Friday, July 30, 2021

Jungle Cruise

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: Jungle Cruise   (2021)  PG-13   Captain Frank Wolf (Dwayne Johnson) is used to taking some tourists on a typical jungle cruise aboard his boat. But Capt. Wolf has never met Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), a determined explorer on a research mission, has other plans for her trip. Along with her brother, MacGregor (Jack Whitehall), she is looking for a magic cure hidden in the Amazon jungle for centuries. Captain Wolf, Lily and are about to go on the adventure of a lifetime, one that no one has ever returned from. This film reminded me of the classic Walt Disney adventure films of the fifties and sixties like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, with lots of action, a somewhat over-the-top villain, and some really scary henchman that does the villain’s bidding. What makes this film work is the chemistry between Johnson and Blunt. They play off each other perfectly, with lots of charisma but even better, great timing. As with any good romance of this nature, the two don’t get along at first, but we know right from the start that they are made for each other. The action sequences are fast and highly enjoyable with Blunt, using her experience with action-adventure roles from Edge of Tomorrow and A Quiet Place to great effect. Jesse Plemons is terrific as the evil (there is a great bit where Jack Whitehall’s character can’t understand that Plemons character is saying the word ‘jungle’), filling every scene with glee and mayhem. The film moves at a quick pace and is helped by a few nods to the Disneyland Jungle Cruise ride (watch out for those vicious headhunters!). Jungle Cruise is a lot of fun and is worth seeing on the big screen (I wish I had) due to all the wild and wooly action sequences. So go on a bit of a ride down the Amazon with the Captain and Lilly. You won’t need a refund for this trip.    My Rating: Full Price     Jungle Cruise Website  The film is now playing in theatres and is available on the Disney+ platform.

My View:   Stillwater   (2021)  R   An American oil-rig roughneck from Oklahoma, Bill (Matt Damon) travels to France to visit his daughter, Allison (Abigail Breslin), who is being held in jail for a murder that she claims she didn’t commit. With no help from her lawyer or the police, both of whom think she is guilty, Bill, in a foreign country, battling language barriers and a system set up to have him fail, is determined to find evidence to exonerate his daughter and bring her back home, to Stillwater. While not quite the Oscar performance that I am sure Damon was hoping for, this is still a good movie due to Damon's quiet and restrained performance as Bill, a man trying to do right by his daughter, who he has failed for most of his life. The film is two parts; one is a father trying to reconnect with a daughter he doesn’t know, and the other is a love story between Bill and the French woman, Virginie, played by Camille Cottin, who becomes at first his friend and then his love interest. Bill is determined to help his daughter in any way he can, if it is just being near to her, so Bill can visit her in prison from time to time. Soon, though, Bill gets it into his head that maybe he can do more; that maybe, just maybe, he can find a crucial person in the murder case that just might get his daughter out of prison or at least, a new trial. The film is helped by the secondary story of Bill getting involved with Virginie and her adorable daughter, Maya (Lilou Siauvaud), as we get to see Bill get a second chance at both love and having a family, making us like Bill more and more as the film goes on. The film drags a bit, feeling every bit its two hour and twenty-minute length, as we wait for the break in the case that we hope (and know) is coming. Overall, Stillwater is a good character study of a man who has sinned in the past and is trying to make up for those sins, no matter what it costs him.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Stillwater Website  The film is now playing in theatres.

Indiefest: The Green Knight  (2021)  R   The story of Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), King Arthur’s nephew, who is determined to make his own legend as he takes on the Green Knight, a gigantic green-skinned stranger. Filmmaker David Lowery has always been hit or miss with me. I really liked his films Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and The Old Man & the Gun, and I absolutely hated his movie A Ghost Story and wasn’t a big fan of Pete’s Dragon. So, be warned that this is a beautifully told tale of a classic knight of the round table story that is very much what I would call an ‘Arthouse Picture.’ It’s a film that critics will love, including me, but probably won’t find a wide audience because it isn’t a conventional telling but more in line with what the 14th-century poem followed, a tale of a knight on a quest, and it’s up to you to decide if the knight failed or succeeded in that quest. The film is filled with magical images that make the film feel part of all those 14th and 15th tapestries showing knights on their quests to serve King Arthur and the ideal of the honest and brave knight. Interestingly, Lowery has chosen to make Gawain not a knight but a wannabe, a young man who dreams of being a knight but would rather sleep with women and drink. This makes Gawain a flawed character from the start, and Dev Patel uses this to his advantage, making Gawain get by on his good looks and connections (he is King Arthur’s nephew and his mother is a sorceress). The film follows Gawain on his quest, one where he makes many mistakes, almost dies (primarily due to those mistakes), and relies on the kindness of strangers, some of which also can’t be trusted. The Green Knight is a moving, visually stunning film that anyone who loves the classics (like I do) will fall in love with. Now, if you are looking for a knight’s tale with lots of romance and sword-fighting, this isn’t your film, but if you want to go on a quest and experience a fantastic tale, this is a film for you.    My Rating: Full Price     The Green Knight Website  The film is now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest:  Twist   (2021) R    Twist (Raff Law) is a gifted graffiti artist trying to find his way after the loss of his mother. He meets Fagin (Michael Caine), the head of a street gang, and Twist is on his way to becoming an integral part of the gang when an art theft goes wrong, and Twist finds himself caught between Fagin, his love for Red (Sophie Simnett), the police, and a loose-cannon enforcer (Lena Headey). I enjoyed some of this film, mainly the parkour bits where Twist and Red went all over London via its rooftops. Still, the film falls flat with a weak plot that involves what should have been a very clever break-in into a high-security art museum, but instead, we get a lame heist film that never quite jells, even with pros like Michael Caine and Lena Headey in its cast. It would help if Raff Law had some of the star power of his father, Jude, but he doesn’t, and while he and Simnett, playing the tough and agile Red, have some chemistry, it's not enough to help the weak script in its attempt to do a contemporary tale of Oliver Twist.  Dickens Oliver Twist is a great story and has inspired many a wonderful film, but this adaptation isn’t one of them.     My Rating: Cable     Twist Info  Now playing in select theatres.

My View:   Resort to Love     (2021)  PG   It’s been a tough year for Erica (Christina Milian) after she broke up with her fiancé (Jay Pharaoh). Her fortunes look up when she accepts a job as an entertainer at a fabulous Island resort only to find out that she will be the highlighted entertainment at her ex-fiancee/s wedding. Think of this film as a Hallmark Channel film with better music. The storyline is predictable, Millian’s acting wavers a bit (she does well at the drama parts but not with the comedy), and the ending is what you expect, but fans of Millan will enjoy this film because she sings a lot. Sinqua Walls, playing the brother of Jay Pharaoh, is fine as the love interest that we know Erica will end up, and the film gives him plenty of chances to take off his shirt to make the viewers swoon a bit. Resort to Love is a very lightweight film perfect for a Saturday afternoon or maybe a late-night viewing with a glass of wine. In fact, perhaps a couple of glasses of wine and a fast-forward button to get to Millan singing a tune or two.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Resort to Love Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest:   Ride the Eagle   (2021)   Leif (Jake Johnson) is left a picturesque Yosemite cabin he inherits from his estranged mother. Her only condition is that he has to complete a to-do list that she has compiled to teach him some lessons about life. I am a big fan of Jake Johnson, having loved him in films such as Drinking Buddies and Safety Not Guaranteed, and I was not disappointed in this film about a guy who has never gotten over the fact that his mother left him when he was young for a cult and never did make amends…until now. Leif, via tapes his mother has left him, has to complete some tasks that his mother has decided will teach Leif about life and how to live it. This is Johnson’s film; he is on screen the whole time and, with the exception of his loyal dog (with whom he talks to all the time), is pretty much on his own, trying to faithfully complete the tasks his mother has left him to do. I loved the phone conversations that he has with an old girlfriend (played by always charming D’Arcy Carden), who Leif has called as part of his mother’s quest. Susan Sarandon plays Leif’s mom (who we only see through those videotapes) and is hilarious as she gives Leif his tasks to undertake. Ride the Eagle is one of those small, independent gems that is worth not only your watch but a wider audience if only to see J.K. Simmons, as one of Leif’s mother's lovers, rage at Leif, calling him a hilarious bunch of names that I can’t publish but would really like to.    My Rating: Full Price     Ride the Eagle Website  Now playing in select theatres and available to rent on available online platforms.

Forgotten Film:   Changes   (1969)  R   Kent (Kent Lane) is a lost young man. As the filmgoers along, we see his life in flashbacks, including his unhappy relationship with his girlfriend, who ended up committing suicide. He crashes his car and then goes on a walking quest to figure out his life. Along the way, he meets people that he thinks can help him, including a journalist (Marcia Strassman). This is one of those films that was made in the late 60s, early 70’s when Hollywood was trying to figure out what would appeal to the young people in a country that was changing incredibly fast. Changes isn’t a great film, much too experimental for my taste, but it gives you a great look at a time when Southern California was changing and Hollywood was trying to keep up. It helps that the film has an incredible soundtrack, including Joni Mitchell singing ‘Both Sides Now and look for an incredibly young Terri Garr in the movie playing a waitress.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Changes Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Jungle Cruise: Men’s Head Cutter

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You:   King Richard   (2021)   The story of how Richard Williams (Will Smith) turned Venus and Serena Williams into two of the greatest tennis players in the game's history. The film is from Reinaldo Marcus Green, who gave us the marvelous Monster and Men (2018) and we all know that when given a good part that Will Smith can act, so I am looking forward to this film.      King Richard Info

Until Next Time!

Friday, July 23, 2021


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:  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. M. Night Shyamalan has always been such a hit (Sixth Sense, Split) or miss (The Last Airbender, After Earth) filmmaker for me. This isn’t a hit or a miss, sort of just sitting in the middle. Could it have been a better film? Maybe. Could it have been worse? Oh, yes. The story is pretty simple. A group of people on vacation are sent to a remote beach and then start growing older as the day goes along. I think maybe this would have been better if it had been shorter, perhaps part of a TV series like the reboot of The Twilight Zone, instead of a feature film as it takes too long for things to happen and then even when they do happen, there is a lot of time before something else happens. I will warn you that some of the scenes in the film are downright gruesome to watch, and other than the kids, there aren’t a lot of likable characters to root for. It helps that there is an ending that does explain a good bit of why and what happened, and that helped me a lot with how I felt about this film. Is it worth rushing down to the theatre to Old (I saw it at home on my computer)? Quite frankly, no, but it’s better than some of his horrible misses.    My Rating; Bargain Matinee     Old Website  Now playing in theatres.

My View:  Joe Bell  (2020) R   After his son is tormented in high school for being gay, Joe (Mark Wahlberg), a working-class father from a small town, sets to walk across America to crusade against bullying. The film is written by the Oscar-winning writing team of Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana (Brokeback Mountain (2005)), so I had high hopes for this film, but it falls flat almost right from the start. We see Joe out on his trek with his son, Jaden (Reid Miller), as they talk about life, and Jaden playfully kids his father about knowing lyrics to a pop song. This is one of those films you want to love because its heart is in the right place, but it is so poorly executed that it makes the film feel like it moves at a snail's pace. The film moves back and forth between the present of Joe’s trek and the past as we see how difficult it was to be openly gay in a small-town high school. I think the film is hurt by this back and forth; we keep going to the present where Jaden is slowly guiding Joe to understand what went on in the psst, and then we see that past, and it messes with the message. The focus is too much on Joe and not enough on Jaden, and by going back and forth, it undermines the power of Jaden’s story. It also doesn’t help that the twist in the story is evident right from the start of the film, making the present scenes feel uncomfortable and not honest. I am sorry that Joe Bell is the last work that the late writer Larry McMurtry did. I will choose to remember his better works like The Last Picture Show and Lonesome Dove instead.    My Rating: Cable     Joe Bell Website  Now playing in theatres.

My View:   The Last Letter from Your Lover  (2021)    An ambitious young journalist, Ellie (Felicity Jones), comes across a series of letters and is determined to solve the mystery of a forbidden love affair in London in the mid-60s between Jennifer Stirling (Shailene Woodley), the wife of a wealthy industrialist, and Anthony O[Hare (Callum Turner), a journalist assigned to do a story on Jennifer’s husband. This is a good old-fashioned star-crossed lover’s story with all the pitfalls that you would expect. The story is pretty predictable, especially the secondary love story between the Felicity Jones journalist, who doesn’t want to be in a relationship, and the co-worker she slowly falls for (played by Nabhaan Rizwan). Most of the story centers on Jennifer, played by the lovely Shailene Woodley, an American who too quickly got swept off her feet and is now in a loveless marriage of a man who mostly ignores her. Soon she starts flirting with the journalist assigned to do a story about her husband, and soon their affair starts up. As we all know, the affair is doomed, even though the two are perfect together, and a series of events conspire to keep the two lovers apart. The question is, will Ellie’s investigation of the two lovers story let us know what happened, and did the two lovers ever find each other again?   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     The Last Letter from Your Lover Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Val  (2021)  R Documentary on legendary actor Val Kilmer, who played iconic parts throughout his career, including Ice in Top Gun (1986), Jim Morrison in The Doors (1991), and Batman in Batman Forever (1995). Val Kilmer has always been known as a talented but eccentric actor. Kilmer was known for confronting his directors and sometimes his fellow actors over his ideas on how his characters should act and feel. Kilmer was an early adopter of video cameras and has videotaped his life from almost the start of his career (so much footage that he has a warehouse full of the stuff from his life). A few years ago, Kilmer got throat cancer, and they had to install a tube to allow him to breathe. Because of this tube, his speaking voice has drastically changed to a hard to understand gravely speaking voice. His son, Jack, does most of the narration in the film, and most of the time, you forget that it’s not Val himself. The film is filled with behind-the-scenes footage, including some footage from the legendary Top Gun shoot and some extraordinary footage showing just how nuts the making of the horrible The Island of Dr. Moreau was, including a scene with a very fat Marlon Brando wanting to pushed while he laid in a hammock. Now, this is Val telling his own story, so it’s a bit one sided; we don’t get a lot from other people talking about working with him, and other than the Dr. Moreau footage, not muxh about his tantrums and walkouts on the sets of so many movies. Still, Val is a fascinating look at a career that burned bright very early on and then never quite reached that height again.   My Rating: Full Price         Val website  Now playing in theatres.

Familyfaire:   Trollhunters:  Rise of the Titans (2021)   Jim, the first human Trollhunter, must lead his band of friends into a battle to take over the world. Troll Titans have been awakened, and if they converge, it will plunge the world into chaos. This film is the conclusion to a series of TV shows and specials, all of which I have not seen, so I was a little lost right from the start. This film brings all the characters from the past into a super-group formed to try and stop some evil Trolls from ending the world. The story's main hero, Jim, has lost his power to fight the evil trolls and must lead the gang into the fight severely limited on what he can do. That is the basis of the story's message that you can be a leader without having to do everything, that you need to have faith in both yourself and your team. The film is fun to watch, and I did get into the storyline once I figured out the characters in the group and their relationships. I think fans of the shows will get more out of this film than someone like me because you already know all the backstories and have your favorites. I will warn parents; there are a few of the heroes that do die (nothing too ghastly but still shocking), so be preprepared, some of which I became fond of in the short time of watching this film, so I can imagine fans will be hurting at their deaths. Overall, the film's message is good, the action sequences are well done, and the ending is well thought out and compelling.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans Website    Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest:  Settlers (2021)   Remmy (Brooklynn Prince), her mother IIsa (Sofia Boutella), and her father Reza (Jonny Lee Miller) are some of mankind’s earliest settlers on the Martian planet, who do what they must to survive the cosmic elements and each other. This film gives you many questions to ask and few answers in return, and that’s ok because the emphasis of the film is not how we got here but how we are dealing with the present. The film centers on Remmy, a smart young girl who lives in isolation with her father and mother. It is never said what is out there beyond the hills that has the three so scared, but it makes the film full of tension right from the start. The movie is scary at times, and you never quite know what is going on; we just know that everyone is fighting for survival in rough conditions. There is a sense of fear and bad things coming around every corner, and the film never lets you relax, keeping the tension going throughout the film. Settlers is a slow burn of a movie, with stakes that are high throughout, and they never let up.    My Rating: Full Price     Settlers Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Akilla’s Escape  (2021)   Akilla (Saul Williams) has spent his life trying to forget his past, but in one night, it all comes roaring back as he is the victim of a robbery gone wrong. Excellent crime drama anchored by an outstanding performance from Saul Williams. Akila is a man who just wants to leave the world of crime behind. Even though his successful pot business is going legit, he wants to get out. On what should have been his last night, he is held up by a gang of teenagers, who make off with all the cash from the operation. Akila then takes an injured robber to find out where the cash is and get it back. But Akilla knows if he gives up the robber to his boss, that robber will lose his life, so Akilla decides to get the cash back on his own. The film does a beautiful job of getting inside Akilla’s head, and we flashback to a scene when he was a teenager and was being taught how to be a gangster by his father. We come to understand why Akilla would risk everything, including his life, to try to save the teenage robber. The film is full of tension that keeps building until the end, and Williams is riveting as the troubled Akilla, who wants nothing more than for everything to be over with. I am sorry I missed Akilla's Escape when it played at the Atlanta Film Festival, but I am glad it is now out for everyone to go on a thrilling ride with Akilla in his quest to right some wrongs from the past.   My Rating: Full Price    Akilla's Escape Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: How it Ends (2021) R    The world is about to come to an end, so Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) goes on a journey through LA one last time in hopes of making it to a party before everything closes down. The world is going to come to an end due to an asteroid that will hit the earth. Liza decides to set out to talk to people that mean the most to her and get everything out in the open, hoping to mend old wounds and right some wrongs. Shot during the early portion of the pandemic last year, the streets of LA are vacant (no one had any place to go), and it gives the film an eerie feeling to it that the world is coming to an end. You can also see the pandemic in the fact that most of the people that Liza encounters on her walk stay at least 6 feet away from her. Along the way, Liza and her younger self (Cailee Spaeny), with who she constantly interacts, encounter a whole host of characters that Liza has conversations with. You can tell a lot of these encounters are done with a whole lot of improvising. An encounter with a character played by Fred Armisen is particularly funny. Along the way, Liza explores her life, her mistakes, and her regrets of a life that was filled with interesting characters that filled her life. How it Ends is a fun film to watch, mostly due to how talented a comedic actor Zoe Lister-Jones is and the great chemistry she has with Cailee Spacey, who plays her younger, brash self.    My Rating: Full Price      How it Ends Info  Now available for rent on online platforms including Amazon.

Forgotten Film; A Tiger’s Tale (1987)  R   Bubber (C. Thomas Howell) is a high-school-student with a nice but slightly daffy girlfriend, Shirley (Kelly Preston). Shirley’s mom, Rose (Ann-Margret), is also a little strange, likes to drink a little too much and flirt. Bubber soon becomes infatuated with Rose, and much to his surprise, Rose is open to it, if only for a little while. Then things get complicated. This isnâ’t a great movie as the 80s like to make these type of films, where young people get into sexual relationships way over their head. Most of the characters seem right out of a bad 40s B movie, the plot is incredibly thin, but it has Ann-Margret, who was and still is a massive crush of mine. She absolutely radiates in this film, and you can see why any young man would want to sleep with her. The film has two beautiful scenes in it, one where Rose, Bubber, and a tiger (yeah, I know) sit on a hill and watch a drive-in movie. The other scene is late at night, where Rose runs naked through a field with the Tiger. Heck, maybe you should just fast forward through anything that Ann-Margret doesnâ’t appear in.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     A Tiger's Tale Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Settlers: Spark

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Suicide Squad (2021) R    The squad of misfit criminals is back on another mission that is bound to get them killed. Margot Robbie returns as the beautiful but mad Harley Quinn, and a cast that looks like it will be so much fun to watch, including John Cena, Taika Waititi, Idris Elba, Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillon, Jai Courtney, and Viola Davis. The last film was kind of a bore, but this one is written and directed by James Gunn, who gave us The Guardians of the Galaxy, so I am hopeful this one will be a winner.     The Suicide Squad Website    

Until Next Time!

Friday, July 16, 2021

Space Jam: A New Legacy

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.

Familyfaire:  Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021) PG   The son of famed basketball player LeBron James has been kidnapped by a rogue artificial intelligence. Now LeBron must join forces with Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes gang to win a basketball game to get LeBron’s son back. I am a huge fan of the Looney Tunes crowd, having grown up watching them after-school and on those glorious Saturday mornings. While I am not a fan of the basketball player, I did quite enjoy his performance as the best friend of Bill Hader’s character in Trainwreck. I am not a fan of the original Space Jam, though I understand that it is probably one of your favorites if you saw the film as a child. Warner Brothers has been trying to a sequel to the original for 25 years, but they couldn’t get Michael Jordan to do the green screen again, and other attempts like Spy Jam with Jackie Chan or Race Jam with Jeff Gorden or Football Jam with Tim Tebow all fell through. Unfortunately, this one didn’t fall through, and we got almost two hours of a very boring film that doesn’t have any of the enchantment or humor of those classic Bugs Bunny cartoons. And how much of an ego boost does James need for us to go through what seemed like a ten-minute highlight reel of his career. Instead of space, we go into cyberspace, where a rogue AI played by Don Cheadle plans to take over the world or something (it never was quite clear what his plan was) and challenges James to a basketball game. It takes an incredibly long time to get to the game, so much so that you almost forget that there will be one. The film is full of sad ripoffs of classic cartoons, and the kids that I saw the film with were more interested in figuring out all the Warner Brother characters that were in the crowd of the basketball game (like the Penguin and the weird guys from Mad Max: Fury Road) than in the movie itself. By the end of the film, I didn’t care who won or why; I just wanted someone to say ˜That’s All Folks’ (it does happen, and it’s just as disappointing as the rest of the film). I did see this film in the theatre, but the animation was dull and not worth the trouble of seeing it on a big screen.   My Rating: Cable    Space Jam: A New Legacy Website  Now playing in theatres and on the HBO Max platform.

Indiefest:  Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (2021) R    A documentary about the legendary chef, writer, and TV host Anthony Bourdain, who traveled across the world searching for great food and exciting cultures after publishing his groundbreaking book Kitchen Confidential made him a worldwide star. The problem with documentaries is you know how they are going to end, and we all know that Bourdain killed himself. I didn’t know too much about Bourdain’s later personal life, just from what he lets us see (which was a lot) in his groundbreaking book Kitchen Confidential that blew the lid off what had been sacred grounds of the upper-crust kitchens of some of the most famous resturants in the world. The film uses a lot of behind-the-scenes footage from his TV series and interviews that he did once he became a media darling with his book. The film does a great job of letting us know what it was to be around the man through interviews with the people that were closest to him, including his two wives, his production crew (some of which were with him almost throughout his TV career) and chefs from around the world, all of whom loved and admired this man and his talent. The first two-thirds of the film is fun and is thrilling to watch this man who had a knack for words find his voice. The film's final third is hard to watch, as he struggled with fame and success, never quite finding happiness and always on the road to find it. I was not too fond of the fact that the film demonizes Bourdain's last girlfriend, Italian actress Asia Argento, who was not interviewed for the film and was made to look like she was a significant contributing factor to his death. Fans of Bourdain will enjoy that behind-the-scenes footage, and all the stories told about him. Still, his leaving behind so many people who loved him and a child he had with his second wife just is such a sad way to end a glorious life, one which brought so much happiness to the world but couldn’t ultimately bring Bourdain that same happiness.    My Rating: Full Price    Roadrunner Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest:   Pig (2021)   R   A famous truffle hunter, Rob (Nicolas Cage), lives alone out in the Oregonian wilderness, isolated from the world he left behind many years ago. When he is brutally attacked and his prized truffle hunting pig is kidnapped, Rob returns to his past in Portland in search for her and the people responsible. I know that in the past ten years, Nicolas Cage has made some strange films, sometimes horrible (Left Behind), sometimes wonderfully weird (Mandy), and sometimes just plain bizarre (Willy’s Wonderland). Cage doesn’t always make the right choices, but he can bring us some fantastic, low-key performances that few other actors out there can deliver. Pig is one of those magical Cage performances, and he is perfect for the part of a man haunted by his past who has escaped the world to live in the wilderness with his truffle-hunting pig. Now, don’t expect another John Wick or Taken thought there is some rather brutal violence in it; this is more about a man who is on a quest to find his best friend, his pig. This is one of Cage’s best performances letting his body language tell most of the story. Cage’s low-key, almost non-verbal performance plays perfectly off of Alex Wolff’s performance of Amir, the high-strung truffle broker who becomes Rob's unwilling sidekick and chauffeur. Pig is one of those films that I feel will get better with another viewing, letting you soak in this strange man who has one task, to find his pig. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Pig Website    Now playing in select theatres.

My View:  Fear Street Part Three: 1666  (2021)   R   We go back to the origins of all the problems to see how the curse of Sarah Fier started, which changed the lives of Shadysiders forever. These days, it is rare to see a terrific horror film, but it's almost a miracle to see three in a row. All three films are creatively connected with the last taking place in the year 1666 when we see the origin of the Fear Street story and how Sarah Fier started her horrible curse. The film uses the actors from the first two films to supply the characters in this one set in the past. Kiana Madeira, who played Deena in the first two films, portrays Sarah Fier, a brash but well-liked woman who lives in a small settlement with her brother and widowed father. She gets into trouble due to her relationship with Hannah (Olivia Scott Welch), and when things start going badly in the settlement (i.e., fruit rotting, pigs eating their young, etc.), she and Hannah are accused of being witches. I don't want to give too much away, but everything that has happened in the first two Fear Street films are connected to this event. The conclusion is one of the best horror film’s endings I have seen in a long time, and yes, there could be more. The cool thing about this film series is you don't have to wait years for it to play out; you can binge-watch it in an afternoon and have a scary good time.   My Rating: Full Price     Fear Street Part Three: 1666 Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest:  Summertime (2020) R   The story of what it's like to live in present-day Los Angeles as told by 27 young people over the course of a single day. This is a beautiful homage to a city from the hearts and minds of the people that live in it. Taken from a poetry workshop, the film interweaves the lives of these young people as they tell their stories through rap, spoken word, songs, dance and poetry. All the actors in the movie are the writers of each of their pieces, which makes the performances feel so heartfelt and genuine as they express their hopes, dreams, and hardships living in such a big and diverse city. The film is fun to watch, imaginative in how it intertwines their lives with each other, and perfectly captures the mixed feelings of being young while dealing with what life brings in front of you.    My Rating: Full Price    Summertime Website   Now playing in select theatres.

My View:  Gunpowder Milkshake  (2021)  R   Sam (Karen Gillan) was only 12 years old when her mother, Scarlet (Lena Headey), was forced to abandon her. Sam was raised by the crime syndicate that her mother worked for and was trained to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Now, Sam has chosen to cross the syndicate to save an innocent eight-year-old girl (Chloe Coleman) and must find her mother and her lethal associates to help her take down the syndicate known as The Firm. Any film with Karen Gillan and Lena Headey as mother/daughter assassins is worth watching but add in a cast that includes Caral Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, Paul Giamatti, and Angela Bassett, and it's a sure bet I’m turning on the computer to see this one. The best way I can describe this film is John Wick with a sense of humor, and the women do all the butt-kicking. Karen Gillan is perfect as the deadpanned Sam who decides to protect the little girl who has a contract out on her head. Lena Headey is hilarious as the mother who thought it was a good idea to leave her teenager behind with a group of assassins to raise her. The action sequences are fun, well done, and are so filled with action that it may take a couple more viewings to take it all in. So go on a killing spree with Sam and her mother but just don’t call Sam a serial killer…¦she is just an assassin for hire with a love for guns, nothing more.   My Rating: Full Price    Gunpowder Milkshake Website   Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Forgotten Film:   The Guns of Navarone (1961)  G   When I was a kid, I loved the books written by Alistair MacLean. They were adventure books full of intrigue and high stakes, with a stoic hero leading a team into an impossible situation that was sure to fail, but our hero would somehow, someway succeed and save the day. MacLean wrote a bunch of these books, and many went on to be films, including billionaire recluse's favorite film Ice Station Zebra. The best of the bunch is The Guns of Navarone, about a team of allied saboteurs assigned the impossible task of infiltrating a Nazi-held island and destroying two enormous guns that are keeping 2,000 soldiers from escaping a nearby outpost. The cast is a who’s who of 1960s stars, including Gregory Peck as the leader of the force, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, James Darren, Anthony Quayle, and Richard Harris, who chews up scenery like no one can. The film is a blast to watch and is full of well-made action sequences with an ending that can’t be missed.   My Rating: Full Price     The Guns of Navarone Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Pig: 'Pig' Understudy

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You:   Ride the Eagle (2021)   Leif (Jake Johnson) is left a picturesque Yosemite cabin he inherits from his estranged mother. Her only condition is that he has to complete a to-do list that she has compiled to teach him some lessons about life. Jake Johnson is one of my favorite actors, and I can’t wait to see this film that he co-wrote. It doesn’t hurt that the cast includes J.K Simmons, Susan Sarandon, and D’Acry Carden.   Ride the Eagle Info

Until Next Time!

Friday, July 9, 2021

Black Widow

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:   Black Widow  (2021)  PG-13   Natasha Scarlett Johansson), the Black Widow is on the run and discovers a link to her past, her own sister, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh). The two sisters team up to break their father, Alexei (David Harbour), out of jail in an attempt to save the world. I want to let you know that right off the bat, my favorite Avenger character is Black Widow, and I have been very vocal about how we wanted and needed a Black Widow stand-alone film, and now we have one. This one is set in the past, between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. This is a film about a hero coming to terms with what she once was (an assassin) and what she is now (a hero). Natasha has a nasty and horrible past, where she never had the family she needed and was always seen as not as a person but as a tool and a weapon. Now Natasha must meet this past head-on as she encounters her long-lost sister, Yelena, who just recently figured out that she was also being used (against her will) to kill for others. This is a fast-paced, action-packed film that is enjoyable as a stand-alone film in the Marvel universe. Johansson is excellent, as usual, in the action sequences and also brings heart and soul into the complex character of Natasha. The film is made better by Florence Pugh, who plays the defiant sister who has a keen sense of humor than the always serious Natasha. Pugh is so much fun to watch on the screen, and they give her a wonderful catchphrase that she uses at just the right moments to make this film so enjoyable to watch. Add in David Harbour as an out-of-shape former Russian superhero and the always fantastic Rachel Weisz to fill out a cast of characters that are worth watching. Black Widow is the film that I wanted, letting me find out who the Black Widow was before the Avengers and be able to understand just how far she has come to become the hero we all love as the Black Widow. Oh, and by the way, be sure to stay through all the credits for a bonus scene.    My Rating: Full Price     Black Widow Website  The film is currently in theatres and also available on the Disney+ platform. 

Indiefest:   I Carry You With Me   (2020)  R  Ivan (Armando Espitia), who dreams of being a chef one day, meets Gerardo (Christian Vazquez), a teacher, in a nightclub in Puebla, Mexico. Right away, their attraction is passionate and meaningful. However, there is trouble brewing; Ivan has a 5-year-old son whose mother would take away his visitation rights if she discovers that Ivan is gay, and Gerardo’s father, the leader of a ranching empire, considers Gerardo’s lifestyle a blight on the family. Despite his love of Gerardo and his son, Ivan decides to escape the dead-end jobs of Mexico for New York to carry out his dream of being a chef, leaving the two most important people in his life behind. Like Ivan’s and Gerardo’s lives, this film is a messy and sometimes confusing tale of love and love lost told from three different places in time; the harsh world of Gerardo’s childhood, the wonderful and occasionally painful time of Ivan and Gerardo’s courtship in their twenties, and the present where Ivan and Gerardo are just trying to live their lives as best they can. The film lovingly shows us their lives and their passions, especially Ivan’s love for food and how he can create something extraordinary from the simplest of ingredients. The film explores life in both Mexico and New York City, giving us an insight into the plight and issues of immigrants, both legal and illegal. I Carry You With Me is a love story for the ages and one that is explored through the eyes of two men who just want to love and live on their own terms, even if the world seems to want to keep them apart.   My Rating: Full Price     I Carry You With Me Website   Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest:  The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52  (2021)  PG   Documentary about a whale, called the ’52 Hertz Whale,' which scientists believe has spent its life in complete solitude. The whale gets its name from the 52 Hz frequency call that the whale makes, a frequency it is thought to be unrecognizable by other whales. Like the infamous Moby Dick, 52 is a whale of myths and legends. Some doubt the whale even exists, and if the whale did, is it still alive, and is it all alone, searching the seas with a siren call that is doomed to never be answered? Filmmaker sets out on an adventure to find out if 52 is still out there. The film is full of incredible footage of the voyage, using onboard cameras, along with drones and cameras that are placed on whales themselves, giving us an up-close look at what goes on in the hunt for this legendary whale that may not even exist. The film gives us a remarkable journey into the lives of whales and how they communicate with each other, all the while also showing just how delicate the balance of nature in the sea is and how mankind has seemed from ages to try to destroy the whale and its ecosystem. The Loneliest Whale is a beautiful and sometimes thrilling film that any nature lover will want to see. You will, as I did, will fall in love with the idea that 52 is out there somewhere calling out, waiting for an answer.   My Rating: Full Price     The Loneliest Whale Website  Now playing in theatres and will be available for rent on demand on July 16th. 

My View:  Fear Street Part One: 1994  (2021)  R   Dena (Kiana Madeira) is a high-school student who hasn’t gotten over her breakup with Sam (Olivia Scott Welch). Dena lives in Shadyside, a town with a nasty history, one filled with people who go crazy and kill violently for no reason. Besides breaking up with Dena, Sam has made matters worse by moving to the rival town, Sunnyside, and to top it all is dating a boy. Another murder has occurred in Shadyside, and Dena’s little brother Josh ( Benjamin Flores Jr.) has begun using a new tool, the Internet, to piece together the mystery of the horrible mystery of killings in Shadyside. Dena, along with friends and some enemies, are determined to find out who or what is responsible for the killings and set out to end the curse once and for all. First, the killings are bloody and extremely violent, but this is a slasher movie, so it is to be expected. What I loved about this film is that we care about the characters, which the film has brilliantly set up, letting us get to know Dena, Sam, Josh, and the rest of the gang, so that we care about them and want them to succeed. Secondly, the plot is creative and has plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing, and the film moves at a quick pace. The soundtrack is a blast, including hits from the time period, and helps propel the movie along. The film ends, promising more to come with the next movie, with a climax that is both satisfying and letting you know that bad things are still to come. Horror fans will have fun taking a trip back to the mall in 1994.   My Rating: Full Price     Fear Street Part One Website  Available on the Netflix platform.

My View:   Fear Street Part Two: 1978  (2021)  R    A series of brutal murders have plagued the town of Shadyside for over 300 years. The key to the killings may lay in the events that happened in 1978 at Camp Nightwing, where another Shadysider is possessed with the urge to kill, making camp an all-out fight to survive. We go back to 1978, where two sisters, Ziggy (Sadie Sink) and Cindy (Emily Rudd), from Shadyside, are working at the Camp. Cindy is the proper one, who follows the rules, and Ziggy is the wild sister, one who is always getting into trouble, though most of it is due to fellow campers from the rival town, Sunnyside. Soon, a murderer is on the loose in the camp, and it’s up to the two sisters to try and fight this murderer and maybe, just maybe, end the curse of the witch who was killed back in 1666. While not quite as enjoyable as Part 1, the film is a fun take on the 70s/80s horror films that used kids at camps as fodder for brutal murders and plots. I loved Sadie Sink, as the sister who the Sunnysiders feel is the cause of all their problems. Sink has a fiery energy that fills the screen, and she is a lot of fun to follow around as she tries to evade the murderer of Camp Nightwing. This film is a little too long in its almost two-hour time length, but it's still a blast to the past with songs from the 70s and lots of campers meeting gruesome deaths. The film, like Part 1, sets up the next film of the trilogy, Part 3: 1666.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee       Fear Street Part Two Website    Available on the Netflix platform.

Forgotten Film: Bright Angel (1990) R   George (Dermot Mulroney) dreams of college or anything else that will take him away from his unhappy parents (Sam Shepard, Valerie Perrine). When George and his father find another man at their home, and George’s mother leaves with that man, George decides he must escape. He finds that person to escape with in Lucy (Lili Taylor), a young woman whose brother is in trouble, and she has a plan to get him out of it. Lucy and George take off on an adventure that is doomed from the start, but they are determined to help her brother at any cost. Bright Angel is a film that is filled with interesting characters, all of whom seem lost in one way or another. These characters make plans that have no hope of completing, traveling the roads from one seedy place to another, with only each other to hold onto. Lili Taylor shows again why she is one of the best actors out there, breaking your heart from the first moment you see her on the screen. Bright Angel is a movie filled with hopes and dreams that are broken before the characters have even begun to think of them.    My Rating: Full Price       Bright Angel Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Black Widow: Wind Tunnel Performers

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Fear Street Part Three: 1666 (2021) R  We go back to the origins of all the problems to see how the curse of Sarah Fier started, which changed the lives of Shadysiders forever. I love that we don’t have to wait for years to find out how it all started in this fantastic horror trilogy.      Fear Street Part Three Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, July 2, 2021

The Forever Purge

 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:  The Forever Purge   (2021) R   Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta) have made a new life for themselves in Texas. They survive the night of the annual Purge and think all is well, but then realize that all the rules are broken as a sect of lawless marauders decide that the Purge does not stop at daybreak and may never end. The film is greatly helped by excellent performances by de la Reguera and Huerta, who give the film some life and give us heroes to boot, but they can’t overcome a script that is full of hate crimes and hits you constantly over the head with its message that if we just try to understand each other, we can get along. Unfortunately, the violence is ramped up and is delivered with the subtle touch of a baseball bat. This series has just become an excuse to create bigger explosions and gorier death scenes, all why trying miserably to have a message of unity.   My Rating: Cable    The Forever Purge Website  Now playing in theaters.

My View: The Tomorrow War  (2021)  PG-13  The world is amazed when a group of time travelers arrive from the year 2051 with a message that mankind is on the brink of losing a war with a deadly alien species. The only hope is for soldiers and civilians alike to come from the present to be transported to the future and join the fight. Among those recruited is Dan Forester (Chris Pratt), a high school teacher who leaves his family behind to save the world for his daughter’s future. I liked that this film takes the time-travel movie and turns it around, as usually people go back to the past to stop something from happening that will destroy the world, but in this case, people go to the future to stop an alien race from destroying the world. The problem is that Chris Pratt isn’t given much to go on with his character as Dan is a pretty bland guy with not a lot of humor or charisma going for him. The story bogs down with uninteresting characters through out the film and while there are some cool action sequences with fighting the aliens, the film suffers from an almost predictability and repetition of the battles between the humans and the baddies. The film drags at points and you feel it’s over two-hour length throughout the film. There is a good film somewhere in this plot but The Tomorrow War never finds its mojo, much like most of the soldiers sent to battle the aliens with almost no hope or training.    My View: Bargain Matinee      The Tomorrow War Website   Now playing on the Amazon Prime platform.
The Boss Baby: Family Business  (2021) PG   The Templeton brothers (voiced by Alec Baldwin and James Marsden) have grown up and drifted from each other, but they are about to be brought back together by a new boss baby and discover that brotherly bond that they had used to succeed in the past. I was not too fond of the first one, finding the plot confusing and the jokes very weak. This new adventure isn’t much better. The brothers are sent back to their childlike appearance infiltrate a school that could be taking over the world. And once again, the filmmakers feel that to put in as much action and clutter as they can to keep us from understanding the plot or enjoy the characters. Small kids may enjoy all the action and loud noises, but adults and older kids will soon get tired of the frantic story that never takes a breath. My Rating; Cable     Boss Baby: Family Business Website  Now in theatres and available on the Peacock Premium Platform. 

Indiefest:  Zola  (2020) R  A waitress and part-time stripper named Zola (Taylour Page) meets Stefani (Riley Keough) and strikes up a quick friendship. Stefani talks Zola into taking a weekend trip to Tampa to make some fast and easy money. It’s a trip that Zola will regret ever taking. Zola is a movie that I think most critics are going to give glowing reviews for, but I did not enjoy this film and did not like anyone in the movie, including the main character, Zola, who is our hero for the film. This is a gross, ugly world full of characters that are vain and stupid. Zola seems to be the only one who has any sense, and even she seems to let her guard down way too much. Now, don’t get me wrong, Page and Keough give wonderful performances, but I don’t want to spend any time with either of them or be put into the situations they keep putting themselves into. I never could figure out if this was some sort of comedy, whether dark or otherwise, if the filmmakers were making fun of the characters or just feeling bad for them. I understand this film is based on a series of tweets that the real-life Zola made on a trip to the underbelly of Tampa back in 2015, but If I had started to read her tweets back then, I think I would have blocked them.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Zola Website    Now playing in theatres.  

Indiefest: Audible  (2021)  PG-13   Documentary that focuses on football player Amaree McKenstry-Hall that plays on the Maryland School of the Deaf as he and his teammates defend their winning streak on the field while coming to terms with the tragic loss of a close friend. This is a thoughtful and insightful look at the world of teenagers who are deaf. Amaree is a star player on the football team who has had a remarkable run of success during his time at the school. The film does not have a narrator, letting the kids and parents tell their story, primarily by allowing us to just tag along with Amaree and his friends as they go through their senior year. Like most teens, Amaree is dealing with a lot; a girlfriend who seems distant at times, a father who abandoned his family for the life of drugs but is trying to reconnect with his son, a winning streak that is stopped by another deaf school and the death of a good friend. The film treats its subjects with kindness and respect, letting us experience almost firsthand what it is like to be deaf and the struggles the deaf go through both in school and out on the field. Audible is a moving short film that is perfect for teens and adults in a film about life, dedication, and the importance of finding your way in life, no matter what obstacles are put in your way.   My Rating: Full Price      Audible Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.
Indiefest:  Summer of Soul  (Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)   (2021)   PG-13   Documentary from Questlove (The Roots, The Tonight Show) about the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival that celebrated Black history, culture, music, and fashion. The footage of the festival has never been seen until now. This is an incredible film that really gives you the feel and the experience of seeing a vast outdoor concert series in the heart of Harlem in 1969. The film uses newsreel footage to provide you with background on what was happening in America and Harlem at that time, along with present-day interviews with both performers and audience members who were there to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event. The musical lineup is impressive with performances by Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson, B. B. King, the 5th Dimension, and many more that include Gospel and Afro/Latin Jazz. The two performances that stand out for me are a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder not only singing like Stevie can do but also playing a powerful drum solo. And then there is Sly and the Family Stone, who blows the crowd away with their high energy, multi-cultural band playing an incredible set. Please see this in a theater; don’t watch this at home, as you need the sound of the music to envelop you and let those performances wash over you. If you do, you will come away inspired and energized with the wonder of what happened in Harlem during that Summer of Soul.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Summer of Soul Website  Now playing in select theatres and on the Hulu platform.  

Forgotten Film: King of the Gypsies (1978) R   Eric Roberts makes an impressive feature film debut as Dave, the grandson of ‘King’ Zharko Stepanowicz (Sterling Hayden), the leader of a clan of gypsies based in NYC. The King, on his deathbed, passes over his son, Groffo (Judd Hirsch), in favor of Dave. Dave is torn between his family duty, and his want and desire to join the American mainstream, but he knows that this crown cannot be denied, regardless of the opposition of his father, who is hellbent on taking over the Gypsies. King of the Gypsies is a gritty tale that at times gets a little bogged down in trying to be another ‘Godfather,’ but Roberts is so powerful and magnetic on the screen, and the cast, including Susan Sarandon, Annette O’Toole, Annie Potts, Michael V. Gazzo, and Shelley Winters is outstanding, that it makes for a compelling watch. Plus, it's always fun to watch Sterling Hayden chew up the scenery.    My Rating: Full Price      King of the Gypsies Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Forever Purge: Wrangler Gangboss

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Jolt (2021)   Lindy (Kate Beckinsale) is a woman who has a rare neurological disorder that causes her to react violently to anyone she witnesses being cruel or abusive. She is a bouncer, so that comes in handy at times, but for other times when she is in a normal situation, she has been given an electrode-lined vest that she can use to shock herself back to normalcy. After the first guy in a long time she has allowed herself to get close to is murdered, she goes on a revenge rampage while the cops pursue her as their chief suspect. Jolt looks so bizarre and weird it just might be fun to watch. We already know Beckinsale can kick, but in films (Underworld series) and the supporting cast is outstanding, including Stanley Tucci, Bobby Cannavale, Susan Sarandon, Laverne Cox, and Jai Courtney.      Jolt Website

Until Next Time!