Friday, January 14, 2022


My View:  Scream  (2022)  R   Twenty-five years have passed since Woodsboro was torn apart by a series of gruesome murders. Now a new killer has emerged, and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has returned to stop the murderer again. The first Scream film, back in 1996, is still one of my favorite slasher/horror films. It had humor, played on the horror tropes of the day, and had a outstanding opening sequence (don’t answer that phone Drew). It was written by Kevin Williamson and directed by the legendary horror director Wes Craven, it was great fun for horror fans, filled with a batch of young stars. Unfortunately, it inspired the studio to do a slew of sequels that never lived up to the first film. Now comes a new Scream, the first in the series not directed by the late Wes Craven. First, this is a blood bath, with each killing very gruesome and violent. The more I think about this film, the more I like it. I will say that my first reaction was a bit negative because of some aspects of the ending, but I have come around thinking that the ending, like the rest of the film, is a play on the horror films (and action films) of the past. The film is constantly thumbing its nose at horror films, whether it is a woman watching a horror film, commenting on how stupid the victim is, just as she is about to suffer the same fate, or how the characters in the movie are talking about how the sequels of the Stab films aren’t as good as the original. Like all the Scream movies, there are plenty of clues left to figure out who the killer is, but that’s ok; it's a Scream trait. I really liked Melissa Barrera, as Sam, the young woman whose past is why the Ghostface killer has targeted her. Barrera has the fire and screen presence that makes her a great successor to Neve Campbell’s Sidney. Will you have fun? Yes, but make sure to look behind you a few times while watching this film. You never know when Ghostface will make an appearance.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Scream Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Familyfaire: Hotel Transylvania: Transformania  (2022)   Van Helsing (voiced by Jim Gaffigan) has invented a ‘Monsterfication Ray’ that has gone haywire, and Drac (voiced by Brian Hull) and all his monster friends have been transformed into something horrible; humans. I have not been a big fan of this series, but since this is the fourth film under the Hotel Transylvania banner, somebody must like them. This is the first film in the series where Adam Sandler is not the voice of Dracula (now voiced by Brian Hull), but since the film is pretty weak to begin with, Sandler isn’t missed. The film has plenty of action for young kids to be entertained by, but I was bored by the plot, and like the last two films, the jokes continually fall flat, making the film feel very long and unfunny. Luckily, the studio has decided to let parents off the hook and is releasing this film directly to Amazon Prime, so it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to sit through this poorly done attempt at animated humor.   My Rating: Cable   Hotel Transylvania: Tranformania Website  Now available on the Amazon Prime platform.

Indiefest: Drive My Car (2021)  Yûsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is a well-known actor and director who is happily married to his screenwriter wife, Oto (Reika Kirishima), when she suddenly dies. Two years after her death, Yûsuke is asked to put on a play in a town across the country and is given a driver (Tôko Miura) to transport him from his remote hotel to the rehearsal space. On the long trips, Yûsuke listens to a tape that Oto recorded for him before her death, and it brings back old memories, both good and bad. I will warn you from the start that this film is three hours long, so pack a lunch when you watch it. I mean, the opening credits don’t happen until 40 minutes into the film, with a prologue that will give you more questions than answers. And yes, you should watch it as it is filled with marvelous and moving performances. I will admit, I would have cut about 20 minutes of the film. There are a few sequences that drag a bit, but almost everything that is in this film pushes us to understand the three main characters; Yûsuke and his very complicated but loving relationship with his wife, Oto, and Yûsuke’s driver, who we are let to know slowly through their guarded interactions. This is a film full of character studies as we get to know the stories behind why almost everyone in the movie behaves the way that they do. Driving My Car is a surefire Academy Award-nominated film and probably the frontrunner for Best International Picture (the film was the pick of two of my critic group's International picture of the year). So pile into the backseat and get ready to go down the road with Yûsuke and his driver.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Drive My Car Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Belle (2021) PG   Suzu is a 17-year-old shy high-school student living in a rural village with her father. One day, she enters ‘U,’ a virtual world with over 5 billion members on the Internet. In the ‘U,’ she becomes Belle, a world-famous singer, and she embarks on a journey of discovery, challenges, and love that will change her forever. This is a beautiful and thrilling new version of Beauty and the Beast, with a big twist. The film is more about a shy, young woman who has never gotten over her mother's death, and that death has taken both her confidence in herself and her singing voice. With the help of a friend, Suzu escapes into the virtual world of the ‘U,’ where you can become another person. As Belle in the ‘U, Suzu becomes a singing sensation and suddenly Suzu, as Belle, is incredibly popular. In the ‘U,’ she meets a mysterious and seemingly dangerous character, The Beast, who is continually angry and is on a constant tear to take on all challengers in battle. But the ‘U’ and its universe is only half of this film. The other half is a film about growing up in the overly connected social network world of high school and how an innocent act of kindness can be overblown instantly. I watched the film in Japanese, and I loved the music in this film. Belle’s songs of love and courage are just magical. From reading a few reviews, I understand that the English version is just as lovely. The film is filled with meaning and has great heart, as we follow Suzu on her adventures, both in the real world (full of crushes and strife) and in the ‘U’ world (full of adventure and mystery). Belle is about finding the courage to take a stand and be yourself while also taking the chance on other people. So enter the ‘U’ and go on a journey of discovery with Suzu and Belle.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Belle Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: The House (2022)   This is an eccentric, dark comedy about a house, told through three surreal tales of the individuals who made it their home through the years. This film comprises three stop-motion animated stories that take place in the same home. The first story is the most enjoyable of the three, about a family that moves from their falling apart home to a newly built house given to them under mysterious circumstances. The family moves into the house and the young daughter, Mabel, soon learns that this gift has come with a price. Mabel’s parents, once loving and attentive, become distracted and uncaring. The house becomes filled with traps and obstacles, to where Mable and her baby sister are constantly trying to overcome, as this nightmare of a house becomes ugly and threatening. It’s a wonderfully told tale that is a bit scary and full of surprises. The remaining two tales are a little less captivating. The second is a tale of a mouse who is going about trying to re-build and flip a house with his life savings, only to have two intruders, one, a group of bugs and another, a couple of potential buyers, invade his remodeled home. The second tale never quite fully develops any tension or scares. The third tale is about a young cat trying to turn the house into an apartment building but is foiled by her lack of funds and two tenants who pay with fish or rocks rather than money. The third tale is probably the weakest of the three, with an ending that just left me wanting more. I wish the second and third tales had the imagination and the scares of the first story, but I still enjoyed the stop-motion animation of all three stories and their different filmmaking styles. While an animated film, please note that The House is for more adult audiences than kids, especially the first tale, which may be too scary for little ones.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The House Website  Now available on the Netflix platform. 

Indiefest: Italian Studies (2021)   The story of a young writer, Alina (Vanessa Kirby), who has suddenly lost her memory. Alina is now adrift in NYC, not knowing who she is or how she got there. She connects with a group of teenagers that promise to help her find her way home, but Alina has no way to know if what she is experiencing is real or imagined. Man, this is a strange film and one that I did not enjoy. It reminded me of the stream of consciousness films that came out of France in the 60s and 70s. This film follows Alina, who goes for a walk with her dog, enters a store, and then forgets who she is. The rest of the film is Alina wandering the streets of New York, meeting people and trying to figure out who she is. But the problem with this film is that Alina is trying to figure out who she is but takes such a rambling, lazy approach to it that it can be maddening how laissez-faire her attitude is. The film goes back and forth with the character interviewing the teens she has interacted with during her memory loss, but it’s never clear when or if these interviews really happen. Italian Studies is a mess of a film that, even as fine as an actor Vanessa Kirby, can’t overcome a plot with no middle or end.   My Rating: Cable   Italian Studies Website  Now playing in select theatres

Indiefest: The Velvet Queen (2021)    The Velvet Queen is a documentary about Vincent Munier, one of the world’s greatest wildlife photographers, who takes novelist Sylvain Tesson (In the Forest of Siberia) on a journey in the Tibetan plateau in search of one of the rarest big cats on the planet, the snow leopard. I loved this film, and I wish I had seen it in a theatre (instead of my computer) as the cinematography is stunningly beautiful. This is a story of a quest that is more about the journey and what you experience than what the goal is. The film explores what it is like to be so immersed in a world that you soon discover that while watching these animals, they have been studying you long before you noticed them. This film explores the wonder and beauty of the stark wilderness of Tibet, filled with wildlife that constantly surprises you as these two explorers go deeper and deeper into a world that few humans have seen or experienced. The Velvet Queen is a film that makes you appreciate the beauty of nature and how we as humans have lost contact with that world. It’s a film filled with beauty and just how diverse the animal world is.   My Rating: Full Price   The Velvet Queen Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: Never Cry Wolf (1983) PG   A government researcher, Farley Mowat (Charles Martin Smith), is set down by a bush pilot in the Arctic wilderness, where he will, camping out on his own, will study wolves, seen as only a menace to mankind. What Farley learns about wolves will change the way we see the species' impact on the environment and how they are integral to the ecosystem's survival. While Farley learns about wolves and their true beneficial impact on nature, he will also learn about himself. This is a film that would, if made today, have to be made either as an online streamer or an Indie, but at the time was made by Disney and got a major release. The film is a wonderful study of an ill-equipped man trying to survive in the wild on his own while learning that almost everything he knows about a species is wrong. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the wildlife scenes are realistically staged. Charles Martin Smith gives a winning performance of the researcher who learns how to survive in the wild and appreciate the beauty surrounding him. This film and the book it is based on changed the way we think about wolves and their impact on their environment. Once thought of as a menace, wolves are now seen as essential parts of nature’s ecosystem. Like Farley, go and spend some time with wolves and learn their ways with Never Cry Wolf.   My Rating; Full Price    Never Cry Wolf Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Scream: Toolperson

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Moonfall (2022) PG-13 A mysterious force has knocked the moon from its orbit and is in a collision course with Earth. A former astronaut, Jo Fowler (Halle Berry), enlists a ragtag team (Patrick Wilson, John Bradley) to help her go on an impossible mission, leaving everything they love behind to try to save the Earth. The only problem, the moon isn’t what we think it is. Moonfall looks like it could be a lot of fun and could be one of those films to just go have a blast with, no pun intended.    Moonfall Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, January 7, 2022

The 355

My View:  The 355  (2022)   PG-13    A top-secret weapon has fallen into the wrong hands, so CIA agent Mace (Jessica Chastain) gathers a group of international spies to help her find and defeat the mercenary that stole the weapon, while a mysterious woman tracks their every movement. First, let me say that I am a massive fan of the women who star in this film. I just wish this was a better film. I especially love Jessica Chastain, who exploded on the scene back in 2011 when it seemed she was in every movie and got two back-to-back Oscar nominations (The Help, Zero Dark Thirty). This is her film, as the film centers around her character and her production company produced the film. Chastain stated that she pitched the movie to the director as a combination of Mission Impossible and James Bond. Unfortunately, it feels a lot like those James Bond films of the 70s, where the plot didn’t always make sense, and characters magically made it to the other side of the world in a matter of hours, decked out with the latest gadgets that could do the impossible. The film tries to do too much with too little of a plot and has a few twists and turns that are surprising at all. I liked the chemistry between Chastain’s CIA agent character, Mace, and Diane Kruger’s German spy, Marie. They play off each other with a sense of humor and grit. Unfortunately, there isn’t any chemistry at all between fellow CIA agents Chastain and Sebastian Stan, who, while on a caper, decide to move their friendship into a romance. The action sequences fall flat as they feel sloppy and are not what this film needs. The film lost me when we are introduced to Chastain’s character Mace, who is supposed to be a badass but looks awkward and unskilled in hand-to-hand combat in the opening fight scene. It’s not the opening that we needed to see. And the film goes downhill from there. Maybe The 355 should have centered more around Diane Kruger’s character, whose back story is much richer, and Kruger looks like she can kick anyone’s butt in a fight.    My Rating: Cable   The 355 Website  The film is playing in theatres nationwide.

Indiefest: A Hero    (2021)  PG-13  Rahim (Amir Jadidi) is in prison because he could not repay a debt. While out on a two-day leave, he comes into some ‘found money,’ and things quickly go out of control. It’s an age-old dilemma; you find some money you desperately need, do you keep it or try to find the rightful owner? That is the start of this film as Rahim has to make that decision. After going back and forth, he decides to find the person who lost the money, and when he does, he returns it. That act of kindness at first works in his favor, but, and I won’t give too much away, his tale of how he found the money becomes a lie that explodes in the face of publicity, and Rahim goes down a rabbit hole he may never come out of. This is another beautiful, complex, and intriguing look at life from filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, who gave us the brilliant Oscar-winning film The Separation. A Hero is a story of a man whose life went downhill when technology destroyed his vocation, and he never recovered from it. A good man who, even when he does the right thing, is punished for it. It’s a tale where there is a fine line between right and wrong, and forgiveness is a hard thing to both get and give. A Hero is a sure bet to be nominated for the International Feature Film category and possibly a few more.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   A Hero Website  Now playing in select theaters and available on the Amazon Prime platform on January 21st.

Indiefest: See for Me    (2021)    Sophie (Skyler Davenport) is a house sitting in a place she has never been before, an isolated vacation home. This could be a problem because Sophie is visually impaired, but with a new app called See For Me and a helpful customer service person, Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy), Sophie will do just fine. But Sophie is in danger when three thieves break into the home to rob the place, and now Sophie must depend on Kelly, an Army vet, to survive the home invasion. Bad guys attack an alone blind woman is an old premise, like the 1967 Audrey Hepburn film Wait Until Dark. The difference between that film and a lot of others like it, and this film, is the main character in this film, Sophie, isn’t your usual innocent person. Sophie, we see from the start, when she tries to leave her house without her mother knowing, that Sophie has an attitude and that attitude could get her killed. Skyler Davenport gives us a Sophie who is out for herself and herself alone, willing to push the boundaries to get what she wants. The film has some great twists that I didn’t see coming, and though the ending is a little too easily put together, the film moves at a quick pace, and the action sequences are both thrilling and suspenseful as Sophie, and her See For Me helper Kelly, try to outwit and outrun the thugs who have invaded the home that Sophie is house-sitting.   My Rating: Full Price   See for Me Website  Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.

Indiefest: June Again (2020)   During a short bout of clarity from her dementia, June (Noni Hazlehurst) decides to go on the run. June is on a mission to find a family heirloom, bring her estranged family together, possibly save the family business and maybe even rekindle an old flame. This is about the impact that dementia has not only on the person who suffers from it but also on family and friends as the person they know and love slowly disappears before their eyes. The film explores, much like the Rip van Winkle tale, what would happen if someone came back five years after they left? In this case, June suddenly awakens from her dementia to find that her world has changed drastically, and being the headstrong woman who is used to getting her way, she attempts, in the limited time she has, to make things right again. June will learn that things have changed and that world has kept going on as she slept. Aided by a beautiful and moving performance by Noni Hazlehurst, June Again is a film that will touch you and will make you wonder what you would say to a loved one you have lost, who, through some miracle, would come back for a brief time.    My Rating; Full Price   June Again Website  Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.

Indiefest:   Aware: Glimpses of Consciousness   (2021)   Documentary that explores life's big questions: What is consciousness? Is it in all living beings? And what happens when we die? I wish I had seen this film in the theatre instead of watching a screener on my computer screen as there are countless shots that are breathtakingly beautiful. From scenes in a lush forest to a turtle swimming in the sea to a glorious sunset, the film shows us the world's beauty around us. This film explores the attempt to understand the mind and how not only us but all living things deal with consciousness. All the people featured in the movie have explored the idea of consciousness and how we interact with each other and the world. This is a film that explores the concept of consciousness through different viewpoints. Some of those viewpoints are scientifically based, and others are more about our connection within ourselves and our connection to the physical planet. I loved that many of the people interviewed in this film started out believing in one thing, but as time went on and they explored the idea of consciousness, their thoughts and beliefs changed. I will warn you that in the last ten minutes of the film, there is an animal sacrifice, that while is not shown on camera, is disturbing to watch. I learned a lot about how consciousness works and how we are connected to everything living in this world. We have a long way to understand where we as humans make our place in this world, but this film gives you a lot to think about and is an excellent place to start that exploration.    My Rating: Full Price   Aware: Glimpses of Consciousness Website    Now available On Demand.

Forgotten Film: Blindsight   (2006) PG   Documentary about a team of climbers that take six blind Tibetan teenagers, who have never climbed before, to climb the Lhakpa-Ri peak of Mount Everest. The team is led by blind mountain-climber Erik Weiheenmayer, the first blind person to climb the seven tallest summits in the world. This is a remarkable film about overcoming the odds, but it’s also about how blind people are treated in the world and how they see themselves in it. The cinematography is just mesmerizing, but it's the kids that make this film worth watching. Most have been made to feel like they are not a part of their community, even by their own parents, but Weiheenmayer won’t let these kids quit, believing that they can do anything that they put their minds and wills to.   My Rating: Full Price   Blindsight Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The 355: Crowd Welfare PA

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Batman (2022)   In his second year of fighting crime, the caped crusader, Batman (Robert Pattinson), uncovers corruption in Gotham City that connects to his own family while battling a criminal known as The Riddler for control of his city. With a cast that includes Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Andy Serkis as Alfred, and Robert Pattinson as the lead character, this is one of the most anticipated films of 2022. The only question is, will The Batman still be released in March or be pushed back due to the continuing COVID crisis.   The Batman Website

Until Next Time!