Friday, January 28, 2022

The Fallout

My View:  The Fallout  (2021)  R  Vada (Jenna Ortega) is your ordinary high-school student until a shooting at her school occurs. As a result, Vada has to navigate the emotional fallout in the wake of a tragedy, and her world will never be the same. Have you ever wondered what happens to the kids that survive the numerous school shootings? How did they feel afterward, and did they have trouble going back to school? In The Fallout, we get to see how Vada, a happy, bright student with a good and loving family, copes with the aftermath and how it impacts not only her life but also the students around her. Ortega, who just impressed me with her fiery performance in Scream, plays a young woman who has all the tools to recover with, but still, it’s an arduous and sometimes troubled journey back to a world that will never be the same for her or her family. The loss of innocence is the most evident in Ortega’s performance, as Vada struggles to get ‘back to normal even with all the love and support that her family and friends can muster. The Fallout is a heartfelt, powerful look at how trauma can impact a person, especially a young person who has her whole life ahead of her but can’t figure out how to deal with what her life has become.   My Rating: Full Price   The Fallout Website  Now playing on the HBO Max platform.

Familyfaire:  The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild  (2022) PG   The possum brothers Crash (voiced by Vincent Tong) and Eddie (voiced by Aaron Harris) are looking for adventure. Who better to lead them than your favorite weasel, Buck Wild (voiced by Simon Pegg). Consequently, with a leader like Buck Wild, what could go wrong? Just about everything. I have felt that the Ice Age films have consistently failed to do anything other than making adults very bored while only their youngest would enjoy these films. Unfortunately, this film continues that tradition. I do enjoy Buck Wild since he is a bit looney, but Crash and Eddie are two characters that get on your nerves very quickly. Small kids will enjoy the non-stop action and how stupid the two possum brothers are, but parents will be glad that they didn’t have to shell out any money to see another Ice Age film.   My Rating: Cable   The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild Website  Now playing on the Disney+ platform.

My View: Home Team (2022) PG   New Orleans head coach Sean Payton (Kevin James) has been suspended for the entire 2021 season due to his role in the infamous ‘Bountygate’ scandal. So what’s a coach going to do with all that time? How about coaching his son’s 6th-grade football team? So if you think that projectile vomiting by 12-year-olds on a football field is funny, then boy, have I got a film for you. And a running gag of an assistant coach of young kids being drunk all the time is fun, then, haha, have a laugh. Instead, Adam Sandler’s production company strikes again with an unfunny attempt at making you feel good for a coach who got suspended for having his players get paid extra for hurting the other team by having him coach kids. And along with a running gag of a hotel hot tub that makes noise (because a hot tub making noise is funny), and you have a film that goes for the easy joke every time. I think I need one of those crappy trophies that kids get for just making it through this film.   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again    Home Team Website Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Clean   (2020)  Clean tells a story of a garbage man named Clean (Adrien Brody), tormented by a past he would like to forget, who attempts to lead a quiet life of redemption. However, Clean finds himself forced to reconcile with the violence of his past and protect a family from the mob. They don’t know who they are messing with. This film doesn’t always work, as it gets caught up a little too much into trying too hard to set a rough look to the movie with both the plot and the music. Still, Brody gives a moody and powerful performance as a man with a violent past who can’t forget his past sins. The film has a bit of a John Wick feel to it, especially when Clean starts going all out with the violence. The film takes a while to get going, and the sub-plot of a mobster dealing with his troubled son is a bit sloppy. Still, it’s fun to watch Brody on the screen, and the action sequences are well done, though bloody as all get out. I enjoyed the 2nd half of the film when the action heated up, and the ending was a fun bit of filmmaking.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Clean Website  Now playing in select theatres and ON-Demand.

Indiefest: Rifkin’s Festival  (2020) PG-13   An American couple, Mort (Wallace Shawn) and Sue (Gina Gershon), are at the San Sebastian Film Festival, as Sue does publicity at the event. Mort, a failed writer, believes that his wife may have the hots for a filmmaker (Louis Garrel). Having a wide range of anxieties, Mort starts up a friendship with his doctor (Elena Anaya) that may become more if Mort’s dreams have anything to say about it. Rifkin's Festival is the 49th feature film that Woody Allen has written and directed, and it feels like it is just a tool for him to let us know how much he loves European films and how much he hates Hollywood. Only in a Woody Allen film could a sad-sack guy like Wallace Shawn land not only Gina Gershon but also Elena Anaya. But then again, Woody did date both Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow, so maybe his reality is a little skewed. Allen shows us his love of European films through Mort’s dreams, where the film professor imagines himself in films from everyone from Fellini to Bergman. The dreams don’t always work, and the jokes mostly fall flat,  as this slight of a film moves along at an incredibly slow pace. I can’t say that I am looking forward to Woody’s 50th film as the last few have seemed as lost and slight as Mort’s marriage.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Rifkin's Festival Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Indiefest: Brighton 4th (2021)   Kakhi (Levan Tedaishvili), a legendary wrestler in his native country of Georgia, who travels to America to visit his son, Soso (Giorgi Tabidze), who has made his home in the Brighton Beach community and is about to be married. Kakhi soon learns that his son’s life is complicated by a huge gambling debt to a local mobster. It’s up to Kakhi to save his son’s impending marriage and possibly his life. Levan Tedaishvili gives a robust and nuanced performance of a man whose word is his bond. No matter how much his son messes up, Kakhi is a man who has honor and loves his son, and is willing to do anything to save him. At times funny and other times depressing, this is a film that is filled with strange and immensely entertaining characters, whether it’s Kahki and his hard-luck son or it’s the weird cast of men that the two involve their lives with. It’s a tale of immigrants who struggle to survive in a strange land, wishing they were home again but can’t. The odds are just too stacked against them. My Rating: Full Price   Brighton 4th Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: They/Them/Us (2021)   Charlie (Joey Slotnick) and Lisa (Amy Hargreaves) are two divorced parents in their forties trying to start a new relationship. However strong their love is for each other, their lives are impacted by their four extremely complicated teenagers. Charlie and Lisa, two people who have an unhappy past, find each other and quickly, maybe too quickly, move in together, blending their two families into one big mess. Complicating things is Charlie has a new job at a Christian college that isn’t quite the fit, and Lisa has a secret; she is a dominatrix. Add in four children, all of which are quirky as heck, and you have a funny comedy with a lot of heart. I loved the chemistry between Joey Slotnick and Amy Hargreaves, making us believe that they had finally found their match, even if it has a few bumps in the road. The supporting cast of teens is fun, and I loved Lexie Bean as Lisa’s daughter, who wants to be known as ‘They’ instead of her given name of Maddie. They/Them/Us isn’t your ordinary family comedy, and I am okay with that.   My Rating: Full Price   They/Them/Us Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: Volver (2006) R  A mother (Carmen Maura) is a ghost that has come back into her daughter’s lives to help them from the afterlife. That’s basically the plot of this wonderfully weird and funny film. Penelope Cruz bursts on the scene with this film, and it’s a wondrous role as the plot has a killing that is covered up, with some Hitchcock touches, a ghost, and a perfect cast.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Volver Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Fallout: Digital Intermediate Producer

Coming Soon To A Theatre Near You:   Big Gold Brick (2022)   After Floyd Devereux (Andy Garcia) hits fledgling writer Samuel (Emory Cohen)with his car, Floyd decides to take Samuel to his home to help him write his biography. Samuel is about to meet a family with a few problems, or do they? The cast includes Megan Fox, Lucy Hale, and Oscar Isaac, and the trailer makes this film look like it will be a blast to watch.   Big Gold Brick Info  

Until Next Time!

Friday, January 21, 2022

The Royal Treatment

My View: The Royal Treatment (2022)   Izzy (Laura Marano) is a New York hairdresser who is given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work at the wedding of a famous and charming prince (Mena Massoud), who is getting married out of duty and not because of love. When the sparks start flying between them, will Izzy pick the job and the money it brings over her attraction to the prince? With some grating performances from the supporting characters and a couple of cringe-worthy dance numbers, this film could have been a chore to watch, but it’s saved by the starring cast of Laura Marano and Mena Massoud. From their first meeting, you see a spark between the two characters, and Marano is such a presence on screen that you can forgive some of the cliches that this film brings out. The Royal Treatment is a mix of Pretty Woman (the ending steals right from that film) and any Hallmark film dealing with princes and fish out of the water women who save the prince from a life of duty versus love. This still is not a great film, but it's fun to watch Marano as Izzy, a character whose joy of life and wanting to help others make it worth watching. Just fast forward the two song and dance numbers, and you will be fine (plus any scene with the snooty French instructor).   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Royal Treatment Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Parallel Mothers (2021) R   Janis (Penélope Cruz) is a well-known photographer living in Madrid who has a fling with an archaeologist (Israel Elejalde), and Janis becomes pregnant. Janis gives birth on the same day as another single mom, 17-year-old Ana (Milena Smit), who is also there to have a baby. From that chance meeting, the two women become close, and that friendship, which by chance develops and complicates their lives, changing the two women forever. Filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar is one of those master writer/directors that can take a simple tale and make it blossom into greatness. Parallel Mothers is one of those films. At first, you think it will be a story about two women who bond over their time giving birth, but then the story becomes so much more. To say that this story has a few twists and turns would be an understatement, but each turn the characters take makes the story that much richer and the outcome that much more in doubt. One of our best actors, Cruz, gives a moving and heartfelt performance of a mother who thought she was too old to get pregnant but embraces motherhood with her whole heart and soul. Milena Smit portrays Ana, a young woman who seems to be lost and not ready for being a mother but looks to Janis for guidance and strength during their time in the hospital. Their lives will be very different but will intersect in ways that neither would ever imagine. This is one of the best films of the year, with a performance from Cruz that is powerful and awe-inspiring. Parallel Mothers is a movie that will continue to move you and surprise you from start to finish.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Parellel Mothers Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: France (2021)   France de Meurs (Léa Seydoux) is the country’s most popular news personality, popping around the world in war-torn countries and interviewing the latest celebrity in the studio. Caught up in her own celebrity status, France will have her life changed when she accidentally strikes a motorcyclist with her car. Léa Seydoux has become a favorite of mine, with winning performances in Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013) and a couple of Wes Anderson films, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) and The French Dispatch (2021). If it wasn’t for Seydoux and her performance, I would say that France is a film to skip. I am guessing that it’s a satire, but it never quite delivers what it promises. We get some slimmers of hope, with a brilliant opening sequence where France interplays with her producer (Blanche Gardin) at a press conference of the President of France and later, as they interact with the public and co-workers. Their open contempt for everyone is apparent, and we can tell that France believes that she is God’s gift to reporting, buoyed by her interaction with her adoring fans and her producer, who constantly builds her up. The film, for me, goes downhill from there, and if it weren’t for Seydoux winning presence on screen, the film would be a bore to watch. But Seydoux can’t save a script that goes nowhere, even when trying to show us how manufactured the news we see on our TVs. The moral of the story is no matter how much France messes up, she will always land on top because the camera loves her. It’s a weak story that never quite matches the opening sequence that sets the bar too high to overcome.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   France Website  Now playing in select theatres.

My View: Munich - The Edge of War (2021)  PG-13   The world is on the brink of war as Hitler is preparing to invade Czechoslovakia. The British government, led by Neville Chamberlain (Jeremy Irons), is attempting to reach a peaceful settlement. Hugh Legat (George MacKay), a British civil servant, and Paul von Hartmann (Jannis Niewöhner), a German diplomat, are old friends, and both have traveled to Munich for an emergency conference to try and broker peace. These two friends are about to find themselves at the center of a political subterfuge that could change the safety of themselves and the world. This is a good spy thriller that has enough tense moments for you to enjoy even though we all know-how, in the big picture, it ends. The film plays a bit with history but not enough to take away from the story of two men trying to stop the world from going to war. MacKay gives us a hero who is torn between the duty for his country and his marriage. Mackay’s Legat is a man who loves his wife and son but can’t show it and always seems to choose country over his family. His friend, Paul, is a man who, when young, was willing to overlook Hitler’s character for what he thought was the good of his beloved Germany, but now seems Hitler for the power-hungry madman that he truly is. The film is greatly helped by a powerful performance by Jeremy Irons as Neville Chamberlain, a man who risks everything to keep the world from going to war. Neville is a man who history has always seen as weak and lacked foresight, but this film gives us another side of the man, one who knew what Hitler was and what he needed to do to keep Britain from Germany’s clutches.   My Rating: Full Price   Munich - The Edge of War Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

My View: The King’s Daughter   (2022) PG  Louis XIV (Pierce Brosnan), the most powerful monarch on the planet and obsessed with his own mortality, seeks, with the help of his spiritual advisor (William Hurt), to find the key to immortality. Believing that mermaids hold the key to everlasting life, Louis XIV wants to capture and steal a mermaid’s life force. Louis XIV’s daughter, Marie-Josephe (Kaya Scodelario), has discovered such a creature and will do everything she can to keep the mermaid safe from her father’s evil clutches. While the film has some magnificent settings (including a dance sequence in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, the storyline is a weak fairy tale that never delivers the magic and wonderment that it needs, even with the help of Julie Andrews narration. The film limps about as the story of a young woman is brought to the palace to become the Royal composer. She falls for a ship captain who has captured a mermaid so that the king can become immortal. The CGI is weak, the acting is pretty wooden, and a storyline that is predictable as the simplest fairytale, The King’s Daughter, never captures the magic or the fantasy that it needs to make it work more than a travelogue for a trip to France.    My Rating: Cable   The King's Daughter Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide.

Indiefest: Simple Passion (2020)   Simple Passion is a film about Hélène (Laetitia Dosch), a single mom, starts an affair with a Russian diplomat, Aleksandr (Sergei Polunin). At first, Hélène enjoys these encounters with Aleksandr when he comes into town, but then, Hélène becomes obsessed with him that it becomes so overwhelming that Hélène neglects both her job and her son. For a film filled with sex scenes, I found this film dull and lifeless. I never understood Aleksandr's power over Hélène, but then again, I never understood any of the Fifty Shades films either. I just didn’t feel the spark of attraction that is needed between the two lovers and found the storyline dull and predictable. I had real trouble with when Hélène falls apart when she feels that the affair is over and she becomes a shell of a person, not caring about her work or her son (who she continually claims she loves but constantly ignores). Adding to the mess of this film was a soundtrack that is sometimes jarring and never matches the mood or the setting of the film and its characters. The film leaves us not knowing who Hélène is and what makes her do what she does, other than someone full of lust and nothing else.   My Rating: Cable   Simple Passion Website  Now playing in select theatres.

My View: Redeeming Love (2022) PG-13   Angel (Abigail Cowen) is the daughter of a woman (Nina Dobrev)who was forced into prostitution. Angel is now on the same path as her mother until she meets Michael (Tom Lewis), who believes that love can conquer any problem or obstacle set in their way. Ah, the age-old story of a man saving a ‘fallen woman’ is a story as old as time, and so Redeeming Love comes our way. Based on a best-selling Christian romance novel, it’s the story of Angel, a woman who is headstrong but doesn’t believe that any man would want her for more than just sex. In walks Michael, a man whose Christian convictions allows him to see Angel for who she is inside and not what she does for a living. This film is full of Christian values, with Michael constantly reading the good book and talking to God a lot. Angel is a broken woman who has lost faith not only in God but in man himself. She allows Michael to save her from a sure, slow death but can’t believe he can truly love her. Michael follows the belief of the idea that ‘If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever.’ The film tries to keep things sexy by having a few love scenes, but they come across as a little strange as the pair has a tendency to have sex with their clothes on. There is a heavy-handed approach of Michael and his telling her that they will wait to have sex, but when it happens, there is never any discussion over all that it entails. Instead, we see that Angel can finally give of herself to a man, but to keep the suspense, she still has doubts about herself and her worthiness. Michael lets her leave again, but we all know that somehow, someway, she will return because that is what true love makes you do. At least, in the old west, it does.   My Rating: Cable   Redeeming Love Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Sex Appeal (2022)   Avery Hansen-White (Mika Abdalla), is a super-smart young woman who has overachieved in everything during her school years. The problem is Avery knows nothing about sex, and her long-distance boyfriend wants to take their relationship to the next level. To prepare, Avery sets out to master her sexuality, employing her oldest and closest friend, Larson (Jake Short), to help her. Avery is about to learn that there is more to love and relationships than just research and mechanics. Sex Appeal is the first film I have had to put in my birthdate in order to see the trailer on That should tell you just how this isn’t your typical teen rom-com. It’s funny because some of the film is pretty raunchy, especially all the discussions on sex between Avery and both her classmates and her parents (there are three of them, and they are all lesbians). But, and this is a big but (no pun intended) the sex scenes between Avery and Larson are pretty tame, with some wonderful fantasy sequences that bring to mind the old fifties movies with the musical numbers in the pool with Esther Williams. Mika Abdalla is a find as the intelligent young woman who doesn’t know how to deal with either sex or the young men she is attracted to. The film has a lot of adorable sequences, with Avery trying out various stages of sex with Larson, her willing lab partner. This isn’t for young kids as the sex talk is pretty graphic, and it will be an uncomfortable watch if parents watch it with their teens. Still, I enjoyed this film, primarily due to the winning performance of Mika Abdalla, who lights up the screen from the very first scene to the last.   My Rating: Full Price   Sex Appeal Website  Now playing on the Hulu platform.

Forgotten Film: Drew: The Man Behind the Poster   (2013)   Documentary about one of the unsung heroes of the motion picture industry, legendary movie-poster artist Drew Struzan. Movie posters are a big selling point to an audience when deciding to see a film. A poster can sway someone to see a movie, maybe even talk them into seeing something that they know nothing about, just by the visuals it presents. I put movie posters on this review site because I believe that they give you an idea of what the film is about. Drew Struzan is an artist who has created some of the most iconic movie posters of all time. It’s a fascinating look at how someone creates a movie poster, in this case using a pencil and a brush, that will inspire people to go and pay money to see a film. I love some of the interviews in this film, including both Michael J. Fox and Harrison Ford, who tell you how those movie posters impacted their careers and the films they promoted. There is an excellent walk-through with George Lucas and Struzan, looking at some of the Star Wars posters Drew created. Drew: The Man Behind the Poster is a fascinating look at a man and his art that has influenced generations to see and make movies.   My Rating: Full Price   Drew: The Man Behind the Poster Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Royal Treatment: Stitcher

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Ambulance (2022)   R  Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is desperate for money to cover his wife’s mounting medical bills. Will goes to a man who he knows he shouldn’t trust, his adoptive brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man with a criminal past. Danny talks Will into helping him rob a bank, but things go wrong, and they are now running from the police in an ambulance with a wounded cop clinging to life and an EMT (Elza Gonzalez) on board. From filmmaker Michael Bay (Bad Boys, The Rock, Transformers), the film is sure to have lots of action and car crashes, but I’ll watch anything Gyllenhaal is starring in, so I am on along for the ride.    Ambulance Website

Until Next Time!

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!