Friday, May 20, 2022

Downtown Abbey: A New Era

My View: Downton Abbey: A New Era  (2022) PG   The Crawley family and its beloved staff are back. A villa in the south of France has been passed down to Violet (Maggie Smith), and so most of the family travels to France to take ownership, but there is a problem. The previous owners are not happy. Meanwhile, adding to the excitement, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) stays behind at Downton Abbey to help with the filming of a silent movie on the estate. It’s busy times for the Crawley family of Downton Abbey. Fans of Downton Abbey will love this film, as it hits all the right spots to make the story feel fun and satisfying visit to a time when being the privileged class in England meant something. If you haven’t seen the TV series or the first Downton Abbey film, you may be a little lost at the start, as it is a large and vast cast. Still, once the film gets moving, it’s easy to figure out the various storylines allowing you to sit back and have fun with all the plots of the film. As usual, two characters dominate the screen time, with Maggie Smith giving us another reason to love her, as the fiery and opinionated Violet, who rules the family with an iron hand (with a bit of love thrown in), and Lady Mary, played by Michelle Dockery, who is being forced to become the woman who runs the household and steers the family into new and possibly choppy waters, as the modern age is beginning to creep into their lives. I had fun watching this film, and if the five women who wore period dresses to the screening I saw are any indication, audiences will enjoy it too.    My Rating: Full Price   Downton Abbey: A New Era Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Indiefest: Emergency (2022) R   Sean (RJ Cyler), and Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) are two college friends who have mapped out a party night to remember. Then they discover a young student passed out in their dorm room. Sean and Kunie decide, rather than call 911 and, otherwise, be blamed for something they didn’t do, they will take the woman to the emergency room, but everything will go wrong on a night that started so promising. This is a film that is part comedy, part drama about friendship, racism, and the fact of being guilty just because of their appearance. The two friends are very different, with Sean being the party guy whose recent life has been dominated by weed and the idea of hitting seven parties in one night. Kunle is the opposite of Sean, a young man who is focused and is determined to make his mark by being an outstanding student and making his family proud. The two young black men are then confronted with a huge problem; somehow, a young, unknown white girl has passed out in their apartment, and they are afraid that they will be blamed for her condition. Thus starts a night that goes from bad to possibly deadly, as their predicament worsens at every turn, even when they try to do the right things. This is a film that starts out as a light comedy which soon turns into a drama that keeps upping the tension as our guys get deeper and deeper into trouble, a trouble that Sean is convinced will result in their death by cop. I loved this film, a buddy comedy that becomes a riveting look at how society can racially profile someone and make them the bad guy just from appearances, with possibly deadly consequences. There is a wonderful scene near the end of the film that sums up what it means to be a young Black man in America. It’s a scene that will stay with you for a long time.    My Rating: Full Price   Emergency Website    Now playing in select theatres and on the Amazon Prime platform on Friday, May 27, 2022.

My View: Chip’ N Dale Rescue Rangers  (2022) PG   The mystery-solving duo, Chip N’ Dale (John Mulaney, Andy Samberg), are leading separate lives 30 years after their TV show was canceled. However, cartoon characters are mysteriously disappearing, and the guys will need to get back together and find their missing friends. I loved this film, and if you are a child of the eighties or a fan of Disney syndicated TV cartoons of that time, you will too. This is a film that is out loud funny with an inventive plot, and so many ‘Easter Eggs’ that it will take hours to find them all. Chip N’ Dale live in a world where humans and cartoon characters live in the same world. The duo has been broken up for a long time due to a very messy breakup. When one of their co-stars is kidnapped, the guys decide to put the gang back together to solve one last crime. This film is a blast to watch, with cameos by a whole host of cartoon characters in the Disney vault, along with some surprises from other cartoons of the 80s. Full of funny jokes, mostly making fun of the 80s, it’s a joyful ride that I wish I had seen it in a theatre with an audience to hear the reactions when their favorite childhood characters show up. Even if you weren’t a fan of the TV series, there is something in this film that you will enjoy, and you just might have to explain to kids. So go on a wild and crazy ride with Chip N’ Dale and solve a mystery while taking a trip back to those lunch box-filled days of afternoon TV watching.   My Rating: Full Price   Chip N' Dale Rescue Rangers Website  Now playing on the Disney+ platform.

Indiefest: Men (2022) R After her husband (Paapa Essiedu) committed suicide in their apartment, Harper (Jessie Buckley) goes on a solo vacation to the English countryside to recover and get away. Little does she know that something is lurking in the woods just outside her rented isolated cottage, and no one in the nearby village seems to care. I am a fan of filmmaker Alex Garland. I loved Ex Machina (2015), thinking it's one of the best films of the past ten years, and I even liked his trippy Sci-Fi film Annihilation (2018), but this attempt to make a moody horror film is a big miss. Even though Jessie Buckley is magnificent as the troubled Harper, a woman who at first puts off the weird things happening in the small English village as just strange until she feels threatened and in danger. Buckley can’t overcome a bizarre and increasingly dull script that gets weirder and weirder with no end in sight. The plot starts out promising with images of a Harper witnessing her husband’s suicide, a haunting image that the film keeps coming back to. Instead of what could have been a promising look of a woman dealing with grief and guilt, we get a meandering tale of gas-lighting, male toxicity, and just out and out weirdness that cumulates in an ending that I have no idea what it means or wants to say. Men is a mess of a film that never lives up to its beginning.   My Rating: Cable   Men Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Pleasure (2022)    Bella (Sofia Kappel) is a young woman who comes all the way from Sweden to pursue a career in the porn industry in Los Angeles. Emphatically, Bella doesn’t care about anything else but becoming a star, no matter what she is asked to do or who she has to hurt to get there. This was one of the most uncomfortable films to watch that I have seen in the last five years. Sofia Kappel gives us a compelling and powerful performance of Bella, a young woman who has her sights set on becoming a big porn star. At the start, Bella thinks she knows what she is in for, but as she tries to climb the rings of stardom, the sex becomes more and more degrading and painful (both physically and mentally). This is a rough (no pun intended) film to watch as the sex scenes are very graphic, and we see what Bella is asked to do. Pleasure is almost a horror film, as Bella goes further and further into the seedy world of porn, attempting to quickly make a name for herself by performing sex acts that become more perverse. This isn’t a film about showing how horrible the porn industry is but is a study of a woman who dreams of being a star and is willing to burn every bridge she crosses to get there, and maybe that’s where I had a problem watching this film. It’s an industry that exploits women, and in this film, it’s really Bella that exploits everyone she befriends along the way to becoming the star she thinks she wants to become.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Pleasure Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Hold Your Fire (2021)   In 1973, four young African-American men were caught stealing guns from a sporting goods store in New York City. Quickly, the store was surrounded by the police, starting the longest hostage siege in NYPD history. In walks NYPD psychologist Harvey Schlossberg into the scene, and he is credited with starting a movement to get the police to end hostage negotiations not through violence but through using words. This is a fascinating documentary about how far things have changed in dealing with hostage crises and, then again, how things haven’t changed in how police see the people that take those hostages. What Harvey did was try to change how we deal with the people who take hostages, working to find a way to settle the standoff peacefully instead of the standard of the time, waiting a few hours and then going in with guns blazing. The film interviews not only the men who took the hostages but the hostages themselves or relatives of those hostages, some of who never recovered from the experiences. The film uses a ton of on the scene photos and video from the siege and gives you an inside look at what happened from both sides of the story. The most fascinating story is about the store owner, a hostage who constantly plans how to overtake the four men who have taken the store. He is a man who seems to, almost from the start, figure out the dynamics of the four men and who he could find a weakness in, possibly someone to attack or exploit to escape. There are some shocking interviews with former police officers that were there on the scene, along with some heartbreaking stories about the aftermath of the siege. It’s a fascinating tale that seems, in some aspects, a million years ago and in other aspects, seems like it was just yesterday.  My Rating: Full Price    Hold Your Fire Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: Return to Me (2000) PG   A year after his wife dies tragically in an accident, Bob (David Duchovny) meets Grace (Minnie Driver) and instantly hits it off. It’s one of those romances where the two seem perfect for each other. Then Grace finds out that the life-saving operation she had a year ago was where she was given Bob’s dead wife’s heart. I am a sucker for romance films, and this is a sweet, cute one that works because of the chemistry between Minnie Driver and David Duchovny. They just make the romance seem real, and you want their romance to work out.   My Rating: Full Price   Return to Me Info


Weird Credits: From the credits of Men: Chaperone 


Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Lost Girls (2022) Four generations of Darling women have dealt with and struggled in the aftermath of their adventures with Peter Pan (Louis Partridge) in Neverland. As her daughter (Ella-Rae Smith) is about to be put under Peter’s spell, Wendy (Emily Carey) must fight to save her relationship with her daughter while dealing with the past. The cast includes Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson as the Darling women of the past and Iain Glen as Hook. The story of Peter Pan has always fascinated me from the time I saw the play as a four-year-old, and I look forward to this new exploration of the legend.    The Lost Girls Info

Until Next Time!





Friday, May 13, 2022

Firestarter

My View: Firestarter (2022) R   As a result of a secret government experiment, a young girl, Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), has gained the power to start fires with her mind. Subsequently, Charlie is now being hunted by a group named The Shop, but Charlie isn’t going without a fight. It’s sad when the only positive thing you can say about a movie is that the film's score was enjoyable (by Halloween director John Carpenter, no less). The 1984 film starring Drew Barrymore and a host of early 80s icons (with a rare motion picture appearance by Heather Locklear) was a lousy film, and this remake doesn’t improve on the storyline one bit. The plot is pretty much the same (there are a few changes to try to update it) that don’t make any difference to us caring about any character in the film. Ryan Kiera Armstrong does, from time to time, looks a little like Barrymore, but that doesn’t help her center a picture where we don’t care if little Charlie gets found or not. The bad guys of the film, Gloria Reuben as the Captain (of what, I don’t know) who chews up the scenery at a regular interval and Michael Greyeyes, as a mysterious bounty hunter who kills without any plan, are toothless and not at all scary. Firestarter is supposed to be a horror film, but it comes off as even more boring than the original film, which was, I thought, impossible. There is a reason why the studio did not give film critics a screening and only offered screener access after it had premiered on the Peacock platform. I would light a fire to burn this film to the ground, but I am all out of lighter fluid, much like the film.  My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again    Firestarter Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide and on the Peacock platform.

My View:  Senior Year  (2022) R   Stephanie (Rebel Wilson) is a high-school student who, after a cheerleading accident, is left in a coma for 20 years. Now she is awake and ready to return for her senior year of high school…as a 37-year-old. I like Rebel Wilson, and as a side-kick in films like Pitch Perfect and JoJo Rabbit, she has been hilarious and scene-stealing. As a lead actress in such duds as Isn’t It Romantic and The Hustle, she hasn’t shown that she can handle the main spotlight. After taking a few years off to remake herself, now comes Senior Year. Unfortunately, Wilson has picked a film that is dull and unfunny right from the start. The film continually mines the ‘fish out of water’ premise, constantly bringing up horrible references to what was essential to teens 20 years ago with lines about MTV videos or mistaking Lady Gaga for Madonna. The film feels every bit of its hour and fifty-minute runtime taking forever to get going with the plot and running some jokes into the ground(like the fact that the high school is constantly making sure no one is offended by anything, including positive message cheers). I had high hopes when I saw the trailer, but now, I wish that Stephanie had stayed in the coma a bit longer for the writers to work on the script.    My Rating: Cable   Senior Year Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Happening (2022) R   Anne (Anamaria Vartolomel), a student in 1963 France, is about to finish her studies when she finds out that she is pregnant. Consequently, she decides to abort the baby against the law and goes on a journey to do so in a society that censures women’s rights and desires. I won’t lie to you; this is a tough film to watch as we follow Anne through the weeks of her pregnancy that she is desperate to end with some scenes that will be upsetting to watch. This is a painful and sometimes very graphic and chilling story about a woman who can’t see her future with a baby in tow and finds that everyone, including her friends, abandon her in her time of need. Anamaria Vartolomel is mesmerizing as Anne, letting us see her every emotion on her face, even when trying to be stoic or lying (especially in her moments with her unsuspecting mother). Truly a painful and full of despair look at the plight of a woman whose society has put up so many obstacles to overcome that it seems to be doomed from the start. Happening is an amazing movie that will be talked about for a long time and maybe, just maybe, open some hearts and minds to this complex issue. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Happening Website   Now playing in select theatres.

My View: Operation Mincemeat (2022) PG-13   In order to try and fool Germany during WWII about the planned Allied invasion of Sicily, a group of intelligence officers come up with a plan to take a deceased man, dress him up as an officer, and place fake plans about an alternate invasion and place him via submarine on the coast where German soldiers can find him. This is based on an incredible true story that saved countless Allied lives by tricking the Germans into thinking Greece was the next invasion target instead of Sicily. The plan is a fantastic bit of deception that worked only because of the brilliance of the people who planned it and then kept working on it, even when others doubted it would succeed. I loved the secondary story of Colin Firth’s character, Ewen Montagu, a married man whose marriage is in trouble and starts working with a brilliant and funny woman, played perfectly by Kelly Macdonald, who is attracted to the dashing Ewen. I also loved that Ian Fleming, the creator of the iconic James Bond books, is a character in the film that always seems to be in the right place at the right time to collect material for his future books. Operation Mincemeat is a spy film where the main spy is a dead man, a remarkable tale about a group of people who created one of the greatest spy tricks of all time.   My Rating: Full Price     Operation Mincemeat Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest:  Monstrous  (2022)  PG-13   Laura (Christina Ricci), traumatized and fleeing from an abusive relationship, who takes her 7-year-old son, Cody (Santino Barnard), to a remote house in the woods. The two should be safe; however, there is something in the pond, a bigger, more terrifying monster than an ex-husband. This is a fun little horror movie that is bolstered by the performance of Christina Ricci and the 1950s setting. Ricci plays a woman who has taken her son to an isolated home in a small town. Her son begins saying that a monster is in the pond and is coming for him. Laura thinks, at first, that Cody is just scared, settling into a new environment, but Laura starts experiencing troubling feelings and sights herself. Like many fifties horror films, there is the conflict of thinking that everything is good and safe in a small town, but as always, there is something evil lurking behind the petticoats and the commercials for dishwashers built with the housewife in mind.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Monstrous Website  Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.

Forgotten Film: A Month in the Country (1987) PG   In the summer of 1919, a battle-scarred veteran, Tom (Colin Firth), comes to a small village to work on restoring a mural that is believed to be hidden inside the thick walls of a medieval era church. While working on finding and repairing the mural, Tom befriends a fellow vet, John (Kenneth Branagh), an archeologist working on a dig nearby. The two develop a friendship, and the two friends begin a long road to recovery with the help of their work, the village, and a vicar’s wife (Natasha Richardson). A Month in the Country is an enjoyable movie about healing and coming to terms with the past. Very early in their careers, the three stars show why they all went on to make their mark on cinema.   My Rating: Full Price   A Month in the Country Info


Weird Credits: From the credits of Firestarter: Fire Stunt Safety


Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Where the Crawdads Sing (2022)   Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is an outsider in her community. Kya is called the ‘Marsh Girl’ by the locals since she was abandoned in the marshlands of North Carolina and raised herself to adulthood. Kya begins to explore outside the world of her marsh when a young man she has befriended is found dead and is immediately cast by the community as the main suspect. Now Kay’s life will be under the microscope, and many secrets of the marsh are about to be revealed. Based on the best-selling book by Delia Owens and an up-and-coming star in Daisy Edgar-Jones (Normal People), this has the makings of a really cool movie to see this summer.     Where the Crawdads Sing Website







Friday, May 6, 2022

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

My View: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) PG-13   Due to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) casting a forbidden spell, the doorway to the multiverse has been opened. Consequently, alternate realities are now running rampant, including multiple versions of Doctor Strange. It's a threat to humanity that Doctor Strange, Wong (Benedict Wong), and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) will need their power and skill to repair before it's too late.  I was always a fan of Doctor Strange when I was a kid, mostly because he always had an attitude when doing superhero stuff, and this film continues that trend. Part fantasy, part horror, this film is a fun and enjoyable mix that takes you on an adventure into the multiverse. If you didn’t see the Wandavision TV series, you might be a little lost on some of the plot as Wanda plays a massive part in this film. Small kids may have a tough time with this one as there are some rather horrific characters in this film, both on the good and bad sides. There are some really cool surprises in this film, and the action is almost non-stop, with a final faceoff that keeps you guessing until the end. There are two extra scenes in the credits, one setting up the next Doctor Strange film, and the other is just a blast from the past (at least the director, Sam Raimi's past) . So go on an adventure with the Doctor and help him save not only our time but the rest of the multiverse. My Rating: Full Price
 My Rating:  Full Price  Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Website   Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Indiefest: The Duke  (2020) R   The Duke takes place in England in 1961, where a priceless painting has been stolen from the National Gallery, Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington. Was it a master thief? A gang of thieves working for an underground collector? Surprisingly, it was Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent), a 60-year-old taxi driver who has hidden the painting in his wife's closet. Jim Broadbent is marvelous as a kind of modern-day Robin Hood (or maybe Don Quixote) as he is intent on fighting for the little man, especially the war veterans from WWI, who are in their twilight years. The interplay between Broadbent's Kempton and his long-put upon wife, Lily, played by Helen Mirren, is a wonder to watch. Mirren gives a restrained performance as the wife who continously puts up with Kempton's attempts to protest against the government, all the while the two are both still grieving the loss of their daughter many years ago. The Duke is a heartwarming true tale (though they fudge a bit with some of the story) about a remarkable man who steadfastly fought for the Everyman and his genuinely unique family.   My Rating: Full Price  The Duke Website   Now playing in select theatres.

My View: Along for the Ride (2022)   Auden (Emma Pasarow) has spent her whole life studying with her nose in a book. When Auden goes to a coastal town to spend the summer before college with her divorced father, she decides to live a little. On a late-night stroll, she meets Eli (Belmont Cameli), and the two embark on a nightly quest to help Auden experience the carefree life she never knew she needed. This is an enjoyable summer romance film with a likable cast. Emma Pasarow reminded me of a teenage Jennifer Garner with a winning presence about her that is very appealing. Pasarow has excellent chemistry with Belmont Cameli, the mysterious young man who has decided to become Auden's guide to living. Andie MacDowell and Dermot Mulroney have very little to do in this film besides being distant parents, but this film isn't meant to be hard-hitting. It's an enjoyable fling that follows a script that we all know too well but still enjoy, where everyone is happy in the end.   My Rating; Bargain Matinee  Along for the Ride Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Petite Maman (2021) PG   Eight-year-old Nelly (Josephine Sanz) has just lost her maternal grandmother. Her parents and Nelly travel to the grandmother's home to empty it out. Nelly's mother can't handle the sorrow of being back in the house and leaves in the middle of the night. The next day Nelly goes out into the surrounding woods to play and meets a girl her age named Marion building a fort. Unquestionably, there is magic in this forest of Nelly's. Petite Maman is a short, sweet, heartwarming tale of a young girl dealing with one of life's hardest lessons, the act of grieving. This is a film that oozes with warmth and heart, brought forth by a breathtaking performance by Josephine Sanz, giving us a look into a little girl's life and her ability to deal with life, and all the problems that it presents to us. I just wish we all had a magical forest to retreat to, but at least we have Nelly's.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again     Petite Maman Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: Undertow (2004) R   Two brothers (Jamie Bell and Devon Alan) are being raised by their father (Dermot Mulroney), who still mourns the loss of their mother while living on an isolated pig farm in rural Georgia. Things change when the father's ex-con brother (Josh Lucas) comes to the farm. Things get ugly over a family mystery surrounding some gold coins, and the two brothers run away, going on an adventure throughout the deep south that will change their lives forever. This film is a mix of Mark Twain and Southern Gothic, with a cast of characters that sometimes don't feel real but always pack a punch of emotion. The cast is outstanding, with even an appearance by a young Kristen Stewart as one of the boy's girlfriend. This film is a little strange at times but is full of emotional moments that will not be forgotten. My Rating: Full Price   Undertow Info


Weird Credits: From the credits of The Duke: Rushes Runner


Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Elvis (2022)   The look at the life of the man, the myth, and the legend, Elvis Presley. The film stars Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker, Olivia DeJonge (The Visit) as Priscilla, and Austin Butler (Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood) as Elvis. Written and directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, The Great Gatsby), this should be interesting to watch. I hope it captures the magic of Elvis.   Elvis Website  Scheduled for a late June 2022 release.

Until Next Time!