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.
(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