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.
: The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021) PG-13 The rise and fall of Tammy Faye Bakker (Jessica Chastain), who went from very humble beginnings to create the world’s largest religious broadcasting network (including a theme park) with her husband, televangelist Jim Bakker. Her downfall was trusting in her husband, who, through financial improprieties, scheming rivals, and scandal, toppled their empire. Though hit with everything life could throw at her, Tammy Faye had a spirit that wouldn’t let all the hurt bring her down for long. First, the good news; Jessica Chastain is fantastic in the role of Tammy Faye, going from Tammy’s days as a college beauty who wanted to change the world through God’s love to the extreme, raccoon eyes makeup, and horrible singing voice of the PTL leader who we all became obsessed with when Jim and Tammy Faye’s kingdom came crashing down. It’s a brilliant performance that overshadows a movie that doesn’t give us much more than the high and low lights of her life. My problem is I never could figure out if this film was a drama, a comedy, or a satire, as it seems to have aspects of each. The film wants you to love Tammy and feel that she wasn’t in on the scam that PTL was during the Jim Baker times, but its' a hard act to swallow. The Eyes of Tammy Faye doesn't give us the redemption of the main character that the film needs and we want. Like Tammy Faye herself, the film stays way too long, making us feel a bit uncomfortable at the end, tired of watching the train wreck keep plugging along. My Rating: Bargain Matinee The Eyes of Tammy Faye Website Now playing in select theatres.
My View: Copshop (2021) R Con artist Teddy (Frank Grillo) is on the run, and hitmen are hot on his trail. He figures out a way to avoid the hitman, Bob (Gerard Butler), who is just one step away, getting himself arrested. Teddy sucker punches local rookie officer Valerie Young (Alexis Louder) and lands in jail. The problem is Bob schemes his way into the lockup himself and is biding his time in a nearby cell until he can complete his mission. Mayhem ensues when a competing assassin (Toby Huss) shows up, and now officer Young must deal with two killers who want to finish what they came for. I enjoyed this film from the Quentin Tarantino school of filmmaking. Plenty of great one-liners, insane situations that get more crazy by the minute, and lots of confrontations with a bit of a puzzle thrown in make Copshop a fun ride. The cast has a blast with their roles with Toby Huss, as the crazy hitman, chewing up scenery with gusto, singing as he ruthlessly blows away anyone in the way of his mission. The film also has a great hero in Alexis Louder, whose character is too intelligent to be in this podunk town and too skilled with her six-shooter to lose in a gunfight. Both Butler as the cool, collected hitman and Grillo as the smarmy con-man are excellent in their roles, but it’s Huss and Louder that make this film worth seeing. I would love to see what happens next to these crazy characters. My Rating: Full Price Copshop Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
Indiefest: Blue Bayou (2021) Antonio LeBlanc (Justin Cho) is married to the love of his life, Kathy (Alicia Vikander), and is a great step-dad to their daughter Jessie (Sydney Kowalske). When arrested on an incident with Kathy’s ex, a cop, Antonio is shocked when confronted by the ghosts of his past, discovering that he could be deported from the only country he has ever called home. I want to first point out the extraordinary, deep, and complex performance that Sydney Kowalske gives as the stepdaughter to Antonio. It’s a great role that Kowalske gives us as a young girl who has had her heart broken by a parent and doesn’t believe that the world Antonio has created with her will last. Justin Cho, who also wrote and directed the film, gives us a man trying to make up for the sins of his past but is stuck between a government that doesn’t forget, and a wife that he loves but hasn’t fully let into his dark past. I loved Alicia Vikander’s performance of Kathy, a woman who is trying to raise her daughter with a man she loves but is being pulled by outside forces, including the father of her daughter, a cop (Mark O’Brien), and her mother (Geraldine Singer), both of whom think Antonio is the source of all of Kathy’s problems. Blue Bayou is a moving film, enhanced by beautiful cinematography (made even better when I saw it in a theatre) that will make you get out the tissues plenty of times, so keep them handy. However, it is hurt by an unnecessary subplot involving a woman who comes into Antonio’s tattoo parlor and an ending that feels too contrived to pull at your heartstrings. Still, the film hits a lot of the right notes, and the performances by Cho, Vikander, and Sydney Kowalske make this a movie to see and maybe, just maybe, incite you to action. My Rating: Full Price Blue Bayou Website Now playing in select theaters.
Indiefest: The Starling (2021) PG-13 After suffering a devastating loss, Lily (Melissa McCarthy) goes on a journey to expel a combative Starling bird that takes next besides her quiet home. The grief-stricken woman is about to find her will to live and capacity for love through a strange little bird. There is a good story in this film somewhere, but the filmmakers didn’t find it, and an able cast is weaker for it. Both McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd give their roles everything they have, but it’s not enough to save a script that, from almost the start, tries to bring a tear from your eye. O’Dowd is in a psychiatric hospital, being visited by his wife once a week on family day. There are attempts at humor throughout this film, but most of the time, those attempts fall flat, even when Lily begins to garden and is attacked on a daily basis by a very territorial bird. This allows Lily to meet a Veterinarian who used to be a psychiatrist (played by Kevin Kline). They begin a strange relationship that allows the combative Lily to seek help without admitting it. The film is not helped by a soundtrack that, like the rest of the film, tries too hard to make the film’s emotional moments work. The Starling never gives McCarthy and O’Dowd a genuine moment to show what they could have done with their parts about a couple trying to move on from the heartbreak of loss. My Rating; Cable The Starling Website Now playing in select theatres including Landmark Midtown Art in Atlanta and available on Sept. 24 on the Netflix platform.
Indiefest: Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021) In the frontier city of Samurai Town, a ruthless bank robber (Nicolas Cage) is taken out of jail by a wealthy warlord called The Governor (Bill Moseley) and has been given a task. Find The Governor’s adopted granddaughter (Sofia Boutella) and bring her back, or the leather suit our ‘Hero' has been outfitted with will blow up. Ok, Nic Cage (I only call him Nicolas when he does serious work like the recent beautiful film Pig) has done some nutty and insane movies. Some films are meant to be seen at midnight at a film festival, while others can be seen in more traditional settings. This film, instead, should be seen at around 2 am after a few drinks, and that’s not a bad thing, just setting it up for you. The plot makes almost no sense, Cage is allowed to go full-throttle Cage, and the ending is just as weird as the rest of the film. That being said, if you can get by with a paper-thin plot, the overacting, and the gore, you just might have an enjoyable time watching this film. Visually, this film can be stunning at times, and the opening sequences of this film are beautiful and highly imaginative. The problem is that Prisoners of the Ghostland keeps going on and on with a plot that is too razor-thin to keep us in the game. I became bored with the movie about three quarters in and just wanted it to end. I will say this, anytime there is Nic Cage and samurai blades flying around, it can’t be all bad. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Prisoners of the Ghostland Info Now playing in select theatres including the Plaza Theatre in Atlanta.
Indiefest: My Name is Pauli Murray (2021) Documentary that looks at the life and works of Pauli Murray, a non-binary Black lawyer who influenced both Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Thurgood Marshall. Pauli Murray was more than a lawyer. Pauli was a force of nature that should be better known. This is a beautiful and inspirational film about a ground breaker that most of us don’t know about. Pauli was a remarkable, driven person that was ahead of her time. It seems that everything Pauli did was ten to fifteen years before other people were doing that same thing and getting credit for it. From riding on a bus and refusing to move to the back once that bus crossed the Mason-Dixon to attempting to get into universities that didn’t allow Pauli in because of either of her race or her gender. Pauli was constantly pushing boundaries, all the while suffering because she didn’t fit into what society wanted Pauli to become to conform to. I learned so much from watching My Name is Pauli Murray, a film about an incredible person who made a difference in how we see people today, even if she didn’t get credit for those changes until this film. My Rating: Full Price My Name is Pauli Murray Website Now playing in select theatres and will be available on the Amazon Prime platform on Oct. 1st.
Indiefest: Best Sellers (2021) Lucy (Aubrey Plaza) has inherited her family’s failing boutique publishing house. In a last-ditch effort to save the business, Lucy goes on a book tour with the bitter, booze-addled author, Harris Shaw (Michael Caine), who put the publishing house on the map decades ago. This is an enjoyable film, primarily due to Michael Caine’s performance as an author who has been hiding behind the cloak of a first novel that made both his career and his publishers. Now a cranky man who would rather stay in his home than face the public, Harris is forced out on a book tour when Lucy discovers that Harris owes the publishing house another book, one which Harris has just finished. The film has some great performances by Caine and Plaza but has a plot that seems to get lost in trying to bring the publishing world into the electronic age by a storyline that just gets too confusing on why Harris’s new book suddenly becomes a success and ending to the film that feels too much like the filmmakers wanted to wrap everything up in a nice, pleasing ending. Still, any movie with Caine pissing openly in a bar while shouting out a British obscenity is a film to see. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Best Sellers Website Now playing in select theatres.
Forgotten Film: Popi (1969) G A widower, Popi (Alan Arkin) from Puerto Rico, is trying to raise two sons in NYC and give them a better life. This is a film that I am going to tell you to turn off about halfway through it. The problem is that the film turns from being a well-constructed drama about dealing with life in a run-down neighborhood in New York to a comedy about a plan to have his kids appear to wash up ashore on the beach as Cuban immigrants. I love Alan Arkin, and I think the first half of this film shows him at his best; the second half is at his worst as he tries to milk the comedy bits too much to be even halfway funny. The film also has Rita Moreno as Arkin’s love interest, and any movie with Rita makes that film better. Just don’t watch it all the way through. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Popi Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Copshop: Groomer
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: West Side Story (2021) PG-13 The classic story of two young people (Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler) who fall in love, around the hostilities that grow between the two rival gangs of the Jets and the Sharks. Directed by Steven Spielberg is enough to see this film, but a brilliant trailer combined with the recent documentaries on Broadway and Rita Moreno (who won an Oscar for her role in the 1961 film) makes me want to see this film as soon as possible. West Side Story Website