Friday, March 31, 2023

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

My View: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) PG-13 A charming thief (Chris Pine) and a band of unlikely adventurers are hired to retrieve a lost relic. However, things go dangerously wrong when they run afoul of some bad people who want the relic and its power. I loved this film because it just has fun. D&D has fun with Pine gathering a motley crew, with the fact that, like the game, things keep changing at a moment’s notice, and fun because the cast is having a blast. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves works because of the charisma and charm of Chris Pine, the badass butt-kicking that Michelle Rodriguez does, and the ultimate scene stealer in Hugh Grant. The film moves at a quick pace, so fast that a few times I went ‘what just happened,’ and the laughs kept coming throughout the film. I kept thinking that Billy Crystal was going to show up in his Miracle Max outfit because he would have fit right in. Yeah, it has a few plot holes and an ending that doesn’t quite make sense, but that’s ok because it was a blast to watch. And by the way, stay through the first ending credits for a quick, funny scene to round out your screening.   My Rating: Full Price  Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Spinning Gold (2023) R  The story of Neil Bogart (Jeremy Jordan), who, against the odds, created the record label Casablanca Records, home of the iconic musical acts of the 70s, including Donna Summer, Kiss, the Village People, the Isley Brothers and Gladys Knight and the Pips. Neil Bogart was an amazing record executive with an ear for finding new talent and knowing how to get the most out of them. Unfortunately, this film doesn’t do his story justice. Timothy Scott Bogart, Neil’s son, wrote and directed the film, and it feels like it. Over two hours, the film focuses on Bogart’s struggles to succeed in the record business, with the last hour spent on how Bogart’s Casablanca Records was a colossal failure at the start, with bands like KISS and singers like Donna Summer not selling any records. The film is full of songs sung by the actors, including a ton of songs sung by Jeremy Jordan. Bogart wanted to be a singer (he had a small one-hit wonder song in the 60s), and the film constantly has Bogart sing his way into sessions with other artists. The film is sloppily done, with several scenes done in front of a very obvious green screen. The film constantly brings in Bogart’s father (played by Jason Isaacs), reminding us every time that Neil’s father was a man who had a gambling problem and was always looking to his son for a handout, scenes that the film could easily done without. I found the film boring and the dialogue tedious. There are a few fun scenes in the film, including a couple of KISS concert scenes and a recording session when Donna Summer recorded her disco hit ‘Love to Love You Baby’ while on the floor, moaning into the mic. I would have loved more of the story of the successes of Bogart and less of how he was a failure in both his marriage to his wife and his first years at his beloved Casablanca.   My Rating: Cable  Spinning Gold Website  Now playing in select theatres.  

My View: Tetris (2023) R  Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) discovers a game named Tetris at a gaming convention in Japan. Henk learns that a man named Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov) invented it in Russia. Henk gambles everything he owns to try to buy the rights to the game, but that means going to Russia during the fall of the Soviet Union and dealing with not only the world of organized crime but the KGB. Part story of an overly optimistic salesman and part spy film with a couple of chases in it, Tetris is a fun ride about how somehow, someway, an American businessman could outsmart and outplay the Russians for the rights to what became one of the world’s most popular video games. Taron Egerton is hilarious as Henk, a man who thinks he can talk anyone into anything and usually does. It’s an unbelievable true story of one man taking on what seems like the whole KGB and the Soviet Union government to get the rights to a game invented on a computer that was even old in the 70s. The supporting cast is a lot of fun, including Toby Jones as a businessman caught up in the middle of this war over the game and Sofya Lebedeva, an innocent translator who becomes part of Henk’s team to win the contract. So, warm up your GameBoys and go on an adventure to win with Henk on his quest to win this game against the bad guys of the KGB.   My Rating: Full Price   Tetris Website  Now playing on the Apple TV+ platform.

Indiefest: A Thousand and One (2023) R Inez (Teyana Taylor) is a single mom who has lost custody of her son, Terry. Inez, desperate to stay connected with her son, kidnaps him from the foster-care system, and they set out to make a family home for themselves. This movie is about broken people trying to give their child a better life. It’s about the bond between a mother and her child. It’s about what a mother will do and endure to make sure that child survives and flourishes, no matter who the mother hurts to accomplish that. Teyana Taylor gives a beautiful, heartfelt, and punishing performance as Inez, a woman who wants more for her child than she ever had herself. It’s a challenging and sometimes almost savage role because we don’t always like Inez, but somehow we know that what she is doing, she feels in her heart that it’s the right thing. Through the eyes of Inez and her son, we see life in Harlem and how it changes through the years, both for good and bad. A Thousand and One is a powerful film that will have you talking about it long after the credits are finished.   My Rating: Full Price  A Thousand and One Website   Now playing in select theatres. 

Indiefest: Rye Lane (2023) R  Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah) meet at a photography exhibit and instantly connect. They will spend the night talking and exploring the London neighborhood of Peckham and realize that their past bad relationships give them a lot to talk about. This is a delightful tale about two people who have a strange ‘meet cute’ at an exhibit and get along so well that they spend the day/night together talking, exploring, and involving themselves in each other’s lives. Dom and Yas are two characters you will like almost from the get-go (though Dom’s intro is slightly cringy). David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah have incredible chemistry together, making their flirting seem natural and enjoyable. Vivian Oparah is a bundle of energy and plays off of Jonsson’s reserved and shy Dom exceptionally well. I loved seeing parts of London that a tourist wouldn’t see as Dom and Yas explored the streets of everyday life, going to shops and local restaurants along the way. Rye Lane is one of those charming, lovely films that makes you feel good after seeing it. So go on a date with these two as they get over past relationships and forge a new one, all in one long day.  My Rating: Full Price   Rye Lane Info Now playing in select theatres.

My View: Murder Mystery 2 (2023) PG-13 Your favorite sleuths, Nick (Adam Sandler) and Audrey (Jennifer Aniston), return to solve another mystery. As they struggle to get their private eye agency off the ground, they are invited to a remote island to see their friend, The Maharaja (Adeel Akhtar), get married. Nick and Audrey soon find themselves at the center of a mystery when The Maharaja is kidnapped, and everyone at the wedding is a suspect. I’ve said this before. Adam Sandler is an actor who frustrates me to no end. He can do extraordinary work (Uncut Gems, Hustle, Punch-drunk Love, Spanglish) and absolute crap (Grown Ups, Jack and Jill, Blended). Sandler makes the crappy films so that he and his buddies (which now includes Aniston) can go make a movie while they enjoy the sights. This is one of the latter. You know you are in trouble when one of the jokes is that The Maharaja is so wealthy that he can have diapers on the animals on his island. Sandler plays a former cop who has gone into the private eye business with his wife after successfully solving the murders in the first Murder Mystery movie. Nick is such an annoying, self-centered person you wonder how he ever got Audrey to marry him, much less why she would stay with him. The plot is stupid, the jokes are horrible, and the characters are annoying. I only kept watching this film because I am a huge fan of Mélanie Laurent, who plays the fiancé of The Maharaja. Sure hope everyone enjoyed their time in Paris and their paychecks. I didn’t enjoy my time watching this film.   My Rating: Cable  Murder Mystery 2 Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Smoking Causes Coughing (2022) The group of costume-wearing vigilantes called the ‘tobacco forces’ are falling apart. To rebuild their team spirit, their leader suggests they meet for a week-long retreat before returning to save the world. However, the evil Lizardin is planning to destroy our heroes and then take out the whole human race. Can the tobacco forces get it together long enough to save the world? This strange and fun little film is a cross between Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and a horror film. Our heroes are all named after their superpowers. They all can give the bad guys cancer by shooting off fumes of the properties of cigarettes: Benzene, Nicotine, Ammonia, Methanol, and Mercury. When we first encounter our heroes, they are fighting a giant monster-like creature they defeat by blowing it up into bloody pieces by shooting their smoke at it. Their leader is a rat that constantly drools and is a playboy and only talks to them via a video phone. The gang is sent to a retreat to reconnect with each other, and there they tell each other scary stories around the campfire. I enjoyed this weird, campy film that has one of the worst bad guys ever. This is one of those films that would be great to see as a midnight showing at a film festival or a college campus. Be sure to stay through all the credits for a bonus scene.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Smoking Causes Coughing Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Enys Men (2022)   Set in 1973 on an uninhabited island off the Cornish coast, a wildlife volunteer (Mary Woodvine) goes out daily to observe a rare flower. However, she is soon visited by ghosts from the past, which makes her question what is real and what is a nightmare. I loved the look and feel of this film as it was shot on 16mm, with an aspect ratio of 4:3 (think almost box-like), and is sometimes overexposed or has scratches on it. What I didn’t like about the film is that it has virtually no plot, and if you are looking for some sort of horror or suspense film, you will not find it here. The film has brief dialogue scenes, and other than when the volunteer is visited by ghosts of the past; it’s all about her exploring the island and doing everyday things like making tea or reading. It’s a story about a woman in an isolated place whose mind unravels (though we don’t know why, possibly a tragic event in her past). Enys Men isn’t a film for everyone; some will be bored by it, but I enjoyed the movie’s camerawork/cinematography, which kept me interested and engaged.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Enys Men Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Forgotten Film: Heavy (1995) R Things have been the same for a long time at ‘Pete and Dolly’s,’ a restaurant/bar. Dolly (Shelley Winters) is the owner. Her son Victor (Taylor Vince) is the tavern’s pizza chef, and Delores (Deborah Harry) is the longtime waitress. Adding to the usual mix is Leo (Joe Grifasi), the local barfly with a crush on Delores. In walks Callie (Liv Tyler), who comes to work at the tavern and quickly changes the dynamics of the place. Heavy is a wonderful character-driven film about people who are set in their ways and who are introduced to a person who takes them out of their ruts. However, the regulars aren’t the only ones changed, so is Callie for working there, which makes this film special.   My Rating: Full Price   Heavy Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Tetris: Prosthetic Eyebrows

Coming Soon to Screen Near You: Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 (2023) PG-13 Still hurting from the loss of Gamora, Peter/Star-lord (Chris Pratt) and his team are adjusting to life on Knowhere when parts of Rocket’s past resurface. In order to protect him, the Guardians must go on a dangerous mission that could lead to the team disbanding forever. I love this series and can’t wait to see this one. I think we could see some more deaths on the team.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Website The film releases in theatres in early May.  

Until Next Time!

Friday, March 24, 2023

John Wick: Chapter 4

My View: John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023) R  Your favorite butt kicker, John Wick (Keanu Reeves), is back, and he has uncovered a path to defeat The High Table. However, before he can get back to earning his freedom, there is a new enemy that Wick must defeat. An enemy with powerful alliances across the globe and has ways to make old friends into foes. Well, it isn’t very often that a sequel is better than the original. It’s almost impossible for the 4th film of a series to be better than the first one, but John Wick: Chapter 4 does it. With brilliant fight sequences and a fun and not-too-complicated plot, this film is better than the first, which was damn good. Don’t wait to see this on your home TV. See it on a big screen to let the stunts and the gunfights wash over you with abandon. I love how Reeves has perfected the invincible Wick, making him an everyman you root for. Added to the cast are some fun additions, including Shamier Anderson as a new assassin (with a dog sidekick) and the villain of the story, the man driving the plot, and the Marquis de Gramont, played by Bill Skarsgard. Along the way, we still have Ian McShane and the late great Lance Reddick as your helpful hotel guides. The film is long but moves at such a quick pace that you won’t notice the length, which the final action sequence starting around 45 minutes to go until the end. There are a ton more fun and exciting characters, but I don’t want to ruin all the surprises. And yes, stick around through all the credits to see a bonus scene. So put on your Kevlar suit, load up your trusty sidearm, and join John Wick in a battle to end all battles. Or is it?   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again.  John Wick: Chapter 4 Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: A Good Person (2023) R  Alison’s (Florence Pugh) life has fallen apart after being involved in a fatal accident. With the help of her mother (Molly Shannon) and her would-be father-in-law, Daniel (Morgan Freeman), Alison slowly turns her life around, but not before a lot of pain is dealt with. Florence Pugh rises above a script that takes too long to develop and gives us a too-good-to-be-true ending. Pugh is perfect in the role of a woman full of guilt and wants to stay numb so that she doesn’t have to deal with anything. In one of his best performances of the last few years, Morgan Freeman is terrific as the father-in-law who now has to deal with a granddaughter (Celeste O’Connor) who has lost her parents. Through a chance encounter at an AA meeting, Alison and Daniel help each other heal, but it’s not an easy road to go down for either of them. I also loved Molly Shannon as Alison’s mom, who loves her daughter but does not know how to deal with her daughter’s addiction or pain. I loved that in both of Alison’s relationships, there isn’t an easy way to heal, and with Daniel, it’s a rough road with plenty of potholes. Maybe we, along with Alison, should have had to work a little harder to understand her pain and how damaged she is. Instead, it’s all kind of laid out for us.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  A Good Person Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Indiefest: Rodeo (2022)   Julia (Julie Ledru) is a young woman who has a troubled life, living in social housing and having almost no relationship with her mother. She loves motocross and will do anything, including stealing bikes, to ride. She becomes part of a bike theft ring when an accident jeopardizes her ability to fit in. Ledru plays a character in Julia that is hard to like. Julia is a tough-as-nails woman trying to fit in with a rough crowd and therefore doesn’t let anyone near her. She rejects most people, constantly has a scowl on her face, and is ready for a fight at a moment’s notice. However, Julia has a flaw. She is way over her head in with the biker crowd and thinks she can bluff her way out of anything. Unfortunately, she doesn’t always figure out when to run or stop bluffing, which gets her into trouble. Rodeo is a film in that we never get to know the characters that well, and when the movie ends, it is very abrupt, much like Julia herself.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Rodeo Website  Now playing in select theatres.
The Lost King (2022) PG-13  An amateur historian, Philippa (Sally Hawkins), learns that no one knows where King Richard III’s remains are buried. Philippa goes on a quest to find where King Richard’s remains are, defying the stodgy academic establishment. She has a little help; the ghost of King Richard III. Based on a true story, Sally Hawkins is perfect as Philippa, a woman determined to find Richard’s grave and won’t give up, no matter the odds. Hawkins is utterly charming as she battles bureaucracy and her fragile health. Working on a feeling, lots of research, and an occasional visit from King Richard himself, Philippa is convinced she has found the final resting place. Now if Philippa can convince the world. I really liked this film about beating the odds and believing in yourself and, maybe, a five hundred-year-old king.   My Rating: Full Price  The Lost King Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Forgotten Film: The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) R  It’s 1949 in a small town in California, and Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) is the 2nd barber in a two-man shop. Ed gets wind of a chance to make money in dry cleaning and decides to blackmail the man (James Gandolfini) who is having an affair with Ed’s wife, Doris (Frances McDormand). Things, of course, go wrong, with double and triple crosses, jail, and lots of bad luck. The film is shot in black and white by masters of the modern-day film noir, the Coen brothers. While not their best work, this is still a marvelous film to watch with a cast that knows how to make every scene work.  My Rating: Full Price  The Man Who Wasn't There Info     The film is available to rent or buy on iTunes and Amazon.

Weird Credits: From the Credits of John Wick: Chapter 4: Horse Team Translator

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Paint (2023) PG-13  Carl Nargle (Owen Wilson) is Vermont’s number-one public television painter, adored by his fans. He has it all with a signature perm, a custom van, a rocking studio, and a TV show where everyone watches his every stroke. Then a new painter comes to town, a woman named Ambrosia (Ciara Renée), and it all comes crashing down. The legendary PBS painter Bob Ross inspired Owen Wilson’s character, Carl Nargle.  Paint Website   The film opens nationwide on Friday, April 7th.

Until Next Time!

Friday, March 17, 2023

Shazam! Fury of the Gods

My View: Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023) PG-13  Billy Batson (Zachary Levi / Asher Angel) and his foster siblings, who transform into superheroes by saying “Shazam,” are still learning to control their powers. The gang will have to grow up quickly as they take on the Daughters of Atlas, who want to use a weapon that could destroy the world. I liked the first Shazam! movie, primarily because of the humor (something that DC films at the time sorely lacked). And there is plenty of humor in this one also, but it sometimes feels forced (there is a Skittles tie-in that feels wrong and out of place). This film focuses more on the rest of the kids and how they are handling being superheroes. Billy, as the leader, is not doing a great job, and the rest of the Shazam crew is starting to resist him. In walks some bad guys in the form of the Daughters of Atlas (Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu), who want revenge or to take over the world or to destroy Shazam. Frankly, I was confused about exactly what the evil duo wanted and why they did what they did with their evil bad guy ways. And that’s the problem with this film. The filmmakers keep throwing things into the plot to fill some screen time. Even the ending with a weird but predictable cameo seems almost thrown in. Rachel Zegler is a welcome addition to the cast as a love interest for Billy’s best friend Freddy, but it’s not enough to save what may be the last of the Shazam! films (due to a new regime at DC). And yes, there are two bonus scenes, one at the very end of the credits, but I doubt we will ever see what happens after those teases.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Shazam! Fury of the Gods Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Moving On (2022) R  Claire (Jane Fonda) and Evelyn (Lily Tomlin) reconnect at a funeral and decide to get revenge on the widower (Malcolm McDowell) who messed with them decades before. Now, how should they kill him? This is one of those films where the actors are fun to watch even though the movie itself isn’t much. The film deals with some serious problems, some of which have been buried in the past, but the film never can find its footing or tone. The film lets Fonda and Tomlin enjoy their chemistry on the screen, but the script is so weak that it seems the director thought just pointing the camera at the two pros would be enough to carry the film along. It’s not, even when you throw in Richard Roundtree and Malcolm McDowell into the cast. I was thankful that the film was a short 85 minutes because any longer would have worn out its welcome.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Moving On Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Indiefest: Inside (2023) R  Inside takes place when a high-end art thief (Willem Dafoe) breaks into an ultra-high security New York Penthouse to steal some paintings, but the heist doesn’t go off as planned, and now the thief is locked inside with no way out. Inside is a movie that, much like its main character, will test the limits of how much we can endure. The film is an hour and forty-five minutes of Willem Dafoe locked in an apartment…for months. It’s a film about survival and possibly madness (some of what we experience is either real or in the thief's mind), but it felt to me more like a challenge to the audience on how much you can stand of seeing one man suffer for what seems like an eternity. I got bored by the film at about the 30-minute point, and several of my fellow film critics had to take a few minutes outside the theatre to gear up for the rest of the film. By the way, they missed nothing. Look, I love Willem Dafoe, but I didn’t love this film. In fact, I hated it.   My Rating: Cable  Inside Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Indiefest: Return to Seoul (2022) R Freddie (Park Ji-min) is a twenty-five-year-old French woman who returns to Korea, the country she was born in before being adopted by a French couple. It’s Freddie’s first time in Korea, and she decides to track down her biological parents. It’s a decision that will change Freddie’s life forever. For better or worse. This film is about trying to find answers, some of which may never be found. We follow Freddie as she starts out as a happy-go-lucky woman who, on a whim, decides to find her birth parents. We follow her on her journey and see how this quest affects her, changing her life and what her goals once were. This beautiful performance by Park Ji-min gives us a character that is hard to get to know, only letting us in a few peeks at a time. Return to Seoul is a compelling movie that asks a lot of questions and doesn’t always give you an answer.   My Rating: Full Price  Return to Seoul Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Familyfaire: The Magician’s Elephant (2023) PG Peter (Noah Jupe) has been searching for his long-lost sister when he encounters a fortune teller who tells him to find a mysterious elephant and the magician who will conjure it. The prophecy sets Peter off on a journey where he will have to complete three seemingly impossible tasks. However, Peter is determined to complete the tasks and find his sister. I liked this animated tale about never giving up hope and following your dreams, even when success seems unlikely. It’s a magical tale that families will enjoy that is told with charm, laughter, and a bit of whimsy. I especially loved the elephant aspect of the film, as Peter isn’t the only character in the story that dreams of being reunited with a loved one. The Magician’s Elephant is a story about the importance of family and how to never give up on a dream, no matter the odds.   My Rating: Full Price  The Magician's Elephant Website  Now available on the Netflix platform. 

My View: Boston Strangler (2023) R  The film tells the story of Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley), a reporter in a time when women only wrote about fashion and high society, who first connected the murders of women in the city of Boston with a serial killer known as The Boston Strangler. I enjoyed this old-fashioned caper film where two reporters smell a story brewing and won’t let go. Carrie Coon plays the hard-nosed reporter, Jean Cole, who takes Loretta under her wing and guides her when she needs it. Loretta has the drive, persistence, and talent to flesh out a story when no one else notices that women are being murdered in Boston at an alarming rate. This was before CSI and DNA, when luck solved crimes more than hard work or science. Keira Knightley gives us a character willing to go the extra mile, even if it means sacrificing her personal life to get the story. Boston Strangler is a story from the 1960s that is still full of mystery and continues to captivate an audience.  My Rating: Full Price  Boston Strangler Website  Now playing on the Hulu platform. 

Forgotten Film: 3 A.M. (2001)   The story of three cab drivers working on the overnight shift trying to deal with their lives while a serial killer is on the loose. Danny Glover plays a cabbie who can’t commit to his girlfriend (Pam Grier). Sergej Trifunovic is a Bosnian immigrant driver who can’t relinquish his infatuation with a call girl. And Michelle Rodriguez is a cab driver haunted by her past. The film is a little shaky in some of its plot points, but it’s worth seeing for Michelle Rodriguez in her 2nd film role after her brilliant debut in Girlfight (2000). Rodriquez shines on the screen as a woman who thinks a demon is following her because of her killing a man who sexually abused her. It’s a mesmerizing performance that shows that she wasn’t a flash in the pan.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee 3 A.M. Info   Available to rent/buy on

Weird Credits: From the credits of Shazam! Fury of the Gods: Suit Tech

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) PG-13 A charming thief (Chris Pine), and a band of unlikely adventurers are hired to retrieve a lost relic. However, things go dangerously wrong when they run afoul of some bad people, all of who want the relic and its power. The trailer looks like this film will be fun to watch, and it’s always a blast to watch Michelle Rodriguez fight a few bad guys.  Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Website  Film will be in theatres nationwide on Friday, March 31st.

Until Next Time!

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Mike's Fearless 2023 Oscar Picks

These are who I think will win the Academy Awards, not who I think should win.

Best Picture:  Everything Everywhere All At Once

Best Director:  Daniel Kwan & Daniel Schreinert - Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Actor: Austin Butler - Elvis   Could Win:    Brendan Fraser - The Whale

Best Actress: Michelle Yeoh - Everything Everywhere All at Once  Could Win: Cate Blanchett - Tar

Best Supporting Actor: Ke Huy Quan - Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Supporting Actress:  Jamie Lee Curtis - Everything Everywhere All at Once   Could Win: Angela Bassett - Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Best Original Screenplay:  Daniel Kwan & Daniel Schreinert - Everything Everywhere All at Once  Could Win:  Martin McDonagh -  The Banshees of Inisherin

Best Adapted Screenplay: Sarah Polley - Women Talking

  Could Win: Edward Berger, Ian Stokell & Lesley Paterson - All Quiet on the Western Front

Best International PicturesAll Quiet on the Western Front (Germany)

Best Animated FeatureGuillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Best Documentary: Navalny  Could Win:  Fire of Love

Best Original Score:  Volker Bertelmann - All Quiet on the Western Front   Could Win:  Justin Hurwitz - Babylon

Best Original Song: M.M. Keeravaani & Chandrabose, “Naatu Naatu” - RRR   Could Win:   Ryan Coogler, Ludwig Göransson, Rihanna & Tems, “Lift Me Up” - Black Panther: Wakanda Forever 

Best Cinematography:  James Friend - All Quiet on the Western Front   Could Win:    Mandy Walker - Elvis

Best Editing:  Paul Rogers - Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Costume Design: Catherine Martin -  Elvis  Could Win:  Shirley Kurata - Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Production Design:  Catherine Martin, Karen Murphy & Bev Dunn - Elvis   Could Win: Florencia Martin & Anthony Carlino - Babylon 

Best Makeup and HairstylingElvis   Could Win:  The Whale

Best Visual EffectsAvatar: The Way of Water  Could Win:  Top Gun: Maverick

Best Sound: Top Gun: Maverick  Could Win:  Elvis 

Best LIve-Action Short Le Pupille  Could Win:  The Red Suitcase

Best Animated ShortThe Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse    Could Win:  My Year of Dicks

Best Documentary ShortStranger at the Gate   Could Win: The Elephant Whisperers

Friday, March 10, 2023

Scream VI

My View:  Scream VI (2023)  R  It’s been a year since Ghostface killed again in Woodsboro, and some of the survivors have moved to New York City to start a new chapter in their lives. Unfortunately, Ghostface is going to be a part of that too. The Scream films have always been fun because, from the start, they have played with tropes of horror films. The mantle of the steely victim who fights back has been passed from Sidney (Neve Campbell) to Sam (Melissa Barrera). After starring in the first five films, Neve Campbell decided she wanted out after they offered her a salary that she (and frankly, I) felt wasn’t in line with what she was worth to the franchise. Sam is now the target of Ghostface, and Barrera is perfect in the role of the long-lost sister, marked by the internet as a potential killer. Jenna Ortega continues to have fun in the horror genre as Sam’s younger sister, who wants to live her life without Sam constantly keeping a close watch on her. The film is fun, with lots of deaths in the typical fashion of Ghostface calling people on the phone before killing them. There is some controversy early in the film, as Ghostface uses a gun instead of a knife (something Ghostface has never done before), and I wish the filmmakers had addressed it in the movie. Also, I enjoyed the return of Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), a fan favorite from Scream 4. As with all the Scream movies, there are a bunch of clues who Ghostface is this time, and this film revisits all the previous Scream films, making it fun to go down that nightmare lane of past killers. And in the usual Scream fashion, you must ignore that our heroes can miraculously heal to keep fighting or even walk off in the sunset. But don’t fear; Ghostface is sure to return. And there is a small post credit scene after the main credits.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Scream VI Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Champions (2023) PG-13  The court orders a former minor-league basketball coach, Marcus (Woody Harrelson), to manage a team of players with intellectual disabilities. Marcus will soon learn that his players have more to teach him than he will ever teach them. This is one of those films that when you see it, you go, ‘well, that was ok but enjoyable.’ Not a great film in any sense, but because of the supporting cast of the players on the team, it will bring a smile or two to your face. It’s not a very funny film, and because of who directed it (Robert Farrelly of the Farrelly brothers fame), there are a couple of times the humor goes a little too far (fart jokes and projectile vomiting for laughs). However, still, I had a good time watching Harrelson interact with the players. There is the typical plot device of Marcus being forced to coach while knowing that he won’t be here for too long, but little does he know he will fall in love with the players on the team and with one of the player’s sisters (Kaitlin Olson). I loved the final scene at the last basketball game and felt it made Champions conclude on a high note. Be sure to stay during the credits for a fun musical number.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Champions Website   Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: 65 (2023) PG-13 An astronaut, Mills (Adam Driver), is piloting a ship when it crashes on a mysterious planet. Along with the only other survivor of the crash, a young girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), Mills must survive in a hostile world full of giant creatures. You know a movie is in trouble when it feels that it has to explain everything right up front with a lower third. Thanks, I think we figured out that he crashed on Earth back in prehistoric times, before man. And oh, by the way, that meteor that damaged your spaceship might be the cause of the death of the dinosaurs. We get it. The special effects seem almost out of a Godzilla movie, and a plot that is pretty easy to figure out makes for a film that, no matter how hard Adam Driver tries, never gives any thrills or scares. And by the way, one of the worst endings I’ve seen in a long time (I actually laughed out loud at one point).   My Rating: Cable   65 Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Indiefest: The Quiet Girl (2022) PG-13  Cáit (Catherine Clinch) is a young girl who doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere, including in her wildly dysfunctional family. She is sent away to live with foster parents for the summer, and there she discovers a world that will open up for her. It’s a home where affection slowly grows, and there are meant to be no secrets, but Cáit will discover one. Nominated for an Academy Award and to be sure on my top films of the year list, The Quiet Girl is a wonderful and magical film about a young girl who would rather spend time alone in a field than with her family or fellow students. Picked on by both those students and her own family as being strange, she finds a place with her foster family that accepts her the way she is and lets her slowly discover that the world isn’t as scary or mean as she thought it was. Catherine Clinch is brilliant as Cáit, the young girl that walks to the beat of a different drummer. I loved the foster family of the middle-aged relatives (Carrie Crowley and Andrew Bennett) that let Cáit alone to discover that kindness and love do exist. The Quiet Girl is a beautiful and sometimes heart-breaking film about what can happen when a child feels accepted and loved.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   The Quiet Girl Website  Now playing in select theatres.

My View: Chang Can Dunk (2023)  PG  A young Asian-American teen named Chang (Bloom Li) loves basketball but isn’t good enough to make the team. When a school bully makes fun of Chang, and it goes viral, Chang bets the bully that by the end of the football season, he will dunk a basketball. Chang just wants to dunk a ball but ends up learning how to believe in himself. Chang Can Dunk is an enjoyable teen film for the whole family about getting what you want and learning from your mistakes. Bloom Li is fun as the teen who wants to change his image now that he is no longer a freshman in high school, but he soon learns bullies don’t care. When a new girl (Zoe Renee) joins the band and Chang thinks he has lost his chance with her, he challenges the bully (the basketball team’s star player) with a bet that Chang, at 5’8, can dunk a basketball in 10 weeks. What I liked about this film is the event of dunking the basketball is only half the movie, and the consequences of the event make up the second half of the film. Chang Can Dunk is just a fun film with some cool messages along the way for teens and younger kids to learn.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Chang Can Dunk Website Now playing on the Disney+ platform. 

Forgotten Film: The Anniversary Party (2001) R  Ever wondered what attending one of those exclusive parties at a star’s home is like? Well, that’s what The Anniversary Party is. The party is held by Joe and Sally (Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh) to celebrate their on-again, off-again, on-again relationship. He is a director, and she is an actress, and boy, do they have problems. She has left him many times because he sleeps around. However, this time it was because he didn’t cast her in a movie based on her life because he felt she was too old for the part. The film was written and directed by Cumming and Leigh and shot with an early version of a digital camera, giving us an almost fly-on-the-wall look at a Hollywood party. Many of the cast are playing versions of themselves, including Kevin Kline as a former leading man who is no longer getting those roles, Phoebe Cates as his wife who has quit the business to raise their family, Parker Posey as an up-and-coming actress, and Gwyneth Paltrow as an actress who has grown up in the industry. So, pour out a drink and join the party. It’s going to get a little weird.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Anniversary Party Info The film is available to rent on Amazon and iTunes.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Scream VI: Body Track Artist

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Beau is Afraid (2023) I am just going to quote IMBD to describe this movie ‘Following the sudden death of his mother, a mild-mannered but anxiety-ridden man confronts his darkest fears as he embarks on an epic, Kafkaesque odyssey back home.’ This film stars Joaquin Phoenix and is written and directed by Ari Aster, who brought us Hereditary (2018) and Midsommar (2019). That is all you need to know, but watch the mind-blowing trailer to confirm that this will be one trippy movie. Beau is Afraid Website  Coming to theatres in late April. 

Until Next Time!


Friday, March 3, 2023

Creed III

My View: Creed III (2023) PG-13  Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), over the past seven years, has gotten everything he ever dreamed of, with both a career and a family life thriving. However, when a childhood friend (Jonathan Majors) shows up unexpectantly, the past rears its ugly head, and Adonis will have to fight for not only his career but for his life. I loved the first Creed film and feel it is one of the best boxing movies of the genre, right up there with the first Rocky film. The second Creed film was a disappointment that had Sylvester Stallone’s fingerprints all over it. While not on the level of the first Creed, I am happy to say that this third film is still a fine boxing film with an outstanding performance by Jonathan Majors as the bad guy back from Adonis’s past to create a problem that Adonis can’t avoid or deny. Michael B. Jordan directs this film, and I love his emphasis on the relationship between Adonis and his daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent), and how Adonis wants to be the father that he never got. Tessa Thompson is back as Adonis’s wife, Bianca, who, much like Adrian was for Rocky, is Adonis’s sounding board and lets him know when Adonis is going off on the wrong path. Majors is the best thing about this film, a man who, no matter how much he tells you, you know, is a dangerous man with a chip on his shoulder that wants what he thinks has been taken away from him. Every time Majors shows up on the screen, there is a quiet feeling of evil, which explodes into fury when his plan is revealed. The fight sequences are well done, but the scenes between Majors and Jordan before the film’s final fight spark the film and make it work. While not on par with Creed or Rocky, this is still a film to see.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Creed III Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.
My View: 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. If you are a Jason Statham fan, you will enjoy this film, though most of his fighting sequences are done in close quarters and over pretty quickly. Statham isn’t the reason to see this spy romp; It’s the work of Hugh Grant and josh Hartnett that makes this film so enjoyable to watch. Hartnett is hilarious as the dim and ego-driven actor who gets blackmailed into the scheme to infiltrate the inner circle of an international arms dealer who is too slick to be caught. Hartnett milks every scene with an awkward grace that shows some natural comedic timing. However, the film’s real star is Hugh Grant, doing his best Michael Caine impression as an arms dealer who thinks he is the smartest man in the room (and he just might be). Grant’s arms dealer has one chink in his armor. He is a huge Danny Francesco fan, so much so that as soon as Danny shows up, he can not help but invite the star to his private getaway, even though a major deal is about to go down. Grant is slimy while also being a bit of a charmer, making it a blast to watch him chew up scenery in every scene he is in. Operation Fortune is a Guy Ritchie action film with plenty of flash, with little thought to details, but Grant and Hartnett will make you forget that pesky plot and just have some fun.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Operation Fortune Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.
Indiefest: Hunt Her, Kill Her (2022)  Karen (Natalie Terrazzino) is a lone night janitor in a warehouse on the first night of an overnight cleaning job. She finds herself in an unexpected fight for her life when a group of masked intruders break into the warehouse. Can she survive the night, and why are they determined to kill her? This is a film that won a bunch of horror film festival awards, and it deserves it. Unlike many films of this nature, Karen isn’t some former army ranger with a very particular set of skills. Instead, Karen is an ordinary mom stuck in a dangerous situation and is trying to stay alive from a gang of masked men who want her dead. Hunt Her, Kill Her is a thrill ride with some cool moments, including a bad guy death that you won’t soon forget. This is a film that keeps you on the edge of your seat as you hope and pray that Karen can somehow get out of the warehouse alive. While the film doesn’t quite finish what it starts, Hunt Her, Kill Her is a fun ride with a hero that we can all root for.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Hunt Her, Kill Her Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Indiefest: A Little White Lie (2023) R  Shriver (Michael Shannon) is a down-on-his-luck handyman who has never read a book in his life. One day, he is mistaken for a famous reclusive writer who has been in hiding for 20 years. Invited to attend a college literacy festival, Shriver decides to show up and is soon surrounded by fans, including an English professor (Kate Hudson), who shows more than just a passing interest in him. How long can he keep the lie going? This is one of those films you want to love or even like, but it never finds its footing. I love Michael Shannon, and he tries to bring us to understand why this guy would attempt to fool everyone at a book festival, but the film is lost almost from the start. There isn’t any chemistry between Shannon and Hudson, making the reason for Shriver to continue the ruse seem pointless. The film has a twist that is easy to figure out and an ending that seems too much like a full-out comedy, which this isn’t. I have a feeling that the book this is based on is much better than this disappointing rom-com. Or maybe it’s supposed to be a satire. Either way, it doesn’t work.  My Rating; Cable   A Little White Lie Info  Now playing in select theatres. 
My View:
The Donor Party  (2023)   Jaclyn (Malin Akerman) has just gone through a messy divorce and years of bad online dating. Jaclyn realizes she wants to become a mother without a relationship and will do anything to get her baby. Jaclyn and her best friends decide to get her pregnant at a party with someone she doesn’t know. This is a comedy that doesn’t work on many levels. First, Jaclyn wants to have sex with three men on the same night hoping someone will get her pregnant, which is just wrong, but she goes for it. Second, the jokes are few and far between, making the film feel uncomfortable from almost the start. And finally, I didn’t like any character in this film, other than Jaclyn’s best friend Molly (Erinn Hayes), who tries to talk Jaclyn out of this idea but fails. The film feels like most of the dialogue was ad-libbed, which has become a thing for smaller films to do and in this case, it just doesn’t work. The Donor Party is a comedy of errors but the error was every making this film.   My Rating: Cable  The Donor Party Info  Now playing in select theatres and On Demand. 

Forgotten Film: Paradise Road (1997) R  A group of women trying to escape the Japanese invasion of Singapore in 1942 are caught by the Japanese after their transport ship is sunk. Stuck in a POW camp for the duration of the war, the women turn to one thing that can bring hope to their lives: music. The film is based on a true story, and with the cast of Glenn Close, Frances McDormand, Pauline Collins, Cate Blanchett, Julianna Margulies, and Jennifer Ehle, this should have been a magnificent film. Instead, it’s only worth watching for the performances of Glenn Close, as a British musician who starts the choir, and Cate Blanchett as a nurse who tries to keep the women going. Close is brilliant as the fiery Adrienne, who sees music as a way to escape the horrors of war. In one of her first feature film roles, Blanchett shows us a glimpse into what she will become as an actor, giving a moving performance that brings the horror of war to the front. I just wish the script had given this cast more to work with. Paradise Road isn’t a bad film and is worth watching for the performances; it just should have been better.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Paradise Road Info  Available for rent on Amazon or iTunes.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre: Supervising Colorist

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Renfield (2023) R  Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) has spent centuries doing the bidding of his master and would love to find a way out. After a chance meeting where he saves a feisty, perennially angry traffic cop (Awkwafina), he decides to find a way to escape and live a normal life. One problem, his master is Dracula (Nicolas Cage). I can’t wait to see what Cage will do with this role.   Renfield Website Coming to theatres in Mid-April. 

Until Next Time!