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: Hitman’s Wife Bodyguard (2021) R 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 really liked the first film, The Hitman's Bodyguard, enjoying the banter between the two leads, and thought the action sequences were fun and thrilling. This film feels like a cash grab. The film isn’t entertaining, the dialogue, which was one of the best things about the first film, is crass and stupid. And the plot is such a mess I had a hard time figuring out what exactly was going on in the movie, other than letting Salma Hayek say some outrageous stuff and kill a lot of guys. I started looking at my watch about twenty minutes into the film, hoping that we were close to the film ending and then being crushed that I had much more to watch. I just wanted the endless car crashes, gunfights, and shouting to come to a close. If you make it to the end, and if you do, you should get a metal, there is a small, unfunny scene after the end of the first portion of credits. I saw this film in a theatre, but that didn’t make any difference to my dislike for this film and its sorry and boorish attempt at humor. My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard Website Now playing in select theatres.
Familyfaire: Luca (2021) PG Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) is a sea monster who dreams of exploring the world, but his parents are worried that the humans living on the ground will hunt and kill Luca. One day Luca discovers that he can change into human form, and with help from his fellow sea monster friend Alberto (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer), Luca sets out to travel the world of the humans. What more could you want than a small Italian coastal town, plenty of pasta, good friends dreaming of a Vespa to take them on adventures? That’s what the animated joy of a film called Luca delivers. What a fun, fantastical movie to watch as we follow Luca on his journey to discover the world and the hero inside him. Kids will love the bright, colorful animation and the whimsical action sequences, and adults will fall in love with the little sea monster who is scared of the real world but finds out that the world is a whole lot less scary when you have friends to help you along. I wish Pixar/Disney did not decide to release this film only on the Disney + platform and not in the theatres because it deserves the big screen in all its glory. Regardless, you and your family will have a blast riding along with Luca on his adventures in the wide, wide world, even if it all happens in a small, cozy Italian town. And oh, by the way, there is a funny bonus scene at the end of all the credits! My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Luca Website Now playing on the Disney + Platform.
My View: 12 Mighty Orphans (2021) PG-13 Set in the Great Depression, a small group of orphans are put together by a football coach (Luke Wilson) and lead them to the state championship, inspiring a tired and broken nation along the way. This is a film that feels a little too earnest for its own good. The story of the Mighty Mites is a good one as a group of orphans who, against unbelievable odds, made it all the way to the high school football championship game in the huge football-loving state of Texas during the depression, giving a community and eventually a nation a cause to back during a tough time in our history. It’s an inspiring story, but the film hits us over the head at every chance it has to make this point. Its villain, a man who runs the school's work program printing press, played by overacting Wayne Knight, is so sadistic and evil that it seems he is right out of a Charles Dickens novel. Luke Wilson plays the coach who sweeps into the orphanage to give the young men hope and a purpose, a hero who is haunted by his past, one that includes being an orphan himself. It’s an inspiring true story that the film never quite knows when to quit pouring on the sappiness. 12 Mighty Orphans isn’t a bad film and has an excellent message for young teens, but it can’t find a tone other than sappiness and over-the-top earnestness that never delivers the inspirational and emotional feeling that the film needs to carry out its message successfully. My Rating: Bargain Matinee 12 Mighty Orphans Website Now playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: The Sparks Brothers (2021) R Documentary on the legendary band Sparks, made up of brothers Ron and Russell Mael, who made music for the past five decades, releasing an astounding 25 albums and inspiring generations of pop and rock stars. I never was a Sparks fan, always thinking their music was a little too weird and ever-changing, only interested in their music when they teamed up with my Go-Go’s crush Jane Wiedlin. I have changed my mind due to the brilliance of this Edgar Wright-directed documentary. The film is a Sparks fan’s dream as it gives you not only a full rundown of each album that Sparks released but gives you rare concert footage of early performances and behind the scene photos of the band from the when the band started to form to the present. The film uses a mix of highly amusing animation with the band's music videos (remember when MTV used to be essential and necessary to a band's success) to give you an overwhelming and fantastic experience. The film interviews everyone from Beck and Todd Rundgren to Gilmore Girls creators Daniel and Amy Sherman-Palladino and Weird Al Yankovic. This film has something for everybody, including in-depth interviews on camera from the brothers themselves that lets the film show you their wild and creative voices. I’m still not sold on all their music, but that’s what is great about the band is they were so creative and prolific that you can find something in their vast song library that you are sure to like, and I am sold on what a brilliant documentary The Sparks Brothers is about a strange and inventive band that we all need in our lives. My Rating: Full Price The Sparks Brothers Website Now playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It (2021) Documentary about the legendary dancer/actress who, over a 70-year career, defied both her humble upbringing and relentless racism to become a celebrated and beloved actor, one of the rare EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) Award Winners of our time. When I was a kid, I fell in love with Rita Moreno when she dazzled me on the screen with her fiery dancing in West Side Story. I am happy to say that I am still in love with Rita Moreno and this documentary only confirms it. She is delightful telling her tale of a beautiful young girl who had a talent for dancing, lucked into an audition with a big Hollywood mogul, and then had to claw her way through the Hollywood system to become one of the great performers of our time. It’s a fascinating tale that Moreno tells us with both humor and candor. Some of its shocking, like after she won the Academy Award, she didn’t work for seven years because the roles she was offered were too small or too demeaning. Or that Rita was the long-time lover of Marlon Brando during his glory days as not only Hollywood’s leading actor but also its most beautiful. The tales of men in Hollywood trying to have their way with her are horrifying, especially her painful encounters with her agent, a man she trusted with her career. I was also amazed at how often I have seen Rita in films during her early years and not realized it was her because she was always playing the ‘native girl’ or the ‘Indian princess’ with her makeup, making her almost unrecognizable. I love how Rita kept her sense of humor and that passion for life, even when she went through hard times. It’s a beautiful documentary about a remarkable woman who is a treasure to the world of dance and acting. My Rating: Full Price Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For it Website Now playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: Enfant Terrible (2020) This is a film based on the life of the award-winning, controversial German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who in a short span completed 40 feature films, two TV series, and twenty-four plays. I never was a big Fassbinder film fan. His movies were too raw, where he didn’t often care about camera angles or realistic cutting sequences, wanting the audience to focus more on the emotion and faces of his characters. This film does the same thing with Fassbinder’s life story. It doesn’t care that the scenery is fake or that the acting is overbearing at times; it wants to show you how Fassbinder lived his life and made his movies; raw, emotional, and scenery-chewing to excess, and it does this. However, a little goes a long way, and I got tired of the fake scenery and the feeling that I was watching a stage play that was filmed. A word of warning, there are some sex scenes that, like Fassbinder’s life, are rather graphic and uncomfortable to watch. Also, I was not too fond of the idea that the film plays a little loose with the facts of Fassbinder’s life. It ignores that he was married twice to women who didn’t mind or care that he was gay. And it totally ignores the facts about the death of one of the loves of Fassbinder’s life, actor El Hedi ben Salem, who killed himself after Fassbinder helped him escape from a city where Salem had stabbed three people in a drunken rage. It was a death that was kept from Fassbinder in real life because his friends felt it would have destroyed him, but in the film, not only does he not personally help Salam escape the city where the stabbing happened, but he finds out about the death overhearing two crew members talking about the suicide. Like many of the Fassbinder films I have seen, I never could connect with the film or its characters, always bothered by the surrealistic feel of the film itself. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Enfant Terrible Info Available for rent on participating on-demand services.
My View: Fatherhood (2021) PG-13 After what was one of the happiest days of his life, the birth of his daughter, his wife dies, and a new father, Matt (Kevin Hart) is faced with raising a child, Maddie, on his own, something he was never ready for but must succeed because he is in it…together. Kevin Hart gives a touching and heartfelt performance as the single dad trying to raise a daughter on his own. The film does a better job in the second half of the film, once we get past the new father with a baby phase, which goes for the easy laughs way too many times. The film's heart is the relationship between Matt and Maddie, how they struggle through life together, as not only a team but as father and daughter. The film is greatly helped by a thoroughly enjoyable performance by Melody Hurd as the daughter Maddy, who is adorable in the role. The chemistry between Hurd and Hart is beautiful and makes the film work. The supporting cast isn’t given much to work with characters that are too cartoony and predicable, like Paul Reiser as the boss who gets upset when Matt puts Maddy in front of his job but then allows Matt to keep it because he is good at it or Lil Rel Howery’s character, Jordan, the friend who tries but always doesn’t do or say the right thing. Fatherhood doesn't have a groundbreaking storyline, nor does it quite reach the heartstrings that you want it to, but Kevin Hart and Melody Hurd together make it a film worth watching. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Fatherhood Website Now playing on the Netflix platform.
Forgotten Film: Blue Collar (1978) R Three co-workers (Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, Yaphet Kotto) at a Detroit auto plant are frustrated with their job, their lives, and their union. They decide to make a little money by breaking into their union’s headquarters, only to discover a few hundred dollars and a ledger. That ledger and what it contains will change the three friends' lives forever. First, please ignore one of the worst movie posters of all time that was surely developed to try to cash in on Richard Pryor’s sudden red hot career. Blue Collar is a drama, and Pryor is magnificent as the family man who all he wants is to give his wife and kid a life where they don’t have to worry about how much their weekly grocery bill is. Blue Collar is a gritty film that doesn’t go for the easy win, showing that life can be challenging and get rich quick schemes usually don’t work out. My Rating: Full Price Blue Collar Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard: Cliff Jumpers
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Old (2021) PG-13 A family is out on a tropical holiday, then they discover after spending a few hours on the beach that something is causing them to age by the hour. If this keeps going, they will be dead by the end of the day. Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan is hit or miss these days, but it's always interesting to see what he has come up with. Old Website