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 You: Nope (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