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 IMDB.com. 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