My Take: Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2023) PG-13 Noah (Anthony Ramos) and Elena (Dominique Fishback) are swept up in the ongoing conflict between the Autobots and the Decepticons for control of Earth. Optimus Prime and the Autobots face a terrifying new nemesis named Scourge, who has vowed to destroy the Autobots. However, Scourge doesn’t know a new ally has joined the fight, Maximals. To say that I am not a fan of the Transformers films would be an understatement. I have never entirely understood the enthusiasm over a series of films that do nothing more than celebrate some toys based on a cartoon of the mid-80s. Though, I did like the Bumblebee film, but that was mostly because I am a fan of Hailee Steinfeld, and the Bumblebee character has some personality. I am happy to say that the latest film is better than the Michael Bay films that seemed to always be about how much he could fill the screen with giant machines and lots of destruction. This is an origin story going back (like Bumblebee (2018) to before all the Bay Transformer films. Unlike those films, this film lets the humans, played by Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback, take important parts in the battles. Both actors do an excellent job of keeping up in the action sequences with the machines and bringing some life to the stodginess of the plot. This is Transformers, so the plot is still silly; the movie takes too long to explain everything, and Optimus Prime makes too many speeches. However, two fan favorites, Bumblebee and Mirage, take prominent roles, and both are full of wisecracks that help keep the movie moving. It also helps that you have some new welcome voices added to the Transformers cast with Ron Perlman and Michelle Yeoh. The last battle sequence is a mess and ends too easily, but overall, I had a good time watching giant machines battle each other. And the audience that I saw it with had a blast. Several times the audience almost came out of their seats yelling and clapping so hard at what was happening on the screen. So if you are a fan, you will have a blast. If not, you might still have a good time. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Transformers: Rise of the Beasts Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
My Take: Flamin’ Hot (2023) PG-13 Flamin’ Hot is the story of Richard Montañez (Jesse Garcia), a janitor at a Frito Lay plant that is about to close due to slow sales. Richard develops a novel idea channeling his Mexican heritage into Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Now, he has to convince the company that his concept will change the snack industry. A lot has been made in the press recently if the story is based on truth, but I won’t go into that and just base my review on what is up on the screen. The film is an enjoyable tale of rags to riches story but told in a unique style of a man who grew up in the barrio, didn’t finish school, and did a lot of bad things in his early life to survive. When asked to change his ways by his wife (Annie Gonzalez) because he now has kids. Richard goes straight and talks his way into a job at Frito Lay, the makers of Cheetos and Lays potato chips. Richard isn’t book-smart but has a talent for repairing machinery and making friends. With the help of his wife and kids, he survives working as a janitor for the company but wants more. One day, inspired by a video talk that the chairman of Frito Lay (played by the always fun Tony Shalhoub) makes and his own culture’s enjoyment of putting spicy hot sauce on everything, Richard comes up with the idea that could save his factory and serve the Latin culture in the U.S. Flamin’ Hot is a fun story that lets Richard tell it in his own words (sometimes he allows us to see two versions of the story, one he embellishes and then what really happened). I enjoyed watching this film and how one man believed in himself and his culture so much that he took on a corporation and won. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Flamin' Hot Website Now playing on the Disney+ platform.
Familyfaire: Heroes of the Golden Mask (2023) Charlie is a wisecracking orphan who lives on the street. He is magically transported to the ancient Chinese kingdom of Sanxingdui. Charlie is asked to take on the powers of the Golden Mask and help defend the city from a brutal conqueror. Charlie didn’t pick the mask; the mask picked him to save this kingdom. This is a film that young kids will enjoy, though I must caution that some bad guys are quite scary. Adults might enjoy some of the voice actors in the movie, including Patton Oswalt, Ron Perlman, and the late, great Christopher Plummer. However, adults and some children will be slightly bored by the plot with a few holes in it and an animation style that doesn’t always flow. The film doesn’t always make much sense, but kids will enjoy the band of heroes, all of which have some sort of flaw, and Charlie is always good for a wisecrack or two. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Heroes of the Golden Mask Website Now available On Demand.
Indiefest: Scarlet (2022) Juliette (Juliette Jouan) has been brought up by her woodworking carpenter Raphael (Raphaël Thiéry), who raised his daughter alone after he returned from war and found that his wife had died. Juliette has grown into a strong, independent woman with a talent for toy making and music. Juliette dreams of someday being taken away from her village on a ship that sails into the sky. Her dream may come true when a charming ship’s pilot (Louis Garrel) arrives in her village to have his boat repaired. This beautiful-looking film slips in and out between a romance, a musical, and a fairytale. And that’s the problem that I had with the film, as it could never decide what type of movie it was. I loved the use of colorized films from the 1920s and 30s to give us a bit of transition to different timelines as the film follows the growth of Juliette from a baby to a woman. We see that Juliette and her father are not accepted in the town, seen as outcasts, tormented, and sometimes even attacked. Still, Juliette and her father keep their heads high and believe in each other. There are some amazing shots in the film, with one magical sequence where Juliette sings in a river while her voice lures her future lover. Scarlet is a film that, at times, is fantastic and other times, feels slow and disjointed. Despite all her singing, we never know what Juliette wants from the world, and the film has an ending that feels rushed and not at all satisfying. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Scarlet Website Now playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: Blue Jean (2022) Set in England in 1988, Jean (Rosy McEwen) is living two lives: one as a P.E. teacher and the other as a gay closeted woman who has a girlfriend. This is when the government is about to pass a law stigmatizing gays and lesbians. The arrival of a new girl at Jean’s school will start a crisis that will threaten her job and identity. Rosy McEwen gives us a powerful and touching performance of a woman caught between two worlds. The lesbian world where she can be herself, live, and love. The hetero world where she has to play a part that not only the students expect her to play, but also her fellow teachers and even her family. Jean is constantly worried about being caught as a lesbian, as it seems both politicians and the media keep talking about keeping homosexuals out of schools. Into Jean’s world comes a student who is being picked on because she is different and is suspected by other students of being a lesbian. Jean has to decide soon when her hand is forced between sticking up for the student, which would out Jean, or going with the flow and letting the school deal with the student. Blue Jean is a smart, compelling film that has a deeply flawed main character, not because of who she loves but because of being afraid of the unknown. Jean is a woman who must decide how to live her life. Will she can remain in the closet in a culture that has trouble accepting her or will she break free and live her life that will make her happy? My Rating: Full Price Blue Jean Website Now playing in theatres.
Indiefest: It Ain’t Over (2022) PG It Ain’t Over is a documentary about Yogi Berra, best known for his brand of sayings like ‘It Ain’t Over till it’s Over,’ but he was much more, including a great catcher for some of baseball’s legendary teams, a D-Day veteran and a loving husband and father. An excellent documentary that captures the magic of Yogi both as a personality and as one of the greatest baseball players in the sport's history. Baseball fans will love all the footage combined with current and past interviews. I loved the radio calls with the newsreel footage combined with interviews of the announcers and the players. Berra is a man who was known for his wonderful use of creating catchphrases like ‘When you come to a fork in the road. Take it.’ and many others. Berra has more quotes in Bartlett’s than any President. For every chapter in Yogi’s life, there is a quote from a famous person and then a quote from Yogi on the same subject, but in Yogi’s unique way of looking at things. The film does a beautiful job of showing us that not only was Yogi a lovable and funny guy, but he was an incredible baseball player. It Ain’t Over gives us plenty of stats (something that baseball is excellent at) that show how Yogi’s career stacks up with other greats of the game. The Berra family was deeply involved with the documentary, so you get a lot of inside stories from his own family. I especially loved the recent interviews with players and managers who loved Yogi and knew how great of a player he was and how he was even a better teammate, friend, and family man. As Yogi said, “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.’ Well, Yogi, you were close. My Rating: Full Price It Aint' Over Website Now playing in theatres and On Demand.
Indiefest: Being Mary Tyler Moore (2023) Documentary on Mary Tyler Moore, who went from being a pixie in a TV commercial to America’s favorite housewife to a TV icon who won not only seven Emmy Awards but also was nominated for an Oscar. This is a smartly done profile of a woman who, from almost the start of her career, broke through barriers with a career that kept forging new paths but always had that wonderful smile and acting talent to back it. It’s a fascinating look at an actor who kept looking for roles that were not only groundbreaking but also entertaining. And who would have thought that after coming off two brilliant, beloved roles as Laura and Mary, would Mary Tyler Moore take on a role in Ordinary People (1980) of a woman that is so unlikeable and hard? I loved this look of one of my all-time favorite TV performers. The film has a ton of interviews with both Mary and her colleagues through the years, plus tons of home movies, giving us an inside look at ‘America’s Sweetheart.’ My Rating: Full Price Being Mary Tyler Moore Website The film is now playing on the HBO and Max platforms.
Forgotten Film: The Perfect Storm (2000) PG-13 The story of a fishing boat named the Andrea Gail, captained by Billy Tyne (George Clooney), caught by three storms colliding in the Atlantic. This is the story of not only the crew and how hard they had to fight to stay alive but also their loved ones back on land who are left behind to worry. The film is the story of not only Andrea Gail but also a high-priced sailboat, as both must survive a storm so strong no one is expected to survive. The Perfect Storm is full of action that centers on the men and women who must make quick, sometimes heartbreaking decisions to save not only themselves but others. Remember, these brilliant special effects were created way before everything was done with a computer and a green screen.. The cast is impeccable, spearheaded by Clooney and supported by Diane Lane, John C. Reilly, John Hawkes, Karen Allen, Mark Wahlberg, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Ironside, and Cherry Jones. My Rating: Full Price The Perfect Storm Info The film is available to rent or buy on both Amazon and Apple TV.
Weird Credits: From the credits of Transformers: Rise of the Beasts: Background Casting
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) PG-13 Archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is near retirement and feels the world has gone by him. But evil returns in the form of an old rival, and Indy must don the hand and pick up his whip one more time to keep a powerful artifact from falling into the wrong hands. This may be the last time we see Harrison Ford in the role, so they are pulling out all the stops with a cast that brings fresh additions like Phoebe Waller-Bridge and old standbys like Karen Allen and John Rhys-Davies. Let’s hope Indy goes out with a bang! Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Website The film comes out in theatres nationwide on June 30th.