Friday, June 24, 2022


My View: Elvis (2022)  PG-13  Elvis is the story of how a young man (Austin Butler) from Tupelo, Mississippi, became the ‘King of Rock and Roll.’ However, it’s also how a man named Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) discovered Elvis on a local radio broadcast and guided him to the top, only to keep Elvis from becoming more. I think this is a film that only Elvis fans will love. Now, right from the start, Austin Butler gives us an outstanding performance, showing us just how Elvis was able to become the icon that he continues to be to this day. It’s a performance full of energy and charisma, something that a young Elvis had in spades. You can see why Butler spent a week in a hospital recovering from the shoot, as every song he performs is done right from his soul, just as Elvis did. It is worth the price of a ticket to see Butler give it his all as the ‘King.’ Unfortunately, director/co-writer Baz Luhrmann went with Colonel Tom Parker as the narrator of the film, placing some of the subject matter not on Elvis but on the man who discovered Elvis and controlled his career from the early days until Elvis died at a young 42. I love Tom Hanks, but this is one of the weakest performances he has ever given. It’s almost cringe-worthy, as Hanks is outfitted in a fat suit that looks uncomfortable to wear and has an accent that grates on your nerves every time he talks. Making Colonel Tom the narrator puts the spotlight more on the Colonel's character than on Elvis, and often we get what the Colonel is thinking instead of what is going on in Elvis’s mind. The film is almost two hours and forty minutes, and when Elvis isn’t performing, you feel the film drag. I also have a feeling that Luhrmann’s penchant for mixing in modern songs with classics will be grating to audiences wanting to see Elvis perform his hits instead of getting a hip-hop melody to start the film. The film tries to cover too much of Elvis’s life (though I am always shocked that he died so young) and probably would have been a more enjoyable film just covering his early years, maybe leaving the story when Elvis made his magical 1968 TV special comeback. I did love the scenes of a young Elvis hanging out with the likes of B.B. King and Little Richard and how he used to revel in going to all the blues bars in Memphis when he was starting out. There is a beautiful and moving scene near the end of the film when an overweight and near the end of his life Elvis, sits down at the piano and lets us see the power of a man who could move whole crowds to tears. Overall, this is a film that allows the center stage to not be on the man we called the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ but on the man pulling the strings from backstage, which hurts the film and its story.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Elvis Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide. 

My View: The Black Phone (2021) R   The Black Phone is about a small town in 1978 Colorado where five children have suddenly gone missing. Finney Shaw (Mason Thames) is a shy thirteen-year-old boy who is abducted by the sadistic killer (Ethan Hawke) of the five and is thrown into a soundproof room with no way out. Finney is stuck in the room with his fate in the hands of his abductor. That is until a disconnected black phone in the room starts ringing. Ethan Hawke keeps giving us interesting characters to love or hate on the screen, and in the character of ‘The Grabber,’ we have another iconic character to hate and root against. Not only is this one of the best horror films of the year, I think that it is a sure bet to be in my top ten films of the year. Part horror film, part ghost story with a whole lot of suspense thrown in, we get a tale that will thrill and shock you without a lot of jump-out-of-the-dark scares. I loved the storyline, which is rich with characters you care about, including Gwen (Madeleine McGraw), the feisty and sometimes foul-mouthed younger sister, whose ability to dream about The Grabber, maybe a way to find her brother. McGraw gives us a much-needed comic relief as she spouts profanities at the detectives she thinks are messing up the case. Mason Thames does a wonderful job as Finney, a boy who has always relied on others to save him but now must muster the strength and courage to save himself. I won’t give much away about the mysterious phone, but to say it’s a nice twist on the horror story, and the film continues to give us surprises up until the very end. So go see if you can figure a way out for Finney to escape before The Grabber decides to move on to his next victim.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   The Black Phone Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (2021) PG   Marcel the Shell (voiced by Jenny Slate) lives in an Airbnb with his grandmother Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini). Marcel and Connie were separated from the rest of their family when the homeowners broke up, and Marcel’s family and friends were accidentally packed away in the move. Marcel’s luck is about to change when a filmmaker (Dean Fleischer-Camp) moves into the Airbnb and begins filming Marcel, putting his adventures on the Internet. Can Marcel’s newfound fame help him find his lost family? I am a fan of the Marcel the Shell shorts that got a massive reception on YouTube. They were funny, adorable, and highly creative. I am happy to say that making the shorts into a full-length feature film hasn’t lost any of the magic of those shorts. You will fall in love with Marcel and his adorable outlook on life. Jenny Slate is perfect as the voice of Marcel, giving him a personality full of hope, wonder, and kindness, along with a wicked sense of humor. The film, like in the shorts, lets Slate riff on many subjects, especially when she is talking with the filmmaker documenting Marcel’s life, making this film a joy to watch. There were times I was laughing so hard that I didn’t get all the dialogue that Marcel was spouting. The storyline is sweet and heartwarming, as Marcel goes on a quest to find his long-lost family. You will fall in love with Marcel and want to experience more of his adventures after seeing this film. And if you are still not convinced about seeing this film, Isabella Rossellini, as Marcel’s grandmother, will fill your heart with warmth and love. Bring the whole family and see the world through the eyes of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.   My Rating: Full Price   Marcel the Shell With Shoes On Website  Now playing in select theatres.

My View: Rise  (2022) PG   Rise is about three Nigerian-Greek brothers who, with their parents, moved to Greece from Nigeria, seeking a better life. The family struggled to make a life in Greece, selling souvenirs to tourists with the threat of deportation always hanging over their heads. The brothers start playing basketball as a way to blow off steam and are discovered by an agent, who tells them that one day they might play in the NBA. I didn’t know much about the life of Giannis Antetokounmpo, known to NBA fans as the ‘Greek Freak,’ a man who has taken the world of basketball by storm, winning multiple MVP awards and a leading the Milwaukee Bucks to a World Championship. This is the story of perseverance, faith, and family, as Giannis (Uche Agada) and his older brother, Thanasis (Ral Agada), take up basketball on a lark and become, through both natural talent and hard work, good enough to play in the NBA. However this is not only a tale of two brothers going on to be pro players, but about a family that for years spent their lives hiding and running from the law, with their parents running from the troubles in their home country of Nigeria. Rise is a story about family and how difficult it is to be a refuge in another country, always with the specter of deportation hanging over your head, all the while trying to navigate through the bureaucracy of a government that puts up roadblocks after roadblocks that almost make it impossible of getting your status legal. The film gives us a story about perseverance and believing in yourself, making it an enjoyable picture about beating the odds that seem stacked against you.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Rise Website  Now playing on the Disney+ platform.

My View: Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe (2022) Your favorite slacker idiots are back, and the guys are headed to space camp, where they manage to get themselves sent into space, find a black hole and are transported to 24 years into the future…to 2022. God help us all. Mike Judge has brought back our idiot best friends, Beavis and Butt-Head, as they travel through time, all in an attempt to score with a lady astronaut. If you are a fan of the MTV show (remember when MTV had something on besides Ridiculousness?), you will love the latest adventures of stupid best friends who have only one thing on their mind; oh wait, two things on their mind; sex and nachos. This is a fun romp with the guys as they time-travel from the 90s to the present, encountering iPhones, Siri, aliens, and the Me Too generation. I noticed how quickly I fell back into watching these idiots travel around Texas searching for their astronaut, enjoying the pattern of the guys doing the absolutely stupidest things because of their one-track minds. My favorite part of the film is when Beavis, thinking he is talking to the astronaut, has a heart-to-heart conversation with Siri. So grab a plate of nachos with extra cheese and sit down to travel back to the 90s and watch the stupidity make you laugh.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee      Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe Website  Now playing on the Paramount+ platform.

My View: Love & Gelato (2022)   Lina (Susanna Skaggs) promised her mother on her death bed that she would spend the summer in Rome before college. It was a magical place for Lina’s mother, and now Lina will discover that the city has magic left over for her too. As a film critic whose guilty pleasure is watching bad Hallmark movies, I have a soft part in my heart for the Young Adult films that Netflix has been putting out, some good (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Dumplin’), some rotten (The Kissing Booth 3). This one is in the middle of the pack. What I didn’t like about the film is a pretty shaky plot at best. I won’t give away the secret of why the mom wants Lina to go to Rome, but it has a lot of baggage that seems a little harsh to put a teen through. Also, I was not too fond of Lina being torn between bad-boy Alessandro and good-guy Lorenzo. There are red flags all over the place in her relationship with Alessandro, most of which she doesn’t see, and it doesn’t help that her best friend keeps pushing for her to choose him. I liked the sweet and fun storyline between Lorenzo, a sad sack boy with a heart of gold and a chef’s touch, who seems perfect for Lina, but fate seems to want to keep them apart. Love & Gelato isn’t a bad film; instead, it's an enjoyable watch, and Susanna Skaggs has the right amount of sweetness, goofiness, and vulnerability to root for, plus the film uses the settings of both Rome and Florence to make this film worth at least a lazy Saturday afternoon watch.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Love & Gelato Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

My View: The Man from Toronto (2022) PG-13   Teddy (Kevin Hart) is an ordinary guy who tends to screw up things up. Teddy mistakenly goes to the wrong Airbnb rental and gets mistaken for a hired assassin who goes under the name ‘The Man from Toronto.’ Consequently, Teddy is saved at the last minute by the FBI, who now want him to go undercover as ‘The Man from Toronto.’ One problem, the real ‘Man’ (Woody Harrelson) is hot on Teddy’s trail. With a plot as weak as Kevin Hart’s acting, the only reason to see this film is Woody Harrelson’s performance as the steely-eyed assassin, ‘The Man from Toronto.’ Harrelson is the only funny thing is this too-long attempt to make a comedy out of the mistaken identity plot which centers on the idea that anyone would believe that Teddy could ever impersonate a hit man whose mere presence makes men weep. The film keeps trying to give Hart center stage to go nuts, but everything that Hart does seems so over the top and forced that it bogs down a film that seems to last days instead of its overly long hour and fifty minutes. By the end of the movie, we are asked to forget that Harrelson’s character is the type of man who carves people up and think that he’s just fine to date the best friend of Teddy’s wife. If you must watch this film, then I suggest you fast forward anytime Hart is on screen without Harrelson and just enjoy the scenes that Woody gets to dominate with a stare and a few words.   My Rating: Cable  The Man from Toronto Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Press Play (2022) PG-13   Laura (Clara Rugaard) has just lost the love of her life, Harrison (Lewis Pullman), to a tragic accident. While playing a mix-tape that the two made together, she discovers she can go back in time. Can Laura stop the accident from happening? This is a romance film with a little bit of science fiction thrown. It explores the idea of what would you do or choose if you could go back in time and fix something that had horrible ramifications on your life and those you love. I loved the chemistry on screen between Clara Rugarrad and Lewis Pullman, as their romance seems real and gives off the feeling that their characters were meant to be together. It doesn’t hurt to have someone like a grizzled Danny Glover in the cast as a lovable shop owner of the place where Laura and Harrison first met. There are a few nice twists and turns to the plot to keep you guessing how this film will turn out. So put some batteries in your old tape player and get ready to go back in time with a song or two in order to save a romance.   My Rating: Full Price    Press Play Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: Snow Falling on Cedars (1999) PG-13  Years after WWII, Ishmael Chambers (Ethan Hawke), a newspaper owner/reporter, covers a murder trial of a Kazuo, a fisherman of Japanese descent. The man Kazuo is accused of murder was white, and the shadow of what Japan did in WWII is still fresh in the townspeople's minds. To complicate things further, Kazuo’s wife, Hatsue (Yuki Kudo), was once the love of Ishmael’s life. Will the sins of a country convict a man before he even goes to trial? I am a huge fan of Ethan Hawke, and he gives us a moving and nuanced performance of a man who came back from WWII with both physical and emotional scars. The film covers a lot of ground and brings an emotional impact to the storyline, covering what was done to the Japanese-American population on the West Coast during WWII and its long-ranging implications. And into all that is a murder mystery that isn’t easily solved. My Rating: Full Price   Snow Falling on Cedars Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Black Phone: Masks Created and Designed By

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Fall (2022) PG-13   Best friends Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) and Hunter (Virginia Gardner) find themselves at the top of a 2,000-foot radio tower. The trailer I saw doesn’t tell us why they are on the tower, but if you can watch the trailer without flinching, then you will be able to watch this film in the theatres. I don’t know if I can.   Fall Info

Until Next Time!

Friday, June 17, 2022


My View: Lightyear (2022) PG   In Lightyear, we get to see the movie that made Andy fall in love with Buzz. Buzz and his group of explorers are marooned on a hostile planet. It’s up to Buzz to find a way back into space, but an army of robots commanded by a giant robot named Zurg are attempting to steal Buzz’s fuel source. This is the film that inspired Andy, the kid in Toy Story, to fall in love with the Buzz Lightyear character. Buzz is voiced by Chris Evans (Captain America), and he is outstanding as Buzz, giving just enough bravado and pluckiness that we have loved about Buzz. However, the film is flat-out stolen by a sidekick character named SOX, a robot cat given to Buzz to help him deal with the fact that Buzz feels that he is the reason why the spaceship is stuck on a hostile planet. SOX is funny, charming, and using that Pixar magic, lovable. Parents, be warned that your kids will see this film and want a SOX for their own. Like most Pixar films, the hero has doubts about himself and must learn to trust others to achieve his goals. Buzz becomes a de-facto leader of a rag-tag bunch of rookies that he has to rally and lead to defeat the alien robots. Is this a great Pixar film? No, but it's a darn good one with some outstanding animation (some of the scenes were done especially for IMAX screens) and a bunch of lovable characters that you will root for. And we will all be dreaming on Christmas Eve of getting up the next morning, and a SOX will be under our tree.  There is some bonus material in and after the credits.  My Rating: Full Price    Lightyear Website  Now playing on the Disney+ platform.

Indiefest: Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (2022) R  Nancy (Emma Thompson) is a fifty-five-year-old retired widow who was in a dull marriage and has never had an orgasm. Consequently, Nancy hires Leo (Daryl McCormack), a good-looking sex worker, to help her experience the world of sex. It’s an encounter that will change their outlook on love and life. I have been in love with Emma Thompson since her starring role with then-husband Kenneth Branagh in the mystery Dead Again (1991). I am happy to say that Thompson does it again, giving us a sometimes humorous look at a woman who is unhappy with who she has become. As Nancy, a woman who plans out everything she does, Thompson gives us a gutsy performance of a woman who knows she has missed experiencing a lot of things, not just in the bedroom, and desperately wants to let go and enjoy herself, but first, she must figure out how. I immensely enjoyed the back-and-forth banter between Nancy and Leo. Daryl McCormack is perfect as the man show knows how to guide Nancy into the world of sex, where he puts her wants and needs above his own (something she has never experienced). At times the film feels a bit like a play since most of the film is set in the hotel room where they meet, but the film flows well, and we don’t see much of the sex between them until near the end of the film. The bond they have feels natural, and the subjects they discuss make the movie believable and impactful. This is a film where both actors are up to their roles and make it a film worth watching, as the two talk about sex and their lives and how their relationships with their loved ones have impacted their lives, both for the good and the bad. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a film about sex, but it’s more about wanting and needing a connection with someone who will listen and put your needs above theirs.   My Rating: Full Price   Good Luck to You, Leo Grande Website   Now playing on the Hulu platform. 

My View: Spiderhead (2022) R  Spiderhead is set in the near future, where in a remote location, convicts are offered to become medical subjects in exchange for shortening their sentences. Jeff (Miles Teller) is one such convict who encounters Steve (Chris Hemsworth), the man in charge of testing a new drug capable of generating feelings of love. Jeff is about to go on an experience that will have him questioning the reality of his emotions. This is a psychological drama with a bit of mystery thrown in. The film is powered by Hemsworth, playing a character you don’t like from the start and a hero, in Miles Teller, of a man who is tortured by one bad, horrible mistake. The film is sometimes a bit silly, and it tries a little too hard to be funny in a dark way but is let down by a plot that is a bit of a mess and gets messier with an ending that feels rushed and too easy. It is fun to see Teller and Hemsworth battle it out in a test of wills; I wish the script was a little stronger and had an ending that worked better. My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Spiderhead Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Cha Cha Real Smooth (2022) R  Andrew (Cooper Raiff), who, after graduating college, is slowly floundering in life. Andrew works at a fast-food restaurant and also is a ‘party starter,’ a Bar Mitzvah party host. At a Bar Mitzvah, he meets Domino (Dakota Johnson) and her autistic daughter Lola (Vanessa Burghardt). It’s a meeting that could mean Andrew has finally found love, or has he just found that falling in love can be complicated. Cooper Raiff, who also wrote and directed this film, is one of those actors that you instantly like, even when they are doing some stupid things, and his character Andrew does some foolish stuff in this film. However, at the heart of the film is a character in Andrew, with an incredibly large and loving heart, whether he is dealing with his little brother, his possibly manic mother, or Lola, the autistic daughter of the woman he is falling for. Andrew is a man who has no clue what he wants to do with his life. He lives in his mother’s house, sleeping on the floor in his younger brother’s room. Andrew’s mother, played by the always dazzling Leslie Mann, has re-married to a man, played by Brad Garrett, whom Andrew does not respect at all. Andrew continually spars with his step-dad, feeling that he isn’t good enough for his mother, who he adores. Andrew falls into the job of ‘party starter,’ someone at Bar Mitzvah’s that gets people up out of their chairs and start having fun. At such a party, he meets Domino and her daughter. He instantly has chemistry with not only Domino but her daughter, Lola, as well. I have slowly become a fan of Dakota Johnson, and she is exactly the right combination of fun and smartness to be a sparring partner for Andrew to be interested in. This is a film about not just about finding love, but being able to find your purpose in life and making choices that aren’t always easy. I loved the writing in this film, and the dialogue is fun and meaningful. Some of the best scenes are not the ones between Andrew and Domino but between Andrew and the kids, especially his interactions with Lola and his brother, David. Cha Cha Real Smooth is a sweet and touching film that is a joy to watch.   My Rating: Full Price      Cha Cha Real Smooth Website  Now playing in select theatres and on the Apple+ platform.

My View: Halftime (2022) TV-MA   Halftime is a documentary that gives us an intimate look at Jennifer Lopez as she reflects on her career, both the good and the bad. The film follows Lopez as she prepares for her Super Bowl halftime performance as well as her possible Oscar nomination for her role in Hustlers. I am not a huge fan of JLo’s music, but given the right part, Jennifer Lopez can be an actor who can give us an outstanding performance. I came away from this film admiring the energy and determination in her work. She wants to do her best, whether it's a performance in a movie or a halftime show. While this film doesn’t give you much behind-the-scenes stuff (her marriages/relationships are barely talked about), you do get to see how much work she put into both her role in the film Hustlers and in the halftime show she did with Shakira. The film follows her journey with Hustlers and how she thought (along with her people) that it was a role that would get her an Oscar nomination (one she didn’t get). If you are a fan of JLo, you will probably love this film, but the casual fan, like myself, might be a little bored by the time the movie ends. Still, you will go away thinking that Jennifer Lopez is a force of nature that won’t stop for anybody.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Halftime Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: The Phantom of the Open (2021) PG-13   Maurice Flitcroft (Mark Rylance) has always dreamed big, but life with a wife (Sally Hawkins) and kids have always gotten in the way. Always the optimist, he decides to take up golf to gain entry into The British Open. He may fail, but he will become a folk hero to many in the process. Mark Rylance gives us a performance that is both funny and a little sad, about a man who was constantly told he couldn’t do something (even by his own family) and believed enough in himself to keep trying. The film is based on a true story of a man who took up golf late in life and felt that it was his right to be allowed to compete in one of the most prestigious golf tournaments. This is a tale of a man who beat the odds and competed on a stage that few will ever get to. Rylance is perfect in the role of Maurice, a man who spouts words to live by and, while a little naive, is able to outsmart the establishment to do what his heart tells him to. This is a tale of a man and his golf game, but its heart is in how this man put family first and was totally devoted to his wife and his children, who he tried to instill in them that they could do anything they put their mind to. So, put on your best golf hat, and play a few rounds with Maurice, but be warned, you may have to duck a time or two when he has his clubs out.   My Rating: Full Price    The Phantom of the Open Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Brian and Charles  (2022) PG  Brian (David Earl) is a lonely guy who, after a long and depressing winter, builds a robot that he names Charles (Chris Hayward). Charles and Brian are about to become best friends and maybe, just maybe, learn a bit about life, family, and love. This is one of those smaller films that you fall in love with. A fun and heartwarming story of a mad inventor who creates a companion for himself in a robot named Charles. I loved Brian and Charles's conversations, with Charles constantly pushing the boundaries of how far he can go out of Brian’s. Add to the delightful story is that Brian finds love with the hometown girl Hazel (Louise Brealey), who has always been there, waiting for Brain to make a move. Brian and Charles is a fun and lovely film that you will enjoy, in a  tale of romance, friendship, and courage to stand up to the bullies of life.   My Rating: Full Price    Brian and Charles Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Bitterbrush (2021)    This documentary follows Colie and Hollyn as they work in the mountains of the American West as they move cattle from the highlands to the lowlands for the winter. All they have are their horses, their twelve dogs, and themselves to accomplish a job in harsh conditions. You will fall in love with these two rugged-as-nails cowgirls as they work together to bring the cattle off the mountains to come down for the winter. They are a delight to watch as they herd cattle with their dogs, talking about life, hopes, and dreams. They love their jobs and do it with a determination that few have. The cinematography is gorgeous as they work out in the middle of nowhere, where they have to trust each other, their horses, and their dogs. I enjoyed the friendly banter they have with each other, all the while herding cattle that don’t necessarily want to go where you want them to. When the film ended, all I could say was that I wanted to spend more time with Colie and Hollyn, the dogs, and their horses.    My Rating: Full Price     Bitterbrush Website  Now playing in select theatres and On-Demand June 24th.

Indiefest: Official Competition (2021) R   A famous filmmaker Lola Cuevas (Penelope Cruz), who is given a load of money by a wealthy businessman who wants to get into the film business. She hires two well-known actors whose enormous talent matches their ego; Hollywood star Felix Rivero (Antonio Banderas) and theatre legend Ivan Torres (Oscar Martinez). Will the two stars get along enough to make a film that can win an Oscar or two? I never got into this film as each scene lasts too long to keep any momentum that it gathers going. The idea is funny, as it sends up the pretentious Indie films that are the favorites of film festivals but then die at the box office. I did enjoy Antonio Banderas's portrayal of a Hollywood box office star who only knows one way to act, by overacting. The laughs are too few and far between, and when there are laughs, like a ridiculous scene of the actors rehearsing a kiss with their leading lady in front of about 100 microphones, the scene goes on way too long. I would have liked this film more if each scene had been cut down by half. Still, it’s fun as always to see Penelope Cruz on the screen as the full of herself director. I wish the director of this film would have used the less is more approach, if they had I think I would have enjoyed it more.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Official Competition Website  Now playing in select theatres.

My View: Jerry and Marge Go Large (2022) PG-14   Jerry (Bryan Cranston) has just been forced to retire from a job he has had for 42 years. Bored and frustrated in his retirement, Jerry discovers a mathematical flaw in the lottery that almost guarantees he will win money. With the help of his long-time wife, Marge (Annette Bening), they decide to help other people in their town share in the winnings. It all is going great until the Feds, and another group of individuals become aware of Jerry’s plan. This film works because the cast is so much fun to watch. Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening are great together, making this film work. The film suffers a bit when it introduces a bad guy, a Harvard student (Uly Schlesinger), who has figured out the flaw in the system and wants it all for himself. Still, the film centers on Jerry, who wants to save his town by winning the lottery every month. It’s a film that reminds me of the movies of the thirties during the depression, where something magic makes the little guy win in the end. Watching Jerry and Marge Go Large isn’t winning the lottery, but it’s like getting a scratch-off card as a Christmas present; it’s just fun to play along. My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Jerry and Marge Go Large Website  The film is playing on the Paramount+ platform.

Forgotten Film: Murder by Death ((1976)   This is an ode to famous detectives done by Neil Simon. Five detective and their sidekicks are invited to a scary mansion to solve a mystery. The jokes come at you fast and furious. Some work, some fall flat, and a few don’t look good in the mirror of time. But there are some hilarious performances in the film. Peter Falk is funny as a Sam Spade knockoff, David Niven as the suave ‘Thin Man’ detective, and best of the bunch, Alec Guinness, as the blind butler, who is brilliant in the role. Murder by Death isn’t a great film, but it’s fun to watch, full of star talent, and some of the lines are truly funny.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Murder by Death Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Spiderhead: Sound Attachment

Coming Soon to a Screen Near YouNope (2022) R   A brother and sister (Daniel Kalyuua and Keke Palmer) are working on their family ranch that supplies horses to Hollywood films. Things start getting strange on the ranch as it looks like aliens are flying around, and the duo decide to document these occurrences, to the dismay of the forces behind the flying saucers. This is another film from Jordan Peele and as we know by now, what you see in his trailers is just the tip of the horror iceberg. That Peele is working again with Daniel Kalyuua is enough for me to see this film.     Nope Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, June 10, 2022

Jurassic World Dominion

My View: Jurassic World Dominion (2022) PG-13  It’s been four years since dinosaurs escaped the island, and now they live among us. The question is, who will be the dominant species on the planet, humans or dinosaurs? Ever seen a film and wondered why did they spend all that money to make it? This is one of those films. Beginning with a storyline that is so stupid (it involves a chemical corporation taking over the world’s food supply by creating giant locusts), a runtime that seems much longer than 2 hours and 20 minutes (lucky for you that if you need a pee break, you won’t miss anything important) and special effects which look like they were created in the 80s, and you have a film that you will want to miss, even if you stumble upon it later on late-night cable. I have to feel that Laura Dern (who I have loved since one of  her first screen appearances in Mask) and Sam Neill did this film just for the paycheck because they had to know this script stunk from the beginning. The movie just throws stuff up on the screen, like cloning or training attack raptors with laser pointers (no cat jokes, please), and expects us not to wonder how or why. At one point, I expected a Star Trek ship to show up because these characters travel across vast pieces of land in a short amount of time that only could be done with a transporter. The film may possibly have the stupidest open and close to a film ever (can’t we all just get along…with dinosaurs?). Add in that I didn’t care what happened to anybody, a main bad guy that makes Mark Rylance’s character in Don’t Look Up seem sane, and a bunch of dinosaurs that seem to want to pose for the camera (there is a shot near the end of the film that the audience laughed at) and you have a disaster of a disaster movie. I really wanted that transporter to get me out of this screening. Beam me up, Scotty; I have dinosaurs to escape from!   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   Jurassic World Dominion Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View:  Hustle (2022) R   Stanley Beren (Adam Sandler), a basketball scout whose goal of being an NBA coach has never been achieved. Stanley sees his ticket back to the big time when he discovers a Spanish amateur basketball player, Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez), in a park in Madrid. Surely under the tutelage of Stanley, he and Bo can make it to the NBA. Sandler is an actor I get mad at every time he takes a role like this because it shows me how good Sandler is as an actor and then he’ll go a do another crappy movie with his buddies like Grown Ups or Jack and Jill. Now, this film isn’t a stretch for Sandler since he gets to wear a ton of tracksuits and hang out with a bunch of pro basketball players, both current and Hall of Famers, and he seems to be playing a version of himself in the film. Still, it’s a good feel-good story about overcoming the odds and believing in yourself. I loved the interaction between Stanley and his wife, played by Queen Latifah. It’s a relationship that feels real in how they support each other through good times and tough ones. Real-life NBA player, Juancho Hernangomez, isn’t asked to do much more than play basketball and throw a few deadpan wisecracks at Sandler’s character, and that’s fine because this is Sandler’s film, and he is able to carry the total weight of the film. So lace up your best Chucks and go on a full-court scrimmage with Stanley and Bo.   My Rating: Full Price  Hustle Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform and in select theatres.

My View: The Janes (2022)  The Janes is a documentary about seven brave women who created a clandestine network that provided an underground service for women in the 1960s seeking abortions when they were illegal. These were women who, during the 60s, felt that nobody else was going to do anything to make abortions safe for women. It was a time when even getting together to discuss having an abortion was illegal. The documentary gives you a great background on the women who made up The Janes, showing us through historical footage and interviews with the Janes themselves. This film gives us what a country looks and feels like without the ability for women to decide for themselves if they should remain pregnant. The film provides us with a look into the lives of women at the time and how desperate some were to get an abortion, often having to deal with the mob or incredibly shady individuals to get those abortions. It’s a remarkable story of women who created a network that allowed women to safely and respectfully choose to have an abortion. No matter your feelings on the subject, you must admire the guts and fortitude it took for these women to provide a service that made it safe for women to choose.   My Rating: Full Price   The Janes Website  Now playing on the HBO Max platform.

Indiefest: Dinner in America (2020)   A punk-rocker, Simon (Kyle Gallner) on the lam, and a young woman, Patty (Emily Skeggs), is obsessed with his band. Together they team up to go on an adventure through the Midwest as they slowly fall in love. When I was in college (a long time ago), disco was all the rage. I hated disco and turned to something completely different, punk. This film stars two characters that would have been right there with me in Simon and Patty, a couple that gets together and finds romance in the unlikeliest of places. Patty is a misfit, a young woman working a dead-end job with parents who don’t understand her and want to control her life. Simon is a rebel, a man who wants to make music and cause trouble. Having just been let go at another dead-end job, the two meet when Patty volunteers her parent's home as a place he can hide out from the law. I loved the chemistry between the two leads, and Emily Skeggs, as Patty, is a force of nature as she practically explodes on the screen when she listens to punk music or reacts to Simon’s advances. This isn’t your ordinary, sweet love story; in fact, you might say it’s the exact opposite of a Hallmark film. It’s filled with a character that is sometimes hard to root for in Simon, but Patty sees something in Simon she loves, and Simon gets that Patty is more put together than anyone ever gives her credit for. So go on a ride in a borrowed old truck and slam-dance a few tunes with Simon and Patty as their love story develops on the bumpy road of life. My Rating: Full Price   Dinner in America Website  Now playing in select theatres on  On-Demand in digital platforms.

Indiefest: Neptune Frost (2021) Neptune Frost is a sci-fi musical set in Rwanda, where a miner (Bertrand Nintereste) mourns the death of his brother, savagely killed when working in a mine, who teams up with a woman named Neptune (Cheryl Isheja) to change the world through technology. I wish I had seen this in the theatre as it needs to be seen in a setting where you can let the music and visuals overtake you to a strange and mythical world, where technology is being used to fight back against the tyranny of the world. Neptune Frost is a movie that isn’t always easy to follow, but you must just let yourself go and let the film put you under its spell. Full of music and dancing, sometimes joyous, other times sad, or even painful, that cuts to the heart of the film's message. Don’t try too hard to make sense of what is happening; just let it dazzle you with its powerful and emotional messages.   My Rating: Full Price   Neptune Frost Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: The Year My Voice Broke (1987) PG-13  Set in a small town in the country in 1960s Australia, Danny (Noah Taylor) is a fifteen-year-old boy who is secretly in love with his best friend Freya (Loene Carmen). No matter what he does, Danny can’t get Freya to see him as more than just a friend. And then in walks Trevor (Ben Mendelsohn), a bad boy who instantly gets any girl he wants, and Freya is no different. Trevor is bad news, and Danny knows it, but Danny can’t prevent a series of events that will not end well. What I love about this film is that the characters seem real, even bad boy Trevor, who, for all his faults, really cares about Freya. The casting is perfect, and the storyline is solid and heartbreaking.   My Rating; Full Price   The Year My Voice Broke Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Jurassic World Dominion: Puppet Masters

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Three Thousand Year of Longing (2022) R A lonely scholar, Alithea (Tilda Swinton), on holiday in Istanbul, buys a bottle in a bazaar and discovers that she is now in the possession of a Djinn (Idris Elba) who will grant her three wishes. We all know that in every story about genies and wishes, those wishes never come out well, but this Djinn has never met someone like Alithea. The trailer got me when it said it is directed by George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road) and starred Swinton and Elba.    Three Thousand Years of Longing Info

Friday, June 3, 2022

Hollywood Stargirl

My View: Hollywood Stargirl (2022) PG   The journey for Stargirl Caraway (Grace VanderWaal) continues as she moves to LA to pursue her journey to a singing career. Stargirl meets a young man, Evan (Elijah Richardson), who wants Stargirl to write music and perform in a film he is doing with his brother. Along the way, Stargirl meets her idol, Roxanne Martel (Uma Thurman), a mysterious singer from the past who made one remarkable album and then disappeared from the music world. Can Stargirl weave her magical voice to bring Roxanne out of retirement? There are some films that I call ‘comfort films.’ They are films that just feel good watching them and experiencing their charm. They aren’t going to break ground in their message or change the world by enticing action; all they do is make you feel warm and happy. Hollywood Stargirl is one of those films, led by the delightful and charismatic Grace VanderWaal. First is her voice, which is beautiful and mesmerizing. Add that she has a natural grace and energy that explodes on the screen. The tale is simple, new girl in town who changes lives through her almost mere presence, touching virtually everyone she meets. It’s fun to see Uma Thurman back on the screen, who looks like she is having a great time singing and performing. Add in a supporting cast with the likes of Judd Hirsch as the grumpy neighbor, Judy Greer as Stargirl’s loving mom, and Elijah Richardson as the hunky potential boyfriend, and you have a movie that lets Grace VanderWaal shine, spreading a little bit of love and good feeling that we can all use right now.   My Rating: Full Price  Hollywood Stargirl Website  Now playing on the Disney+ platform.

Indiefest: Benediction (2021) PG-13   The film tells the life story of Siegfried Sassoon (Jack Lowden), a decorated hero of WWI who came back from that war mentally damaged and became a vocal critic of the continuation of war through his poetry. Consequently, he was a man who fought for peace, all the while never quite finding that peace for himself as he attempted to come to terms with his homosexuality. I will admit that I am not a poetry person. I have never been, so I had difficulty connecting with this film. The film uses Siegfried’s poetry throughout the film to give us an insight into his mindset and feelings about the horrors of war. The film combines photos and documentary footage shot at the time, most of which is horrific to look at. Benediction is a story of a man who tried to fight the system, both in his personal life and in his public one, and, for the most part, failed. Siegfried was a man who could not find love with the right person, often jumping into one relationship to another, including marrying a woman who pursued him (even though she knew he was a homosexual). I had trouble with the pacing of the film, as some scenes in the movie seem to go on for way too long, and I had a hard time following the storyline at times (how Siegfried is injured in the film is not shown, so I don’t know if it was during the war or by a jealous lover. Siegfried was a complicated man who suffered the horrors of war and never found the peace he sought all of his life., but I never felt the hurt or sorrow as deep as I should have.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Benediction Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Watcher (2022) R  Watcher takes place in a city in Romania being terrorized by a serial killer. Julia (Maika Monroe), a young actress, and her boyfriend have just moved into a high-rise apartment building in the city when she notices a mysterious stranger watching her from across the street. Shortly after, a man starts following Julia, and she decides to try to discover who this ‘watcher’ is and if he is indeed the killer. I enjoyed this thriller that takes the story of a woman who is convinced that she is being stalked by a neighbor, all the while a city is reacting to a serial killer. No one believes her story, including, in time, her husband. So, Julia starts to stalk the stalker, convinced that she is right. Here is a woman who is stuck in a scary situation, where she doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t have any support system, and is seemingly put down by everyone she tells her tale to, our hero, Julia, keeps going; no matter what the cost or who believes her, until its too late for anyone to save her…or is it.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Watcher Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Indiefest: Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story   (2021) PG-13   Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story is a documentary about the legendary New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest, one of the great festivals in America. But its story can’t be told without exploring the history of the incredible city where the fest takes place, New Orleans. It’s hard to capture the magic and energy of a music festival, but this film does that and more. Giving us a history of not only the fest but of New Orleans and its love affair with Jazz makes this a movie worth watching. Combining the love that the film has for New Orleans with an outstanding lineup of musicians makes this a film that you need to see on the big screen to be surrounded by the sounds of this fabulous festival. If only we could smell and taste the food which is an important part of the fest as the music itself. The film does an outstanding job of showing how diverse the music is at the fest, from local jazz bands to bands from Africa and the Caribbean, to the hit-makers of the time, including Katy Perry, Earth Wind and Fire, and Jimmy Buffet (who has a long history of performing at the fest). The film’s best moment is a soaring and moving performance by Bruce Springsteen, who sings ‘My City of Ruin’ at the fest soon after the devastating destruction of New Orleans by Katrina. Seeing thousands of hands in the air as Springsteen sings about building back a city is one that brought a tear to my eye and will do the same for you.    My Rating: Full Price  Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story Website  Now playing in select theatres.

My View: Fire Island (2022) R  Noah (Joel Kim Booster), and Howie (Bowen Yang) have been best friends since working at a restaurant together years ago. They are about to go on a legendary week-long summer vacation to Fire Island, fueled by cheap rose and a group of eclectic friends. Along the way, they hope they will have fun and maybe even find love…or at least a good time looking for it. Based loosely (very loosely) on Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ Fire Island is a rom-com set on the infamous gay playground of Fire Island. A bit raunchy, part sweet buddy comedy, and part romance, Fire Island is an adventure into the loves and lives of a group of friends spending one last summer vacation at a beloved island home. The film centers around the friendship of Noah, the confident, sometimes overly pushy guy, and Howie, a shy man who just wants to find love, one awkward moment at a time. I loved their relationship and how they look after each other in good times and bad. Will Noah admit that he is attracted to stuck-up lawyer Will (Conrad Ricamora), and will Howie get his heart broken by his latest crush? You have to join that gang of misfits as they experience one last party on Fire Island to find out. My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Fire Island Website  Now playing on the Hulu platform.

My View: Crimes of the Future (2022) R   Crimes of the Future takes place in a time when humans have adapted to a synthetic environment, where their bodies have begun to evolve. Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) is a man whose body has been producing extra organs. He makes a living as a performance artist, where these organs are harvested in front of an audience with the help of a former trauma surgeon (Lea Seydoux). He has interested a government organization that has sent two workers (Kristen Stewart, Don McKellar) to witness his performance. Now a new, strange man (Scott Speedman) wants Saul to do what is a dangerous and illegal performance, one that could kill Saul. You know you are going to see something a little off or weird when one of the first scenes is a young boy who sits down on the bathroom floor and starts eating a plastic wastebasket. People walked out of this film at its showing at the Cannes Film Festival, so I should warn you that if blood or self-mutilation upsets you, this is not the film for you. The film is about performance art and just how far we will go, where surgery is the new way to have sex. Saul is a man who has accepted that his body grows extra organs, and he is a willing participant in the performance art that he and Caprice put on in front of an adoring and always documenting crowd. There is a mystery to be solved involving the trashcan-eating boy, a possible cult, and a whole bunch more, some of which I wouldn’t be able to explain, even if I tried. I enjoyed some of this film, mainly the look and feel of the future and how Saul and Caprice interacted. However, the film continually tries to shock you with twists and turns that sometimes seem to go nowhere. Crimes of the Future is a film, like Croneberg’s Videodrome (1983), that is stylish, strange, and makes lots of statements about the society of today and the future, but it’s not one I ever want to see again. My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Crimes of the Future Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Forgotten Film: Waking the Dead (2000)  R  Jennifer Connelly is a fantastic Oscar-winning actress brought back to the spotlight for her role as the tough, wise-cracking former love of Tom Cruises character in Top Gun: Maverick. Connelly has been in some great films (A Beautiful Mind, Mulholland Falls, House of Sand and Fog) and some stinkers too (one of the few bad films that John Hughes wrote, Career Opportunities), but she is always someone to watch, making each part her own, and often shining brighter than the material. Such is the case with the film Walking the Dead, a mystery about an up-and-coming congressional candidate (Billy Crudup) who begins to question his sanity when he sees the love of his life (Connelly) come back from the dead. The film is a mess with an ending that gives you almost no clue what is real and what is imagined. However, there is a scene that makes this film worth watching, where she reads the riot act to Crudup’s character, explaining to him why what he is about to do is so wrong. It’s a powerful scene that gives Connelly something to work with, and she hits it out of the park. Maybe after that scene, just shut the film off. You might thank me for that suggestion if you ever decide to go back and finish the movie.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Waking the Dead Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Hollywood Stargirl: Piano Coach

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Mr. Malcolm’s List (2022) PG A young woman in 1800s England helps her friend to get revenge on a man who has rejected her because she didn’t meet the requirements on his list for a bride. Theo James, Sope Dirisu, Freida Pinto, and Zawe Ashton star in this dramedy that started as a self-published book, turned into a screenplay by the author and was turned into a movie by Emma Holly Jones. Jones shot a short film based on the novel to get backing for the film. I hope this 'little film that could' succeeds both on-screen and at the box office.   Mr. Malcolm's List Website