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.
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.