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: Candyman (2021) R The supernatural killer Daniel Robitaille, aka the Candyman, used to terrorize the residents of the Cabrini Green neighborhood. It’s been ten years since the Cabrini towers have been torn down, and Candyman has been forgotten. Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is an artist whose career is on the downswing, and looking for inspiration, he unknowingly opens the door to the Candyman, and Anthony’s sanity begins to unravel as a terrifying wave of violence is unleashed. I was excited when I heard that Jordan Peele, who won an Oscar for Get Out (2017), was writing the screenplay for this film. I liked the original 1992 film that starred Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd, thinking it was a creative work on the horror/slasher film. I just wish this film has more of that horror in it and less of trying to make too many points on gentrification and how urban planning has always hurt the low-incoming households. I did love the stick-figure animation that gave us clues to the past of the Candyman, and be sure to stay through all the credits as the animation gives you a history lesson on all the people throughout history that the characters in the film talk about. This Candyman never was scary enough for me; in fact, the scary scenes in the film aren’t due to the ‘’Candyman’ but to the police force, that beat or shot first and asked questions later. And maybe, that is the point of this film, that no matter how scary someone or something like the ‘Candyman’ is, it’s not anywhere close to being as frightening as living in that urban dwelling. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Candyman Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
Indiefest: Flag Day (2021) R When growing up, Jennifer (Dylan Penn) looked up to her father, John (Sean Penn), a man that seems larger than life to her. John taught his daughter about love, joy, and how to make life feel like a grand adventure. However, John had a secret; he was one of the most notorious counterfeiters in American history and always on the run. Now Jennifer must confront her father’s past and reconcile the bond between a daughter and her father. This film felt a bit like a vanity project for Sean Penn, as he lets the film wander all over the place, creating a lot of pretty scenes which looked great in the theatre (but slow down the pace of the film), as his daughter thinks back and idolizes what it was like growing up in her father’s (played by Sean) large shadow. The film is worth watching for the performance of Dylan Penn, who gives a moving and powerful look at a daughter who, until she became an adult, never knew the true nature of her father. At times, Dylan looks incredibly like her mother, Robin Wright, and has that same screen presence that you must follow her, no matter who else is on the screen, ever her real-life dad. Flag Day is based on a true story, one that the realize Jennifer wrote into an acclaimed book, and like a lot of movies based on books, I am betting the story is better told on paper than on the screen. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Flag Day Website Now playing in select theatres.
My View: Vacation Friends (2021) R Marcus and Emily (Lil Rel Howery, Yvonne Orji), while on vacation, meet a couple (John Cena, Meredith Hagner) who are wild and thrill-seekers. Marcus and Emily decide to let loose and have a blast with their new ‘vacation friends.’ Months later, Marcus and Emily are back at home and about to get married when guess who shows up uninvited at their wedding? It seems that what happens on vacation doesn’t always stay on vacation. Look, I like John Cena and Lil Rel Howery. They can be funny with the right material, but this isn’t it. If you think watching two guys walk around a animated forest for two minutes while laughing, high on mushrooms is funny, then this is the movie for you. We have seen this all before. Stuck up couple meets outrageous couple and by the end of the movie, they are best friends and all their lives have been changed for the better. I actually kind of enjoyed the Cena/Hagner couple, as they weren’t as annoying as this type of storyline usually makes that couple out to be, but the Marcus character is so unlikable and the material never lets Lil Rel have fun with the part. The plot is predictable, the laughs are few and far between, making this film feel much longer than its hour and forty-five minute run time. I will say this for everyone that has never been to Atlanta. The film is right, there are Waffle House's on almost every corner. My Rating: Cable Vacation Friends Website Now playing on the Hulu platform.
My View: He’s All That (2021) Padgett (Addison Rae) is a famous influencer who has just suffered a breakup with a boyfriend that went viral, a boyfriend that she made a star. She decides she can do it again and accepts the challenge of taking loner Cameron (Tanner Buchanan), considered her high school’s biggest loser, and give him the ultimate makeover. Oh, where to start? How about the fact that Addison Rae is not a very good actress (she is mainly known as a Tik Tok personality). You would think she could carry off the role of an influencer, but she can’t. The storyline is a reverse of the 1992 film She’s All That, which starred Freddie Prinze Jr. and Racheal Leigh Cook. Fans of that film (hey, it wasn’t a great film but worth a watch on a Saturday afternoon with a likable cast and some good lines) are going to be disappointed with this update. I lost count on the product placements in the film, though maybe the best line in the whole film is ‘Hey can I have some of that Pizza Hut pizza?’ The loner kid, Cameron, doesn’t seem to be much of a loser, just someone that doesn't try to get along with most of the high school crowd and looks pretty good in the long hair and plaid shirts. The plot is predictable, the dialogue isn’t creative, and the acting is wooden at best. Skip this version and rent the '92 film, or better yet, something else using the Pygmalion formula, like Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady or Sabrina. My Rating: Cable He's All That Website Now playing on the Netflix platform.
Indiefest: Together (2021) R A couple(James McAvoy, Sharon Horgan) are only together because of their child. Now because of COVID, they are stuck in lockdown and must re-evaluate their relationship and themselves. This is a fun movie to watch, as the two characters, who at times hate each other, are forced to live together while in lockdown. The film takes place over a year, with the characters either talking to us, the audience directly, or to each other. The young son is rarely in the picture, though he seems always to be listening off on the stairs, kind of looking down at his parents as they fight or discuss what is happening to themselves and the world around them. We get to see just how personal the pandemic got as the couple discuss their lives, both in the past and in the present. At times this is a funny film, and at other times, as you would expect, it is painful and sometimes incredibly sad. Still, Together is a wonder to watch brilliant actors in McAvoy and Horgan banter off each other, making us believe in their hate and love for each other. My Rating: Full Price Together Website Now playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed (2021) The untold story of painter Bob Ross, the host of longtime TV series The Joy of Painting, who brought us an appreciation for nature with his kind and gentle demeanor. Beyond the soothing voice, the hair and the nostalgia for his series is a mystery that many have yet discovered. Almost everyone knows who Bob Ross is; that afro-headed guy who talks softly and paints landscapes really fast, but to a lot of us in the 80s and 90s, he was a staple of weekend television on your local PBS station. He always seems like a happy guy, painting his ‘happy little trees,’ but there was also something kind of strange about him that you just couldn’t put your finger on. Well, this documentary gives you all the details of his life and what happened to his painting empire after he died. The filmmakers were hampered by the fact that over a dozen of Bob's closest friends and co-workers did not want to be interviewed for the film (which becomes very evident why as the film goes along), but it does a brilliant job of giving us insight into the man who loved to paint his favorite subject, nature. I don’t want to give too much of the film away because there is some juicy stuff in it, as the filmmakers do interview Bob’s son, his first wife, and several close friends and co-workers to fill out the missing pieces of a man that we knew almost nothing about, other than he loved his ‘happy little trees.’ My Rating: Full Price Bob Ross: Happy Accidents Website Now playing on the Netflix platform.
Indiefest: Summer Days, Summer Nights (2018) It's the summer of 1982, and life is good on Long Island. JJ (Pico Alexander) is working for his dad (Edward Burns) at the Beach Club when he falls for Debbie (Lindsey Morgan), while Frankie (Anthony Ramos) reconnects with the girl who got away (Caitlin Stasey). Summer is coming to a close, and will those relationships last or just be a summer fling. The film is a loving look at the summer romance films of the 70s and 80s (without the T&A that those films almost always had). The film is helped by the fact that not all the cast is of high school years; a bunch are in their 20s, including an impressive performance between the two long lost lovers (Ramos and Stasey) who broke up right after high school and now after seven years have rekindled their romance. Summer Days, Summer Nights is a fun, lighthearted film with some great music that captures a time in a youth’s life where the summer seemed like it would never end and romance was always in the air. My Rating: Full Price Summer Days, Summer Nights Website Now available for rent online.
Forgotten Film: Untamed Heart (1993) PG-13 A waitress, Caroline (Marisa Tomei), works at a diner and never notices the shy busboy, Adam (Christian Slater), who never talks. One night, on her way home, she is attacked, and the busboy comes to her rescue. This sparks the relationship (he has been secretly in love with Caroline all this time), but the busboy is hiding a secret, one that could mean disaster for the newly found lovers. Untamed Heart is your typical 90s romance, except that the cast is outstanding. Tomei is a delight to watch on the screen, and Slater is, as always, good as the brooding, silent guy with a secret. The film is also helped by a terrific performance by Rosie Perez, as Tomei’s sidekick, constantly smoking, best friend. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Untamed Heart Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Candyman: Stitcher
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) Spider-Man (Tom Holland) has been unmasked, and now everyone knows who he is, making it hard to separate his private life from being a superhero. He turns to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell that everyone will forget who he is, only that spell has lasting consequences, including bringing back an old enemy. I am always up for a Spider-Man movie, and this one promises to be a good one with it setting up some of the next few Marvel Universe films. Spider-Man: No Way Home Info