My View: Cocaine Bear (2023) R An odd group of people, from cops to criminals, tourists, and teens, all converge in a Georgia forest where a 500-pound black bear goes on a rampage after ingesting cocaine. Rare is a movie where the title tells you everything you need to know about the film. This is a film about a bear who not only ingests cocaine but then seeks it out. I love how the film unfolds, letting us in on how the cocaine got dropped in the forest and the setup of letting us know all the people who will encounter the coked-up bear. But what I really liked was that we never see how the bear initially discovered the coke; we just see the results, and boy, is it bloody. I better use a stronger word. This film is gory. Gory with a capital G. Cocaine Bear is right up there with some of your horror films in gore and violence, with a bear that doesn’t just kill; it’s a bear that destroys. The film is off-the-wall funny, with many great lines and some scenes that will have you on the floor, laughing while also going, ‘that’s so gross.’ The cast is a lot of fun, with Margo Martindale as a horny park ranger, an almost unrecognizable Jesse Tyler Ferguson as the nature environmentalist the park ranger lusts for, and Christian Convery as Henry, a kid who has something to say about everything. We also get to see the late Ray Liotta in his last role as a crime lord who won’t back down to find his missing cocaine in the woods, even though it’s got a bear in it that has gone nuts. The film, directed by Elizabeth Banks, is fast, funny, and a blast to watch. Make sure to see it in a theatre, where the crowd will help you enjoy it even more. The women seated behind me started laughing almost from the title sequence and didn’t stop laughing until the final credits. And by the way, stay through the first bit of credits to see a couple of bonus scenes that will top off your viewing experience. And remember, friends don’t let bears do drugs! My Rating: Full Price Cocaine Bear Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
My View: We Have a Ghost (2023) We Have a Ghost takes place when Kevin’s (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) family moves into a new home that neighbors call ‘The House of Death.’ It turns out that a ghost haunts their new home in the attic named Ernest (David Harbour), a trapped soul from the 70s that Kevin recorded on his phone. When Kevin’s father, Frank (Anthony Mackie), attempts to cash in on Ernest, now a social media sensation, it opens an entire world of attention, including the CIA and a washed-up paranormal scientist (Tig Notaro). We Have a Ghost is a fun, family comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Ernest is a ghost who can’t speak but makes friends with Kevin, who isn’t happy moving to a new home again. He has a father who hasn’t found business success; his businesses are usually bad ideas that fail quickly. Ernest becomes an Internet sensation, and that’s when all the trouble begins. You have added to the mix a possibly evil scientist, a bad guy government, and a girl next door that Kevin is trying to impress. Harbour is fun as the ghost with a comb-over and an ugly bowling shirt, and Jahi Di’Allo is likable as Kevin, who wants to stay in one place and make some friends, even if one of them is a ghost. Ernest is never scary, so kids of all ages can have fun with Kevin and his ghost. Join Kevin, climb up to the attic, and join Ernest in having some fun. My Rating; Bargain Matinee We Have a Ghost Website Now playing on the Netflix platform.
My Take: Jesus Revolution (2023) PG-13 It’s the 70s, and Pastor Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammer) is head of a church that is dying slowly as his congregation gets older. One day, Lonnie (Jonathan Roumie), a long-haired street preacher, comes into Chuck’s church, and his life and community are never the same. Jesus Revolution is a little better than your ordinary Christian inspirational film because of the music (which includes The Doobie Brothers and The Edgar Winter Group) and performances from Kelsey Grammer, the preacher who opens his church and home to the hippie culture, and Joel Courtney, who plays Greg, a troubled young man who has to deal with an alcoholic mother (Kimberly Williams-Paisley). Greg becomes the film’s center as he tries to make his place in the world with the constant fear that wherever he finds a home, it will be taken away from him. Grammer does a great job as the preacher who is open to new ideas to reach more people with the word of God and Jesus. I liked that this film shows a different side to the 60s/early 70s when there was such a significant movement of young people to churches that Time magazine even did a cover story. If you are into this type of film, you will enjoy its message of hope and finding faith in something bigger than yourself. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Jesus Revolution Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
Indiefest: A House Made of Splinters (2022) Documentary about a special kind of home: an institution in war-torn Ukraine for children who have been removed from their homes while awaiting court custody decisions. This documentary will tear your heart out as we follow some of the children while they spend time (up to 9 months) in this kind of holding orphanage. The children here are mostly from families where the parents or, in many cases, a lone parent have lost their rights to their children due to neglect. In most cases, it seems, the parent has given up and spend their time drinking. We get to know children being forced to be the adults in the situation, questioning if their mothers are still drinking or asking to be placed in foster homes rather than returning to their homes. One scene really hit me, where a couple of kids were getting under a blanket fort with a starry light and telling stories. Instead of ghost stories, they told each other the horror stories of their lives where their father beat their mother and was drunk all the time or left them to fend for themselves for days. While it is a hard film to watch, there are some bright spots that the documentary shines its light on, including the loving and kind staff that take an interest in each child and try to give them the love they so desperately want and need. Furthermore, a few children are given to foster parents, and both the new parent and the child seem happy about it. Still, watching some of these kids go through so much and the damage that has been caused is heartbreaking. A House Made of Splinters is incredibly worthy of its Academy Award nomination and should be seen, though you will need a good cry afterwards. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again A House Made of Splinters Website Now in select theatres and available for rent on iTunes.
Indiefest: Bruiser (2022) Darious (Jalyn Hall) is a fourteen-year-old boy who always seems angry. His parents, Malcolm (Shamier Anderson) and Monica (Shinelle Azoroh), have sent him to a private school so Darious can get the best education they can afford. The problem is that Darius doesn’t fit in with the rich kids and constantly gets beat up. Darious then meets a charismatic and muscular drifter named Porter (Trevante Rhodes), who promises to change Darious’s life. But Porter is holding on to a secret that will shatter the world of Darious and his family. This is a film where every character has flaws, some out in the open and others hidden away, only to rear their ugly heads when things get tough. This is a film about masculinity, about feeling like you don’t belong and trying to find someone to connect with. Darious seems to have a great life, but that life is built on a very shaky foundation that easily crumbles when Porter shows up in his life. The film constantly questions what it means to be a parent and how that parent should treat their child. Bruiser is a film that makes you wonder who is right and who is wrong, only to understand in the end that only one thing is sure, the child will suffer. My Rating: Full Price Bruiser Website Now playing on the Hulu platform.
Indiefest: Emily (2022) R The story of Emily Brontë (Emma Mackey), which follows how her life as a rebel and a misfit, full of pain and lost romances, inspired her to write Wuthering Heights. Emma Mackey shines in her portrayal of Emily Bronte and what inspired her to write one of the great British novels. Emily is a complex person who, sometimes, seems incredibly fragile but, at other times, strong and determined. She sees herself as an oddball who doesn’t fit the mold of what others expect from her (especially her father) and hides from dealing with people and situations that she doesn’t want to confront. Emily’s world changes when a new preacher, William Weightman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), comes to town and is hired to tutor Emily in French. The two soon start a forbidden romance that will shake Emily’s world to the core. Emily’s life is also filled with both admiration and sometimes hatred for her sister Charlotte (Alexandra Dowling), who seems to do everything with grace and their father’s constant respect and pride. Emily’s life is also complicated by her brother, Branwell (Fionn Whitehead), who she deeply loves, even though he seems lost in drink and big ideas that never come to fruition. Mackey puts everything on the screen for us to see as Emily strives to make her voice heard while also trying to find love in a relationship that will be doomed. Emily is a film you can get lost in, much like the book her character wrote many years ago. My Rating: Full Price Emily Website Now playing in select theatres.
Weird Credits: From the credits of Cocaine Bear: Bear Performer
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre (2023) R Special agent Orson Fortune (Jason Statham) and his team blackmail one of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars, Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett), into helping them take down an evil arms dealer (Hugh Grant) who has his hands on a deal new weapon that could disrupt the world’s balance of power. From filmmaker Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes (2009), Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) comes a new twist on the secret agent game with a cast that includes Aubrey Plaza, Eddie Madsen, Cary Elwes, and Bugzy Malone. Just Aubrey Plaza as a secret agent alone makes this a film to check out. Operation Fortune Website In theatres on Friday, March 3rd.