Friday, July 28, 2023

Haunted Mansion

My View: Haunted Mansion (2023) PG-13 A single mom, Gabbie (Rosario Dawson), has just bought a mansion, and it’s haunted. What’s mom to do but hire a tour guide, a psychic, a priest, and a historian to help exorcise the ghosts? I found this film boring, which is sad considering that the cast includes Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, Dan Levy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Winona Ryder, and surprisingly, Jared Leto as the bad guy, Mr. Hat-Box Ghost. The film felt like one extended promo for the Disneyland ride, and while it has a few fun moments, the film never finds a way to combine a few scares with a few (and I mean few) laughs. I have grown tired of Tiffany Haddish and her limited range, finding her more annoying than funny. LaKeith Stanfield and Rosario Dawson try hard to keep the momentum going, but this ride never makes it past the first hallway of scary pictures.   My Rating: Cable  Haunted Mansion Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Talk to Me (2023) R  A group of friends have come across an embalmed hand with mysterious tattoos. They soon discover that they can use it to conjure spirits, which becomes their favorite game to play. Until one of them goes too far and unleashes terrifying supernatural forces. Talk to Me is one of the best horror films of the year, maybe of the last five years. It’s downright scary without having to resort to ‘jump scares.’ I will warn you I predict some people will walk out of the theatre during the opening scenes because of the extreme and shockingly quick violence. This is a film where the tension builds from almost the beginning and doesn’t let up until the end. I loved we know what the teens are doing will go badly, but they don’t seem to care until it’s too late. Much like the stupid TikTok challenges that can become dangerous, the teens keep on tempting fate because of the rush it gives them, but we know that rush will come at a cost. Sophie Wilde is perfect as our heroine, Mia, who is reluctant at first to take part, but under peer pressure and wanting to fit in, she relents. Things get out of hand, and Mia realizes she must try to find a way out. But is it too late? If you get past the opening sequence, you are in for a very imaginative and scary film that may make you sleep with a light on.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Talk to Me Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

My View: Happiness for Beginners (2023)   Helen (Ellie Kemper), who year after getting divorced and stuck in a rut, signs up for a week-long wilderness survival course on the Appalachian Trail. Her fellow hikers are a mess, but it does include her brother’s best friend, Jake (Luke Grimes). Can Helen survive long enough on the trail to fall in love? I am a big fan of Ellie Kemper and had fun with this slight, breezy rom-com. This is a film that I call the ‘beach read’ movie. It’s a film that, like those fun novels, you take on your summer vacations to read while getting some sun and drinking a glass or two of wine. There’s not much to the plot as it’s light and predictable, and you have a good time watching it, and as soon as it’s over, you will forget it. Kemper plays an accident-prone woman who has a troubled past and a bad marriage to get past. So, what does Helen do? Why, go on a survival hike with a bunch of strangers. Along the way, she will learn about herself and her fellow travelers and maybe fall in love. There is some good chemistry between Luke Grimes and Kemper, with their will they/won’t they possible romance. The plot is predictable, but then again, don’t we want it to be with this kind of film? So lace up your hiking boots, fill your pack with dehydrated food, and go on a hike to help find Helen a few answers and a romance.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Happiness for Beginners Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Kokomo City (2023) R  Documentary that shows the lives of four black transgender sex workers living in New York and Georgia as they confront the dichotomy between the black community and themselves. Kokomo City is a wildly entertaining, sometimes shocking, look at four black transgender sex workers and how they look at themselves, their work, the men who pay for their services, and how others see them. Shot in B&W and using a bit of animation and play-acting make the film move at a fast pace. The subject matters range from downright X-rated material to almost innocent talks about their lives. These four women know they are living on the edge and that what they do is dangerous and looked down on. Sadly, after the film’s release, one of the subjects was found murdered on the streets of Atlanta. Needless to say, this isn’t a documentary for everyone. Still, if you want to spend some time with four fascinating and unique individuals who graciously let us into their world, it’s an interesting 75 minutes.  My Rating: Full Price  Kokomo City Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Indiefest: The Unknown Country (2022)  Tana (Lily Gladstone) has just lost her grandmother, who she was caring for. She gets an unexpected call to come to her cousin’s wedding and sets out on a road trip across the Midwest in her trusty car. It’s a trip that Tana will learn about herself and the people she meets along the way. I loved this film primarily due to another brilliant performance by Lily Gladstone. The character played by Gladstone, Tana, travels after her grandma's death to experience the beauty of the land and its people. Tana is Native American, and her family lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This is a film that takes its time, much like the road trip that Tana is on. We get to know not only Tana’s relatives but also the people that she encounters along the way, including a waitress, an owner of a motel, and a convenience store worker. All are not actors, and we get a brief story about their lives, much like if you stopped and talked to them at their jobs for a bit. Tana decides to continue her road trip and find out more about her grandmother’s time in Texas, with only a few pictures to go on. The Unknown Country is a gorgeous film due to the magnificent countryside and the people we meet along the way.  My Rating: Full Price  The Unknown Country website Now playing in select theatres. 

My View: The Beanie Bubble (2023) R Ty Warner (Zach Galifianakis) was a frustrated toy salesman until his collaboration with three women (Elizabeth Banks, Sarah Snook, and Geraldine Viswanathan) grew their idea into one of the biggest toy crazes in history. It’s a story of fame, fortune, greed, betrayal, and Beanie Babies. I loved this film about the man who created Beanie Babies, or did he? Based loosely on a true story, Ty Warner is a man who went from almost nothing to one of the wealthiest men in the world (and still is), and the women who made it happen (sometimes with his help, sometimes dragging his feet all the way to the bank). This is the story of three women who, at various times in Ty’s life, made his dreams come true and then were forgotten because of a man who could not share the spotlight or admit that not every idea wasn’t his. Zach Galifianakis is fantastic in the role of a man who cares only about himself and will stab anyone in the back to get what he feels he is entitled to. I loved Geraldine Viswanathan, whose character, Maya, goes from part-time receptionist to creating one of the first company-based websites that started the Beanie Babies craze. Her character is based on a real person who convinced Ty to get on the internet long before anyone else figured out what it could do. Viswanathan is a force in the film and holds her own with Zach, someone who tends to dominate the screen with his antics. Elizabeth Banks plays Robbie, a fiery woman who has a chance meeting with Ty and goes all in on his stuffed toy company, ultimately falling for Ty. Sarah Snook plays a divorced woman, Shelia, who has two young girls and, against her best instincts, falls in love with Ty. Like Elizabeth Banks’s character, Robbie, Ty has weaved a spell and seduced Shelia. The question is, will Ty ever wake up and reward these women for their ideas and hard work, or will the women have to get revenge? Gather your little stuffed Beanies from your closets and storage units, pour yourself a drink, and find out.   My Rating: Full Price  The Beanie Bubble Info  Now playing in select theatres and on the Apple TV+ platform.

My View: Theater Camp (2023) PG-13 Troy (Jimmy Tatro) is forced to run his mother’s three-week theater camp after his mother (Amy Sedaris) has a seizure during a performance of Bye Bye Birdie and slips into a coma. Troy must rely on staff because Troy has no talent and no idea how to run a camp. But the kids have a ‘can do’ attitude and a song in their hearts, so what could go wrong? The film’s cast is the reason to see it because they are having a blast making it. Co-written by two of the cast, Noah Galvin and Molly Gordon, the film is about an annual camp for theater kids run by a group of wannabe performers who take their jobs a little too seriously. Into the mix walk Troy, a YouTube guy who thinks he can turn the camp into a money-maker just because he thinks he can. The film is funny but very uneven because the dialogue and scenes are improvised. The kids are the best part of the movie, so much so that I wish there was less interaction with the adults and more of the kids doing goofy stuff. Theater Camp gets a little stale by the midpoint, but the last fifteen minutes are just so well done, and much like the show they are putting on, it all finally comes together.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Theater Camp website Now playing in select theatres. 
My View:
The First Slam Dunk (2022) PG-13  Seventeen-year-old Ryota is trying to follow his late brother’s dream of being a basketball star. It’s hard to follow in the footsteps of someone who cast such a large shadow. The First Slam Dunk is a must for any fan of Japanese animation or anyone who loves basketball. The film takes place at a championship game while showing us in flashbacks the important scenes of Ryota’s life, and what makes him the person and player he is today. This is an impressive work of animation that lets us experience up close a basketball game while also allowing us into the character’s makeup and what Ryota is thinking and feeling. The movie is filled with amazing shots of not only the basketball game but also Ryota’s life, letting us feel like we are there with him as he goes through all the obstacles that have been put in his way. The game is as exciting as any game seven of the NBA, and it has an ending that is both touching and exhilarating. I think fans of Takehiko Inoue’s Slam Dunk manga series are going to be very happy with his adaptation of this work.  The First Slam Dunk is one of the best films of the year, and I hope it gets recognition by the Academy come award time. So find a seat in the bleachers and get ready to root for Ryota and his team as they try to win a championship. My Rating: I Would Pay to See It Again  The First Slam Dunk Website The film is playing in theatres nationwide.

Forgotten Film: The Day After Trinity (1981)  Documentary on the Manhattan Project and the man behind the creation of the Atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer. This Academy Award-nominated film is a great companion piece to the Christopher Nolan film Oppenheimer, with interviews of most of the participants in the research, including Oppenheimer's brother. It goes into great detail on the building of the bomb. The film’s second half goes into Oppenheimer’s fall from grace when he speaks out against nuclear arms proliferation and the hunt for Communists that cost him his clearance. The Day After Trinity is a fascinating film that will amaze and terrify you while giving you a better understanding of the man and the myth.   My Rating: Full Price  The Day After Trinity Info  Available for purchase on Amazon and playing on the Criterion Channel for free through the month of July.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Haunted Mansion: Prosthetics Silicone Runner

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Equalizer 3 (2023)   Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) has finally found a home in Southern Italy. That home is being threatened by the mafia and its local crime boss. As the mafia flex their muscle and threaten McCall’s new friends, McCall does what he always does: protect his friends by any means possible. I have enjoyed this series by filmmakers Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington and look forward to seeing this one.   The Equalizer 3 Website  Coming to theatres nationwide in September.

Until Next Time!

Friday, July 21, 2023


My View: Barbie (2023) PG-13  Barbie is about living in Barbie Land, which is the perfect place for a perfect person in a perfect world. That is until you have a full-on existential crisis. Or you’re a Ken. I am a big fan of both Margot Robbie and filmmaker Greta Gerwig, so I was looking forward to this film. Plus, this has become one of the most hyped summer films and will be a big box-office draw. I liked the movie but didn’t love it, and I think some people will be disappointed by the fact that Barbie goes back and forth between Barbie Land and the ‘real world.’ It’s partly a musical, and the film has some brilliant numbers, including a wonderful number called ‘I’m Just Ken’ that Ryan Gosling does that just might bring the house down. I found the film funny but not hilarious, though there is one line the narrator (Helen Mirren) says that was on the floor funny. It’s a strange film where the narrator talks to us but also speaks to the characters. The set design of Barbie Land is brilliant, and the opening sequence of letting us see a day in the life of Barbie is one of the film’s highlights. Some of the ‘real world’ scenes disappointed me, and Will Ferrell is a dud as the Mattel CEO, never giving us the laughs we want from him. There are a couple of fun cameos in the film, and Simu-Liu as the rival Ken is a lot of fun. As the often-forgotten Allan (Skipper’s boyfriend), Michael Cera is hilarious as the character that everyone ignores. Margot Robbie has the tough part of playing the perfect Barbie, and she does a nice job, but it’s hard to play someone who has the time and doesn’t have emotions. I enjoyed some of the cast-off Barbie and Ken dolls (all based on real failed Mattel toys) and how they worked them into the film’s plot. Overall, Barbie is fun, and if you owned a Barbie or two (and Ken), you will have a good time seeing them come to life. I had a good time seeing Barbie, but I wanted more in Barbie Land and a lot less of the ‘real world.’ I guess I’ll always be a G.I.Joe (original size) guy.  My Rating; Full Price   Barbie Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Oppenheimer   (2023) R  The story of American scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), who, at the urging of a desperate U.S. government wanting to end WWII, developed the atomic bomb. You will want to find a theatre showing the film in 70 mm film or on IMAX (the film was shot entirely with IMAX cameras) because there are scenes that will only have their full impact on a big screen. Oppenheimer is, behind the Dark Night trilogy, the Christopher Nolan film that will speak to the most people, with still a few Nolan touches (including an interesting sex scene that happens in an unexpected place). Based on the best-selling Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus, this is the story of a man who was driven by solving a problem and couldn’t or wouldn’t see the ramifications of what he was about to unleash until it was too late. Cillian Murphy is brilliant as Oppenheimer, a man who hid behind a mask of almost cool indifference while battling demons inside himself and friends that turned foes. Robert Downey Jr. delivers an exceptional performance as Lewis Strauss, who used Oppenheimer's brilliance to achieve his own goals. I think the Downey Jr. is the front runner with this performance to win the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. The cinematography is fantastic, with incredible shots that will dazzle and, sometimes, horrify you. The film uses black-and-white scenes to up the tension of scenes as we go back and forth in the life of Oppenheimer, a man who was convinced he knew more than anyone else, even if that confidence untimely cost him dearly. I loved Emily Blunt as Kitty, Oppenheimer’s long-suffering wife, and Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock, the love of Oppenheimer’s life and a woman he could never totally turn his back on. Oppenheimer is a long film (just over 3 hours), but you get swept up in the story about a man who leads the race to create a bomb so destructive that it would stop a World War and create something even scarier than a mad dictator who wanted to take over the world. So find a theatre with the biggest screen in your area and immerse yourself in a story about a man who stopped a war and created a new demon to deal with. And just a warning, if you see it in 70 mm film or IMAX 70 mm film, know to be on time. There will be little to no trailers shown before the film starts.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Oppenheimer Website Now playing in theatres nationwide, including IMAX and theatres equipped with 70 mm projectors. 
My View: The Deepest Breath (2023) PG   Documentary about the sport of free-diving, focusing on champion free-diver Alessia Zecchini and diving trainer/safety diver Stephen Keenan. The two are destined to be a couple, and the film focuses on their relationship and how such a dangerous sport affects their friends and family. This beautiful, moving film will have you on the edge of your seat for the underwater dives. The Deepest Breath is a story about two people who will meet and fall in love. Alessia is a young woman determined to break barriers and records, no matter the danger. And Stephen, who, at an early age, wanted to explore the world and then found his love for the ocean and diving. The film follows the two, using interviews with family and friends, along with home movies and footage of their diving events. The Deepest Breath shows us how they became who they were when they met, setting up how hard they fell for each other. There is underwater footage that is strikingly beautiful as the divers are seen not only competing but also enjoying the underwater world they seem to want to live in. I will warn you that this is a dangerous sport in which death is not uncommon, and you will need tissues. At its heart, it is a love story about following your dreams, no matter the obstacles life puts in your way. The story tells us you can succeed if you can find that one person to support you and help you learn.   My Rating; Full Price  The Deepest Breath Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

My View: They Cloned Tyrone (2023) R  A series of eerie events pushes an unlikely trio, a drug dealer, Fontaine (John Boyega), a prostitute, Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris), and a pimp, Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx) onto the trail of a government conspiracy that involves illegal cloning. These are three heroes that aren’t cut from the superhero mold, and other than Yo-Yo, they don’t seem to have any idea on how to investigate anything other than go into unknown spaces with guns drawn and, occasionally, a song. The characters in this film would be at home in many Quentin Tarantino films with a splash of 70s Blaxploitation. The three principal actors are fun to watch as John Boyega is the reserved and quick to use his muscle to make his point. Foxx has a blast playing the pimp, who is too cool to do anything but talk a lot until he is pushed too far. And Teyonah Parris as the prostitute who plays the game with everyone she meets. However, we soon see that there is more to her than meets the eye, much like the film her character is in. The storyline is entertaining and progressively absurd, but it may not satisfy the cravings of certain Internet conspiracy theorists. Let’s just say that the three uncover something much bigger than they could ever conceive. And you may never look at grape drink and fried chicken the same way again. So get in the back seat and join this unique Scooby Doo gang and find out what is happening in their small corner of the world. It’s a lot bigger than you think.   My Rating: Full Price  They Cloned Tyrone Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform. 

My View: Cobweb (2023) R   Peter (Woody Norman) is an eight-year-old who starts hearing knocking noises coming from inside the walls of his home. His parents don’t believe him, blaming his imagination. Peter soon learns that his parents are hiding a dark secret; something is in the walls. Cobweb is your ordinary build-up with scary sounds, parents that might not be right, and a voice in the wall. Then it proceeds to do a few jump scares and has an ending that seems much too easy and very unsatisfying. It’s a lot of fuss without much to back it up. My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Cobweb Website Now playing in theatres.

Forgotten Film: War of the Buttons (1994) PG   Set in 1960s Ireland, the children of two neighboring towns engage in battles against each other to capture their opponents and cut off their buttons, shoelaces, and underwear, all in order to get the losers in trouble with their parents. This is a much nicer and funnier film but has roots in Lord of the Flies in that the battles symbolize the troubles going on with the adults in their towns. You will need to turn on the subtitles, as the Irish accents are rather thick and sometimes tricky to understand. Overall, a delightful film based on a classic French story (that has been done a few times in French cinema). My Rating: Full Price  War of the Button Info  The film is available to buy/rent on both Amazon and Apple TV.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Oppenheimer: Train Coordinator

Coming Soon to Screen Near You: Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023) R Based on a single chapter from Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, this is the story of the Russian schooner Demeter, which is chartered to carry a private cargo from Carpathia to London. On board are twenty-four unmarked wooden crates. There is something or someone in one of those crates that means that no one will survive this voyage. The director, André Øvredal, who directed the fabulous Troll Hunter (2010), has described the film as ‘Alien on a ship.’  Last Voyage of the Demeter Website  The film will be in theatres on August 11th.

Until Next Time!

Friday, July 14, 2023

Misson Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One

My View: Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One (2023) PG-13 Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team must track down a dangerous weapon before it ends in the wrong hands. Just how far will Ethan have to go to save the world again? I was not a fan of the first Mission Impossible film, primarily due to the idea that Jim Phelps (played by Jon Voight) would never be a traitor and that the film was all about Ethan saving the day without his team. I enjoyed the rest of the series because Ethan became a leader of a team that would do everything it could to save the world. And because Tom Cruise is nuts and does some unbelievable stunts. I am happy to say that I enjoyed this latest installment, in which he brings back his team, including a few people from the past, to save the world once again. Added to the team is Hayley Atwell, who plays a thief named Grace who specializes in sleight hand pick-pocketing. There are some cool bad guys, including Pom Klementieff, as someone you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley or even a well-lighted one. The stunts are spectacular, and Tom once again puts his life on the line in real life to give us some thrills that no one else can deliver. I think this is one of the weaker MI films, mainly because it is a part one, so I came away feeling that there was a bit of filler, with too many times characters explaining stuff to us when all we want is action. And, without giving anything away, I did not enjoy the main bad guy, which I won’t go into until Part Two comes out. Still, go see this in as big a screen theatre as you can find and watch Tom ride a motorcycle off a cliff, and then…you have to see the rest.   My Rating: Full Price  Mission Impossible Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Indiefest: The Miracle Club (2023) PG-13 The Miracle Club takes place in 1967, and Chrissie (Laura Linney) has returned to Ireland from America after being banished by her family. She has returned after the death of her mother. Chrissie decides (uninvited) to go with her grandmother, Lily (Maggie Smith), who is going on a pilgrimage to the sacred French town of Lourdes with two of her friends (Agnes O’Casey, Kathy Bates). The women hope they will find the miracles they need, but they might find something more. The Miracle Club is a pleasant film to watch, primarily because of the outstanding cast, but untimely fails due to a script that goes too easily for the joke and never delivers the tough or touching moments that the film needs to succeed. I loved the showing of the 1967 neighborhood, but the film spends a lot of time setting up confrontations that are too easily resolved. I wanted more from The Miracle Club but instead we got a movie with its heart in the right place that didn’t deliver the goods.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Miracle Club Website   Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: The League (2023) PG The League is a documentary about a league that changed baseball forever, the Negro Baseball League. I thought I knew about the legendary Negro Baseball League, but I was wrong. This is a brilliant and insightful look at a history that many of us know little about. I found the interviews with the players fascinating, some of whom I had never seen footage of or heard their experiences of playing when the "major leagues" were off-limits. I learned so much from this documentary, especially that it wasn’t just one league but several separate leagues that got together to play a ‘World Series’ of their own. The League is a film not just for baseball fans or history buffs. It’s a documentary for anyone wanting to learn an essential part of American history that has long been ignored. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  The League Website  Now available on most digital formats.

Indiefest: Amanda (2022)  Amanda (Benedetta Porcaroli) is a 24-year-old born to an upper-class family who hasn’t had someone she could call a friend since she was a child. Now she is being forced to join the real world and must find someone, anyone she could call a friend. Into Amanda’s life comes Viola (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), who was Amanda’s friend when they were small; if Amanda can convince Viola, who doesn’t want to leave her room, that they are friends, everything will be great in Amanda’s life. Or so she thinks. This is one of those films where the main character is incredibly flawed, sometimes annoying and bratty, yet we love her. Benedetta Porcaroli gives a magical performance as a young woman who desperately wants to be in a relationship but has no idea how to go about it. Pushed by her mother, she sets her sights on a childhood friend, Rebecca, who is as quirky and strange as she is (played by marvelously deadpanned Galatéa Bellugi). The two are quite a pair who enjoy spending all their time in Rebecca’s room discussing their lives and ideas about how the world works. I loved this film, which is as strange and unique as its main character. And wait until you meet Amanda’s young niece, who is obsessed with Jesus. How can you not like a character who is told you can’t take that plate of rice and eat it while walking the streets of your town and then does so anyway? Maybe we can be that elusive friend that Amanda is desperate to find.   My Rating: Full Price Amanda Website   Now playing in select theatres.

Indiefest: Lakota Nation vs. United States (2022) PG-13 Lakota Nation vs. United States is a documentary exploring Indigenous peoples’ fight to get back the Black Hills from the U. S. government. The Black Hills, a sacred ground for the Lakota Nation, was originally to be a part of their reservation until gold was discovered, and the government took it. One of the best documentaries of the year, this is a course on how and why the Black Hills of South Dakota should be given back to the Lakota Nation. This is a film that uses both words and visuals to make its points with stunning results. The film flows out of the people that tell its story, and it’s one of wonder, tears, and heartache. The documentary is a testament to the resiliency of the Lakota people and how they have survived every attempt to destroy their way of life. From the 400 treaties that have all been broken, to the sending of their children to boarding schools to be shamed into leaving their beliefs and way of life behind. Lakota Nation vs. United States is a history lesson that we all need to learn and understand so that wrongs are righted and that we don’t forget the past.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Lakota Nation vs. United States Website Now playing in select theatres. 

Indiefest: Final Cut   (2022) A small film crew is shooting a low-budget zombie film and trying to do it in one take. There is one problem that could ruin the shoot; they are attacked by real zombies. I will warn you the first third of this film is a bit hard to watch as it is a movie that looks as if it was shot in one take and is full of overacting and lots of horrible dialogue. Stay with this film because what follows is a fun ride into the world of low-budget filmmaking with a cast that commits to their parts with gusto. The film is from Michel Hazanavicius, whose 2011 film The Artist won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Directing. I loved how no matter what the father/director (Romain Duris) does, he can’t win in the eyes of his daughter (Simone Hazanavicius), a budding filmmaker herself. The film is buoyed by Bérénice Bejo (who was also in The Artist), who plays the director’s wife, a former actress, with a secret that slowly comes out during the film. I will say this, if you enjoyed this film, check out the 2017 film One Cut of the Dead, which this film is a remake of. And check out the short final scene at the end of the full credits.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Final Cut Website    Now playing in select theaters. 

Forgotten Film: A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006) R  Dito (Robert Downey Jr.) gets a phone call from his mother (Dianne Wiest) to come home after 15 years to see his dying father (Chazz Palminteri). In a series of flashbacks, we see Dito (Shia LaBeouf) in his early years as he tries to survive with the help of his friends. This is an interesting film with a great cast that is based on the filmmaker’s (Dito Montiel) own life and was shot on location where the director grew up. I think Downey goes a bit overboard, but the rest of the cast, including a very young Channing Tatum, is so good in this film that it’s worth a watch. It’s about realizing that you might not have survived without your friends. Sometimes, you recognize that you have had saints watching over you during times of trouble.   My Rating: Full Price  A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints Info   The film is available for rent/buy on Amazon and Apple TV. 

Weird Credits: From the credits of Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One: Speed Flying Instructors

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Haunted Mansion (2023) PG-13 A single mom, Gabbie (Rosario Dawson), has just bought a mansion, and it’s haunted. What’s mom to do but hire a tour guide, a psychic, a priest, and a historian to help exorcise the ghosts? This film has been in the planning stages for a while, with Guillermo del Toro and Ryan Gosling attached to it. Disney is very high on this film, and it’s said that the plot differs vastly from the 2003 film that starred Eddie Murphy. The cast includes Winona Ryder, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jared Leto, Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, LaKeith Stanfield, and Tiffany Haddish.  Haunted Mansion Website In theaters nationwide on July 28th.

Until Next Time!

Friday, July 7, 2023

Joy Ride

My View: Joy Ride (2023)  R  Four friends go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip when one of them adds a quest to their trip to China to find her birth mother. Audrey (Ashley Park) is a successful businesswoman who wants to find her birth mother. Lolo (Sherry Cola) is her best friend since childhood, Kat (Stephanie Hsu) is their college friend who is now a massive TV star in China, and Deadeye (Sabrina Wu) is, well, Lolo’s very eccentric cousin. It’s going to be a life-changing trip if they survive it. Think of this film as a combination of The Hangover, Crazy Rich Asians (without the love story), and any Seth MacFarlane film. Written by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao, who were staff writers on the TV series Family Guy, the film is very raunchy, with lots of drug use (that requires a bit of reality suspension from viewers) and lots of jokes about sex. I did not enjoy this film, but the audience I saw the movie with had a blast, and several of my fellow critics thought the film was hilarious. I don’t have a problem with over-the-top comedy (heck, I loved both Borat movies), but I felt the jokes/comedy went for the easy joke too many times. The plot line, including where the foursome is kicked off a train in China, was a little far-fetched for me, not because they got caught with drugs, but because they were annoying. I will say I thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Sabrina Wu as the strange but lovable Deadeye, who stole a lot of scenes in the film just by being weird. You may thoroughly enjoy Joy Ride, but it wasn’t my cup of tea (pun intended).   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Joy Ride Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide. 

My View: Insidious: The Red Door (2023) PG-13  The Lamberts have fought evil for years. Now to put their demons to rest for once and all, Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Dalton, his college-age son (Ty Simpkins), must go back into The Further, deeper than ever before, and face their family’s secrets and all the evil that those secrets hold lurking behind the red door. The Insidious franchise has always been a weak horror group of films, starting with the first Insidious film back in 2010. We even had a movie in the series that starred Lin Shaye, a minor character in the first three films. This film returns to its roots, where Josh and Dalton get hypnotized to forget what happened in The Further. But just like a bad meal, those evil bad guys want to come out again and wreak some havoc. The film is directed by Patrick Wilson, which is very clear because Ty Simpkins, as the college-aged kid with severe memory problems, has to do most of the heavy lifting. The film is your typical ‘jump out of the dark’ scare-filled film that contributes almost nothing to the series other than we get the idea that father and son don’t get along because of their past hidden trauma. Rose Byrne, who did a lot of screaming in the first two films, doesn’t do much other than be a supportive divorced mom. There is a reason this film wasn’t screened for critics. It is worse than all the rest of the Insidious franchise of films, and that’s saying a lot My Rating: Cable  Insidious: The Red Door Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: The Out-Laws (2023) Straight-laced bank manager Owen (Adam Devine) is about to marry the woman of his dreams in Parker (Nina Dobrev). When the infamous Ghost Bandits gang holds up his bank during his wedding week, Owen has a sneaking suspicion that his future in-laws (Ellen Barkin, Pierce Brosnan) could be the gang. Instead of in-laws, they could be The Out-Laws. Directed by Tyler Spindel, known for his dreadful films Father of the Year (2018), Deported (2020), and The Wrong Missy (2020), and produced by Adam Sandler, this film fails on just about every level. The plot is held together with baling wire and bubblegum, and quoting the immortal Roddy Piper, the film is ‘all out of bubblegum.’ The film is filled with unfunny jokes and an ending that makes no sense. I hope the paycheck for Barkin and Brosnan was huge because anybody who had to deliver lines like they had to without breaking down deserved it.   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again The Out-Laws Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.  

Indiefest: Biosphere (2022)  Biosphere is about Billy (Mark Duplass), who used to be the President of the United States, and Ray (Sterling K. Brown), Billy’s political advisor and his best friend since childhood. They are stuck in a Biosphere together, and by the way, they may be the last two people alive on Earth. What could go wrong? I really wanted to like this film as I am a fan of Mark Duplass and his movies/standup, but about halfway through this film, it takes a turn and falls apart. Up to that point, I was having fun with this concept of two guys stuck together that have been friends since childhood and know each other’s biggest secrets. The film feels a bit like it needs one or two more screenplay drafts to find its footing and that maybe there were too many idea cards on the writer’s wall. A single idea dominates the second half of the film (I won’t give away that plot point), and the film falls apart as it goes from being a comedy about two guys into some bizarre topics that it never recovers from, kind of like an improv skit that goes on too long.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Biosphere Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

My View: Wham! (2023) Wham! is a documentary about two best friends who formed a band and set out to conquer the world. In four years, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley took Wham! farther than their wildest dreams, dominating the pop scene for four years. However, good things sometimes only last as long as both members can control their egos. I never was a big Wham listener. They were way too pop oriented, with their early songs too close to disco for me. I think big fans of Wham will enjoy this film the most, narrated by Michael and Ridgeley, without any interviews with members of their band, including Shirlie Holliman and Pepsi DeMacque. I would have liked a few different views from these forgotten women of the group. Wham!, the movie, spends a great deal of time on the duo’s early years before they became Wham!, with George Michael going by his given name of Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou. The fascinating part of the film is that the duo were so young when they started the band and how quickly they went from playing small clubs to stadiums. Wham started as Andrew’s band, with Michael happy to be the singer, but as the band matured a bit, it was Michael’s talent for both singing and producing that made the band a worldwide hit. The film does quite a bit of telling the story of Michael having to stay in the closet to keep the band’s fans from finding out and how, for a while, Ridgeley was more in the news for his wild ways, taking some of the spotlight off of Michael. The film does a great job of also showing how Michael’s solo career started and how it eventually broke up the band, but with Andrew Ridgeley’s full support. Did I come away from the film as a fan? No, but it confirmed just how talented George Michael was and how his presence is missed to this day.   My Rating: Full Price  Wham! Movie Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform. 

Indiefest: The Lesson (2023) R  Young aspiring author Liam (Daryl McCormack) takes a job tutoring the son of a world-famous author J. M. Sinclair (Richard E. Grant). The job becomes complicated when Liam is asked to help with J. M.’s latest book. The Sinclair house holds many secrets, and some are about to emerge. The Lesson is one of those films destined to be part of my Forgotten Film series in ten years, as this isn’t a great film, but it has an outstanding performance by Richard E. Grant to make it worth watching. Grant, as a pompous writer who thinks the world revolves around his work, is brilliant and amazing. Grant revels in being a man who believes that he is the smartest person in the room and that your intellect can’t even be compared to his. He rules his home with an iron fist, making his wife, played by the equally impressive Julie Delpy, and his son (Stephen McMillan) bend to his every whim, whether it be music played during dinner or their opinions on any topics he brings up. The film has a tension that keeps on building for the first two-thirds of the film. Unfortunately, the film crashes a bit in the third act, with an ending that doesn’t meet the viewer’s expectations. I enjoyed Daryl McCormack’s performance as the cocksure young writer who gets to work with his idol only to discover what everyone knows. Never meet your heroes.   My Rating: Full Price  The Lesson Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Forgotten Film: Lord of War (2005) R  Yuri (Nicolas Cage) is your ordinary, successful salesman, except that Yuri sells weapons to anyone that can pay. As Yuri says, “I’ve done business with every army but the Salvation Army.” Lord of War is a very dark comedy where Yuri gets the bad news that a major conflict is in peace talks and says he won’t deal with Osama Bin Laden because ‘he bounces his checks.’ This is a fun film (as any film about arms dealing can be) with an outstanding cast that includes Bridget Moynahan as Yuri’s girlfriend who thinks he is in the import business, Ethan Hawke as an Interpol agent out to stop Yuri and Jared Leto as Yuri’s brother who is always causing problems. Many people want Yuri dead, but more want what he sells, which makes Yuri tick.   My Rating: Full Price  Lord of War Info The film is available to rent or buy on Amazon, Apple Tv, and Google Play.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Joy Ride: Stitcher

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Blue Beetle (2023) PG-13  Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) is picked by an alien relic to be its symbiotic host, giving Jamie a suit of armor that capable of extraordinary but unpredictable powers. Jaime is about, no matter if he wants it or not, to become the superhero Blue Beetle. I think the world is ready for a full-on Latino superhero movie!  Blue Beetle Website  In theatres on Aug. 18th.

Until Next Week!