Friday, April 21, 2023


My View: Chevalier (2022) PG-13  Chevalier tells the tale of Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Joseph Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), who rose to fame as a child musical prodigy and became a favorite of Marie Antoinette. However, Chevalier’s fame and talent soon made him enemies and caused a falling out with the Queen of France. Joseph decides it is time for a change for France and himself. Kelvin Harrison Jr. is a force of nature in this film, full of bravado and charisma, making the wish that the film’s script was stronger. Harrison Jr. gives us a man with so much confidence that he feels he can overcome any obstacle, even though the world sees him as much less than his talent deserves. I wanted to feel more from the story, needing more emotion from the ending, but it left me lacking that pull I should have felt for the man who poured his heart and soul into his music. I loved that a lot of the music features Chevalier de Saint-Georges music, some of which were lost for years. The film seems more of a skimming of his life instead of letting us know the man and why he felt so passionately about his music. After seeing the movie, I kept thinking about how little we saw of his mother, who, after years of being separated from her child, has been freed after Joseph’s father’s death. We get a few scenes between the two, but those interactions seem too short and shallow, missing a chance to get to know the man through his mother. I felt significantly let down by the ending, with a concert the film has been building for the last hour for. Instead of a rousing scene of music filled with defiance, we get a showdown between our hero and the bad guy who fizzles out into almost nothing. And then to learn that Joseph led a brigade of soldiers during the French Revolution and became a victim of politics again in his last years is disappointing. I would have loved to see some of that on the screen. Still, Chevalier is worth the price of admission for Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s portrayal of a man who defied all the odds to become a legend.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Chevalier Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Beau is Afraid (2023) R  Beau (Joaquin Phoenix) is an extremely anxious man who doesn’t have the best relationship with his overbearing mother. When she dies, Beau embarks on a journey home that will confront his greatest fears and test his sanity. This is an insanely long film that is being shown in the IMAX format. Beau is Afraid is a film that will piss off some people because of a plot which goes back and forth between satire/comedy and drama, with some freaky plot lines that sometimes feel way too drawn out. I loved the first third of this film, as we learn about Beau and the world that he lives in. It’s a world where dead bodies are left to rot in the street. Where it’s not unusual for gunfire to ring out in the middle of the night, and a man who is naked and stabbing people in the streets has become a celebrity who’s stabbings have become a running tab on the local news. All this has caused Beau to become afraid of everything and everyone, though, to be honest, just walking through his neighborhood is like walking through a wasteland of druggies, crazies, and death. Beau is controlled by both his therapist and his mother. Things fall apart when Beau is supposed to visit his mother, but his ticket, keys, and suitcase are stolen before he can even get out of the door of his apartment. It gets worse when he finds out his mother, seeming to be his reason for living, is dead and can’t be buried until he goes home. The death puts Beau on a journey like Ulysses going on his Odyssey. Joaquin Phoenix gives us a multi-layered performance that, at times, is a blast to watch. The supporting cast, including Amy Ryan, Patti LuPone, Parker Posey, and Nathan Lane, give us some outstanding portrayals of the strange and quirky people that Beau meets on his journey. I feel the film fell apart for me in the last hour, as it never found the flow or the humor of the first third of the movie displayed. The final third of the film feels like a bad Oedipus complex plot that fizzles out with an ending that can only be described as a huge letdown. Fans of filmmaker Ari Aster, who loved Midsommar and Hereditary, might find this film an adventure in weirdness, but I just found that after three hours, I didn’t care anymore about whether Beau was still afraid.  My Rating: Cable  Beau is Afraid Website  Now playing in theatres, including IMAX

My View: Evil Dead Rise (2023) R  Beth (Lily Sullivan) might be pregnant and is uncertain about what to do. She decides to go to L.A. and visit her sister Ellie (Alyssa Echols), who she hasn’t seen in forever. Ellie and her three children live in an apartment building that is about to be torn down. When the kids discover an old record, it unleashes demons who will soon create a nightmare version of a family imaginable. First, if you get queasy at the sight of blood, stay away from this film. The film is a bloodfest and, as you can imagine, also quite gory. The film is one of the better horror/possession films I’ve seen in the past few years. There are plenty of scares, almost from the film’s start, and it rarely goes for the jump-out-of-the-dark type of scare. The movie is a continuation of the Evil Dead series, but if you haven’t seen any of the films (and that’s a shame), all you need to know is there is a book that unleashes terrible things that go bump in the night. Or should I say, stab in the night. Lily Sullivan makes a great hero that handles battling the demons with the best of them. If you are a fan of the series, there is a fun salute to the early films during the ultimate battle. And yes, there is sure to be more. You can’t keep the evil book down too long.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Evil Dead Rise Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Ghosted (2023)  PG-13  Cole (Chris Evans) has met Sadie (Ana de Armas) and fallen hard for her after just one date. Before they can decide on a second date, Cole finds out that Sadie is a secret agent, and suddenly they are off on an international adventure to save the world. I am a big fan of Ana de Armas. In fact, I have stated that after her performance in No Time to Die (2021), I want her to break some sacred ground and be the next 007. In this, she plays a CIA agent, though when Cole awkwardly flirts with her, he doesn’t know that. They get along so well (one of those dates that last forever, in a good way) that Cole over-texts her in the next few days. He finds out that she is in London and decides to surprise her, but that’s a big mistake, as he becomes involved in an attempt to buy a weapon of destruction on the mass market. Cole soon learns Sadie isn’t who she said she was, and his life is in danger. I had fun with this film as it turns the tables on Chris Evans in that now he is the one who constantly needs rescuing and is kind of a wimp (though, as his father says, he wrestled in high school). There are some fun cameos, and the action sequences prove my point that de Armas can handle the heavy action lifting with cool and grace. Evans and de Armas have good chemistry on the screen, and they play off each other with some great comedic timing. Adrien Brody is a competent bad guy with a little side of sleaze, and the final fight is an excellent take on those impossible action films of the past. So go on a second date with a spy and a guy that used to wrestle in high school.   My Rating: Full Price  Ghosted Website Now playing on the Apple TV+ platform.

My View: Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant (2023) R  U.S. Army Sergeant John Kinley (Jake Gyllenhaal) is alive because his Afghan interpreter, Ahmed (Dar Salim), risked his life to carry John to safety after an ambush during the war in Afghanistan. After returning to the U.S., John finds out that Ahmed and his family have not been given safe passage to America as promised; John must repay his debt and return to the war zone before the Taliban hunts down Ahmed. I’m not a big Guy Ritchie film, who in the past has relied too much on flashy camera work and arty editing to make his movies feel like one long music video. This film is different because Ritchie lets the characters tell the story, holding shots and allowing the action to flow. The film is a good, old-fashioned war story of two men who learn to trust each other, depend on each other, and risk their lives so that both will survive. Gyllenhaal’s John Kinley is a soldier’s soldier who is loved by his men and respected by his commanding officers. Kinley doesn’t let outsiders into his group because getting his soldiers home is his job. Into this mix comes Ahmed, a translator who has a reputation for causing trouble. Soon, John learns Ahmed is one to be trusted, and that trust is paid back when Ahmed risks everything to save John from certain death. The rest of the film is a journey of survival, with Ahmed saving John and then John returning to do the same for Ahmed and his family. The Covenant is a thrilling war film that lets you understand the men fighting the battles and why they are determined to do everything they can to protect each other. It’s a suspenseful journey that will keep you on the edge of your seat for the whole film. All I can say is, Guy Ritchie, I wish you had figured out this method of filmmaking a long time ago.   My Rating: Full Price The Covenant Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: A Tourist’s Guide to Love (2023)   After a nasty breakup with her boyfriend, John (Ben Feldman), Amanda (Rachael Leigh Cook) takes an assignment to go undercover and learn about the tourist industry in Vietnam. Amanda meets her guide Sinh (Scott Ly), who convinces her to throw away her guidebook and become an adventurer. Soon Amanda forgets about John until he expectably shows up. This is your ordinary, run-of-the-mill romance movie, except it’s not because it does something that other films of this type don’t. It goes off the beaten path, taking us on a journey to explore and enjoy a different country and culture. A Tourist’s Guide to Love is a beautiful film about a tourist guide company that makes it their mission to show the people they are giving the tour to more than just the famous sites. Now, this film fits all the tropes of romance films: the breakup of a long-time couple with the woman deciding to take a chance and enjoy life and be open to a new relationship while she hides a secret from the same romantic possibility, and then, of course, the old boyfriend shows up to muddle up the new relationship. Still, we get to see Vietnam from the eyes of people who love the country and want others to explore its beauty and get to know its people for more than a war that happened 40-plus years ago. So, hop onto the tour bus and go on a trip off the beaten path with a bit of romance to spice things up.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  A Tourist's Guide to Love Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

My View: To Catch a Killer (2023) R  A talented but troubled police officer, Eleanor Falco (Shailene Woodley), is recruited by the FBI’s chief investigator, Geoffrey Lammark (Ben Mendelsohn), to join his task force to help catch a murderer who is terrorizing the city. This is a crime thriller to find a mass-murdering killer who doesn’t seem to have a motive or a pattern, making the job of the FBI that much harder to stop the killing. The film works because of Woodley, who plays a cop who wants to become more than just a street cop but has already been passed over by the FBI because of her past. Eleanor is picked up by FBI agent Lammark because of a chance encounter where he sees something in Eleanor that convinces him she will help find the killer. Woodley gives us a woman who is tormented by her past and has had to settle for finding safety and security in the police force, even though she wants more. The film slows down a bit in the final third, making the plot seem weak in the film’s conclusion. I will say this; I would love to see another movie with this lead character moving forward, solving more crimes while still dealing with her past.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  To Catch a Killer Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Indiefest: Gringa (2023)   Marge (Jess Gabor), who hates her life and, after discovering that her long-lost dad (Steve Zahn) is living in Mexico, runs away to visit the father she has never known. They will learn that a family can be put back together, even if all they have is each other. When tragedy hits Marge, she travels to Mexico and meets the father she never knew. Marge is someone who has never fit in, who uses food and being anti-social to mask her insecurities and feelings of not belonging. Her long-lost father, Jackson, spends his days surfing, doing odd jobs for the local church, and then drinking his nights away. When Marge shows up, Jackson lets her stay as long as she doesn’t get in his way of drinking. Jackson’s only job is to coach a woman’s soccer team, and Marge reluctantly becomes part of the team, all the while also meeting and falling in love with a local surfer. The film lets Zahn showcase what an effortless grace and charm he has on the screen as a lovable but flawed person who made some mistakes in his life and continues to beat himself up for those mistakes. Jess Gabor has a liable presence on the screen, and you instantly root for her to find love and happiness. It will be a bit of a bumpy ride, but this father and daughter will have time to find their place in each other’s lives.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Gringa Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Indiefest: Somewhere in Queens (2022) R  Leo and Angela (Ray Romano and Laurie Metcalf) have a son named Matthew (Jacob Ward), who everyone calls Sticks. Sticks is a wonderful son but is very shy and reserved. Sticks is the star of his basketball team, and his parents find out that Sticks also has a girlfriend, Dani (Sadie Stanley). Things are looking up when Sticks gets interest from a college when his girlfriend suddenly breaks up with him. Leo will try everything to get Sticks that scholarship, even if it means begging Dani to take Sticks back. This film is about a close-knit Italian family where you know what your future holds; marry a local girl, have kids, and work in the family business. Leo, when he finds out that his son, nicknamed Sticks, has an unexpected chance to get a basketball scholarship to a school, he sees this as a way for his son to get out of his shadow and out from under the control of his family. The performances make this film work, as Romano does a masterful job as Leo, who is tired of being the low man on the family totem pole and wants more for his son. Laurie Metcalf’s performance is both funny and touching, as the glue that holds the family together while having the chance that the cancer she fought so hard to defeat could come back. I loved the relationship between the shy, quiet Sticks, played by Jacob Ward, and the outgoing, full-of-life Dani, played by Sadie Stanley. Dani is a free spirit who falls for Sticks but knows that if Sticks is going to come out of his shell, he has to break away from the comfort and predictability of the life his family has picked for him. Somewhere in Queens, directed by Ray Romano, is one of those small, funny, warm family films that used to be made all the time in Hollywood but doesn’t fit the mold of the now big-budget superhero picture. So see this funny, touching film about a family that cares about each other, even if it means they will have to let someone go.   My Rating: Full Price  Somewhere in Queens Website  Now playing in select theatres. 
Little Richard: I Am Everything (2023)   Documentary about the man, the myth, and the legend, Little Richard. A man who almost single-handedly started the Rock n Roll craze of the 50s. He was a hitmaker in the 50s/60s who quit to become a preacher, then came back to rock, but he never felt he got the credit or awards that he deserved. This is a fascinating film that lets Little Richard tell his own story through interviews and footage. I loved learning about the early days of Little Richard and how his on-stage persona was started and refined through the years. A man who was misunderstood and never quite found the peace that he desired. Much like Little Richard’s career, the last third of the film doesn’t quite live up to the first two-thirds of the film, but what is in that first part is fantastic and brilliant, just like Little Richard himself. You may think you know the man, the rock legend, but I guarantee you don’t. Not until you watch this film.   My Rating: Full Price  Little Richard: I Am Everything Website  Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.
Showing Up (2022)  R  Lizzy (Michelle Williams) is a ceramics sculptor living in Portland, Oregon. Her parents are both artists (Maryann Plunkett and Judd Hirsch) and are separated. Lizzy has a show coming up, and it doesn’t help that her landlord (Hong Chau) also has two shows coming up but seems to handle everything without a care. Life often gets in the way of art, and Lizzy isn’t handling it very well. I saw this film on the first weekend of the Atlanta Film Festival with a packed house. Directed by Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy (2008), Certain Woman (2016), and First Cow (2019)), Showing Up is a dry, slow walk (not run) that delves into the world of art and the people that make that art. Now, this isn’t your fast-paced look at the New York art world and its famous artists. Instead, the film is a look at a world where art is personal, and its world centers around small shows in tiny galleries or public art spaces. Lizzy is a ceramics sculptor who makes small figurines depicting primarily women. Her landlord, Jo (Jong Chau), is a vastly more successful artist, who creates big, flashy art pieces and lords it over Lizzy, constantly talking about her not just one, but two openings that she is busy with. This is what Reichardt does so well, creates complex characters yet also can seem, at first glance, simple. Michelle Williams portrays Lizzy as a person who doesn’t like confrontation, leaving voicemails complaining about her hot water situation, even though Jo lives right next door. Williams is brilliant as Lizzy, a woman who just seems to float from one scene to another, never causing much of a footprint for her character, who seems down all the time, but no one seems to notice or even care. For Lizzy, an act of defiance and frustration is to tear up a flower in Jo’s garden. Williams’ Lizzy is a woman who is right in place in this strange little world of creating art, where her biggest crisis is when a faulty kiln slightly chars an art piece. Lizzy briefly gets upset, but after a quick note of dismay, she goes on to show the work in her opening because that’s what Lizzy does. Showing Up is a film with a low-key performance about a woman who is about as low-key as one can get.   My Rating: Full Price   Showing Up Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: Party Girl (1995) R  Mary (Parker Posey) is a free spirit who lives for a party. She spends her nights on the dance floor, holding house parties and going to raves. After Mary is arrested for throwing an underground rave, her grandmother bails her out, and in order to pay her back, Mary must work at her grandmother’s library. It’s going to be a wake-up call for this ‘Party Girl.’ Parker Posey is adorable as a modern-day version of Holly Golightly, a party girl who doesn’t seem to care about anybody or anything, except her designer clothes. Shot in 16mm and one of the first films to be released online, this film has been newly restored using the original prints to make the movie look like it did when it was wowing crowds at the 95 Sundance Film Festival. Posey is so much fun to watch as she bops around town, trying to pick up the falafel guy, while trying to find ways to pay the rent. So put on your dancing shoes and get ready to spin a few tunes with Mary, the definitive Party Girl.   My Rating: Full Price  Party Girl is available in a limited edition Blu-Ray from Fun City Editions

Weird Credits: From the credits of Chevalier: Candle Boys

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Hypnotic (2023) R  A detective (Ben Affleck) is investigating a string of high-end heists while trying to find his missing daughter. Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi (1992), Spy Kids (2001), Grindhouse (2007)), there has been buzz about this film since a rough-cut premiered at this year’s SXSW Film Festival.  Hypnotic Info  The film will be released in mid-May 2023.

Until Next Time!

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