My View: Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody (2022) PG-13 The story of the life and music of Whitney Houston (Naomi Ackie), who rose from singing backup for her famous mom to becoming one of the greatest female R&B pop vocalists of all time. You will have to be a huge fan of Whitney to enjoy this overlong soap opera of a film. I liked Naomi Ackie as Whitney, but she is lip-syncing to Whitney’s real singing for all the songs, but a couple of times Ackie sings at home to her daughter or to herself. The songs take up about 40 minutes of this two-hour and twenty-six-minute film, making it one of the longest lip-syncing shows of all time. I love Houston’s songs as much as anybody but do we need every hit she ever had sung for almost the whole song? The biggest problem with the film is the plot spends a lot of time bringing up all of the issues in her life without any resolution (other than escaping into drugs), as conflicts in the film are often just dropped and never dealt with. We never really understand Whitney's attraction for Bobby Brown (played cartoonishly by Ashton Sanders) other than she likes ‘bad boys.' I Wanna Dance with Somebody is a bio-pic that feels like watching a greatest hits program without the actual performer. My Rating: Cable I Wanna Dance with Somebody Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
My View: Babylon (2022) R The rise and fall of the people that make the movies in the silent days of Hollywood, including a legendary matinee idol (Brad Pitt), an up-and-coming firebrand of an actress (Margot Robbie), and a man who dreams of making films (Diego Calva). I am a huge fan of silent films, so I was looking forward to this film from Damien Chazelle, the Oscar-winning filmmaker for films such as La La Land (20160 and Whiplash (2014). I wasn’t prepared for the wild ride this film takes you on. The first thirty minutes of this film are some of the most outrageous and outlandish filmed scenes I’ve ever seen. A warning, if you get easily grossed out, you might want to skip this film. Several of the characters are loosely (sometimes very loosely) based on real silent film actors. Brad Pitt’s character, matinee idol Jack Conrad is inspired by John Gilbert, one of the most famous actors in the Hollywood silent period. Margot Robbie’s character Nellie LaRoy is based on the life of Clara Bow, the original ‘It Girl.’ The film takes place when Hollywood was transitioning from the freewheeling days of silent films to the more established studio system that brought in the talking pictures era. This is an overlong and sometimes confusing look at three lives and how they deal with fame, fortune, and power. They also have to deal with how quickly that fame and fortune can slip through your fingers. The film seems to keep adding more and more plot lines just to show us that Chazelle cannot only shock you as he does in the first thirty minutes but also dazzle you with big spectacle filmmaking. The problem is the message is lost in all the spectacle, which is too bad, as there are performances that make the film watchable, including Pitt and Robbie. There’s a lot I would have cut out of this 3 hour-plus movie, including a bizarre sequence with a mob boss played by Tobey Maguire that adds nothing to the plot other than making you feel weird. Instead, you will leave feeling you have seen a dozen films in one night, none of them great. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Babylon Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
Familyfaire: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022) PG The years of adventure and being a hero has taken their toll: Puss in Boots (voiced by Antonio Banderas) learns that he has burned eight of his nine lives. Now Puss in Boots finds the evil Lobo (Wagner Moura) hunting him down and enlists his friends Perro (Harvey Guillen) and Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) to help him find a mythical Last Wish to restore his nine lives. Looking back at my 2011 review, I hated the first Puss in Boots film, but boy, oh boy, I loved this one. The film is packed with humor, I loved the new character in Perro, and the animation of the action sequences are kind of mix of Spider-Verse and Japanese anime. It is very apparent that Bandaras and Hayek loved making this film together, and Bandaras gives a brilliant performance as the ego-centric hero who has become scared of dying. Florence Pugh is a lot of fun as a tough, grownup Goldilocks, leading the Three Bears on crime sprees. The film has a great villain in Lobo, the wolf that is Death incarnate, but it’s the performance of Harvey Guillen as the kind, overly friendly Perro that steals the show. You and your family will fall in love with Puss in Boots, Kitty Softpaws, and especially Perro. My Rating: Full Price Puss in Boots: The Last Wish Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
Indiefest: Corsage (2022) The account of one year in the life of legendary beauty Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Vicky Krieps), who has just turned forty and wants to maintain her status as a groundbreaking royal. This is a film about a woman who wanted to be her own person and not the person her husband, other royalty, and the public wanted her to be. Vicky Krieps gives a beautiful, moving, and dazzling performance of Elisabeth, a woman who was truly before her time and one whose life, while surrounded by servants, was never happy. This is a gorgeous film to watch, and Krieps gives life to a woman who decided to forge her own path, even if it hurt the people she loved. We watch as Elisabeth’s path blazes along, and Krieps, in any unbelievably moving performance, lets us see Elisabeth is all her unhappiness. My Rating: Full Price Corsage Website Now playing in select theaters.
Indiefest: Wildcat (2022) R Documentary about a young British soldier, Harry, back from Afghanistan who is struggling with depression and PTSD. He finds a second chance in the Amazon rainforest when he meets an American scientist, Samantha, and an orphaned baby ocelot. First, let me tell you that this is not a movie for kids. I know it features an adorable baby ocelot, but the film deals with major adult issues, and there are some rather shocking and brutal scenes to watch. This is a movie about how nature and kindness can help heal people dealing with trauma. Harry is a very troubled young man who escapes to the jungle to disappear but finds a purpose to help raise a tiny baby ocelot and train it to return to the jungle as an adult. Some scenes are raw as Harry deals with a past that haunts him. Sam and the baby ocelot can only do so much to heal Harry, and it’s a difficult journey that he travels, sometimes alone. Wildcat is often a very dark and painful film to watch, but in the end, healing and hard work can succeed, even when letting a wild animal go out into the world on its own. My Rating: Full Price Now playing in select theaters. Wildcat Website Now playing in select theatres and on Amazon Prime on Dec. 30th.
Indiefest: Joyride (2022) A headstrong woman named Joy (Olivia Colman) plan to offload her newborn baby on her sister is derailed when a young teenager, Mully (Charlie Reid), steals the taxi she is asleep in. They are about to go on a journey across Ireland that will change both their lives. I wanted to love this film but only like it, and that’s only because of the chemistry between Colman and Reid. The movie is full of plot holes and relies too much on us instantly liking Colman’s character (which we don’t), but Colman can make any part watchable, and Charlie Reid, in his first film role as the young teen Mully is a lot of fun. The film takes a few strange twists, and Colman’s character thinks she can talk her way out of any situation (which she can’t), which takes away from the performances in the end. Still, I enjoyed watching the two characters interact and grow fond of each other; I just wished the plot was better. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Joyride Info Now playing is select theatres.
Forgotten Film: The Holiday (2006) PG-13 Two women (Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet) who are both having troubles with their lives decide to swap homes in each other’s countries for the holidays to escape. Both meet a local guy (Jude Law, Jack Black) and fall in love. This is another romance film from Nancy Myers (Baby Boom, Father of the Bride, The Parent Trap) that is just fun to watch, and both Diaz and Winslet don’t disappoint. I love the relationship that develops between Winslet’s character and Eli Wallach, who plays an old writer who wrote some of the Hollywood classics. And by the way, Jack Black is toned down and charming in this film (surprise!). My Rating: Full Price The Holiday Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody: Head of Paint
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Saint Omer (2022) Rama (Kayije Kagame) is a novelist who is researching her next work at the trial of Laurence Coly (Guslagie Malanda), who is accused of drowning her child. Laurence claims she did it because of demons. The film has made the Academy Award International Films shortlist and is getting rave reviews from critics. Saint Omer Info In select theatres Mid-January.