Familyfaire: Clifford The Big Red Dog (2021) PG Emily (Darby Camp) is having trouble fitting in a school and at home until she brings a puppy home that she names Clifford to her family’s New York City apartment. Overnight Clifford becomes giant-sized and is wanted by a genetics company run by an evil scientist (Tony Hale). Now it's up to Emily and her uncle (Jack Whitehall), along with friends they have met along the way, to save Clifford from a life in a lab. If you can get over the fact that Clifford, right from the start, looks exactly what he is, a CGI dog, then this family film works, just don’t expect much more. I am not sure that kids will fall in love with Clifford, as the dog looks a little too unrealistic to make him as lovable as he needs to be. The storyline is pretty simple, and Darby Camp is cute and energetic in the role of Clifford’s best friend. I found that Jack Whitehall’s character is a bit annoying as Emily’s deadbeat uncle, as Whitehall tends to mug continually for the camera. Tony Hale is fun as the evil corporate executive who wants Clifford for research, and John Cleese, as the mysterious man who gives Clifford to Emily, is fun in a small part in the film. Clifford The Big Red Dog isn’t a bad film, and kids will enjoy seeing one of their favorite books come to life on the big screen. I just wish Clifford wasn’t so weird-looking. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Clifford The Big Red Dog Website The film is playing in theatres nationwide and on the Paramount+ platform.
: 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. It’s funny, but when I first saw this film, I was a bit under-whelmed, but the more I think about this film and how it has stayed with me, the more I love it. It’s a beautiful film, both in storyline and in its outstanding B&W cinematography. Do yourself a favor and see this gorgeous film on the big screen and let it just envelop you. This is a personal love story of writer/director Kenneth Branagh to his town and his parents, as he tells the story of Buddy, whose family is dealing with not only his father continually out of town because of work, but with the horrible times that Northern Ireland dealt with in the late 60s/early 70s due to political unrest. I loved that the family stays together in the good times and the bad, as we see Buddy’s mother dealing alone with not only a young boy who has a tendency to get into a bit of trouble but also dealing with the fact that it’s not safe for her family to live in the neighborhood that she loves and has spent her life in. Jude Hill is brilliant as the kid who is sensitive enough to know that his family is in trouble and wants to help. Belfast is a beautiful and moving film about love, hope, and how that love can help a family survive any obstacle put in their way, as long as they stay strong together. There are great performances from the cast, but I was impressed by Jamie Doman’s performance of a man who loves his wife and family and is willing to take a chance to take his family out of danger, even if it means abandoning the life that they love. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Belfast Website Now playing in select theatres.
My View: Red Notice (2021) Pg-13 Nolan (Ryan Reynolds) used to be the number-one most-wanted art thief, but he has been supplanted by The Bishop (Gal Gadot), a new and mysterious mastermind thief. Nolan teams up with FBI agent John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) to capture The Bishop to put Nolan back on top of the Red Notice, a list by Interpol of the most-wanted criminals in the world. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this romp of a film. Reportedly the most expensive film that Netflix has made, the film is a blast to watch with Ryan Reynolds stealing the movie from Johnson and Gadot. The movie is filled with lots of cool break-ins and escapes, Reynold cracking jokes right and left (mainly at the expense of Johnson’s straight-laced FBI agent persona), and Gadot gets to kick some butt. There are a few nice twists to the plot, and though a little long, the film moves at a quick pace. Red Notice isn’t a great film, but it's fun, with plenty of star power to go around, making it fun to go on a few adventures with the trio, as they try out do each other on the screen. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Red Notice Website Now playing in select theatres and on the Netflix platform.
Indiefest: Mayor Pete (2021) R Documentary that follows the campaign of Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who went from a small-town mayor to a Presidential candidate. Pete Buttigieg is a vet who would be the youngest President ever if elected; the documentary gives us an unprecedented look at the candidate, his husband Chasten, and their election team as Pete travels across the country. Documentaries are often about people that have flaws or are brought down by events of their own undoing, making them compelling viewing. Mayor Pete doesn’t have that because its subject matter is a man who is good, honest, and well-spoken, who tries to do the right thing and follows through with actions and not just words. The film follows Pete through his rise in the crowded field (at one time, there were 20 candidates for the democratic side to take on President Trump), his brief lead of the field, and then his campaign, after early wins, go down in flames, not because of a misstep or a scandal, but just because it wasn’t his time. I came away from the film admiring Pete Buttigieg and what he believes in and the fact that he has a great husband who supported him with grace and humor throughout the year. But, like the candidate, the film fell a little flat, mainly because Pete is a nice guy who had trouble finding momentum to make him stand out from a field of more experienced candidates. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Mayor Pete Website Now playing in select theatres and on the Amazon Prime platform.
Familyfaire: Home Sweet Home Alone (2021) Ten-year-old Max Mercer (Archie Yates) is left behind at home when his family mistakenly leaves him behind due to a mix-up in tickets and flights to their trip to Tokyo. Max at first enjoys his time by himself in the house, but soon his bliss is interrupted by a married couple (Ellie Kemper, Rob Delaney) looking to steal a priceless heirloom in the Mercer household. Max now must defend his home, alone from these thieves, who have no idea what is in store for them. The first Home Alone was a good movie, written by the great John Hughes. That film had a cute kid in Macaulay Culkin who had a ton of charisma at its center, but what made the movie different was it had some secondary stories to it which gave the film heart; the old man that Kevin is afraid of but ultimately befriends and the journey that Kevin’s mom, played by the wonderful Catherine O’Hara, goes on to get back to her son who’s ‘Home Alone. Add to the film that the bad guys (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern) are truly bad guys, who are out to hurt Kevin, and it makes Home Alone work. Unfortunately, the latest version (can you believe this is the 6th film in the series?) has none of the first film's heart, and the ‘bad guys’ aren’t so bad after all. Archie Yates, who was so brilliant and funny as the sidekick in JoJo Rabbit, is wasted in this role and gives us an almost joyless performance in the role as the kid left behind. Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper’s characters have no malice towards Max; they just want to get back what is theirs and their continued attempt to get into the house becomes tiresome and pointless. And to the film is a lukewarm story of Max’s mother (Aisling Bea) trying to get back to her son, which makes it a movie that you will want to skip and watch the original instead. My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again Home Sweet Home Alone Info Now playing on the Disney+ platform.
Indiefest: Soulmate(s) (2021) Samantha (Alexandra Case) and Jessamine (Stephanie Lynn) have been life-long best friends, growing up in a small town in Vermont. Their way of life is being threatened by a corporation trying to take over the local maple syrup industry, something that has been the town's pride and joy forever. Things get complicated when Mess’s new fiancé starts hogging all of Jess’s time, and what's worse, he works for that corporation. I have a feeling that this film is getting a lot of ‘Hallmark film’ talk in reviews about this movie. That’s not a bad thing because this is a predictable romantic comedy that checks off those ‘Hallmark’ plot points: two attractive leads, happy best friends whose life is turned upside down by a romantic interest by one of the two, the other feels left out and tries to break up the romance with success but with a cost, and yes, spoiler alert (not really), a happy ending. The film gives you what you expect, and because the scenery is pretty and the production is well done, Soulmate(s) doesn’t disappoint. Yeah, the plot is very predictable, and the ending is tied up in a pretty white bow, but that’s ok. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Soulmate(s) Website Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.
Forgotten Film: Waterland (1992) Tom Crick (Jeremy Irons) is a high school teacher in 1972 Pittsburg. He is not doing well and senses that his class is bored with history, so he begins to tell his story of growing up in England during WWII and his romance with a woman that would change his life. This is an interesting film that moves back and forth between timelines, sometimes a bit blurred, as Tom tells a story filled with romance, intrigue, madness, and possibly murder. Irons is always an engaging actor to watch, reserved on the outside, but you know that there is something bubbling on the inside that just may escape to the surface at any moment. I love the young cast in this film, including Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. The film is a bit uneven, but the twists are worth waiting for. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Waterland Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Clifford The Big Red Dog: Air to Ground Person
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: House of Gucci (2021) R Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) has fought her whole life to get ahead in life. As an outsider from humble beginnings, Patrizia marries into the Gucci family, and her drive and ambition begins to unravel their legacy and starts a downward spiral into betrayal, decadence, revenge, and finally…murder. House of Gucci is sure to be a favorite at the Oscars next year with a cast that includes Jared Leto, Salma Hayek, Adam Driver, Jeremy Irons, and Al Pacino and directed by Ridley Scott. House of Gucci Website