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!

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