation Shorts selection, the two films that stand out are Burrow, a delightful tale about a bunny trying to find the perfect place for his new home, and the heart-wrenching If Anything Happens I Love You, a beautiful film about a couple in mourning over the loss of a child told threw their shadows. The Animation short film collection also has three bonus films, including an incredible production of the classic book, The Snail and the Whale with voice work from Diana Rigg, Sally Hawkins, and Rob Brydon.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See Them Again    2021 Oscar Nominated Short Films Website   Now playing in select theatres including Landmark Midtown Art in Atlanta and is available to rent on participating on-demand services.

  The Live-Action Shorts are an incredibly strong selection this year highlighted by Feeling Through, a remarkable story of a young man looking for a place to sleep and meeting a blind/deaf man who changes his outlook on life and The Letter Room, starring Oscar Isaac, about a corrections officer who becomes involved with trying to reconnect a lost love with a prisoner on death row. I also immensely enjoyed the sci-fi-themed Two Distant Strangers about a man trying to get home to his dog after a one-night stand.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See Them Again   2021 Oscar Nominated Short Films Website    Now playing in select theatres including Landmark Midtown Art in Atlanta and is available to rent on participating on-demand services.

  The Documentary Shorts selection are tougher to see in theatres this year due to their length (total run time is 136 minutes). It is also one of the weakest selections that I have seen in the last ten years in this category. I have seen far better documentary short films at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival than the French doc Colette, about a 90-year-old former resistance fighter that goes to Germany to visit the death camp her brother perished at. The two documentaries that will undoubtedly vie for the Academy Award are Hunger Ward, a crushing, heartbreaking look at hospitals treating malnourished children in war-torn Yemen, and A Concerto is a Conversation, a warm, inspiring look at the love of a grandson, award-winning composer Kris Bowers, has for his grandfather, Horace Bowers, Sr., a man who came from the depths of Jim Crow Florida to own a chain of dry cleaners in the Los Angles area. The film revolves around a concerto piece that Kris wrote for Horace that was performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   2021 Oscar Nominated Short Films Website  Now playing in select theatres and is available to rent on participating on-demand services.

Indiefest: French Exit (2020) R    Frances (Michelle Pfeiffer), an aging Manhattan socialite, is used to living the good life. When she finds out that she is about to run out of money, she decides to take her son, Malcolm (Lucas Hedges), out of school and take a trip to Paris to move into a friend's apartment. The reason to see this film is Michelle Pfeiffer, who plays Frances as a controlled, stylish woman on the outside, but inside, we know that she is one pissed-off woman who wants to live her life to the fullest the only way she knows how lavishly. Unfortunately, Pfeiffer’s performance can’t totally save this film from becoming somewhat of a bore. I’m not sure that the director knew what type of film she wanted to make; a comedy (there is a cat that may be the reincarnation of France’s husband) with a cast of strange characters that Frances accumulates throughout the film? A drama doubt a woman who loves her lifestyle more than her life? Or maybe a satire, commenting on the excess of the idle rich? In any case, it fails to find a footing and also a third act (one that is desperately needed). However, if you are a fan of Michele Pfeiffer, then you might enjoy watching her in her exquisite costumes go from one lovely apartment to another with little plot in between.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   French Exit Website    Now playing in select theatres.

My View: The Unholy (2020) PG-13  Alice (Cricket Brown), a young hard-of-hearing girl, begins healing the sick and impaired after a supposed visitation from the Virgin Mary. As word spreads of her ‘miracles,’ a disgraced journalist (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) heads out to investigate, hoping the story will revive his career. As he begins to uncover the story, he learns that the phenomena may not be the result of the Virgin Mary but of something sinister and evil. This is your run-of-the-mill, ordinary horror film about a demon who uses a girl to try to come to power under the disguise of the Virgin Mary. We all love Jeffery Dean Morgan, who can play in his sleep, the down on his luck, willing to fabricate a story guy but still has some goodness in him to eventually do the right thing. Unfortunately, Jeffrey never really wakes up, sleepwalking through this role as a plot weakly moves along. The scares are your normal ‘jump out of the dark’ variety with a few religious overtones thrown in. I never found the demon scary enough, and the ending seemed too easy to come about. Overall, the film never delivers on what it starts out as a promising premise, never delivering the horror that the film needs and wants.   My Rating: Cable    The Unholy Website   Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn (2021)   Behind the scenes look at a company that was worth an incredible amount of paper, almost 47 billion, and then in six weeks lost everything. Was it a great idea gone bad or just a scam with a cult-like following? This is a fascinating documentary that follows the astonishing rise and fall of a company based not on facts and figures but more on the charisma of its founder, Adam Neumann. The film uses footage of not only the many interviews that Adam did over the years but also the company's own videos that were produced to show just how great WeWork was. The idea was to create working environments where instead of everyone is stuck inside offices, everyone is out on a vast floor, with large communal spaces to encourage people to interact and possibly collaborate. The film shows how this clever idea soon became almost a cult, with the company not only offering working space but also living spaces and summer camps. The film interviews both clients and former employees of WeWork, showing how almost blindly they followed Adam, thinking that they would change the world. Unfortunately, the company was grossly overvalued, and Adam, while a master pitchman, was not a great businessman. It is astonishing how many people were fooled by Adam and his cult of personality. By the end of the film, you will wonder; would I have fallen for this too?    My Rating: Full Price  WeWork Movie Website   Now playing on the Hulu platform.

Indiefest:   Shiva Baby (2020)   Danielle (Rachel Sennott) is a floundering college student who is wrangled into going to a Jewish funeral (Shiva) with her parents (Polly Draper, Fred Melamed). There to her horror, not only does Danielle encounter her ex-girlfriend, Maya (Molly Gordon), that no one knows she was involved with, Danielle also is in the same house with all her relatives and her ‘sugar-daddy' (Danny Deferrari). Shiva Baby is a witty, funny comedy about a young woman who is kind of lost in life and must confront both her past and present lovers at the worst possible time, a Jewish funeral. Rachel Sennott is magnificent as the college student who thinks she has it all together but soon discovers that being an adult isn’t all it's cracked up to be. The film follows Danielle around in a house that at times seems too small to hold the amount of people or egos that fill it, making it a land mine at every turn Danielle takes. The film is greatly helped by a deft supporting cast, including Molly Draper, as Danielle’s mom, who is more in tuned than Danielle knows with what is going on in Danielle’s life, and Fred Melamed, who plays the clueless father. I loved the music in this film, done by Ariel Marx, which at times feels more like a horror film score than a comedy, as the wall that Danielle has constructed for herself, keep falling down as the afternoon goes on. Shiva Baby is about a good of a time that you can have at a funeral.   My Rating: Full Price     Shiva Baby Website  The film is available to rent on participating on-demand services.

My View:   Concrete Cowboy (2020) R Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) has just been kicked out of high school. His mother leaves him off on his estranged father’s doorstep in North Philadelphia. Cole discovers that his father, Harp (Idris Elba), is involved in the city’s dynamic urban cowboy subculture. The Fletcher Street Stables has existed for more than 100 years, providing an oasis for the neighborhood despite the poverty, violence, and encroaching gentrification. Cole soon learns about life, responsibility, and how to survive in a harsh world through the ‘cowboy life.’ I really enjoyed this film, and I loved that our first introduction to Idris Elba’s character Harp is when he lets Cole into his apartment, which has a horse living in it. The film does a brilliant job of giving us insight into this unknown world, where the only thing that makes sense sometimes is the bond between a human and their horse. The film's best moments are when these real cowboys are talking about life around the fire in the parking lot. It helps that you have such a wonderful actor in Elba, who makes the moments between Harp and Cole powerful and meaningful. Some of the dialogue is a little too preachy for me, but Concrete Cowboy has heart and soul that more than make up for any weakness in the script.    My Rating: Full Price   Concrete Cowboy Website    Now playing on the Netflix platform. 

Forgotten Film: Sugar & Spice (2001)  PG-13   When head cheerleader Diane (Marley Shelton) is knocked up by the captain of the football team (James Marsden), things get complicated and messy. Diane comes up with a plan to make money; she and her fellow cheerleaders will rob a bank. This is a fun and funny film with some vibrant characters. The girls decide to watch bank robbing movies as research, and since Hannah (Rachel Blanchard) has strict god-fearing parents, she can only watch G-rated films, so she watches the Disney family classic, The Apple Dumpling Gang. The film’s narrator, Lisa (Marla Sokoloff), has a crush on Conan O’Brien and often fantasizes about Conan’s head on the bodies of other actors in the movies that the gang watches. I love how the gang makes it all ok by saying that they will give some of the bank robbery money to charity, like ‘buying one of those starving little kids that Sally Struthers auctions off on TV.’    My Rating: Full Price   Sugar & Spice Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Unholy: Bidding Manager

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Holler (2020)   Ruth (Jessica Barden) has gotten a way out of her small, dying Southern Ohio town; she has been accepted to college. She joins a scrap metal crew with her brother, Hank (Austin Amelio), to pay her way to college. The two work the dangerous job of the scrap metal crew during the day and then break into abandoned factories at night to steal valuable metal. Ruth soon finds that the ultimate cost of an education may be more than she bargained for, and she will have to choose between that promising future and the family she will have to leave behind. This film has done well on the film festival circuit, nominated for the Grand Jury Award at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival and winning the Directors to Watch Award at the 2020 Palm Springs International Film Festival.     Holler Info

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