My View: The Little Mermaid (2023) PG The youngest daughter of King Triton, Ariel (Halle Bailey), is a mermaid with adventure in her heart. Longing to find out about the world beyond the sea, she falls for the dashing Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King). Desperate to follow her heart, she makes a deal with the evil sea witch, Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), to experience life on land. Be careful of what you wish for. This is the best of the live-action remakes that Disney has done, which, of course, isn’t saying a lot. The problem with the Disney remakes of animated films is that the CGI creatures can’t show emotions as well as the animated characters can, making someone like Sebastian (voiced by Daveed Diggs) seem a little wooden in his performance. There are a few new songs with lyrics written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. One is a solo by Jonah Hauer-King, who plays Prince Eric. The song does an admirable job of giving us background into the character, but the piece falls flat and doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. Also, there is a rap song that Awkwafina does that just seems to make the film stop and doesn’t belong with the rest of the movie’s songs. Halle Bailey has a lovely voice and is extremely likable as Ariel, who longs to discover what being human is like. Melissa McCarthy does a great job as the evil Ursula, though I kept thinking about Pat Carroll, the original Ursula, who should have been nominated for her performance in the animated film. McCarthy makes the role her own and seems to have fun with the troublemaking Ursula. Unlike what I had heard (and seen from stills), the film is bright, with brilliant colors and magical underwater scenes. If you haven’t seen the original, especially for kids, the film will be a fine addition to the lineup, but if you are a fan of the original, you might be a little disappointed. My Rating: Bargain Matinee The Little Mermaid Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
My View: About My Father (2023) PG-13 Sebastian (Sebastian Maniscalco) is about to propose to his all-American girlfriend, Ellie (Leslie Bibb). When his old-school Italian immigrant father, Salvo (Robert De Niro), finds out about the proposal, Salvo insists on crashing a weekend with Ellie’s super-rich and very conservative parents (Kim Cattrall and David Rasche). The neighborhood may never recover. Sebastian Maniscalco is one of the hottest standup comedians out there. Unfortunately, that comedy doesn’t translate well to the screen. Maniscalco looks visibly uncomfortable on screen for most of the film, making him seem to be in one long audition tape instead of a major motion picture. The movie does a disservice by putting the few funny scenes in the trailer so that any laughs are lost because we see them coming all the way from New Jersey. About My Father is another of a long list of recent films that Robert De Niro has made that make you wonder what the heck his agent is giving him for scripts. Sebastian, the character, seems unhappy with anything his father does, and I can say that so does the audience. My Rating: Cable About My Father Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
My View: You Hurt My Feelings (2023) R Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a successful author, and her husband is a shrink named Don (Tobias Menzies). Beth and Don seem to have a great marriage, even when Beth is struggling with her writing. Things fall apart when Beth and her sister (Michaela Watkins) overhear Don telling someone that he thinks Beth’s newest work isn’t very good, but tells her only encouraging lies to keep her going. How can Beth trust Don ever again? I loved this film. It’s one of those films where I looked at my watch, not because I was counting down when it would end, but because I didn’t want it to end. The film is funny in a warm, comfortable way, with a winning performance from Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Louis-Dreyfus plays Beth, whose world crumbles because she finds out that her loving, supporting husband might not always be telling her the truth. Michaela Watkins, playing Beth’s sister, gives us another winning performance as the sister who is always supporting not only Beth but also her own very neurotic husband (played by the hilarious Arian Moayed). I am of the opinion that Michaela Watkins should play a supporting role in every adult comedy that comes out because she is that good. You Hurt My Feelings is a film where you love the relationships in the movie, where the main couple love each other, and you know that even though they are going through a rough patch, things will work out in the end. We get to enjoy it while they work it out. My Rating: Full Price You Hurt My Feelings Website Now playing in theatres.
My View: Kandahar (2023) R Tom Harris (Gerard Butler) is an undercover CIA operative who, along with his Afghan translator (Navid Negahban), is stuck deep in hostile territory in Afghanistan. When he is in a covert mission to blow up a nuclear plant, Tom’s identity and mission is exposed, and now the two men must fight their way out to an extraction point in Kandahar, all the while avoiding the elite special forces unit that has been sent to hunt them down. Look, you know, when you see a Gerard Butler film, you will get him being tough, full of action, and not talking much. Also know you will probably get some gunfights, car chases, and a few things blowing up. You get all that in this film that tries too hard to make the movie a little different in making statements about how badly we treated the translators in Afghanistan. You will need a scorecard to figure out all the players trying to capture Tom as he and his translator race across the desert to escape. Tom is pretty boring as a character (usual stuff where he has a troubled marriage because of his job and he loves his kid). However, Navid Negahban as his Afghan translator and Ali Fazal as the man trying to hunt Tom down make the film watchable. Fazal is a lot of fun as the bad guy who wears leather jackets and drives a motorcycle in the desert, though I never quite figured out who or what he worked for. You will enjoy this film if you are a fan of Butler and his shooting guns. I found it too long and confusing to care about anyone other than the translator. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Kandahar Website Now playing in theatres.
My View: The Machine (2023) R Bert (Bert Kreischer) has told the story about how, 20 years ago, as a college student on a trip to Russia, got involved with the Russian mob and robbed a train while on a drunken binder. Now Bert and his father (Mark Hamill) will pay for that when they are kidnapped by those who Bert stole from 20 years ago. People that haven’t heard Bert Kreischer’s story about his college adventure in the Soviet Union as ‘The Machine’ will be clueless as to why Kreischer has become a big-time standup star after watching this mess of a movie. The film does a horrible job of telling ‘The Machine’ story, as it goes back to show us bits and pieces of what happened, stopping that storyline by abruptly going back to the present, which has a much less interesting plot. Kreischer plays himself in the film, which apparently is a stretch because Bert, the actor, is not great. I was shocked at the attempts at humor in using violence, with killings and assaults filling in for punch lines (no pun intended). The film does such a poor job of finding any humor that I don’t think I laughed once. It’s funny how this week we get two films about fatherhood (the other being About My Father), and both give us the idea that fathers are jerks, don’t know how to treat their loved ones, and are embarrassed about their own fathers. Stay away from this film and find Kreischer’s standup routine of the same name. You will have a much better time. My Rating: Cable The Machine Website Now playing in theatres.
Indiefest: The Starling Girl (2023) R Jem Starling (Eliza Scanlen) is a 17-year-old who, along with her parents (Jimmi Simpson and Wrenn Schmidt), are members of a fundamentalist Christian community, whose strict ways Jem is rebelling against. Jem’s world changes when the new youth pastor, Owen (Lewis Pullman), takes an interest in her. Jem will be forced to decide to follow the path of her church and her parents or forge her own path to love. Eliza Scanlen gives a moving and multifaceted performance of a young woman conflicted between her love of her faith and her infatuation with Owen. Scanlen perfectly plays the role of Jem as a young woman who desperately wants to fall in love and going for someone who will lead her down a path that could be the ruin of her. The Starling Girl is a film about faith and the conflicts life puts in our way. Do you choose what your mind tells you or what your heart does? My Rating: Full Price The Starling Girl Website Now playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future (2022) Cecilia (Leonor Varela) and her two children go back to her childhood home when her father, Pablo (Benjamin Sotto), becomes ill after seeing his long-lost wife Magdalena (Mia Maestro) outside a cell phone store. Magdalena took her own life long ago but has mysteriously returned. Is she a ghost or creature who has returned to right the wrongs of the past? I missed this film at the Atlanta Film Festival last month. The film is part ghost story, part ecological warning about how we are destroying the planet. The film features a spellbinding performance by Mía Maestro, who wanders around her family farm, connecting with each family member while never speaking. It’s a beautiful performance and makes this film worth watching. I wish the movie was stronger in the plot line, as it tries too hard to be mystifying without much of a result. Still, there are some enchanting shots, and the opening scenes get your attention, creating a world that doesn’t always show up in the rest of the film. My Rating: Bargain Matinee The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future Website Now playing in select theatres.
Forgotten Film: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) G A group of motorists witness a car crash in the California desert. The driver’s dying words indicate the location of a hidden pile of money, and the group starts a race across the state to find it before the rest of them can. This is one of those films when studios were desperate to compete with TV and piled as many stars, many of which were TV stars, into a film as possible. The cast includes Spencer Tracy, Sid Caesar, Mickey Rooney, Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, Phil Silvers, and Jonathan Winters. The fun of this film is trying to keep up with all the cameos, which include Buster Keaton, The Three Stooges, Don Knotts, Leo Gorcey (of the Dead End Kids), and some fan favorites of mine, Mike Mazurki, and Stan Freberg. Look for Jack Benny and Jerry Lewis in tiny parts. The film was up for five Academy Awards, winning Best Sound Effects. It’s one long car chase with lots of crashes, people hanging off of ladders, and lots of pratfalls. Of all the cast, Jonathan Winters probably stands out. Look for Jack Benny wearing a bowler hat. That’s because the part was meant for Stan Laurel, who refused because he vowed never to perform again after Oliver Hardy died. Some of the dialogue was improvised, a rarity for such a big, costly production. There were only about 100 professional stunt performers in Hollywood. The film used 80 of them in this film. My Rating: Full Price It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Info Available to buy or rent on Amazon or Apple TV.
Weird Credits: From the credits of The Little Mermaid: Rope Safety Consultants
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Elemental (2023) PG Ember (voiced by Leah Lewis) and Wade (voiced by Mamoudou Athie) live in a city where fire, water, land, and air residents work and play. Ember, a fire resident, and Wade, a water resident, aren’t meant to interact, but they start up a friendship, much to the dismay of their family and friends. Can fire and water really mix? All you need to know is that this animated film is from Pixar. Enough said! Elemental Website In theaters in mid-June.