Friday, November 26, 2021


Familyfaire:  Encanto  (2021)  PG  Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz) is a young girl who has a problem. Mirabel lives in a town, called Encanto hidden in the mountains of Colombia. She belongs to a family named the Madrigals, where everyone has magical powers except her. Mirabel learns that the magic that surrounds Encanto is in danger, and it’s up to her, the only ordinary Madrigal, to save the town and its magic. Encanto is a charming and rousing musical with beautiful songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and the animation is vibrant and captures the beauty of Colombia. This isn’t your typical Disney animated film because there isn’t a villain to root against. Instead, Mirabel is an outsider in her family, the only one who doesn’t have the ability to do magic, and that feeling of loneliness and not living up to your family’s standards is Mirabel’s own villain, the one that she has to overcome to save her family. Stephanie Beatriz gives a mesmerizing performance that provides us with the joy of being a part of a family she loves and is proud of, but at the same time, someone who longs to live up to her family's high expectations. Beatriz gives Mirabel a character that we can all relate to and root for. I applaud Disney for their continuing to expand the ‘princess’ line of characters, giving us a look and feel of a different country, with heroes from other cultures and other parts of the world. Encanto is a film that is truly magical.  My Rating: Full Price    Encanto Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide. 

My View:  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. This is a bizarre story that makes for a strange and almost campy movie. Lady Gaga is a force of nature on the screen, playing the brash, bold, and at times, fearless Patrizia, who finds by luck, her way into the life of the rich by latching on to one of the heirs of the Gucci kingdom, Maurizio (Adam Driver). Driver is brilliant as the man who at first didn’t want to be part of the glamorous life of being a Gucci but, through Patrizia’s drive and a taste of money and power, decides to go into the family business. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the off-the-wall, bizarre performance of Jared Leto as the idiot Paolo Gucci, who bumbles his way through life, thinking he is destined for greatness but is met with defeat after defeat. Leto is almost unrecognizable as the balding, paunchy Paolo, who talks and acts as if everything is a big production. It’s a strange performance that is at times brilliant and other times annoying, as Leto goes way over the top with his portrayal. Overall, House of Gucci an interesting movie that doesn’t quite know if it’s a melodrama or a play on mafia films, but it’s worth checking out for the performances. You have to see Leto' Paolo. It’s worth the price of admission.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    House of Gucci Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide. 

My View:  Bruised  (2020)  Jackie Justice (Halle Berry) used to be somebody, a mixed martial arts fighter who left the sport in disgrace. Now scrubbing toilets for a living, she has a son (Danny Boyd, Jr.), who she gave up as an infant, show up unexpectedly at her door. Jackie gets discovered by a fight league promoter (Shamier Anderson) after Jackie fights in a brutal, illegal underground fight and is given the chance to fight back in the octagon. This isn’t a second chance for Jackie; it’s her last chance. First, let me say that I admire Halle Berry for starring in and directing a film that had to be challenging both mentally and physically on her. I can’t imagine how hard it was to direct a movie that you are starring in and then have the role so physically demanding. That being said, the film is filled with too many cliches of sports films of the past. The washed-up fighter who gets a second chance. The woman who learns to stand up for herself in an abusive relationship. The mother who abandoned her child and then is forced to become the mother that child needs. And add to all that, finding love in an unexpected place. It just feels like the scriptwriter took everything in a bowl and mixed it up. Berry gives a powerful performance, as you feel the weight of her past bring her down time and time again, but Berry can’t overcome a script that is too predictable to make it tug on the heartstrings like we want it to.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Bruised Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest:  Cusp  (2021)  Documentary about three teenage girls, Brittney, Aaloni, and Autumn, growing up in a Texas military town, dealing with the trials and tribulations of growing up under the constraints of being a teenager clashing with wanting to find out who they are. This is a gritty, painful, and sometimes sweet film about growing up as teenage women in a world that forces them to become adults far too soon. All three girls are 16, which in Texas is not the legal age of consent, but all three are sexually active and are dealing with boys as old as 21. The film deals with the harsh reality that these young women, who are all military brats, have had to do a lot of growing up quickly, and without much guidance from their parents, some are gone for vast parts of time serving our country. The subject matters that the girls discuss are graphic and sometimes shocking, including the discussion of how a friend of theirs was raped by her boyfriend. The women are incredibly open and frank on camera, getting into subjects that most of us would have difficulty even talking to a therapist about, including sexual assault. It's a depressing film about three young women who are seen not as people but as sexual conquests, and these young girls will be suffering from these experiences for a long time. After seeing this film, I felt like I spent time with these girls, but I never got to know them, as if they were performing for the cameras. It’s like the camera was another person that they had to put on a show for. I don’t know if that’s just the way they are, or it's the fault of the filmmakers, but it left me wanting more from these women who have dealt with so much in such a young life.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Cusp Website  Now available on the Showtime Network.

Indiefest:  The Beatles: Get Back Part I  (2021)  The Beatles were the world’s greatest rock band, but they hadn’t performed live in two years, and in January 1969, they faced a nearly impossible deadline and created two of their greatest albums (Abby Road, Let It Be) and did their last live performance on a rooftop on London’s Savile Row. This is a review of only part one of this three-part documentary series because I didn’t have enough time to view all three components (each piece is over two and half hours long). Being a huge Beatles fan, at first, I loved this film because we get to see the guys in an element we have never seen before, in a rehearsal studio. In fact, the first film takes place not in a studio but on a sound stage that could possibly be used to film their live concert performance (we know it isn’t because of the famous rooftop concert that this rehearsal spawns). It is thrilling to see this legendary group work on songs that we all know so well. We even get to see them writing songs, exploring how they should sound, and changing lyrics. But, and this is a big one, it is just too much. Too much footage. Too much content. Just too much. Like a history book that gives you too many facts, the film becomes a bit tedious at times, because it is too much detail, we see so many songs being tried out (a lot are songs that haven’t been heard before because they are from the early days of the Lennon/McCartney writing team. The film breaks down part one into each day, as a deadline for the concert is looming over the band. The film is fascinating, as we get to see one of the greatest bands of all time figure out and practice songs. And yes, there is a lot of tension in the room. The band sorely missed their manager, Brian Epstein, who has died a few years earlier, and we see how McCartney tries to take a leadership role in the band, that doesn’t always work. There is also the ever-presence of Yoko Ono, who is ever present by John Lennon’s side, though to be fair, George Harrison has a couple of Hare Krishna guys sitting over in the corner for a couple of days of the rehearsal. Overall, this first part is too long, giving us so much that I think only a diehard Beatle fan will enjoy it all the way through. I really want to see the outdoor concert (of which I have only seen a song or two from), but I don’t know if I want to watch five more hours of the band practicing to get there.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Beatles: Get Back Website   All three parts are being released this holiday weekend starting Thanksgiving night on the Disney+ platform.

Forgotten Film: Heights (2005) R The story of five characters whose lives intersect on one day in NYC, all having to choose what kind of lives they will want to lead before the sun comes up on another day. The main story is the love affair that begins between Isabel (Elizabeth Banks), a woman who is engaged with another man, and Alec (Jesse Bradford) and an actor she meets by chance. The reason to see this film is another outstanding performance by Glen Close, who plays Isabel’s mother, Diana. Diana is an actress in rehearsals for Macbeth and finds out her husband is having another affair. Diana is afraid that Isabel is going to go down the same rocky road Diana traveled and wants Isabel to make the choices that are right for her. The film gets a little lost in all the characters but ties them together nicely in the end.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Heights Info   

Weird Credits: From the credits of Encanto: Animation Reference Dancers

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Cyrano (2021) PG-13   The telling of the classic tale of Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage), who helps Christian (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) woo Roxanne (Haley Bennett), even though Cyrano himself is in love with her. I can’t wait to see Peter Dinklage portray one of my favorite characters of all time, the brilliant swordsman and wordsmith Cyrano.     Cyrano Website

Until Next Time!

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