: Last Night in Soho (2021) R Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) is a fashion student in London, living a good life, but she has always dreamed of being alive in the 1960s. Eloise begins dreaming at night about being a glamorous wannabe singer named Sandie (played by Anya Taylor-Joy), living the nightlife in 60s Soho. Be careful what you wish for because Eloise’s dreams are about to become dangerous as she uncovers something ugly. This isn’t your typical Edgar Wright film like fan favorites Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, or Baby Driver. Yes, there is some humor in the film, but this is a horror story full of ghosts, killings, and a young woman who is slowly going insane due to her dreams. I loved the look of this film, and the first portion of this film is fun and magical as Eloise begins to dream about Sandie, who wants to become a pop singer in the swinging section of clubs in Soho. Eloise is captivated by Sandie’s life, as it is everything that Eloise has wanted for herself; to be free and alive in the 60s. Soon, though, that life turns bad as Sandie finds out that the man who has promised her a life of fun and glamor, Jack (Matt Smith), isn’t the man she thought he was. Eloise, through her dreams, life becomes a nightmare as she can’t escape the dreams or the life that Sandie is now trapped in. I loved the first half of this film and the world that Wright has created, giving us what it was like in Soho at that time. There is an incredible sequence when Sandie goes into a club for the first time, with Eloise looking on (and sometimes taking her place). Sandie is made to feel as if the world revolves around her, dancing the night away with a handsome man who promises her he will give her what she desires, as the camera follows both Sandie and Eloise, caught up in the ecstasy of the moment. The film, for me, starts to fall apart as Eloise begins to be haunted by ghosts of the past and starts a quick decline into what may be madness. I had a hard time with every appearance of the ghosts, which seemed to be a weak attempt at horror, and we are given an ending that is easy to figure out with a twist that doesn’t surprise us at all. I wish that Wright had just stayed with the story of Sandie, where the true horror of the story is the evil world that Sandie and Eloise get caught up in. Last Night in Soho is a film is worth seeing for the production values alone and the fact that this is the last role of the late, great Diana Rigg, who plays Eloise’s cranky apartment owner. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Last Night in Soho Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
My View: The French Dispatch (2021) R Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray) has created an English-language newspaper and assembled a talented group of writers in a French city. From the pages of the paper are told three stories that will amaze and astound you. Not everyone loves filmmaker Wes Anderson, even though he has been nominated seven times for four different films over the years. Anderson’s films are a bit quirky, as seen from one of the first shots of this film, as a narrator (voiced by Anjelica Huston) gives us background on Arthur, we see a waiter prepare a collection of drinks, which keep being added to on a lazy susan, to take up to the offices of Arthur. A long shot of the building from the outside is shown as we see the waiter make his way up many flights, as he keeps popping up in windows or openings as he slowly ascends the building. It’s an amazing shot full of the Anderson humor and whimsy, setting us up for what the film will be like. The film centers around Arthur as the stories told are from his magazine, but Bill Murray fans will be disappointed that he is but an instrument to paste three stories together for us. Surrounding the story of Arthur and his magazine are three stories: a painter (Benicio del Toro) whose muse is his jailer (Lea Seydoux) and his paintings become the hottest things in the art world, a writer (Frances McDormand) who falls for a student (Timothee Chalamet) who lazily leads a student revolution, and food columnist (Jeffery Wright) who turns a story on a prominent chef into a rousing tale of kidnapping and rescue. The film is sometimes light and funny, but at other times, it meanders too much into stories that seem to have too much content for the story they are trying to tell. It’s a mixture of storytelling as we travel back and forth between Arthur trying to get these stories out of his writers and his staff dealing with the aftermath of Arthur’s death. The cast is vast, with big stars such as Edward Norton, Christoph Waltz, and Saoirse Ronan showing up in small parts. The best of the three stories is the first one, with a captivating story of the troubled artist, played by a sometimes growling del Toro, being smitten by his guard, Lea Seydoux, whose deadpan expression throughout the section is terrific to watch. If you love or even just like Wes Anderson’s films, you will want to see this fun film that is so packed with stories and things to look at, it just might get better on a second or third look. If you haven’t liked Anderson’s films in the past, especially his live-action ones, you might want to skip this one. My Rating: Full Price The French Dispatch Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
Familyfaire: My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission (2021) Japan’s greatest heroes spread out around the world in an attempt to track down an evil mastermind and stop his plan to take over the world with a series of bombs that threaten life on Earth. Before seeing this film, I had never seen any of the My Hero Academia films or series, but I had heard good things about both. I was slightly disappointed by this film, which centers around two characters, Deku, a young, inexperienced hero who wants desperately to become the hero he knows he can be, and Rody, a reckless kid who runs deliveries for a crime organization. The two become partners when they cross paths in a mixup of sorts, and both go on the run together, wrongly accused of killing many people. I liked the animation, especially the action sequences, which are fun and full of super-hero antics. Because I haven’t seen past films, I felt a little lost in the storyline and never connected to Deku or other characters who make up the story's heroes. Young kids, who aren’t invested in the past films, will find the film a bit boring, but fans may enjoy this film about two characters who discover that they have that certain something to become heroes themselves. My Rating: Bargain Matinee My Hero Academia: World Heroes' Mission Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
My View: Army of Thieves (2021) A small-town bank teller and amateur safecracker, Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer) gets recruited to join a team of thieves on Interpol’s most-wanted list, to heist a sequence of legendary, ‘impossible to crack’ safes owned by a billionaire during the start of a zombie apocalypse. One of the standout characters of Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead film was Dieter, the safecracker that Dave Bautista’s character recruits to break into the vault in the casino in Vegas that is surrounded by zombies. This film is how Dieter came to be, and it’s just as much fun as the original film is. Dieter, called by his real name, Sebastian, is a wannabe safe cracker who toils at a dreary job as a teller at a bank. This film tells us how Dieter evolved into who he is in Army of the Dead, as he becomes involved in a gang put together by master thief Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel). The team consists of hacker Korina (Ruby O.Fee), getaway driver Rolph (Guz Khan), and the ‘action man’ Brad (Stuart Martin). The film follows the gang as they attempt to break into three legendary safes created by a master locks man, who created the safes based on the four 'The Ring of Nibelung’ operas by Richard Wagner. The film gives us great background into what happens in Army of the Dead, as Dieter becomes more confident in his abilities as a safecracker and falls deeper into love with Gwendoline from afar, convinced that someone like her could never fall for a nerd like him. The film has some nice twists and turns, some incredible action sequences, and Matthias Schweighöfer has a blast playing the nerdy safecracker. The film is fast-paced and fun to watch as we root for Dieter to become the master safecracker that we know he will be. Now, if those nasty zombies would just quit showing up in his dreams. My Rating: Full Price Army of Thieves Website Now playing on the Netflix platform.
Indiefest: The Crickets Dance (2020) Southern lawyer Angie Lawrence (Kristen Renton) inherits a historic antebellum home. There she discovers a journal written by a girl who lived in the house over 150 years ago. Reading the journal, Angie will find a mystery full of murder and intrigue about the brutal history of the home that she now calls home. This is one of those films whose heart is in the right place but never quite pulls at the heartstrings enough for you to care about the two different stories that are intertwined in the story. The film goes back and forth between the slow-developing love story between Angie and a fellow lawyer, Andrew (Maurice Johnson), and the tale of Emmaline (KateLynn E. Newberry), the wife of an evil plantation owner, whose best friend, is her slave, Ophelia (Jamie Butler). As Angie reads the journals, she becomes more and more involved in the story of Emmaline and what happens to her and the children that she gives birth to. The film slowly provides us with a mystery that comes to a head near the end of the film, with the story giving the two lawyers a shared past. I liked Kristen Renton in the lead role, but she is let down a script that becomes so complex that I had trouble keeping up with what was happening in the past to care what was happening in the present. My Rating: Bargain Matinee The Crickets Dance Info Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.
Indiefest: Minyan (2020) David (Samuel H. Levine) is a 17-year-old Russian Jewish teenager struggling with his faith and sexuality while living with an overbearing mother and an abusive father. Stifled by the constraints of his conservative religious community, David finds solace in his grandfather’s senior housing complex, where he makes friends with two closeted men who open his eyes to all the possibilities that the world has to offer. David is a young man who is more comfortable in the midst of his grandfather and the men who make up his neighbors in his senior living center than David’s classmates or his parents. David is trying to come to terms with being gay in a time of Aids and when gay men still had to meet other men in library restrooms and dark parks. The film follows David as he figures out his place in the world, which is scary and full of heartbreak for someone hiding his sexual preference, desperate for love and acceptance. The film is centered around a masterful performance of Samuel H. Levine, who makes David someone to root for, even when he makes mistakes or picks the wrong men to fall in love with. Minyan is a slow story about a teenager searching for answers and getting more questions in response. My Rating: Full Price Minyan Website Now playing in select theatres and available On Demand.
My View: Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin (2021) R Margot (Emily Bader) goes to Amish country to shoot a documentary about meeting her long-lost relatives in Amish country. Margot wants to know what happened with her mother, who disappeared years ago. Finding out the truth and learning about her mother’s past may cost Margot her life. This film has little to do with the past Paranormal Activity films, and fans of that series will be disappointed in this one, which is being promoted as a reboot. While I would agree, the Amish are just naturally a little creepy, with no electricity and weird hairstyles and clothes; this film has few scares and takes forever to get to anything that resembles horror or suspense. Besides a strange kid sleepwalking and a weird little girl playing with a doll, along with a few bumps in the night, nothing really happens until the last 20 minutes of the film. I couldn’t decide if this was a found footage film (like Blair Witch or the original Paranormal Activity) or it is just a documentary gone wrong (which the plot suggests but never explains how we are looking at the footage now). Not that it matters because this film never delivers the scares or builds any tension that is sorely needed. Instead of watching this film, go back and watch the first Paranormal Activity, a genuinely scary movie, and forget this ripoff in name only. My Rating: Cable Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin Info Now playing on the Paramount+ platform.
Indiefest: Heart of Champions (2021) PG-13 After finishing last in the national championship, an Ivy-League college rowing team has descended into turmoil. In walks Coach Murphy (Michael Shannon), an Army vet who uses his experience and unconventional coaching methods to transform the rowers by learning what it takes to be a team before they can become champions. This is a likable sports film that is helped by the always brilliant Michael Shannon and a cast of young actors who make the characters seem real and complex. The story isn’t anything you haven’t seen before, as an unlikely group of athletes comes together despite the odds and a troubled young man at the center of it all who learns about life and how to become part of a team from a coach who has a tortured past. Yeah, is the storytelling a bit overblown with some stock characters and an ending that you can see coming from a mile away? You bet, but Michael Shannon can make any story work, and he is believable as a coach that demands attention and will inspire a group of young men to do what they think is impossible. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Heart of Champions Website Now playing in select theatres.
Forgotten Film: Mysteries of Lisbon (2010) Joao is the illegitimate child of two members of the aristocracy who are forbidden to marry. Joao goes on a quest to discover who his mother is and why she abandoned him. This is one of those films that critics and film festivals showered awards and praise on, but no one in America saw it because it’s a foreign film and incredibly long (over 4 hours). It’s a fantastic film, full of rich characters, cinematography as lush as the French countryside it takes place in, and a story that takes a while to develop but keeps revealing more and more, with stories within stories. Mysteries of Lisson is a film that you could watch at home and stop a few times (there are a few places that are natural stopping points). Think of Mysteries of Lisbon as more of a miniseries than a long film, and you will be amazed at the storyline and the complexity of life that it delves into. My Rating: Full Price Mysteries of Lisbon Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Last Night in Soho: Blood and Body Colorist
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Belfast (2021) PG-13 Buddy (Jude Hill) is a kid growing up in Belfast in the 1960s. He has a loving family and a school that he adores. All that starts falling apart when unrest hits Northern Ireland, pitting neighbors against each other in what becomes an all-out war for control of the area. Buddy’s father (Jamie Dornan) decides that his family is in danger and wants to move his family to Australia, but Buddy’s mother (Caitriona Balfe) wants to stay where her family has roots. This film, directed by Kenneth Branagh, is an early leader for the Academy Award Best Picture and has won 4 awards at film festivals worldwide, including the People’s Choice Award at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival. Belfast Website