Note to readers: I have started going to movies in the theaters, having received my two shots and passed the two-week standby period, wearing a mask at all times and following social distancing. Most of the films I am reviewing are still movies that I watched at home, but I will note in the review if I saw them in a theatre. 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: Cruella (2021) PG-13 The origin story of how a young girl named Estella (Emma Stone) became the legendary villainess Cruella, the woman who wanted a coat made up of puppies. But first, Estella must learn the ins and outs of the fashion world from the cold-hearted Baroness (Emma Thompson). I loved the interaction between Thompson’s character The Baroness and Stone’s Estella. The fashion in the film is just stunning, and the outfit Estella/Cruella wears to a big event is breathtaking (especially the kind of ‘Mockingjay’ like quick change that she does to make her big entrance. The two sidekicks, played by Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser, are a lot of fun, though they are overshadowed by an incredibly cute dog named Winks, that steals not only items for the gang but steals the movie as well. I enjoyed the film, but I have two problems: I thought the film was too long, taking its time to get to the big caper at the end as I found my seat squirming a few times in the theatre, and the soundtrack of the film, using popular songs became a distraction, as every few moments, a new song would start to accompany a scene in the movie. Overall, Cruella is an enjoyable romp, and it looks like Stone and Thompson had a blast making it. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Cruella Website The film is currently playing in select theatres and on the Disney + Premier Access platform.
My View: A Quiet Place Part II (2020) R After escaping from their home, now the family (Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Noah Jupe ) must go into the outside world and soon realize that the world is far more dangerous than they ever experienced or imagined. You cannot often say that a sequel is better than the original, but I think this is one of those times. From the very start of the film, the terror doesn’t let up until the last shot. Since we already know the stakes, this film doesn’t mess around with setting things up; we just jump right into as Evelyn (Emily Blunt) has decided to go out into the world with her family to try to reach out to other survivors. The aliens are just as terrifying as they were in the first film; we get to see how it all started and now how devastated the world is a year and a half later. Millicent Simmonds, as Regan, is fantastic in the role of the headstrong daughter who is determined to do everything she can to save mankind. The action sequences are thrilling, and the tension doesn’t let up, even in the film's smaller moments. This film experience was as thrilling, scary, and so well done. If you have been waiting for the right time to get back to the theatre, this is it. I saw it in a theater, and I am so glad that I did to get the film's full impact. So go on a roller coaster ride of terror with a small family that can kick some Alien butt. You won't regret it. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again A Quiet Place Part II Website The film is currently playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: The Human Factor (2019) PG-13 Documentary on the effort in the past 25 years that the United States has tried to negotiate peace between Israel and its neighbors. Riveting and sometimes jaw-dropping documentary about the American involvement with peace in the Middle East. The film interviews are eye-opening and frustrating in how close peace has come to this area of the world, and yet, that peace seems so far away. The film takes us on a behind-the-scenes look at the political process of negotiation and how without truth-telling and trust, nothing will be accomplished. The film offers no easy solutions, nor does it tell us what to do in the future; it only showcases what has and hasn’t been done in the past, so that maybe we won’t make the same mistakes and can somehow, someway bring peace to an area that has seen so much conflict and bloodshed. The Human Factor is a must-see for anyone who wants to understand all the factors and players in this process. My Rating: Full Price The Human Factor Website The film is currently playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: Plan B (2021) After an unfortunate first sexual encounter, straight-laced high-school student Sunny (Kuhoo Verma) and her best friend, Lupe (Victoria Moroles) are on a mission; they have 24-hours to find the Plan B pill in America’s heartland. This is a funny, witty coming-of-age comedy about the trials and tribulations that go along with having sex for the first time and all the feelings that happen afterwards. The film is a little long and loses its way a few times, but overall, this film has created two real and interesting characters in the best friends who go on an adventure to find love and maybe a contraceptive. The film is bolstered by two winning performances by Kuhoo Verma and Victoria Moroles, who have great chemistry together and give us two best friends who know, no matter what, they have each other’s back. I loved how real these characters felt and how the film shows adolescent problems in a way that is both funny and respectful at the same time. So go on a trip with Sunny and Lupe to find the Plan B pill and you just might have as much fun as they do. My Rating: Full Price Plan B Website The film is currently available on the Hulu platform.
Familyfaire: Blue Miracle (2021) After a massive hurricane, a guardian (Jimmy Gonzales) of an orphanage and his kid's team up with a washed-up boat captain (Dennis Quaid) for a chance to win a lucrative fishing competition. While it follows a plotline that is pretty easy to figure out, I still enjoyed the film, as watching Dennis Quaid act up as the cranky captain was a lot of fun and brings some life to the film. The kids are ok, though no one in the cast of orphans stands out, and the message is uplifting, but it is a story we have seen time and time again. Blue Miracle not a bad film, and you will enjoy how it ends; it just doesn’t bring much more than what it is, a feel-good film for the family. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Blue Miracle Website The film is currently available on the Netflix platform.
My View: Endangered Species (2021) R An American family is on their dream vacation in Kenya when an attacking rhino overturns their safari van. Now the family is stranded in the vast African wilderness, and they are at the bottom of the food chain. This film is gorgeous to look at, as it was shot on location in Africa; I just wish that they had spent a little money on the script. The setup takes forever; we get it in the first ten minutes of the film that the family is falling apart, with a father being too hard on his son, the mother not knowing that the father is having trouble at work, and the daughter being a brat and not respecting her parents. The problem is that they keep hammering this dynamic all the way until the accident, and even then, it keeps coming up. The special effects are not well done, with most of the wild animals CGIed into the film looking like animals from a 80s video game. The bad guys are obvious from the start of the film, and the conclusion is almost laughable. The biggest problem with the film is that there really isn’t a likable character in the family, so you don’t want to spend too much time with them. The film's intentions, like the Eco-friendly boyfriend of the daughter, are in the right place, but like the boyfriend, they just don’t pan out. My Rating: Cable Endangered Species Website The film is available for rent on participating on-demand services and will be available on Blue-Ray and DVD on June 1st.
Familyfaire: Dog Gone Trouble (2019) Trouble is a dog living the good life when his world is turned upside down when he gets lost and must learn to survive on the streets of the big city. This is a fun animated adventure film about a pooch who goes from living in the lap of luxury, pampered at every turn, and is suddenly out in the real world, with no idea how to get home or how to survive on the tough streets. Dog Gone Trouble is a funny, bright film for kids who will love the cast of characters, including a gang of squirrels that break out in a Michael Jackson ‘Beat It’ strut at a moment’s notice and an animal tracker who has quite a resemblance to a certain ‘pet detective.’ Trouble meets a lot of dogs along the way, including Rousey, terrifically voiced by Pamela Adlon, as a street smart dog that reluctantly takes Trouble under her wing. So join up with Trouble and help him find his way back to his mansion. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Dog Gone Trouble Website The film is available on the Netflix Platform.
Forgotten Film: Heaven & Earth (1993) R Torn from her family home during the Viet Nam War, Le Ly (Hiep Thi Le) struggles to survive in a country torn apart. Abused by both the Viet Cong and the Americans that say they are there to help her, Le Ly’s life is on a dangerous path until she meets Steve (Tommy Lee Jones), an American soldier who seems to be her knight in shining armor. Steve persuades Le Ly to marry him and come to America, where things go bad all over again. I am not a big Oliver Stone fan, but the performances in this film make it one to watch. Tommy Lee Jones is solid as the soldier who doesn’t know how to live without conflict, and Le Ly is mesmerizing as the woman who is determined to live no matter what the cost. An added bonus, there is a brilliant performance by Debbie Reynolds as a relative of Steve that puts the term Ugly American to good use. My Rating: Full Price Heaven and Earth Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Blue Miracle: Swing Dressers
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021) Just when Michael (Ryan Reynolds) thought his job was done, Darius’s (Samuel L.Jackson) wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek), is up to no good and Michael is back trying to protect someone everyone wants dead. I thoroughly enjoyed the first one, so I am up for this one, especially with Salma Hayek in the mix. The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard Website