My View: Spencer (2021) R Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) is spending the Christmas holidays with the royal family at the famous Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England. Diana has decided to do the unthinkable, leave her marriage to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing). Go into this film with the idea that this isn’t necessarily the real story of Princess Di, that, as the first title card tells you, it’s a fairy tale. Kristen Stewart is brilliant in capturing the spirit and manner of Diana. It’s a mesmerizing performance that makes you believe that you are watching the sad and tragic tales of a young woman brought down by a monarchy and its strict ways of living life the Royal way. The best parts of the film are Princess Diana’s interactions with her children. There is a beautiful scene where Diana senses that her sons are not having the Christmas they wanted, and she plays a game where they pretend they are soldiers asking each other questions. It’s a moving scene that gives us insight into their relationship and just how damaging living in this ‘fairy tale’ world was. The film deals with Diana’s battles with bulimia, of now only how the Royal family handled it but also how her sons tried to help her deal with it. The film lost me a bit in the sequences where Diana goes off, in her mind into another reality, as I felt these scenes made the reality of what she was dealing with seem lesser. That being said, Spencer is worth seeing because of Kristen Stewart's portrayal of a woman living in a fishbowl filled with piranhas, giving us another reason to feel that she is one of the best actors of her generation. My Rating: Full Price Spencer Website Now playing in theaters nationwide.
My View: Finch (2021) PG-13 In a devastated world full of sandstorms, incredible heat, and no water, Finch (Tom Hanks) decides he has to move on because of a coming storm. Finch will now take his new family, a dog and a talking robot, on an adventure in a dangerous and ravaged world. What more do you want in a film than Tom Hanks, a lovable, clumsy talking robot and a dog? OK, maybe a better thought-out plot which asks you to believe a lot in the magic of creating a robot who can think for itself would have helped. Still, you have the likability of Hanks and a dog who will melt your heart. The film doesn’t always touch the heartstrings like it wants to, but you will still need a tissue or two. The film is Tom Hanks show, and he is as good as you expect him to be, I just wish the film didn’t go down the easy road that it does, making the film feel predictable and often question its science (bad for a movie about a guy whose life is science). Still, I enjoyed Finch, Tom Hanks and a very ‘good dog’ named Goodyear. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Finch Website Now playing on the Apple TV+ platform.
Indiefest: The Souvenir: Part II (2021) R Still reeling from the death of her lover, Anthony (Tom Burke), Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) is trying to make her final movie for film school. She goes on a mission to understand the relationship with Anthony, a man who was a troubled soul. Julie must sort through the facts and sort the truth from the fiction of Anthony’s life. The Souvenir Part II is a film that helps if you have seen part one since it takes place immediately after filmmaker Joanna Hogg’s first film, The Souvenir. In that film, a young filmmaker, Julie, falls for an older man who becomes the love of her life, only to be dragged into his world of drugs and misery. This film is a bit lighter, with Julie trying to figure out what was real in the life of Anthony, all the while dealing with the pressure of making her final film project. Like the first film, this is Honor Swinton Byrne’s film, and she once again gives a performance that is a breathtaking journey through dealing with a life-altering event and coming through the other side. I enjoyed this film more than the first one because I loved Julie more in this film, as she becomes a person the blooms, no longer dependent on Anthony or her mother (played by the actress's real mother Tilda Swinton) for her reason for living. Swinton Byrne gives us a Julie that learns to grow and use her heartbreak to realize her dreams. My Rating: Full Price The Souvenir Part II Website Now playing in select theatres.
My View: The Harder They Fall (2021) R When outlaw Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) finds out that his mortal enemy Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) has been broken out of a jail transport by Trudy Smith (Regina King), Nat rounds up his gang to track Rufus down and seek revenge for a killing that Rufus did long ago. I am a huge western film fan, and this film has created a world that didn’t exist, but we are glad that filmmaker Jeymes Samuel has built it for us. I mean, come on, a cast with Jonathan Majors as the hero and Idris Elba and Regina King as the bad guys makes for one exciting film. With a movie that has bits from classic films such as Once Upon a Time in the West and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, this film has put its own brand on the west in a world that looks at the Black cowboys of the past, some of which are based on real characters, that have never had the spotlight until now. Added to the star power of the film, the supporting cast is equally impressive. With outstanding performances by Zazie Beetz, as a saloon owner who has a past with Nat, her female bouncer who can best any man in a fight (Danielle Deadwyler), and the lawman Bass Reeves (Delroy Lindo), a man who is determined to bring Nat in but is more determined to see justice done. The Harder They Fall has some nice twists to it, some great gunfights, including a spectacular shootout at the end, and a cast that makes this western a movie to love, even for filmgoers that don’t like westerns. My Rating: Full Price The Harder They Fall Website Now playing in select theatres and on the Netflix platform.
My View: Love Hard (2021) Natalie (Nina Dobrev) is an L.A. woman who has finally found her man online after a series of horrible dates. She travels to the East Coast to surprise him for the holidays only to discover that she has been catfished by Josh (Jimmy O. Yang). To make it up to Natalie, Josh tells her he can set it up to meet the man whom Josh used to Catfish her, a hunky guy named Tag (Darren Barnet), who Josh knows. You know precisely what you are getting before you even start watching this film, and that’s ok because it’s that time of the year for Christmas romance films. What you hope for in a movie like this is a fun plot and a winning cast. I really enjoyed the chemistry between Nina Dobrev and Jimmy O. Yang, making the film work. The two are cute together, and the scenes between the two are fun to watch. Is the storyline predictable and a bit obvious that Natalie isn’t meant for Tag? You bet, but isn’t that what you want in this type of film? I mean, it's a Christmas movie. And by the way, there is a friendly debate running throughout the film about a few certain movies and whether they are or are not Christmas films. My friends know that I agree with Natalie. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Love Hard Website Now playing on the Netflix platform.
Indiefest: The Beta Test (2021) R Jordan (Jim Cummings) has it all, about to be married to a beautiful woman and a great job as a Hollywood agent. His world changes when he gets a mysterious invitation to have a sexual encounter in a hotel room with a person who he won’t be able to see due to a blindfold. Jordan decides to take up the offer, and his life becomes one big mess of lying, intrigue, and possible murder. Jim Cummings is a filmmaker that always makes interesting films; sometimes they work, sometimes they fail, but they are always interesting (Thunder Road, The Wolf of Snow Hollow). This is a satire about the industry of being an agent in Hollywood combined with a mystery about who or what is behind those compelling invitations. The Beta Test is a film that is more about a trip into madness by a man who, right from the start, has a few screws loose. A man who will just about do anything to get a client and is also willing to cheat on his fiancé with a stranger, set up by an unknown person. I liked this film because of Cummings performance of a man, who is so high strung, he becomes undone by his inner turmoil, as he becomes obsessed with finding out not only who the woman was that he met in that hotel room but who was behind the meeting. We see him destroy not only his life with his soon-to-be wife but his job, which probably, in the end, means more to him, as his lies, which used to work so well, become a poison. My Rating: Full Price The Beta Test Website Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.
Forgotten Film: My New Gun (1992) R This is a quirky little romantic comedy (sort of) about a married couple, Debbie and Gerald (Diane Lane, Stephen Collins), in the suburbs where nothing ever happens. Then, Gerald gets a gun for Debbie to keep around for protection. She doesn’t want the gun and starts to have nightmares about it. She lets her mysterious neighbor Skippy (James Legros) borrow the weapon on a whim, and things get messy after that. My New Gun is a fun and strange little film that, once over, you just might want to know more about these characters. The film is helped by a winning performance by James Legros and a supporting cast that includes Tess Harper (Tender Mercies) and a very early role for Philip Seymour Hoffman. My Rating: Full Price The New Gun Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Spencer: Royal Protocol Advisor
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Licorice Pizza (2021) R Set in 1973, the film tells the story of Gary and Alana (Cooper Hoffman, Alana Haim), who fall in and out of love as their careers begin to take off in the strange and weird world of Hollywood. Ok, any movie that sets its trailer to the music of David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’ has my attention. Then you see that Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, Inherent Vice) is the writer/director of the film and includes a cast of Bradley Cooper, Sean Penn, John C. Reilly, and Maya Rudolph, and you say ‘yes, I want to see that.’ Add all that to the fact that Cooper Hoffman is the son of the legendary actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Alana Haim is one of the members of the rock group Haim, for whom Paul Thomas Anderson has directed nine music videos for. Adding to all this fun is that even the studio didn’t quite know what the movie was about until about a year ago. Licorice Pizza Website