My View: Red, White & Royal Blue (2023) R Alex (Taylor Zakhar Perez) is the son of a current President (Uma Thurman), the first woman in the job and seeking re-election. Alex has a rivalry with the young Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine), which has gotten heated after an incident at the older Prince’s brother’s wedding. The two must act like friends on a goodwill visit to the UK to avoid a scandal. Their rivalry will soon turn to friendship, and maybe even more. This is one more of the recent additions to the Hallmark-like romance stories, but this one has a bit of a twist. First, I was surprised at how the film went in the romance department between the two, and while I don’t think it deserves the R rating, it does get a little risqué in their love scenes. The film works because of the chemistry between the two leads. The movie takes a bit to get going, and the incident at the wedding is a little forced. However, the rest of the film picks up when the two men figure out they are interested in each other, and their romance takes off. I loved we get to see how the romance starts as a friendship and that one of the two isn’t as experienced as you think he would be (I won’t tell you which one, let that be a bit of an eye-opener). The film is helped by a strong supporting cast (though I hated Uma Thurman’s attempt at a Texas accent), and I loved Sarah Shahi’s performance as the President’s chief of staff. Shahi’s reaction when she finds the two men together after a night of passion is worth watching the film just for that scene. I am sure that everyone who read the best-selling book will be satisfied with this adaptation and will go home happy. My Rating: Full Price Red, White & Royal Blue Website Now playing on the Amazon Prime Website.
My View: Heart of Stone (2023) PG-13 Rachel Stone (Gal Gadot) is someone the world knows as an inexperienced tech working for an MI6 team headed by agent Parker (Jamie Dornan). What MI6 doesn’t know is that Stone actually works for the Charter, an elite covert peacekeeping organization that uses cutting-edge technology to neutralize global threats. When a routine mission is derailed by a mysterious hacker (Alia Bhatt), Rachel must use all her skills to stop the hacker from stealing a weapon that could change the balance of power. After a rousing opening sequence with moments from a few Bond films, a very cool chase sequence on the streets of Lisbon, and a sky-diving scene that would fit into any Mission Impossible, this film falls apart with a storyline that is all over the place and a finale that seems too easy to accomplish. Gal Gadot gets to do some fun stunts, and she is excellent in the action sequences, but the film lets her down with a simple plot that I had figured out who the bad guy was from almost the get-go. Let’s hope that if there are more of these Gal Gadot Charter films, they come up with a more complex villain and a better ending. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Heart of Stone Website Now playing on the Netflix platform.
Indiefest: Jules (2023) PG-13 Jules is about Milton (Ben Kingsley), who lives a quiet life in a small Pennsylvania town until his life is upended when a UFO and its extra-terrestrial passenger crash land in his backyard. He names his new friend Jules. Things get complicated when Milton’s two neighbors (Jane Curtin and Harriet Sansom Harris) find out about Jules. And then Milton’s daughter (Zoe Winters) gets suspicious, and the government starts sniffing around. Can’t a guy just be let alone to live with an alien from another planet? I loved this quiet and fun film about a strange set in his ways, Milton, who is awakened in the middle of the night by a UFO crashing into his flower bed. He is at first more upset that his flowers have been destroyed than that a UFO is in his backyard, but he soon meets the alien from another planet and becomes his host. Ben Kingsley is brilliant as Milton, a man losing his way in life, and takes having an alien for a houseguest as another thing to handle. The film is helped by Jane Curtin and Harriet Sansom Harris, who play neighbors of Milton, who decide to help take care of the alien and keep the secret from the rest of the town. Jules is a warm, funny film that moves along at its own pace, much like Milton. My Rating: Full Price Jules Website Now playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: Medusa Deluxe (2022) R Set in the throes of a competitive hairdressing contest, one of the contestants has been murdered. Waiting for the police to interview them, what’s a group of hairdressers going to do but gossip? Medusa Deluxe is a film that uses the gimmick of giving us the appearance of the film being on one long continuous shot. The film opens with us being introduced to all the suspects who could have done the murder as we spend time with the hairdressing contestants and hangers-on backstage, waiting to be interviewed by the police. The problem is this film is all flash and very little substance. We get a lot of conversations between the suspects, but the mystery of who did the killing is never really explored. The camerawork is impressive, as are the performances that continue as the camera moves from one character to another. However, the film never creates any tension, and when we find the killer, the reveal is somewhat subdued and unsatisfying. Medusa Deluxe is one of those films that plays better at a film festival (where I saw it) than in a regular movie theatre or on an online screener. My Rating; Bargain Matinee Medusa Deluxe Website Now playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: Aporia (2023) R Sophie (Judy Greer) is a woman who has lost her husband (Edi Gathegi) to a drunk driver accident and is struggling to manage her grief while trying to be a good mother to her devastated daughter (Faithe Herman. She discovers that a friend, a former physicist (Payman Maadi), has invented a time machine, and Sophie might be able to go back in time to save her husband. However, choices like that always have consequences. Aporia is a film about making choices and living with the results. Sophie is a mom who loves her family and will do anything to stop the hurt and suffering of others. Greer gives a touching and lovely performance as the mom whose heart controls her every move. Nonetheless, once you go down the path of changing history, it’s a slope that is hard to climb back up from. The film explores people’s choices and whether they can live with their decisions. The big question is, when do you stop once you start changing the past? My Rating: Bargain Matinee Aporia Website Now playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: Passages (2023) R Passages is about the choices we make in relationships. Even though filmmaker Tomas (Franz Rogowski) is married to Martin (Ben Whishaw, Tomas starts an affair with a young schoolteacher, Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos), and is excited by the novelty of being with a woman. Everything seems great until Martin starts an affair of his own, and now Tomas is torn between his husband and his new lover. This is one of those films where you instantly don’t like the main character, and you continue to not only not like the person but end up hating him because of how he treats everyone who cares about him. Tomas is an unlikable jerk who somehow makes two people fall in love with him. Martin and Agathe are too good for Tomas, and why either would want to stay with such an egotistical, self-centered person is beyond me. I liked that we don’t get background on anyone but are thrown into this world at break-net speed, and we have to hang on, much like the two people Tomas is toying with. Passages is not a feel-good film, and that is the point, as sometimes life is messy, and people fall in love with the wrong person. Passages is a messy and often frustrating look at a man who doesn’t care about anyone but himself and his needs. My Rating: Full Price Passages Info Now playing in select theatres.
Forgotten Film: The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968) PG-13 A young Amish woman (Britt Ekland) runs away from home and her strict father to the big city of New York in 1925. She hopes to act in religious stage plays but meets two vaudeville performers (Jason Robards and Norman Wisdom) who get her a part in their burlesque show. What follows is the invention of the striptease, and burlesque would never be the same. The film is co-written by Norman Lear (creator of All in the Family) and is a little too heavy with corny jokes. Still, the film is worth watching for the performances of Norman Wisdom, a legendary British music-hall veteran and the last role for Bert Lahr. The film is directed by the late William Friedkin, known for his movies The Exorcist (1973), The French Connection (1971), and To Live and Die in L.A. (1985). My Rating; Bargain Matinee The Night They Raided Minsky's Info The film is available on DVD.
Weird Credits: From the credits of Red, White & Royal Blue: Royal Etiquette Advisor
Coming Soon to Screen Near You: Bottoms (2023) Two lesbian high school friends (Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri) decide to start a girls’ club after school. It’s all to impress their crushes, Isabel (Havana Rose Lui) and Brittany (Kaia Gerber), two of the most popular girls in school. What starts as a club for girl power becomes a fight club, and then things get really weird. The film is from Emma Seligman, whose film Shiva Baby (2020) became a big Indie hit. Bottoms was one of the most talked about movies at the SXSW Film Festival back in March. Bottoms Website The film is in theatres on August 25th.