Friday, May 26, 2023

The Little Mermaid

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.

Until Next Time!

Friday, May 19, 2023

Fast X

My View: Fast X (2023) PG-13   Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family seem to be at a good point in their lives, but their past is about to catch up with them when they are targeted by the vengeful son (Jason Momoa) of the drug kingpin Hernan Reyes. I have enjoyed this series, especially when they decided they were all superheroes that could fly midair from one car to another and take hits like John Wick only dreams about. I had fun with this film because of one actor, Jason Momoa, but more on that later. The film has Vin Diesel’s thumbprint or, should I say, the entire hand on the script, as his character Dom gets to constantly make speeches about, say it with me, ‘family.’ And he even gets to shed a tear or two. The film has a gigantic cast that keeps getting bigger and bigger, even bringing back a few ghosts from the past. The film brings up the late Paul Walker’s character a few times and how Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Han (Sung Kang) have come back to the gang (one by regaining her memory, the other by coming back from the dead), which should give you a clue as to what is going to happen in this film. Now for the reason to see this film. Jason Momoa. Even with a cast that doesn’t mind overacting, Momoa goes to the extreme and has the time of his life playing the bad guy of the film. In a performance that reminds me of Jack Nicholson as The Joker in Batman, Momoa revels in his role as the crazy, bat-out-of-hell bad guy who wants revenge for Dom and his gang killing his dad. Momoa, wearing outfits that would make Prince jealous, mugs his way through the film, giving Dom a Bronx cheer while passing him going a hundred miles an hour on a motorcycle. The stunts are outlandish, though I didn’t enjoy the fact that they let the cars be the superheroes in this one. The plot has about five hundred subplots, all of which will continue with the next film or two (it’s rumored that there are two more films in the works). Look, Fast X is stupid, but it’s stupid fun, and Jason Momoa gives us a bad guy to delight in. And yes, stay through the first bit of end credits to see who shows up.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Fast X Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Indiefest: Sanctuary (2023) R  A night in a room becomes a cat-and-mouse game between Hal (Christopher Abbott), a wealthy client who has just inherited a fortune, and Rebecca (Margaret Qualley), his dominatrix. It’s a night where roles will switch many times, with surprising results. This is one of those films that is such a cat-and-mouse game between two characters that you get lost in what is real and what is make-believe. The film keeps pulling back layers from the start so that you constantly question who to root for and if anyone will get out alive by the film’s end. I loved the chemistry between Abbott and Qualley, as their characters play games with each other, sometimes in love with each other and other times in hate. Sanctuary is a film about desire and how it can take many forms. It’s a film that will keep you guessing until the end, and even then, you will wonder what happens to these characters next.   My Rating; Full Price  Sanctuary Website  Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Master Gardener (2022) R  A horticulturist, Narvel Roth (Joel Edgerton), is devoted to tending the grounds of a beautiful estate owned by a wealthy dowager, Norma (Sigourney Weaver). When Norma’s estranged grandniece Maya (Quintessa Swindell) shows up unexpectedly, Norma decides Narvel should take on Maya as his apprentice, something that Narvel does reluctantly. Maya doesn’t know that Narvel has a past about to rear its ugly head and everyone is in danger. I enjoyed this film by filmmaker Paul Schrader, which is a film about finding redemption in the simplest things. The film is a little kinky, but what do you expect from a man who gave us Hardcore (1979) and American Gigolo (1980)? I loved the chemistry between Quintessa Swindell and Joel Edgerton, who play two people with pasts that they both want to hide from each other. The film explores just how much a person can be forgiven for and how much that person’s atonement makes up for what they did in the past.   My Rating; Bargain Matinee  Master Gardener Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Indiefest: The Night of the 12th (2022)  They say every investigator is haunted by one crime. For investigator Yohan Vives (Bastien Bouillon), it is the murder of Clara. And it’s a case that Yohan may never solve. This is a film about the crimes that aren’t cracked and how no matter how hard the detective’s work, some crimes will haunt you forever. The film centers on Yohan (Bastien Bouillon), who has just taken over a homicide squad, and this is their first big case under his command. A young woman has been murdered, and there aren’t any witnesses and too many suspects. The film follows Yohan and his squad as they diligently try to solve the crime, but every time they think they have a clue who the killer is, it slips through their hands. The film shows how we see crime and all the factors that help and hurt in solving those crimes. Not everything can be solved, no matter how hard we try.   My Rating: Full Price  The Night of the 12th Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

My View: Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me (2023)  Documentary on the iconic Playboy and Guess jeans model who became one of the first big reality stars before dying at age 39. The film brings us some new footage of Anna Nicole’s life but doesn’t give us any new answers. In fact, the film seems to take the road that her story is sad, but it’s one that she chose to live. I learned very little from this documentary about Anna that I didn’t already know. Near the end of the film, there is an interview that she gave near the end of her life, where Anna claimed that her mother abused her and that she was sexually assaulted. It turns out the story wasn’t Anna’s; it was the life story of what was her best friend during Anna’s stripper days in Houston. That sums up the life of Anna Nicole Smith; you never knew what was real about her, and this documentary doesn’t help us find that out. Like all the tabloids that followed her every move, the film never scratches more than the surface of who she was.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Anna Nicole Smith: You Don't Know Me Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Monica (2022) Monica is about a woman named Monica (Trace Lysette). She returns home to help care for her dying mother (Patricia Clarkson), who suffers from a brain tumor. Her mother does not recognize Monica because she has transitioned and rolls with it. Monica’s showing up causes problems with her brother (Joshua Close) as Monica deals with the ghosts of her past self. Monica is a film about coming home, mending fences that looked like they might stay broken, and the power of forgiveness. Trace Lysette is stunning as Monica, a woman who has fought for everything she has become but still wants more. She comes back home, unsure if she should, and is afraid of what reception Monica will receive when she arrives. Monica isn’t a film with big speeches or ground-breaking moments. Instead, it’s a film where those tiny slices of life become more powerful than any speech could. A small gesture, like a hand being held by another during a picture, tells everything you need to know about what is happening, and that’s the magic of this film.   My Rating; Full Price  Monica Website  Now playing in select theatres. 
 The Eight Mountains (2022) The story of two friends who, as boys, meet while one is on a summer vacation. Pietro is the city boy, and Bruno is the boy from the mountains. The city boy longs to stay in the wilderness, while the boy from the mountain only wants to leave it. Years later, the two meet again, this time as adults. Pietro (Luca Marinelli) is a lost soul who doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. Bruno (Alessandro Borghi) has changed and wants to follow in his family’s footsteps and become a cheese maker. The two learn in the shadow of the Italian Alps that their friendship will always survive no matter where they are. I loved this breathtaking film that gives us so many astounding shots of the Alps, as the two friends travel on the mountains, Pietro always searching for the deep meaning and Bruno happy with living the moment. The Eight Mountains is the story of brotherly love, who of two men develop a connection early on and keep it alive as their lives change. Both men find happiness, sometimes in very different ways, but they will always have the mountain to return to.
   My Rating: Full Price   The Eight Mountains Website Now playing in select theatres.

Forgotten Film: Shooting Fish (1997) PG Dylan (Dan Futterman) and Jez (Stuart Townsend) are two guys who dream of making enough money to buy the house of their dreams. The only problem is that the two guys are con artists, and not all their schemes work. They hire Georgie (Kate Beckinsale) to be their secretary for a job. Soon the two men are both in love with Georgie, and to make things even more complicated, she is about to get married. Shooting Fish is an enjoyable film with a plot that gets a little complicated, but the cast is so likable that you don’t care. Kate Beckinsale steals the movie in one of her first starring roles before she became a star with The Last Days of Disco (1999). The scams are fun, Beckinsale is charming, and the ending is delightful.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Shooting Fish Info  Available to buy on Amazon.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Fast X: Fight Arranger

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: No Hard Feelings (2023) R Maddie (Jennifer Lawrence) has had her car repossessed and is on the brink of losing her home. Maddie finds an intriguing job position: parents (Matthew Broderick and Laura Benanti) of a 19-year-old boy (Andrew Barth Feldman) want their shy, introverted son to ‘become a man’ before going to college. This reminds me of all the teen/college films that came out in the late 70s and early eighties, where teen boys were on a mission to have sex. Some were good, like The Sure Thing (1985), directed by Rob Reiner and starring John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga, and others were horrible. The Last American Virgin (1982) comes to mind. What a four-time Academy Award nominee and winner of the 2013 Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook is doing in this film, I don’t know. But hey, I’m game for anything Jennifer Lawrence wants to be in.  No Hard Feelings Website   The film will be in theatres in mid-June.  

Until Next Time!

Friday, May 12, 2023

Book Club: The Next Chapter

My View: Book Club: The Next Chapter (2023) PG-13 The book club is back together, and Vivian (Jane Fonda) is about to get married. What better way to celebrate than to take a trip to Italy? What trouble can four women get into in Italy? Plenty. The first Book Club film was fun because of the four leading actresses, who looked like they were having fun with each other on the screen. The plot was weak, but the film still felt fun and light. I can’t say the same for the sequel. It’s a mess of a movie, with poorly done jokes, stringing plot lines together that feel disconnected from the start, and some painfully bad dialogue that never hits the mark. The four try gamely to keep the film going, but too often, the film hits a wall and then hits another one. I will say that the audience I saw it with laughed a lot more than I did, but that wouldn’t be hard since I don’t think I laughed once.   My Rating: Cable  Book Club: The Next Chapter Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide. 

My View: Fool’s Paradise (2023)  Fool’s Paradise is about a man (Charlie Day) who cannot speak. He’s released from a mental hospital and is picked up off the street because he looks exactly like a big Hollywood star who is on a bender and refuses to leave his trailer. The star’s publicist (Ken Jeong) and a powerful producer (Ray Liotta) help the man become even a bigger star, including marrying his beautiful leading lady (Kate Beckinsale). However, fame and fortune aren’t all they are cracked up to be, especially when you say nothing. I was hopeful when I saw the film’s plot and cast, including Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Jillian Bell, Adrien Brody, Edie Falco, and John Malkovich. Since I love silent films, I hoped that Day (who kills it every week in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) would give us a performance like Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd, but no, it’s a part that only allows Day to mug occasionally at the camera, giving us mostly a character that has only one expression. Fool’s Paradise starts with some fun, as Day’s character, who has been sent out into the world, goes with the flow of wherever he is. The film tries to show us Hollywood in all its ugly glory, but it fails time after time to be funny or satiric, giving us incredibly painful to watch scenes that go on way too long. The film culminates with a soliloquy by John Malkovich that is outright bizarre. Do yourself a favor and skip this film and watch Hal Ashby’s 1979 opus Being There to see how the idea of a simpleton can rise to fame and power is done.   My Rating: Cable  Fool's Paradise Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide. 

My View: BlackBerry (2023) R  The story of the innovative phone named Blackberry. The phone was built by a small company of innovators who challenged and toppled global giants before succumbing to the ruthlessly competitive world of Silicon Valley. It’s in the Valley where change becomes something that happens too quickly to react. This is one of those films that is constantly funny while also being heartbreaking. You know that the company and the men who started it are bound for failure in the end. BlackBerry is a tale of how greed and growing too fast can doom even the most innovative company. Two friends, Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and Doug (Matt Johnson), have founded an electronics company on the brink of collapse. In walks Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton), an entrepreneur who promises to turn the company around if they meet his demands (which are half of the company). Through innovation, Jim’s ability to BS his way into any meeting, and a little luck, their idea of creating a phone that can also send emails and messages takes the world by storm. Glenn Howerton is amazing to watch as the ’Co-CEO’ of the company, playing Jim as if Alec Baldwin’s character from Glengarry Glenn Ross is turned up to 11 and is on speed. It’s a brilliant performance, making Jim a superb contrast to the intellectual/reserved Mike and the goofy, easy-going Doug, who lives for movie night at the company. BlackBerry is a fun ride that we know will ultimately end with a crash, but it’s a blast to be along on the journey to that gigantic wall that they can’t see coming.   My Rating: Full Price  BlackBerry Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Indiefest: Carmen (2022) R  After being forced to flee her home in Mexico, Carmen (Melissa Barrera) survives a harrowing border crossing only to be confronted by a lawless volunteer border guard who murders two of Carmen’s fellow immigrants. Carmen meets an ex-Marine out on his first night with the volunteers, Aidan (Paul Mescal). Aidan helps Carmen escape and flee to L.A. Love can be found in unexpected places but fleeting in a world that is closing around you. Melissa Barrera, hot off her roles in the last two Scream films and In the Heights (2021), shows off her dancing skills in this modern look at the famous opera, Carmen. Barrera shines in the dancing numbers, showing off the skill and talent she displayed in In the Heights. The camera seems to focus consistently on her, which is good because Paul Mescal is the weak point in this film. He is not a dancer, and in the two numbers he is in (one is the film’s final dance), it is evident that he has never taken a dance lesson in his life. It’s painful the watch, and you are left to wonder what a real dancer would have done with the part. The last dance doesn’t have the impact it should have because of Mescal’s lack of mobility (he runs around in a big, wide circle) at one point. Carmen’s cinematography is breathtaking, with some gorgeous shots at night, highlighting the characters in wide shots as they seem to fold into the atmosphere. The film is full of original music and dance, with very little taken from the original opera. The dance sequences are beautiful to watch, with a thrilling scene done in a carnival. However, the film seems bloated by all the attempts at creating mysticism and foreboding, as Adian keeps seeing signs of doom along the way. Still, with a score written by Nicholas Britell, the opening scene with a fierce flamenco dance performed by Marina Tamayo and the dancing of Barrera, makes Carmen worth wading through some of the slower moments.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Carmen Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Indiefest: Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (2023) R Still is a documentary that follows the life of beloved actor and advocate Michael J. Fox, exploring his remarkable career through his personal and professional triumphs and travails. The film shows us what happens when an incurable optimist confronts an incurable disease that threatens not only his career but his life. One of the best documentaries for the past five years, this is a beautiful and moving look at the life of a gifted actor. Fox, who, after a rough start, became an enormous star, only to have his life turned upside down with the diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Fox narrates the film, but what is interesting is that we get to see Michael as he struggles with Parkinson’s while recording those voiceovers. Still takes footage from both his home movies, his films, and TV shows, and his sessions with both physical trainers and doctors. This gives us a film that provides us with a look at what it was like to be Michael in his glory days and his last few years struggling just to stay upright as he walks. Still is the story of a man who loves his wife and children, tried to hide his Parkinson’s from the world, and then brought it out into the open because, like his many screen roles, that’s what a hero does. If you didn’t like Michael J. Fox before (and what’s wrong with you?), you will after seeing this funny, moving, and hopeful movie about a talented actor who took on a deadly disease and did everything he could to keep going.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Still Info  Now playing on the Apple TV+ platform.

My View: The Mother (2023) R  An assassin (Jennifer Lopez) goes into hiding to protect the daughter she left behind. Now, that daughter is being used to bring the assassin out of hiding. Never doubt a mother’s love for a child, especially when the mother is a professional killer. Jennifer Lopez is a killer (think a cross between Jason Bourne and James Bond with a little Clint Eastwood lone wolf thrown in). From the start, we know this woman is not to be messed with. We see her in action when her FBI safe house is attacked, and she almost single-handedly kills a group of hitmen. Lopez is believable as the assassin who has no trouble killing when her daughter is threatened. There are plenty of fun car chases and running through the streets/woods as Lopez uses her killing talents to take down what seems like an army of bad guys. The Mother is a film that lets the athletic Lopez run and fight with the best of them. I wish the plot was a little better, but J Lo gives us plenty of action sequences to make up for it.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Mother Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform. 

Indiefest: (2022)   L’immensità   Set in 1970s Italy, is a story about a teenage girl, Adriana (Luana Giuliani), who has begun to identify as a boy, wanting to be known by the male name Andrea. As Andrea tries to discover who he is, he must deal with his Italian Catholic upbringing, a depressed mother, Clara (Penélope Cruz), and a constantly angry father (Vincenzo Amato). Andrea’s world looks more promising when he discovers a Romani encampment and a young girl named Sara (Penelope Nieto Conti). This is a film about being an outsider. An outsider in your own family, in your marriage, and in the rest of the world. The always dazzling Penélope Cruz plays Clara, a mother of three in a miserable marriage who knows and understands that her daughter feels like she/he doesn’t belong. Adriana, the daughter, thinks that her mother is the only person in the world who understands. She/he will protect her against anyone, including his father, who thinks Adriana is just playing as a boy. The film revolves around Adriana, and Luana Giuliani does an outstanding job holding her own with Cruz on the screen, an actor that tends to dominate the spotlight. The film is a coming-of-age film with a twist, a young woman who knows she is a boy, and it’s confirmed when Adriana meets Sara, a new girl in the neighborhood. Sara sees and accepts Adriana as Andrea, a boy and they start to explore their relationship before things get complicated. Cruz plays Clara, a free spirit who doesn’t fit the mold of the stay-at-home mom, something that her husband bristles at. Because he loves his mom, Andrea accepts his mom and her up-and-down moods, knowing she is unhappy and restless. L’immensità often goes into the mind of Andrea as he fantasizes about being in music videos. There Andrea can escape the world, with him as the lead singer and his mom is his principal backup dancer. I thoroughly enjoyed this film about finding your place in the world when you feel too different to fit in.   My Rating: Full Price   L’immensità website Now playing in select theatres.

My View: Hypnotic (2022) R  Daniel Rourke (Ben Affleck) is investigating a string of high-end heists while trying to find his daughter, who went missing several years ago and has never been found. Rourke discovers the thefts are being conducted by ‘Hypnotics.’ There are a group of psychics who have the ability to control other people’s minds. And they can get people to do things they usually wouldn’t do, including putting themselves in harm’s way. And if that made sense to you, then you are doing better than I did watching this mess of a movie. Affleck sleepwalks his way through this film as if he was hypnotized to take the part. The film tries to outfox you with starts and stops, which makes a screwed-up plot even messier. It would take a person far more intelligent than me, plus a very complex flow chart, to figure out what happened in this movie. The film is from filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, and I kept hoping that the gang from Spy Kids would show up so that at least we could have some fun with this movie. But all we got was Ben Affleck pointing either a gun or a Polaroid picture at people for an hour and a half. My Rating: Cable  Hypnotic Website   Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Forgotten Film: Don’t Say a Word (2001) R  The daughter of a psychiatrist (Michael Douglas) is kidnapped, and the adductors demand that he break through to a post-traumatic stress disorder young woman (Brittany Murphy) who knows a six-digit code the kidnappers need. Don’t Say a Word isn’t a great film, but it’s enjoyable, and Brittany Murphy, as the mental patient, gives a performance that points out again just how tragic that we lost Murphy so early in her life. The film takes some excellent twists and turns, and Sean Bean is a great villain. The ending seems a little rushed, but that’s ok, we get to watch Brittany Murphy work her magic.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Don't Say a Word Info The film is available for rent/buy on most platforms.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Book Club: The Next Chapter: Accordion teacher for Mary Steenburgen.

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Asteroid City (2023) PG-13  In 1955, students and parents from all over the country come to Asteroid City for a Junior Stargazer convention. Their lives will change drastically when something comes out of the sky to make an appearance. From filmmaker Wes Anderson (Rushmore (19998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), The French Dispatch (2021)) with a cast that includes Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jason Schwartzman, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Margot Robbie and Matt Dillon, Asteroid City is one of the most talked about films of summer.  Asteroid City Website   The film will be in theatres in late June.   

Until Next Time!

Friday, May 5, 2023

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

My View: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.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. The Guardian series is my second favorite in the Marvel Universe, behind the Avenger series. I love the Guardians and how easily filmmaker James Gunn is able to mix comedy with serious situations; all the while, we still get plenty of action sequences full of fights, weird aliens, and spaceships. This is Rocket’s story as we see how he was created from a raccoon to our beloved fast-talking pilot who loves to shoot things and maybe even blow them up. Because of Rocket’s past, his life is in peril, and the rest of the Guardian gang drops everything to save his life. This film is full of funny situations, lines, and action scenes, but at its core, it is about family and how we will do everything, sacrifice even our lives to help someone in trouble. I loved this film, and it’s a fitting end to the Guardian gang (which keeps getting more extensive), where you might need a tissue or two along the way of our guys battling their way across the Galaxy. And yes, stay through all the credits for many bonus scenes.   My Rating: I Would Pay To See it Again  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Love Again (2023)   A young woman, Mira Ray (Priyanka Chopra Jonas), tries to ease the pain of her fiancé’s death by sending texts to his old phone number. Unknown to her, the number has been reassigned to a stranger named Rob (Sam Heughan), who is intrigued by the texts and decides he must meet the woman who has written them. The only way you will enjoy this film is if you are a huge Celine Dion fan or you are desperate to see Nick Jonas (playing a Playboy idiot) make out with his wife in a comedic way. The film is sometimes painful to watch, especially any of the scenes with Celine Dion, in what seems like half the film. Celine’s music fills the movie (surprise, surprise that Dion was one of the film’s producers) to the point where we are to believe that Sam Heughan’s character sings her songs in the shower. The film’s plot is right out of the Hallmark pattern of a guy lies to a girl, falls for a girl who falls for him, and then the girl finds out about the lie. Everything about this film is incredibly predictable, and at times, the romance feels like a bad date with two people that don’t have any chemistry together. Much like a picture in the film of Mira and her late love, the movie feels like a horrible Photoshop version of a Celine Dion song that was added to an album at the last minute to give it an even number of songs.   My Rating: Cable  Love Again Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: What’s Love Got to Do With It? (2022) PG-13  Zoe (Lily James) is an award-winning filmmaker whose next project is documenting her best friend’s (Shazad Latif) journey into an assisted marriage in accordance with his family’s Pakistani heritage. While filming his hopeful quest to marry a stranger, Zoe challenges her attitude towards love and relationships. I enjoyed this film with two stars that have some spark between themselves and a storyline that kept me guessing. This is a romantic film, and we hope, almost from the start, that the two characters, who have grown up next to each other and are great friends, figure out that they are meant to be together. I love that the two families are part of each other’s lives and have fun doing it. The film has a kind of low-key charm to it, though I must say that Zoe sucks as a cameraperson, so much so that I didn’t for a minute believe that Lily James was playing an award-winning documentary filmmaker. The film explores the idea that arranged marriages have a vastly higher success rate than traditional Western marriages. Still, we hope the two characters wake up before it’s too late and realize that the love they are searching for is right there in front of them.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  What's Love Got to Do With It? Info  Now playing in theatres.

My View: Judy Blume Forever (2023)  This is a documentary on the writer Judy Blume, who for generations of readers have been affected by her writing, often because of her frankness about puberty and sex. I never read any of Judy Blume’s books as I thought (wrongly) that they were for girls, and I was reading every Sci-Fi book I could get my hands on. After seeing this remarkable documentary, I am sorry that I didn’t read them, and I think I will at least try out her adult books. Fans of Blume’s work won’t be disappointed to learn that the woman who dazzled readers with tales of adolescence is a beautiful and intelligent person who cares about her readers. What is amazing about Blume is that not only did she read the letters that her fans wrote her, she answered a lot of them and, even better, kept in contact with some of her readers long after they became adults. The film lets Blume tell her story of how she became a writer, her battles with book banning, and the controversies her books created, which she met head-on. I loved how the film mixes celebrities, authors, and her readers in the interviews, letting us know how Blume’s works had a lasting effect on their lives. Go watch this marvels documentary, and then after you see it, buy a Judy Blume book for yourself or maybe some 12-year-old that reminds you of yourself at that age. Judy would love that.  My Rating: Full Price  Judy Blume Forever Info   The film played recently at the Atlanta Film Festival and is playing on Amazon Prime.

Forgotten Film: Under Fire (1983) R   Three journalists (Nick Nolte, Gene Hackman, and Joanna Cassidy) are covering the last days of a corrupt regime in Nicaragua about to fall to guerrillas supporting a revolution. Nick Nolte plays a photographer who falls for Joanna Cassidy’s radio reporter, who is about to end a relationship with TV reporter Hackman who dreams of being an anchorman. Adding to this mix of relationships are the facts that Nolte’s character is siding with the guerrillas; Hackman’s character will let his love go for a chance to get ahead in the broadcast game. I love Joanna Cassidy as the reporter who falls for Nolte’s photographer, but doesn’t like the fact that he will do anything for one side over the other while she tries to stay impartial. Add to the cast Ed Harris as a shady American that is probably a CIA agent, and this is a film that works from start to finish. My Rating: Full Price  Under Fire Info  The film is available for rent/buy on iTunes and DVD/Blu-ray.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3: Hair Designer for Mr. Pratt

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Blackberry (2023) R  The story of the impossible rise of a Canadian phone manufacturer that shocked the world by creating a phone that everyone had to have, until they didn’t. This is a drama/comedy that stars Jay Baruchel as Mike Lazaridis, a man who had the vision to create a phone that would fit in your hand and could do email and send messages, something no one thought could be done. The film has been a big hit on the film festival circuit, including just playing at the Atlanta Film Festival.  Blackberry Website Film will be released on May 12, 2023.

Until Next Time!