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  

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