Friday, November 19, 2021

King Richard

My View:  King Richard  (2021)  PG-13   From a very early age, Richard Williams (Will Smith) thought his daughters Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) could be the best tennis players of their generation. Against the odds and due to the strong belief in their father, they became superstars. At the center of this film is a story not about how to raise two young women to be great tennis players, but how to raise them to be kind, generous, wonderful people who believe in themselves. Will Smith gives what may be an Oscar-winning performance as a man driven to keep his family alive and healthy in challenging circumstances. Williams knows he is hard on his family, but he is determined that his daughters succeed not just on the court but in school and in life. It’s a magical performance by Smith, giving us a man that we don’t always like or understand; still, we respect his utter devotion to his family, willing to do just about anything to keep his daughters normal, well-rounded and humble. It’s a remarkable story about a man with a dream and two daughters who exceeded that dream. And by the way, you just might sing along with Kenny Rodgers during a road trip with King Richard and his family like the audience I saw the film with did.    My Rating: Full Price   King Richard Website  The film is now playing in theatres nationwide and available on the HBO Max platform.

My View:  The Power of the Dog  (2021)  R  The ranch has always been a team effort between the hard-living Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his brother George (Jesse Plemons). Everything changes when Phil marries a widow, Rose (Kirsten Dunst), and brings Rose and her teenage son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), to live on the ranch. Life will never be the same on the ranch as Phil is determined to run both mother and son off his ranch, his domain. Please see this film in the theatre as the cinematography of this film is some of the finest I have seen in the last ten years and deserves to be seen on as big a screen as you can find. I can’t find the words to express just how beautiful and, at the same time, how savage the scenery in this film is. This is a harsh world that these people live in, both in the weather conditions and how others treat each person in this world. Right from the start, there is an underlying tension between the two brothers, which only gets worse when George brings his wife home, a person that Phil sees as an invader into their home and a disrupter of Phil’s very set way of life. There are some great performances in this film. Dunst is the most reserved I have ever seen her on the screen, portraying a woman who feels she doesn’t belong in this way of life and resorts to drinking to escape from it. Cumberbatch is fun to watch as the gruff and set in his ways cowboy, who delights in tormenting Rose and pointing out to his brother how she just doesn’t fit in. Kodi Smit-McPhee is given the challenging role of the young man who doesn’t conform to the cowboy way of life, knowing he is different and doesn’t care who knows it. I felt the performance that made this film was the role of George, played with aplomb by Jessie Plemons. It's a performance filled with small, subtle tells into the mind and feelings for George, who loves his wife, but doesn’t quite know how to tell her his feelings, not quite understanding who she is or what makes her tick. The Power of the Dog is a film that will stick with you long after you see it, wondering what happens to these characters after the film stops.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    The Power of the Dog Website  The film is now playing in select theatres and will be on the Netflix platform on Dec. 1st.

My View:   tick, tick…Boom!  (2021)  PG-13   Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield) works at a diner but has been trying for eight years to bring a musical that he has written for the stage, worried that he has made the wrong career choice. As he is about to turn thirty, Jonathan navigates love, friendship, and the pressure of life in the big city of NYC as he dreams of bringing his life work to life. Oh my gosh, are fans of RENT going to eat this up! It’s a beautiful musical, full of great songs, some rousing musical numbers, and a winning performance by Andrew Garfield. Garfield brings all the energy and spunk that Jonathan needs to show his passion for writing and singing. Garfield’s enthusiasm is infectious, and you root for Jonathan to succeed right from the start. The film is a celebration of a songwriter who loved life and loved making music. Now, this isn’t a film about the writing of RENT; it’s about Larson’s life before he came up with the idea of that ground-breaking musical. But the film shows us the springing forth of ideas that eventually became that musical. Larson is struggling, both in his writing life and in his personal life. He works as a waiter at a diner, writing songs on the fly, as his light bill is overdue and his friends are quickly dying from the AIDS crisis. All of this became fodder for the writing of RENT, but before that, he had to write this musical, and we are glad that he did. The musical numbers are fun and sometimes moving. The supporting cast is terrific, with Alexandra Shipp playing Johnathan’s girlfriend and Vanessa Hudgens as a friend who helps perform Jonathan’s work, standing out. tick, tick...Boom! is a loving tribute to a talented writer who left us way too early.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   tick, tick...Boom! Website  Now playing in select theaters and on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Julia  (2021)  PG-13  Documentary on the life of Julia Child, the first true cooking star who wrote a cookbook about French cooking when America was all about frozen food and quick meals from cans. Julia became a TV superstar who delighted the world with her unique style and taught that everyone can become a cook. I always was a fan of Julia Child as she brought her knowledge and enthusiasm for cooking to us through the magic of TV. I hope that this film will create a new batch of fans of the woman, who was larger than life and kept working into her 90s. Julia was the first big celebrity cook and changed how Americans viewed both French cooking and home-cooked meals made from scratch. She taught so many people, including me, how to cook in a kitchen and how to not only overcome mistakes in the kitchen but celebrate them. Julia is a beautiful look a strong, passionate woman who wanted the world to not only learn how to cook but to cook fearlessly, just like Julia lived her life.    My Rating: Full Price   Julia Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Indiefest: India Sweets and Spices (2021)  PG-13  When college freshman Alia (Sophia Ali) comes home from college to her family’s posh New Jersey home, she discovers that she has become tired of the lavish dinner parties and the gossiping that her family is known for. When she falls for a store owner’s son, she discovers that her parents (Manisha Koirala, Adil Hussain) are hiding secrets from their past. First, let me say that Sophia Ali is utterly charming as the bold and brash Alia, a young woman bristling under the strict life that her parents live for. Ali is fun to watch as she brings her character to life, a young woman determined to live life on her terms and not her parents, until she discovers that her mother has much more in common with Alia, hiding a past that has long been swept under the rug. The film is helped by the brilliant actors portraying Alia’s parents, Manisha Koirala and Adil Hussain, who give us characters going on behind their posh, polished facades. The film has a lot to say about a class system, gossip, and how our past can always catch us with us. Still, it’s Sophia Ali that makes this film work with a performance filled with energy and charisma.   My Rating: Full Price   India Sweets and Spices Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: The Pebble and the Boy  (2021)   John (Patrick Nacnamee) learns that his father, who he barely knew, has died. He decides to take a trip on his father’s scooter, a prized Lambretta, bringing along his father’s ashes to scatter them in Brighton. With his new-found friend, Nicki (Sacha Parkinson), John discovers much about his father and his love for the ‘Mod’ scene. This is an enjoyable coming-of-age film about a young man who learns that there was much more to his dad than just riding around on a scooter and listening to certain bands. The film is greatly helped by Sacha Parkinson, who is a bundle of energy on the screen, as Nicki brings life into John’s world, whether he wants it or not. The film is predictable, and we see the ending coming from a mile away, but still, the two leads are fun to watch together, and the soundtrack is a blast to listen to. So climb aboard and head on down the road with John, Nicki and encounter a few characters along the way to discover that the world you thought you knew was a bit more complicated than you thought it was.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Pebble and the Boy Info  Now available on Digital and On Demand.

Indiefest: Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time (2021)  Documentary on the life of author Kurt Vonnegut, the award-winning writer of books Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle and his friendship with filmmaker Robert B. Weide, who documented that friendship over 25 years. My dad always told me to be careful about how much you learn about your heroes, as they might disappoint you. Kurt Vonnegut is one of those writers that I fell in love with when I was a teenager, exploring the world of science fiction, looking for more than just stories about spacemen on Mars. Vonnegut wrote in a style that was both funny and depressing, about subjects that often were horrific, like Slaughterhouse-Five, with the Dresden fire bombings. This documentary is a Vonnegut fan's dream, as filmmaker Robert B. Weide, due to his friendship with Vonnegut, was given access to both pictures and home movies of Vonnegut that provides us with a great insight into his childhood and younger years. We also get to see interviews that Vonnegut made with Weide over the years, along with interviews with Vonnegut's brother, Kurts adopted children, and his own daughters from his marriage with his first wife. Vonnegut was a troubled soul. Slaughterhouse-Five was based partly on his own experience as a POW during WWII, and he witnessed firsthand the destruction of the city of Dresden and he was forever haunted by what he saw. A writer who struggled to make a living until his great success with the Slaughterhouse book, Vonnegut then abandoned his family to move in with a younger woman and seemed to love and crave the spotlight the book gave him. My only problem with this film is Weide has a tendency to turn the camera on himself, often giving us information or stories that didn’t have much to do with Vonnegut. That being said, I still enjoyed spending time with a hero of mine, even if, as I had always suspected, was a deeply flawed man. That’s ok, I still have all those books and the worlds he created to escape into.    My Rating: Full Price    Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time Website  Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.

Indiefest:  Zeros and Ones  (2021)  R    JJ (Ethan Hawke) is an American soldier in Rome who discovers that his twin brother is caught up in a plot to blow up the Vatican. JJ must try to stop the bombing, even if his brother is involved. I could watch this film five more times and still not know what the heck it is about. A film that was shot at the height of the pandemic in Europe, it's a film that fills its short 86 minutes with a lot of shots of scenery or closeups of Ethan Hawke doing nothing much other than scowling into the camera. I would love to be able to tell you what the plot is, but it’s a huge mystery to me and maybe the filmmakers themselves. I guess the Vatican isn’t blown up, or perhaps it is. I just have no clue and don’t want to try to figure it out. My Rating: Cable    Zeros and Ones Website   Now available on Digital and On Demand.

My View:  The Curse of Von Dutch: A Brand to Die For  (2021)   Documentary about the rise and fall of Von Dutch, a fashion brand of the 2000s that was a favorite of celebrities like Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Justin Timberlake. A brand that was founded and run on sex, drugs, and possibly murder. This three-part documentary is a fascinating look at how fashion brands can quickly catch fire and burn out just as quickly. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that no one can agree on who actually came up with the brand, much less agree on what happened to bring the brand crashing down. The film is filled with characters that if you wrote a fictional script about this, you wouldn’t believe it. There are drug dealers, meth heads, murderers, con-men, gang members, and celebrities who fill out the people involved in the Von Dutch brand. About every ten minutes, someone is interviewed that goes, ‘Oh, wait, maybe I shouldn't say that because it was illegal.’ I remember, at the time, seeing some celebrity wearing a Von Dutch ‘trucker hat’ on some red carpet and wondering what the heck is Von Dutch. After watching this documentary, I still don’t have a clue what Von Dutch was, but I sure had fun watching a film about a bizarre cast of characters that were right out of a Tarantino film that betrayed each other at a staggering speed, destroying a million-dollar fashion brand, and maybe killing a few people on the way.   My Rating: Full Price   The Curse of Von Dutch Website  Now available on the Hulu platform. 

Indiefest: The Feast  (2021)  A young woman, Cadi (Annes Elwy), is hired to serve a group of wealthy guests at a dinner party in a remote house in rural Wales. The assembled guests have no clue that they are about to eat their last meal. This strange and utterly captivating film slowly becomes a horror film but takes its time building up the suspense. Right from the start, you know something is up with Cadi, as she barely talks and is constantly going off on her own to explore the house and the surrounding farmland. Add to the building creepiness, the film was shot using only the Welsh language, which has always struck me as such a weird-sounding language when spoken. To say the family that Cadi will be serving has problems would be an understatement, as both sons are acting up and just give off vibes of troubled souls. I love how as the film moves along, Cadi becomes more and more attractive as she becomes bolder and more powerful in her actions. I will warn you that the film gets pretty graphic in its final act and is quite disturbing in parts, but I loved the ending and the reasoning behind it. Just remember not to have a dinner party right before or after seeing this film.   My Rating: Full Price   The Feast Website   Now playing in select theatres. 
My View:
Ghostbusters: Afterlife   (2021) PG-13   A single mom (Carrie Coon) and her two children (Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard) are forced to leave their home behind and move to a decayed farmhouse in Oklahoma, left to them by the children’s late grandfather. Strange things start happening in the town, including a series of earthquakes even though they don’t live anywhere near a fault line. Soon the kids will learn that their grandfather left behind a legacy of fighting and capturing ghosts. It’s hard to capture the magic again from a film over 35 years old, and unfortunately, this film misses the mark. It’s not a bad film but feels like a rip-off of the original and not a sequel, as there isn’t much original about this film. The film takes a long time to set everything up, and while the initial romp with a ghost that the kids chase riding the old Ghostbusters ambulance is fun, the film feels more and more like a retread of the first film. Something we have seen and done before, without much of the fun of the original. And by the way, Paul Rudd isn’t Bill Murray, no matter how hard he tries to be like him. Yes, there is a bonus scene at the end of the first credits at the end, but even it doesn't have that magic.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee     Ghostbusters: Afterlife Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Forgotten Film:  My Life (1993) PG-13   Bob Jones (Michael Keaton) is living a good life; he has a great job and a wonderful wife (Nicole Kidman) with a baby on the way. That all comes crashing down when he finds he has terminal cancer with four months to live. Bob goes on a journey of self-discovery and mending fences when he decides to start recording talks for his baby, who will grow up without a father. Michael Keaton is brilliant in this film, giving us a clue that he could do more than just comedy and Batman films. The film gets a little too sentimental, and the scenes where Kidman gives birth to their child isn’t great cinema, but overall the film has heart and excellent performances. Speaking of, I wish the film had given more to Queen Latifah, who comes into the final third of the film as Bob’s hospice nurse and brings a bit of fresh air to the movie in a role that needed to be better showcased. My guess is the filmmakers didn’t know that Queen Latifah could bring that much to her role.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   My Life Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of tick, tick…Boom!: Health and Safety Logistics Production Assistant

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) R   A Scottish lord (Denzel Washington) is convinced that he will be King after being visited by a trio of witches. His ambitious wife (Frances McDormand) eggs him on, and Macbeth’s act of seizing power will lead to madness and death. Shakespeare directed by Joel Coen and a cast that includes Brendan Gleeson, Alex Hassell, Moses Ingram, Matt Helm, Stephen Root, and Harry Melling, makes this a film not to be missed.      The Tragedy of Macbeth Website

Until Next Time!

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