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