My View: Encounter (2021) R A decorated Marine, Malik (Riz Ahmed), takes his two boys (Lucian-River Chauhan, Aditya Geddada) on a journey to escape from an inhuman threat as he believes that an alien invasion is happening. Along the way, they will encounter dangers that will test their faith and their love for each other as they leave their childhood behind. I found the film at first an entertaining escape film, but as soon as I figured out where the film was headed, I soon lost interest in the characters and the storyline. You can’t fault Riz Ahmed, who once again shows us what an interesting and compelling actor he is in this role, but he can’t overcome a script that has a plot that becomes predictable and dull. Ultimately, Encounter can’t live up to its compelling and exciting start, slowing down to a crawl at the end, wasting another fine performance by Riz Ahmed. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Encounter Website Now playing in select theatres and available on the Amazon Prime platform on Dec. 10th.
My View: Mixtape (2021) It’s right before the year 2000, and Beverly (Gemma Brooke Allen) is having to grow up with her grandmother (Julie Bowen), who picks her up from school in her post office mail truck. Beverly finds a mixtape that her late parents made and decides to live her life through those songs. Along the way, she will make new friends, find a way to connect with her grandmother, and find her own identity. I loved this small, coming-of-age film about a teen who goes on a quest to understand her mother better through her love of songs and music. Gemma Brooke Allen is so much fun to watch in this film as she goes from a quiet, shy, alone little girl to a confident young woman who has friends and has found a place for herself in a world. I loved the friends Beverly makes; from the grumpy owner (Nick Thune) of a record shop to the scary classmate (Olga Petsa) to the next-door homeschooled girl (Audrey Hsieh), all of which join in on Beverly’s quest to find the songs on her mom’s mixtape. So please sit down and enjoy the rather eclectic selection of songs that Beverly is about to discover and explore as she finds out more about herself along the way to understanding her mother. My Rating: Full Price Mixtape Website Now playing on the Netflix platform.
Indiefest: Flee (2021) PG-13 This animated documentary tells the true story of Amin, who is on the verge of marriage when he reveals his hidden story of fleeing his home country of Afghanistan to Denmark as a refugee. Sure to be at the top of the end of the year critic’s lists and a certain bet to be an Academy Award nominee, Flee is a masterful telling of an unbelievable story of perseverance, hardship, and guilt. Filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen interviews Amin on camera, letting Amin tells his remarkable tale but lets Amin tell it in his own way, in his own time, as the two friends slowly let us get to know Amin and the circumstances that started his long journey. I love this film because we get to see Amin’s world through his eyes, both through the animation and through old TV footage, which gives us an up-close and personal look at a life that has had incredible ups and downs. The film has so many twists and turns that at times you can’t believe one person had to go through all this, and that person kept both their sanity and sense of humor. Go on this unbelievable journey with Amin, where you will cry, laugh, and have hope when you finish this film made through love and friendship. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Flee Website Now playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: Wolf (2021) R Jacob (George MacKay) is a teenager who has been taken to a psychiatric hospital by his parents. Jacob believes that he is a wolf, and he has been put into a place where the rest of the patients also think that they are animals. He finds love with a young woman (Lily-Rose Depp) who has lived her whole life in the hospital, and she believes in Jacob because she believes she is a cat. Wolf is a film that wants to put you into this world like someone teaching someone how to swim by throwing them into the deep end without any warning. We meet Jacob as he is being put into a psychiatric hospital by his parents because he thinks he is a wolf. Instantly we are asked to believe it's normal for patients to be led around by leashes attached to dog collars around the patient's necks as a doctor attempts to get a patient to climb a tree like a squirrel the patient thinks he is. It's hard to connect to this world that I could never figure out. I did enjoy the performance of Lily-Rose Depp as a young woman who goes by the name Wildcat, who falls in love with Jacob and accepts him for what he believes is his true self. Unfortunately, I didn’t believed in Jacob as strongly as Wildcat does, and that’s why this film never truly connected for me. My Rating: Cable Wolf Website Now playing in select theatres.
My View: The Hand of God (2021) R Fabietto is an awkward Italian teen growing up in an eccentric family. His life is upended when soccer legend Diego Maradona visits Fabietto’s town and inadvertently saves Fabietto's life. The Hand of God is a tale of family and fate, loss and love of sports and family. This is about a strange and wonderful family full of characters that are real but also could be right out of the Felinni films that the family talks about all the time. From the aunt who looks like Sophia Loren and likes to sunbathe in the nude to the parents who deeply love each other, to the Baroness who lives above the family and gets the family to respond to her by pounding on the floor above them, the film is filled with colorful characters that make up Fabietto’s world. Fabietto is a melancholy teen who doesn’t have friends, is in love with the crazy aunt from afar, and is trying to figure out what he wants to become. The Hand of God is a beautiful film, filled with scenes full of wonder and beauty, as Fabietto’s eyes are opened to the possibilities that are slowly revealed to him about a world that awaits him. It’s a magical world out there to explore, but it’s also a magical world when your family is full of life, happiness, and love. My Rating: Full Price The Hand of God Website Now playing in select theatres and available on the Netflix platform on Dec. 15th.
My View: Adrienne (2021) Adrienne Shelly was a beloved actress who starred in the Hal Hartley-directed Indie classics The Unbelievable Truth (1989) and Trust (1990). She had just written and directed the 2007 film Waitress when she was found dead, hanging in the shower of her West Village apartment. Her husband did not believe the conclusion of the police that she had committed suicide, believing Adrienne had everything to live for with a beautiful daughter and a career that was about to take off and insisted that the police investigate further. Adrienne is a documentary celebrating a life that touched so many people and continues to do so with the Broadway production of Waitress, based on Adrienne’s film. The documentary is a loving tribute to a woman who was just coming into her own as both a mother and a filmmaker. Adrienne was an actress who you would instantly fall in love with as soon as she appeared on the screen, no matter what character she was playing. Adrienne is a documentary about a woman who was determined to make movies on her terms, the daughter of that woman determined to learn more about her, and a husband who wants to explore the life of the woman he loved. Adrienne was an actress who filled a room or a movie screen with life and love, full of adventure and endless possibilities, much like the characters she created for her film Waitress. I hope this film will give people a reason to go back and discover her movies and celebrate a life that was cut way too short. My Rating: Full Price Adrienne Website Now playing on the HBO Max platform.
Indiefest: The Summit of the Gods (2021) PG In 1924, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine attempted to climb Mount Everest and were never seen again. Seventy years later, Makoto, a young reporter, encounters a climber named Habu, who may have a camera that Mallory and Irvine used in their attempt to be the first to climb Everest. Now Makoto finds himself intertwined with Habu and goes on a quest to record Habu’s own attempt to climb the legendary mountain. Part mystery, part adventure film, The Summit of the Gods is an intriguing story about two men; one on a quest to find a camera that could prove Everest was prevailed over long before Sir Edmund Hillary did and another on a quest to conquer the demons of his past and fulfill his dreams. This film is sure to not only make my list of one of the best-animated films of the year but also one of the best narrative films too. Based on a Manga series, the film follows Makoto, who at first is just about finding the camera, until he finds out more and more about the legendary climber behind the lost camera, whose story is far more interesting and intriguing. The animation perfectly captures the world of high-risk mountain climbing and the people that inhabit that world. The Summit of the Gods is a truly magical tale about what drives men to climb the impossible, even when the odds are stacked against them. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again The Summit of the Gods Website Now playing on the Netflix platform.
Indiefest: The End of Us (2021) Leah (Ali Vingiano), and Nick (Ben Coleman) have just had a nasty breakup, but just as they are about to separate, California issues its stay-at-home order for COVID-19, and the two exes must live together. They think it will be just a couple of weeks, but those weeks turn into months, and the two ex-lovers soon learn that it’s hard to move on without moving out. This is another Indie film made during the pandemic about the pandemic. What saves this film from some of the other pandemic relationship films is the chemistry that the two leads have. Ali Vigiano and Ben Coleman are brilliant in their performance as two lovers at the end of their relationship, tired of each other and the drama they create. Then, just as the two realize their relationship is done, they encounter a nightmare that they can't wake up from; they are stuck with each other with no escape. The film is filled with fun moments that anyone who has tired of a relationship can relate to, as the two continue to get on each other’s nerves and question what they saw in each other. It helps that the two characters are very different, with Nick as the needy, annoying actor who talks a big game about a script he may never write and Leah, who has a steady job and is the more sensible of the two, that is until she begins exploring life outside of her relationship with Nick. I loved the ending of this film, letting us see how this experience has led the two characters to find their own way out of this mess that COVID created. My Rating: Full Price End of Us Website Now playing in select theatres.
Forgotten Film: The Unbelievable Truth (1989) R Audry (Adrienne Shelly) is a young woman who is living an ordinary life in a small, ordinary town. She has a boyfriend who treats her well, and a father, though strict, is a loving and doting parent. Audry’s world changes when a strange man (Robert Burke) dressed in black comes to town and starts working in Audry’s father's repair shop. Audry soon becomes enamored with the mysterious man, but soon his past will catch up to him and change how people see him. Adrienne Shelly is the reason to see this film as she gives an unbelievable performance of a young woman who wants more than what her small town can offer her. There is also a great sense of humor that simmers under the plot that filmmaker Hal Hartley lets come to the surface at unexpected times. The Unbelievable Truth is a film filled with interesting characters that make this a film to savor. My Rating: Full Price The Unbelievable Truth Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Flee: Orchestrator
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: American Underdog (2021) PG The story of Kurt Warner (Zachary Levi), a man who had a dream of playing in the NFL and went from stocking shelves of a supermarket to becoming an NFL quarterback who won a Super Bowl and a member of the Hall of Fame. The cast includes Anna Paquin, Dennis Quaid, Adam Baldwin, and Bruce McGill. Baldwin and Levi starred in the wonderful TV series Chuck about another unlikely hero. American Underdog Website