My View: No Time To Die (2021) PG-13 The impossible has happened. James Bond (Daniel Craig) has retired and is living the good life until his friend, CIA agent Felix (Jeffrey Wright), shows up and tells Bond that there is a new enemy out there, and he has a dangerous new technology that could assassinate anyone without a bullet or killing anyone else. When Daniel Craig first came out of the ocean in Casino Royale, we knew we had a different style of James Bond to enjoy. It’s been a fun ride with only Quantum of Solace being somewhat of a letdown (though, unlike most Bond films, this one gets points as being a straight-on sequel to the first Craig film). This will be the last Craig Bond film. Sorry, Daniel Craig fans, but I just don’t see him doing a cash grab as Mr. Connery did with Never Say Never Again, but know this, this is an excellent sendoff of Craig’s Bond, and it’s worthy of the actor who played him. This is a bit of a different Bond, as he sets off to help his old friend Felix, making Bond a rogue agent since he is no longer designated 007 in the British system of spies. The film is somewhat long (pack a lunch for its two hours and forty-three minutes long), and some of the plot is a bit bewildering, but it’s still lots of fun, with some great chase sequences (one of which took my breath away), lots of great Bond quips, and I really enjoyed the ending. Also, Ana de Armas, who plays a new agent who helps Bond in Cuba, hits it out of the park again (just like she did in Knives Out), giving the film a much-needed bit of fun and energy. I would love to see a spin-off of her character doing Bond-like things with her own special magic applied. Rami Malek’s bad guy is pretty creepy though his timeline is a bit sketchy. I’m guessing they had the script written, and then Malek’s agent called up and said, ‘Rami has always dreamed of being a Bond villain.’ and the producers said, ‘We’ll make it work.’ There is a new British agent in town, Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch, who is just as cool and graceful in killing as Bond is, and the rest of the gang (Q, M, Moneypenny) are back, along with Bond’s love from the Spectre film, Madeleine (Lea Seydoux). Do you need to see this in a theatre-like I did? Yeah, I think you do because the car chases are fantastic, needing to be seen on the big screen for the full impact, and yes, Mr. Craig takes his shirt off a few times. Plus, do you want to say your good-byes to Craig’s Bond anywhere else? My Rating: Full Price No Time to Die Website Now playing in theatres nationwide and On Demand.
Indiefest: Lamb (2021) R A childless couple, Maria and Ingvar (Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snær Guðnason) discover a mysterious newborn on their farm in Iceland. This new edition brings them happiness, but then things start going horribly wrong. First, if you haven’t seen the trailer, then stay far from it before seeing this film as it gives too much away (note to trailer makers: quit giving away major plot points in your trailer, let the movie do that). I am a huge fan of Swedish actress Noomi Rapace since she played Lisbeth Salander in The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo film series (watch this series instead of the horrible American version of the first film that starred Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig). This is a strange and weird film about a childless couple who are just going through the motions of being a couple until a miracle appears at their farm. Now, this is not a film for everyone. Think of it as an old-fashioned fairy tale of a movie, which is perfect for the setting of a remote farm in the harsh world of Iceland. This film is filled with a lot of moral tales; jealousy, betrayal, and what people will do to find happiness. I didn’t have a problem with suspending my concept of reality, but some of you will find this tale a bit too silly to enjoy the film. I did not see this film in a theatre and therefore, I can only imagine that some people will react differently to this film. I enjoyed the film, with its sense of gloom and doom that keeps building throughout the film, and the two leads of Rapace and Guðnason give us incredible performances to keep the story interesting. Just keep in mind from the beginning of the film, this is a fairy tale, and you will be fine. My Rating: Full Price Lamb Website Now playing in select theatres.
My View: Madres (2021) Anita and Beto (Ariana Guerra, Tenoch Huerta) are expecting their first child and have relocated to a migrant farming community in 70s California. Soon, Anita begins to have strange symptoms and terrifying visions that may be related to a legendary curse. Part of the Welcome to the Blumhouse series of films on Amazon Prime, this film is more of a suspense film than a horror film. There are a few scary parts in the movie, but most of the film builds on the suspense of Anita, who is being visited by a being that is trying to communicate with her. Combined with a community that Anita soon realizes has almost no children and a creepy local woman who just might be a curandero (played by Elpidia Carrillo), Anita starts to realize that something is not right. There is a legend whispered about that the women in the area are cursed, and Anita soon starts to believe that something evil is going on. Buoyed by solid performances by newcomer Ariana Guerra and Tenoch Huerta, as the married couple, the film creates an interesting and complex storyline of LA born and raised Anita (who though Hispanic, speaks very little Spanish), a former journalist fired because she got pregnant (happened more than you would think in the 60s and 70s) and her husband, Beto, a Mexican native who has his big chance to run a farm after only five years in this country. The film's tension is not only created by the creepy things going on in the community but between Beto and Anita, as she keeps digging on a story that might prove that farmers in the area may be using dangerous pesticides. Overall, Madres is enjoyable, though horror fans will be a little disappointed by the limited amount of scares that the film supplies, but tension abounds in this film that makes it a great part of the Blumhouse series. My Rating: Full Price Madres Website Now playing on the Amazon Prime platform.
My View: The Manor (2021) After suffering a stroke, Judith (Barbara Hershey) decides that she doesn’t want to be a burden for her family and moves into a historic nursing-home. At first, things seem lovely, but then Judith starts to experience horrible visions at night. Is it the start of dementia, or is this nursing home housing something horrific that Judith will only escape from if she dies? The Manor is the most disappointing of the Welcome to the Blumhouse films released on the Amazon Prime format. I had high hopes for this film because of Barbara Hershey, an Academy-Award nominee (The Portrait of a Lady) who is in one of my favorite films of all time, the 1980 film The Stunt Man, starring Peter O’Toole. Hershey has fun in this role, as a former ballerina who has given up teaching due to being diagnosed with not only the after-effects of a stroke but also possible dementia. Hershey’s Judith isn’t your ordinary nursing-home resident, having a foul mouth and a fiery spirit; she is a woman that doesn’t give up her freedom easily and very quickly realizes that not everything is well in this home. Unfortunately, the scares are few, badly undertaken, and the plot is right out of a bad 70s TV movie. The ending is laughable and so quick to happen that you are left going ‘wait, what just happened?’, leaving me disappointed and wanting a do-over worth seeing what Hersey could do with a real, solid role. My Rating; Cable The Manor Website Now playing on the Amazon Prime platform.
My View: Justin Bieber: Our World (2021) PG Documentary that follows Justin Bieber as he prepares for his first full concert in three years, a New Year’s Eve show in 2020 on the rooftop of the Beverly Hills Hilton. Justin Bieber is one of the world's biggest pop stars with a ton of number one hits and record-breaking concert tours. He is also someone whose life has been followed by the media since his first hit many years ago. Now 27 and a husband, with this film, he hopes to give us a new Justin, one who has learned from his past mistakes and wants to show the world that after three years, he still has the chops to put on a great concert. The film is interesting in the fact that it was made during the height of the COVID crisis in LA, and the filmmakers make it one of the big points of the film, with constant referrals to COVID testing and how the concert is set up so that the audience will only be on the balconies of the hotel and not up close. I found troubling that even when Justin’s right-hand man, Nick Demoura, is diagnosed with coronavirus (and quarantined for two weeks), Justin rarely wears a mask, even when dealing closely with the dancers and band. It’s as if Justin’s ego told him he is too important to get COVID or maybe he just can’t stand to be seen with a mask on his face. The film does a countdown to the concert, showing us the preparation to put on the concert by constructing a stage on top of a building in the hotel's courtyard, one of the main focuses of the behind-the-scenes parts of the film. Are you going to learn anything about Justin with his up close and personal videos that he films as he and his new wife walk around the hills of Hollywood? No, as everything seems very controlled and part of a pr push to make Justin a new man who, due to his marriage, is committed to making his life about something (we never really know what). The fact that Justin and his wife walk around without the paparazzi taking pictures tells you a lot of just how isolated Justin is from the world. The concert footage may disappoint major fans of Justin as it is a re-editing of a live concert that he did that was broadcast over the internet (T-Mobile ads are part of the scenery of the concert, including their distinctive fuchsia color scheme that T-Mobile has lit of the hotel itself). The concert is full of his hits, and the stage show is fantastic, with pyrotechnics, lasers, and a beautiful drone light show. It shows you why Justin is such a draw as a performer, but like many concert films of late, this one will only let you see Justin as they want you to see Justin, a man changed due to marriage. We may never get the real Justin but will have to enjoy the performance on the stage as a substitute. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Justin Bieber: Our World Website Now playing exclusively on the Amazon Prime platform.
Indiefest: Knocking (2021) After suffering a traumatic incident, Molly (Cecilia Milocco) moves into a new apartment, ready to start on her path to recovery. Soon after her arrival, Molly begins to hear knocking and then screams that keep waking her up at night. As they start to intensify, she realizes that no one else in the building hears these horrible sounds and that she is on her own. I thought this was a well-done film that you question throughout the movie if Molly really hears the sounds, or if they are a part of her mental breakdown. The film builds the tension as we winch every time Molly tries to investigate the noises, as we put ourselves in the place of the apartment dwellers that have to deal with her and her wild accusations. The film keeps building the suspense as we see Molly lose sleep and possibly quit taking her medications as the knocking get more intense and finally goes into someone moaning and muttering that they are going to be killed. Knocking is a film where you constantly question the heroine's sanity in the movie, never knowing if our rooting for this woman is based on fact or fiction. My Rating: Full Price Knocking Website Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.
Indiefest: Jacinta (2020) This documentary follows the life of Jacinta, who at the start of the film is incarcerated in a prison that also houses her mother, Rosemary, both of which are recovering from drug addiction. The film follows Jacinta as she tries to break the cycle of addiction and become the mother of her child, Caylynn, that she desperately needed but didn’t get when she was growing up. To say this is not an easy film to watch is an understatement. Given incredible access to Jacinta’s life, we follow her from her time in prison, where she is incarcerated with her mother (who is there on a much serious and longer sentence). Right from the start, we see the hold that her mother has on Jacinta, one that Jacinta knows is wrong, as her mother is her role model for her, to share their addiction to drugs together and the consequences that follow that addition. Jacinta has a daughter, who she has given up custody of. Her daughter is someone that Jacinta rarely sees, but we see that the hold Jacinta’s mother has on her is the same bond that Jacinta has on her daughter. Soon, shockingly so, Jacinta is back to doing drugs (we see her shoot up many times, including in a car with a friend just after she has shoplifted a computer) and getting into trouble. Jacinta is a tough film to watch, as Jacinta is a troubled soul, one who was damaged early on by her mother, and Jacinta doesn’t see a future for herself, other than the one that her mother has lived, going from drugs to prison and back again to drugs. There is a slight glitter of hope in Jacinta’s life, her daughter, who knows her mother is a flawed person that she can only be around in small bits. This is a film that has very little hope, but there are glimpses of that hope in Jacinta’s daughter and her father, both of which hope against hope that Jacinta will pull her life together. Jacinta is a film about addiction and family and how one follows the other through a rabbit hole that is hard to climb out of. My Rating: Full Price Jacinta Website Now playing in select theatres and on the Hulu platform.
Forgotten Film: The Man in the Moon (1991) PG-13 Dani (Reese Witherspoon) is a young girl growing up in the 50s with an older sister (Emily Warfield) going off to college, a mother (Tess Harper) who is pregnant, and a father (Sam Watterston) who is strict. Dani’s life changes when Court (Jason London) moves in next door, and Dani develops a huge crush on him. After spending some time together, Dani gets her first kiss from Court, and she thinks the world is a beautiful place until Court sees Dani’s sister and sets his sights on her instead. This is a marvelous performance by Witherspoon, full of life and wonder, who gives us a Dani we can all get behind and root for. The cast is outstanding, and the storyline is sweet and fulfilling. You can see why Reese went on to become the star that she is today in this film. My Rating: Full Price The Man in the Moon Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of No Time to Die: Bike Ramp Team
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time (2021) Documentary about writer Kurt Vonnegut, made by Robert B. Weide, who documented their friendship over 25 years. Vonnegut is one of my favorite writers, and a fascinating character that I hope this film does justice to. Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time Website