My View: Blue Beetle (2023) PG-13 Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) is picked by an alien relic, a scarab, as its symbiotic host, giving Jaime a suit of armor capable of extraordinary but unpredictable powers. Jaime is about, no matter if he wants it or not, to become the superhero Blue Beetle. However, he is not alone. He has a family that always has his back. I loved this film. The film is about family and how when you need them, your family is there, ready to fight along with you. You will want to see this film with a crowd because it is so much fun. Xolo Maridueña is perfect as Jaime, a recent college graduate who comes back to find that his family is not doing well financially and health-wise. He has a ‘meet cute’ moment with a wealthy heir to a big corporation, Jenny (Bruna Marquezina), who gives Jamie a mysterious object that soon changes Jamie from an ordinary guy to a superhero. This film works because Maridueña’s Jaime is such a likable guy with a love for his family and his heritage. The LatinX portion of the film is the film’s center and how no matter the obstacles, Jaime and his family will overcome them. I felt the film’s only weak point was the evil bad guy, played by Susan Sarandon, who wants the scarab to power her company’s quest to become a supplier of symbiotic warriors. Sarandon doesn’t get to do much, but say a few lines and look like a powerful businesswoman. Adriana Barraza, who plays Jaime’s grandmother, overshadows Sarandon. Barraza steals the movie in the last 20 minutes of the film, and it’s worth the price of admission to see her. I even liked George Lopez as Jaime’s uncle, though it takes a while to warm up to his character. This is a superhero film that has lots of heart, and it does such a better job of making us enjoy the characters than some films that have come out in the past few years. I can’t wait to see this character develop and hope that Blue Beetle is one of the centerpieces of the new DC Universe. My Rating: Full Price Blue Beetle Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
: Strays (2023) R Reggie (voiced by Will Ferrell) is a dog whose owner (Will Forte) has abandoned him in the city. A pack of stray dogs led by Bug (Jamie Foxx) adopts Reggie, and they are off to find Reggie’s owner and get revenge. With a little help from his friends, Reggie is going to figure out how to survive on the streets. Strays is a R-rated film and is not for kids, though some of the dogs, including Reggie, are adorable. What’s not adorable are the things these dogs say and do. A lot of what these dogs do and talk about are peeing, smelling, and humping any and everything. Reggie and Bug are joined on the quest to find Reggie’s owner by Maggie (voice by Isla Fisher), a dog with a nose that can find anything, and Hunter (voiced by Randall Park), a big dog who washed out of the police academy and wears a cone because it comforts him. There are some laugh-out-loud funny bits, one of which had me on the floor, but the film should have been a short. Strays is a film whose novelty wears out by the last third of the film. The film is R-rated and probably deserves it, but I felt that, at times, the movie didn’t push the raunchiness enough. It’s a strange film, but dog lovers (like myself) still will have a good time, though it might make you wonder what the heck your dog is thinking about. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Strays Website Now playing in theaters nationwide.
Indiefest: Landscape with Invisible Hand (2023) R Landscape with Invisible Hand is set in the future, where aliens have invaded and taken over Earth. The alien’s bureaucratic rule and advanced technology have left most of the Earth impoverished and unemployed. Two teenagers, Adam (Asante Blackk) and Chloe (Kylie Rogers) hatch a plan to ensure their family’s futures, but it’s risky and involves them being in love, even if they aren’t. The film is from Cory Finley, whose two previous films, Thoroughbreds (2017) and Bad Education (2019), I liked. This film starts with a strong premise, but I felt it lost its way when the story focused almost solely on Adam, and Chloe is left on the back burner. I would have loved it if the two had continued with their relationship, but instead, the story veers off of that and goes more into how Adam and his mom, played by Tiffany Haddish, try to keep the family from losing their home. I am not a fan of Haddish, and I found that her character’s storyline was the weakest part of the plot. There are some fun scenes that comment on our society and how we love to document every aspect of our lives, but the film lost me for the 2nd half of the film and never got me back in for the end of the film. I enjoyed the two teens and their chemistry on the screen, I just wish they had more time together. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Landscape with Invisible Hand Website Now playing in select theatres.
My View: Reinventing Elvis: The '68 Comeback (2023) Elvis, who in 1968, was considered a has-been and a sellout, overshadowed by The Beatles and other rock acts. He needed a vehicle for his comeback, and Steve Binder was hired to produce a TV special to put Elvis back on the map. Conflicts with Elvis’s manager, Col. Tom Parker, and a highly doubtful Elvis made this an almost impossible task. However, it was Elvis, after all. This is a wonderful and insightful documentary about one of the most iconic concert specials ever seen on TV. The 2022 film Elvis gave us a brief look at what went on, but this film lets Steve Binder tell how the special came about and how the battle with Col. Tom Parker went on and on. There are plenty of songs from the special, but what is really cool is all the behind-the-scenes footage that we get to see, along with interviews with the dancers and audience members that were there to witness a historic taping. You get to see Elvis not only as the consummate performer but also as someone who was at home on the stage and knew he was indeed ‘The King.’ My Rating: Full Price Reinventing Elvis: The '68 Comeback Special Now playing on the Paramount+ platform. The Monkey King Website Now playing on the Netflix platform.
Indiefest: Afire (2023) Leon (Thomas Schubert) is a novelist who is about to share a work retreat house on an Island with his artist friend Felix (Langston Uibel). When they arrive, they learn they are sharing the house with Nadja (Paula Beer), who is dating a local lifeguard. As a forest fire threatens their house, Leon tries to finish his latest novel, but Nadja becomes a distraction he cannot ignore. We have another protagonist that you will not like, but this time, unlike some other films (I’m looking at you, Shortcomings), you end up rooting for the guy in the end. Leon is a man who can’t do the right thing, even when it’s right in front of him. It’s clear from the start that Leon is infatuated with Nadja but can’t seem to say anything close to something that would even begin for Nadja to pay attention to him. And yet, there is still a chance because Nadja sees something that we don’t, and she is willing to dig a little to find it. Leon isn’t an easy character to root for, and he keeps sticking his foot in his mouth, even when things get serious. But in the end, we see the genuine writer at work and what makes this man do what he does. It just takes a long time to get there. My Rating: Full Price Afire Website Now playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: Between Two Worlds (2021) We learn that Marie (Juliette Binoche) is not the job-seeking housewife she says she is, but a journalist researching what it’s like being unemployed and willing to do any type of work. Marie makes friends wherever she goes, but how far is she willing to go to write a book that could make her famous? Juliette Binoche does almost the impossible, allowing the spotlight to focus not on her but on her co-stars, the actors portraying the workers Marie is trying to get to know and understand. What comes across in this film is the kindness and humanity that people who work in thankless jobs show to each other. Time and time again, Marie is taken under somebody’s wing to help her survive, even when it could hurt them. We get to see how challenging a job service work is, and it gives us an idea of just how tough it is to survive when everything seems stacked against you. I loved some of the performances in this film, giving a real-life feel to a story that touches the heart. My Rating: Full Price Between Two Worlds Website Now playing in select theatres.
Forgotten Film: Chan is Missing (1982) Two San Francisco cab drivers (Marc Hayashi and Wood Moy) go looking for a man who has mysteriously disappeared named Chan, who owes them money. This isn’t about a hard-boiled detective but two ordinary guys looking for a guy and asking questions. We learn about life in San Francisco, the people who live there, and their views on life and love. Chan is Missing is one of those low-budget films that perfectly captures a city and a time. So spend a little time with two guys who go around knocking on doors and talking with people about a guy named Chan but really talking about life in America in the 80s. My Rating: Full Price Chan is Missing Info The film is available to rent/buy on Amazon and Apple TV.
Weird Credits: From the credits of Blue Beetle: Store Person
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Fair Play (2023) R An unexpected promotion at a hedge fund is given to Emily (Phoebe Dynevor), who is in a relationship with another employee, Luke (Alden Ehrenreich). The couple is recently engaged, but this job will test their relationship to the brink and may threaten to unravel far more than their love for each other. Netflix is high on this film (it got a Grand Jury Prize nomination at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival), so much so they are releasing the movie in theatres first. Fair Play Website Set to be released in theatres in late September.