Friday, September 29, 2023

The Creator

My View: The Creator (2023) PG-13 The Creator depicts an ongoing conflict between humanity and artificial intelligence. Joshua (John David Washington) is recruited to hunt down and kill The Creator, the architect of the advanced AI. The Creator has made a mysterious weapon with the power to end the human race, and it might be the little girl that Joshua has just rescued. I liked this film, but I can’t say I loved it. It’s a big, sprawling film meant to be seen on the big screen. This is a film that covers a lot of ground, and that is why I didn’t connect with it as much as I wanted to. The film deals with AI and how we will treat the robots we create once they start thinking for themselves. With overtones of the Vietnam War, big government gone wrong, and immigration, the film tries to bring all this together in one story told over two hours, and it seems to lose its focus along the way. The film is also about love lost, the guilt of not being truthful, and the actions of the present to make up for the mistakes of the past. I think that sci-fi fans will enjoy the film, but if you aren’t a fan, this film and its complicated plot may be too much to overcome. For this fan, I liked it, but I don’t know if I will ever revisit it.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Creator Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide.

My View: Dumb Money (2023) R   Keith Gill (Paul Dano) has a Reddit channel about stocks. He tells his followers to buy GameStop, and it goes viral, taking the stock into the stratosphere and making Keith a millionaire almost overnight. However, Keith has made a lot of big-time hedge fund investors mad, and they are out for revenge. This is a film about the little guy who tries to make some money honestly and has the guts to back it up. Dumb Money is a fun film that takes a complex story and makes it enjoyable to follow along. What I love about this film is that it lets us see the stories of other small investors, like the guy working at GameStop and the couple of college students who fall in love while on this investing journey. Paul Dano is perfect as the guy who spoke to a small group of people on his webpage and, somehow, became a crusader who battled the big investors and beat them at their own game. I am not a Pete Davidson fan, but he is perfectly cast as Keith’s brother, who keeps everything real, even much to the annoyance of Keith himself. And I love America Ferrera’s performance as a nurse who invests her money in GameStop and lets it ride on the roller coaster that is the stock market. Dumb Money is a film that is a blast to watch, especially when the big boys start squirming.   My Rating: Full Price  Dumb Money Website  Now playing in theatres.

My View: Saw X (2023) R  Saw X occurs in the past when John Kramer (Tobin Bell) had cancer and was desperate for a cure. He travels to Mexico for a risky and experimental medical procedure for a miracle cure, only to discover that the entire operation is a scam. They have tricked the wrong person, and it’s time for John to get revenge. A review of the film will be up tomorrow night. The Saw franchise has always been interesting, with a character torturing people while having a strange sense of morality. This is the tenth film, but it occurs between the first and second Saw films. We know who John Kramer is and what he does. And we also know that he doesn’t work alone. This film is a bit different, first with an outstanding performance from Tobin Bell, as our mad torture designer. This film has bloody and gruesome deaths, as you would expect. Interestingly, in this film, John is the hero, not the villain. Oh sure, he still puts people in horrible situations where they have to maim and torture themselves to live, but John is dealing with some very bad people. The latest Saw movie is great for Saw lovers and horror enthusiasts. However, if you didn't enjoy the previous Saw films, this one may not be for you. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Saw X Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Reptile (2023) R Reptile is a story of a real estate agent’s murder. Detective Tom Nichols (Benicio del Toro) tries to find the truth, but everyone he meets is a suspect, and nothing is what it seems. I liked this detective movie about a man who can’t let things go. Everyone thinks Tom is a hero, but he still feels that there is something more to the story, and he keeps digging. I loved the chemistry between del Toro and Alicia Silverstone, who plays his wife. The two have a great rapport going, and it’s fun when his wife keeps giving him facts she has learned from true crime stories. The mystery is a little too easy to solve, and the ending is too tidy, but it is the journey to get there that is the fun part, and del Toro, who co-wrote the script, brings us along on his way to solve a crime that is more complicated than anyone would guess.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Reptile Website Now playing on the Netflix platform. 

Indiefest: Radical Wolfe (2023)   Documentary on the life and writing of Tom Wolfe, the bestselling author of groundbreaking books The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and The Bonfire of the Vanities. I am a big fan of Tom Wolfe, and I was pleased with how much of Wolfe’s personality and writing style came across in the film. Tom's life and the impact of his writing are well depicted in the movie, starting from his articles in magazines and newspapers to his successful books. Wolfe was a man whose public bought his books in droves even before the reviews came out, making him a household name and favorite of late-night talk shows. He was a writer with his own style, which captured a nation for almost as long as he wrote his stories. I hope that people who see this film will discover the beauty of his writing and how he expertly captured the people and time he wrote about.   My Rating: Full Price  Radical Wolfe Website  Now playing in theatres. 

My View: Fair Play (2023) 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 newly engaged, but this job will test their relationship to the brink and may threaten to unravel far more than their love for each other. I admit that sometimes I have trouble with films where I don’t like any of the characters. This is the case with Fair Play, where I was not too fond of either character from the start of the film. That being said, that’s not my problem with this film. It’s that the character of Luke, who starts as, at least in Emily’s eyes, the perfect boyfriend, quickly goes from that to the rails guy who can’t handle that he isn’t the golden boy he thought he was. I will not give away too much, but I hated two scenes in the film: one that takes place in a bathroom, where Emily succumbs to, I guess, lust or loss, and then the ending, which I found almost comical. The characters are flat and shallow, and the plot becomes ludicrous (how a couple living together can hide that fact from their employer is beyond me). Fair Play wasn’t a film that ever connected to me, and I felt the running time of almost 2 hours was too long to spend with two people I couldn’t care less about.   My Rating: Cable  Fair Play Website  Now playing in theatres and premiering on the Netflix platform on Friday, Oct. 6th.
Sorry I Missed It (A film that I didn’t see in theatres but have seen recently):
Honor Society (2022)   Honor (Angourie Rice) is determined to survive her senior year at high school and get accepted in Harvard, and nothing is going to stop her. When Honor discovers she has three rivals for that Harvard spot, she plans to take all three of them down. Honor might be her name, but she isn’t about to be honest, fair, or have integrity when getting her way. I loved this film from the first frame, where Honor talks directly to us, giving us the layout of her life, including her parents, friends, and teachers. If Ferris Buller and Tracy Flick had a kid, it would be Honor. Honor will let nothing or anyone get in her way, and she is a master of concocting schemes to accomplish her goals. Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys, The Last Thing He Told Me) is perfect in the role of Honor, a teen who plays everyone like a master puppeteer, getting them to do exactly what she wants while acting like she is their best friend. Honor Society is if John Hughes had written a film for the TikTok/YouTube gang. It’s full of fun and unique characters, from jocks to nerds, with a dash of not-quite-so-mean girls, making the film a blast.  My Rating: Full Price   Honor Society Info Available on Amazon or Apple TV. 

Forgotten Film: King Creole (1958) PG  Danny (Elvis Presley) has flunked graduation for a second time and needs money to support his father (Dean Jagger). Danny finds a job as a singer at the King Creole nightclub, the only club in the city not run by mobster Maxie Fields (Walter Matthau). How long will Danny and the club’s success be ruined by the mobster who can’t stand anyone making money other than himself? Though I enjoy Viva Las Vegas more (because of the chemistry between Elvis and Ann-Margret), this is the film that shows that Elvis could act if given the right material and a director who knew what to do with him. Legendary director Michael Curtiz, whose career included Casablanca and The Adventures of Robin Hood, directed the film. Elvis was in brilliant company with actors including Walter Matthau, Dean Jagger, Vic Morrow, Paul Stewart, and Carolyn Jones, who plays the woman Maxie sends to seduce Danny over to the wrong side and falls in love instead. I have a feeling the setting reminded Elvis of the small clubs that he used to hang out in Memphis, and that setting meant that he was comfortable in the role, something that wasn’t always the case (i.e., most of the late ‘60s Elvis films). With last year’s Elvis, this year’s documentary Reinventing Elvis, and the upcoming bio-pic Priscilla, now would be the time to see some Elvis magic.   My Rating: Full Price   King Creole Info   The film is available to rent/buy on Amazon and Apple TV.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Dumb Money: Standby Prop

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Priscilla (2023) R Teenage Priscilla Beaulieu (Cailee Spaeny) meets rock and roll superstar Elvis and begins a romance that the world followed until his death. Priscilla tells the one woman who knew Elvis the best in private moments: a thrilling crush, an alley in loneliness, and a vulnerable best friend. Directed by Sofia Coppola, the film won Cailee Spaeny the Best Actress Award at the 2023 Venice Film Festival.   Priscilla Website  In theatres on Nov. 3rd. 

Until Next Time!

Friday, September 22, 2023


My View: Expend4ables (2023) R  The team has reloaded with new members, and they are armed with every weapon they get their hands on. The Expendables are the world’s last line of defense, and they are out to stop a terrorist group from getting a group of nuclear missiles. It’s time for the new members to show what they can do. With some of the worst green screen CGI I have ever seen combined with a plot that a third grader could do better with and no star power beyond Jason Statham and Sly Stallone, this is a dud of a movie right from the first frame. Action fans will be pissed as there are only two full-out action sequences, one of which takes place on a cargo freighter. There are also two chase sequences, one of which is with motorcycles on said cargo freighter. There is so much talking in this film, full of guys being guys, that I almost applauded when one character takes a vow of silence. Statham does virtually all the heavy lifting in both the plot and the action sequences. There are so many bad guys on the cargo freighter that it reminded me of the old circus clown car, as the bad guys kept popping up just in time for Jason to kill a few more. The first Expendables film was fun, bringing together all the old action stars, but as the series has gone on, they have run out of the old guard and giving us Megan Fox instead. I think the crew, as Stallone might say, is finally expendabled out.   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See It Again   Expend4ables Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.  

My View: It Lives Inside  (2023)  PG-13  Sam (Megan Suri), an Indian-American teen, is struggling to fit in, and it’s not helped by her former friend, Tamira, who has started carrying around an empty mason jar with her. In a fit of anger, Sam breaks Tamira’s jar and unleashes an ancient force that feeds on loneliness and shatters reality with terrifying visions. The review will be up Friday night. Unfortunately, It Lives Inside is another run-of-the-mill horror film with only a few scares coming your way. The film is interesting, taking the viewpoint of immigrants and their cultural beliefs as part of the main plot. However, the scares aren’t there, and you can see the ending coming from a mile away. Overall, the film feels like many horror films lately, and that’s too bad; it could have been more with the Indian aspect. My Rating: Bargain Matinee    It Lives Inside Website   The review will be up Friday night.

My View: No One Will Save You (2023)  PG-13  There are over 1.5 million home invasions yearly in the US. Brynn (Kaitlyn Dever) is a homebody about to experience a home invasion. But this invasion is different; the threat is not human but extraterrestrial. This is a highly enjoyable horror film with extraterrestrials that are genuinely frightening and a performance by Kaitlyn Dever that is moving and emotional. What sets this film apart from your ordinary horror film is that Brynn says nothing during the movie. Everything is without dialogue. There is a reason why, and it’s not that she can’t speak but because she is alone and is ostracized by the community because of a past that we see slowly revealed to us during the film. I loved the experience of being swept up into Brynn’s world, which is invaded in the middle of the night, and how she is determined to defend her home against incredible odds. No One Will Save You is a film that may give you a few nightmares, and you will never look at brown spots on your lawn the same ever again.   My Rating: Full Price  No One Will Save You Info Now playing on Hulu.

My View: Stop Making Sense (1984) PG  Considered by critics as one of the greatest concert films of all time, the film was shot over the course of three nights in 1983 as the Talking Heads performed at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. If you can’t have fun watching this film with The Talking Heads rock group giving one of the greatest performances of all time, then I don’t have any hope for you. The music is magical; David Byrne is mesmerizing as the lead vocalist, and the band is as tight as they come. The opening numbers set the stage for the rest of the film as the band members, one by one, join Byrne on stage for each new tune. Stop Making Sense is one of those concert films that is so good you don’t miss not seeing the performance live. See Stop Making Sense in a theatre with a great sound system to get that concert feeling experience.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See It Again  Stop Making Sense Website   The film is in theatres, expanding next week and is in IMAX theatres for a limited time.

Indiefest: Flora and Son (2023) R  Flora (Eve Hewson) is a single mom who is at her wits’ end with her son Max (Orén Kinlan), who seems almost at war with his mom. Flora decides that Max needs a hobby and rescues a guitar from a dumpster. Max rejects the gift, so Flora tries to learn how to play it. Music is the one thing they might have in common, and one person’s trash can be a family’s salvation. The film is from John Carney, one of my favorite filmmakers of the last 15 years. He loves music, having been in a band in the early 90s (The Frames), so all his movies involve the love of music and how it can change lives. Flora and Son is a brilliant film about a mother and son who seem always at odds, but there is a connection, and their love of music brings it out. Flora takes up the guitar with the help of an online teacher, Jeff, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Eve Hewson is magnificent as the mom who speaks her mind and has been hurt by love. Her chemistry with Gordon-Levitt feels natural, and you can see the connection they have from their first scene together. I loved Orén Kinlan as Flora’s son Max, who can’t seem to stay out of trouble but has a talent for creating music. The music is terrific, with Hewson and Gordon-Levitt showing off their musical chops. By the way, Eve Hewson has some music in her blood. Her dad is Bono. Be sure to stay through the credits to hear the song that Jeff writes for Flora. Shot entirely in Ireland, Fora and Son is a fun, fantastic journey into discovering how music can connect people, even across the internet.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Flora and Son Info  The film is in theatres and will be on the Apple TV+ platform on Sept. 29th.
Indiefest: The Origin of Evil (2022) R  Stephane (Laure Calamy) works in a fish factory and is about to be kicked out of her apartment. In desperation, she makes a phone call to a man called Serge, a father she has never known. Stephane is invited to visit Serge and his family, which will change her forever as no one she meets is what they appear to be, including Stephane herself. This is a film that will keep you guessing right until the very end. Incredible performance by Laure Calamy as the daughter Serge never knew he had. To say that Stephane walks into a landmine of family upheaval is an understatement. Calamy makes us like her, even when you think maybe she isn’t quite the innocent woman you think she is. Early on, we learn her girlfriend is in prison, so there is that. Stephane just wants to meet her father, but he sees her as a way to make his wife and daughter very uncomfortable, and the film takes off from there. The family is full of secrets and intrigue, and Stephane has to figure out things as they come up, mostly right in her face. The Origin of Evil is a tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Be warned, its a movie that takes so many twists that you might get whiplash, but be careful; someone in the film might say it’s your fault.   My Rating: Full Price    The film is in theatres.

Forgotten Film: Marvin’s Room (1996) PG-13  This is the story of two sisters. One sister, Bessie (Diane Keaton), has stayed home to take care of her long-suffering father (Hume Cronyn) and her aunt (Gwen Verdon). Bessie has learned she has cancer, and a bone marrow transplant might save her life. Her only potential donor is her sister Lee (Meryl Streep), whom Bessie hasn’t seen in years. Lee has two sons, and the older son, Hank (Leonardo DiCaprio), has just burned down their house and is constantly in trouble. Will Lee come to her sister’s rescue? This is a film to see because of the star power (Robert De Niro also shows up as Bessie’s doctor), but also to a strong script that depends on the characters that the story has created. Marvin’s Room is a story about relationships, family, and how the past can cloud the future if you aren’t careful.   My Rating: Full Price  Marvin's Room Info   The film is available for rent or buy on Amazon and Apple TV.

Weird Credits: From the credits of No One Will Save You: Audio Description Script Writer

Coming Soon to Screen Near You: Killers of the Flower Moon (2023) R  The Osage tribe was given land no one wanted to create their reservation. However, oil was discovered on their land, and the tribe became wealthy. The tribe is being murdered one by one under mysterious circumstances, and the FBI is on the case. Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Lily Gladstone, this film has become a frontrunner for the Oscar.     Killers of the Flower Moon Info  The film will be in theatres on Oct. 20th.

Until Next Time!


Friday, September 15, 2023

A Haunting in Venice

My View: A Haunting in Venice (2023)  PG-13  Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) has retired, giving up solving crimes, and is living in his own exile in post-World War II Venice. He reluctantly attends a seance, and one of the guests is murdered. Now it’s up to the world’s foremost detective to once again solve a crime and uncover the killer, even if it brings up ghosts from the past. Regardless of what the trailer makes it look like, A Haunting in Venice isn’t a horror film. It’s still a mystery based on an Agatha Christie novel, though very loosely. As with the other two Kenneth Branagh Christie films, this one has an all-star cast with Michelle Yeoh as a medium, Tina Fey as a world-famous mystery writer, and Kelly Reilly as the woman who has lost a child and wants to use Michelle Yeoh’s character to talk to her daughter. The film has a few scares and is greatly helped by Tina Fey’s character, who constantly gives Poirot a hard time. Of the three films, I enjoyed this more than the Death on the Nile, though I think Murder on the Orient Express is still the best. However, this is a fun film to go on a mystery with Hercule as he battles ghosts and a murderer.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  A Haunting in Venice Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: A Million Miles Away (2023) PG  A Million Miles Away is the story of Jose Hernandez (Michael Peña), who started out as a migrant farmworker who, after putting himself through school to become an engineer and then, against the odds, became an astronaut. The review will be up Friday night. I loved this film about a man who dreamed from an early age about the stars and becoming an astronaut. Michael Peña is terrific as a man who worked hard and believed in himself to reach for the stars and make his dream come true. Rosa Salazar is brilliant as Jose’s wife, who always believed in her husband and sacrificed as much as he did to get him into space. Their chemistry is real, making the film work as they struggle together. I loved the soundtrack to this film as it captured Jose's spirit and the culture he grew up in. A Million Miles Away is a feel-good movie that may bring a tear or two and one the whole family can enjoy.   My Rating: Full Price   A Million Miles Away Website  Now playing on Amazon Prime.

My View: Love at First Sight (2023) PG-13   Love at First Sight starts on a long flight from New York to London, where Hadley (Haley Lu Richardson) and Oliver (Ben Hardy) meet and sparks fly. After Oliver gives Hadley his phone number, there is an accident, and the number is lost. What’s the odds of Hadley ever finding Oliver in a city as big as London? Love sometimes has a way of defying the odds. I love romantic movies, and this one works because of the stinking chemistry between the two leads. The ‘meet cute’ is fun, and there are sparks right from the start between the two. I have enjoyed Haley Lu Richardson in films such as Columbus (2017), After Yang (2021), and Montana Story (2021), and she is fun to watch in this film, giving Hadley someone you root for right from the start. Jameela Jamil is also outstanding as the narrator who keeps showing up to help move our two lovers closer to their happy ending (oops, spoiler alert). So go on a really long first date and have some fun when the two try to find each other in the big city of London.   My Rating: Full Price  Love at First Sight Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform. 

My View: Cassandro (2023) R   The story of Saúl Armendáriz (Gael Garcia Bernal), a gay man who, in the macho wrestling world of Lucha Libre, became a star as the character Cassandro, an ‘exotico.’ I think I will be in the minority with other critics with this film, but I didn’t like it. I loved Gael Garcia Bernal’s performance, but the storyline didn’t connect with me. One problem I have with this film is that Saul keeps talking about how rough it is being a gay wrestler, but you never see him suffer or get put down. Sure, his father rejects him, but even that doesn’t stop him from living his dream. My other problem is we see all the work that goes into when he is small time but other than one match, we don’t see how Cassandro became a huge star, one who broke a lot of barriers. It’s a strange film that I wanted more from, but I felt let down by the end.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Cassandro Website  Now playing in theatres and on Amazon Prime on Friday, September 22nd.

FamilyFaire:  The Inventor (2023) PG   Leonardo da Vinci (voiced by Stephen Fry) was a famous artist who felt he wasn’t appreciated in Italy, so at the invitation of the King, he moves to France, where he hopes he has more freedom to explore his ideas including where in the body the soul resides. There he meets a French princess (Daisy Ridley) but finds that science is not always welcome when it means doing something new and different. The Inventor is a beautiful film to watch, and I enjoyed the performances of Stephen Fry and the rest of the cast. The film does an imaginative job of blending in Da Vinci’s actual drawings with both stop-motion and 2-D animation. This is a film that explores Da Vinci’s ideas on war, life, liberty, and God. The Inventor is an animated film that smaller kids will have trouble following, though I think they will enjoy the songs and the animation style. There is a fun running joke about how Da Vinci couldn’t finish a project while his rival Michelangelo spends years and years working on his ’ceiling painting.’   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Inventor Website  Now playing in theatres. 
Sorry I Missed It (A film that I didn’t see in theatres but have seen recently): The Retirement Plan (2023) R  When Ashley (Ashley Greene) and her young daughter Sarah (Thalia Campbell) get caught up with some bad guys who put their lives at risk, Ashley turns to the only person who can help, her estranged father, Matt (Nicolas Cage). Matt may look like a retired beach bum, but he has a past that the bad guys will soon learn about with their lives. I’m a fan of Nicolas Cage, though I understand he can be a bit weird for some moviegoers. Cage is a low key in this film, playing a guy who wants to make up for past mistakes and save his daughter and granddaughter. The film is aided by performances from Ron Perlman as a mob enforcer who loves Shakespeare, Jackie Earle Haley as a mob boss who can’t believe all his guys are getting killed by a retired beach bum, and Ernie Hudson as a former colleague of Matt’s. I have a feeling all this star power, including Cage, was because they all got to hang out together in the Cayman Islands to shoot the film. I had fun with the film’s first half, but the script shows its weakness in the 2nd half when it tries to pull all the plot points into a neat pile. Still, it’s a fun ride, and Cage gets to kill (almost matter-of-factly) a bunch of bad guys.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Retirement Plan Website  Now playing in theatres.

Forgotten Film: Cross My Heart (1987) R David (Martin Short) and Kathy (Annette O’Toole) are about to go on their big ‘third date’ known as the one you have sex on. They are going into the date with some baggage. David just lost his job, and Kathy has a kid, and each one is worried that the news will cause them to break up. But lies lead to bigger lies, and the once promising night becomes a night never to forget. Cross My Heart is another film where the two stars outperform the script they are given. Martin Short makes an enjoyable romantic lead, and I have always enjoyed Annette O’Toole in movies and TV. Now, I don’t particularly appreciate where the characters end up, but the performances make this film worth watching. I’m tempted to tell you to stop watching after the bedroom scene.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee Cross My Heart Info Available on DVD.

Weird Credits: From the credits of A Haunting in Venice: Set Decorator Breakdown Artist

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Five Nights at Freddy’s (2023) PG-13 A new security guard (Josh Hutcherson) takes his kid (Piper Rudio) to his new job, the night shift at the old, shutdown Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. Once upon a time, Freddy’s was the place to be with pizza and animatronic bears singing songs. But something happened to cause the business to close, and the guard and his daughter are about to find out. There is a lot of buzz about this Blumhouse Productions horror film, and I can’t wait to see it.  Five Nights at Freddy's Website   The film will be in theatres in late October. 

Until Next Time!

Friday, September 8, 2023

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3

My View: My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 (2023)  PG-13  Toula’s (Nia Vardalos) beloved father has passed away since we saw the Portokalos family, and his last wish was that the family visit Greece. So pack up the Souvlaki, and let’s follow the family as they visit the homeland and have a family reunion to last a lifetime. Look, the first My Big Fat Greek Wedding was fun, with an outstanding performance by Michael Constantine, and Nia Vardalos was charming and sweet as the goofy woman who could only dream of getting a guy like Ian (John Corbett). It’s hard to bottle that magic again, and Wedding 2 was a colossal failure, and I’m sad to say that third time isn’t charming at all. Vardalos wrote all three scripts (the first one was based on a one-woman play that Rita Wilson saw and backed), and this one she also directs the film. To make up for the weak plot, the film has many filler scenes of the characters exploring the countryside or walking around town. This is a movie that was filmed in Greece, but it has some of the most unappealing shots of such a magical place. Too often, the cast is going on and on about how beautiful the scenery is, and I’m thinking, are you looking at something different from what I’m seeing? The jokes (few and far between) are horrible, and what the film sees as conflicts are far too easily rectified. Even Andrea Martin as Aunt Voula can’t save this film from being one long, boring trip to nowhere.  My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again  My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: The Nun II (2023) R   The film opens up when a priest has been murdered, and an evil is spreading. Once again, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) is sent to investigate the murder and comes face-to-face with Valak (Bonnie Aarons), the demon nun. I liked this little horror film, part of the Conjuring Universe. It relies too much of ‘jump out of the dark’ scares, but Valak is pretty darn scary. It goes on a little too long and takes a while to get going, nevertheless, there are plenty of scares, and I like Taissa Farmiga in the role of the demon-killer nun. The film neatly ties in with the first The Nun movie, and we get more of Sister Irene’s backstory, which helps give us insight into why she has the ability to battle demons. The ending could have been a little more dramatic but overall I had a good time. Be sure to stay through the first credits for a bonus scene.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Nun II Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View:  
Sitting in Bars with Cake  (2023)  PG-13 Jane (Yara Shahidi) is a great baker, but because she is shy, she sucks at meeting guys. After a successful test run, Jane’s best friend Corinne (Odessa A’zion) convinces Jane to commit to a year of baking cakes and bringing them to bars once a week with the goal of meeting guys. They call it ‘cakebarring’. The two are about to go on a journey together unlike anything they have ever experienced. This is a film that, for the first third of the movie, is your ordinary, funny rom-com, with two kooky roommates who are just starting in their careers. Jane is the sensible one, working to mark time until she can attend law school. Corinne is the free-wheeling one who wants Jane to come out of her shell before becoming a stuffy lawyer. Things are going great, with life looking up for both of our women when something life-changing happens, and they will have to get through it with each other’s help. I will warn you that you will need a tissue or two for this change in their lives. The film works because of the chemistry between Shahidi and A’zion, who look to be having a blast portraying the two best friends. Bette Midler makes a fun appearance as the two’s boss, but this is the two women’s film, and they run with it. Sitting in Bars with Cake is based on a true story (you get to see the real two in the credits), and they had a ton of cakes made for the film, all of which look amazing. Just a warning that you may cry a bit into that slice of cake they are serving, but it’s good.   My Rating: Full Price  Sitting in Bars with Cake Website  Now playing on Amazon Prime.

Indiefest: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2022) PG-13 Set in El Paso in 1987, Aristotle (Max Pelayo) and Dante (Reese Gonzales) become friends despite how different their families are. The two spend most of their time at the community pool. Soon, the two are separated, but no matter what obstacles come their way, they are determined to stay best friends, or are they about to become something more? I loved this film and will get its brilliant soundtrack that does an incredible job in creating the mood of the film. This is a story of self-discovery, finding out secrets, and learning that the truth is worth finding out, even if it causes a bit of pain. The movie is a great coming-of-age story about teens who discover their self-worth, with two outstanding performances by Pelayo and Gonzales. I loved that this was set in El Paso within the Hispanic community, and it shows how important family is to make young men and women feel loved when discovering their place in the world. So, go on a journey of discovery with Aristotle and Dante as they find out the pain and joys of the Universe.   My Rating: Full Price   Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Website Now playing in theaters.

Indiefest: Joyce Carol Oates: A Body in the Service of Mind (2021) This documentary profiles Joyce Carol Oates, one of the most prolific writers in American literature. Oates’s career has spanned over one hundred novels in a variety of genres. This is the story of a writer who put much of her personal life into her writing. Joyce Carol Oates: A Body in the Service of Mind is a film that I think only big fans of Joyce Carol Oates’s writing will enjoy. The problem is that this film is about a woman who claims she doesn’t enjoy being interviewed (though she has done a ton). It doesn’t help that the person who is doing the documentary/interviewing is a personal friend. I have only read a few of her books (Blonde, Black Water, and them when I was in college) and have never been a big fan of her work. I came away from the film not knowing as much as I wanted to about her. You will enjoy some of the excepts of her books (read by Laura Dern), but I found Oates had a hard time talking about herself, though the talk about her finding out about her late grandmother’s Jewish roots late in Oates’s life was fascinating. I just wish the rest of the film was as fascinating as that section of the film.   Joyce Carol Oates: A Body in the Service of Mind Website  My Rating: Bargain Matinee

Sorry I Missed It (A film that I didn’t see in theatres but have seen recently): Becky (2020) R Becky (Lulu Wilson) is a teen who is still mourning the death of her mother when her father (Joel McHale) announces that he is remarrying. Not only that, but to bond with their new family dynamic, they are going on a weekend getaway to the mountains with his fiancé and her son. This weekend worsens when a gang of neo-Nazis escape from prison and use Becky’s mountain home as their hideout. A word of warning: never piss off an already pissed-off teenager. So from the outside, this looks like a big mess with Joel McHale as the dad and Kevin James as the leader of the neo-Nazis, but it works and works really well. Lulu Wilson plays the character of Becky, who is a tough teenager and takes down the bad guys in a savage way that would make the villain of Saw or Freddy embarrassed.. There is lots of blood, but it’s a fun revenge film that lets things get a little wild. Ok, not a little; it gets really wild. And if you enjoy this film, there is a sequel, The Wrath of Becky, that ties neatly in with this film.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Becky Info   Available to rent or buy on Amazon and Apple TV.

Forgotten Film: Flirting (1991) R  The story of two teenagers, Danny (Noah Taylor) and Thandiwe (Thandie Newton), who go to two separate schools (one for girls, one for boys) and meet at a school dance. They then square off at a debate, and the sparks fly. This is a funny coming-of-age film about two outsiders who find comfort and love in each other. Danny is an award boy who stutters, and Thandiwe is from a mixed marriage. The film is greatly helped by a very young Nicole Kidman, who later trailers made look like she was the star. Kidman plays the popular girl in school who plays the part of advisor to Thandiwe. I loved this film when it came out and wish that it had become a hit because it’s such a cool little film.   My Rating: Full Price  Flirting Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3: Storeman

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Poor Things (2023) R  Bella (Emma Stone) is brought back to life by a brilliant but unorthodox scientist (Willem Dafoe) by putting a baby’s brain inside a grown woman. Bella is eager to learn and is whisked off to discover life by Duncan (Mark Ruffalo), a lawyer who only wants Bella for himself. Free from the prejudices of the times, Bella is about to discover her place in the world and her purpose, to stand for equality and liberation. This film has been the talk of the Venice Film Festival, and many critics who have seen the movie think Stone is bound for an Oscar nomination. The film will be released in December, the prime award-watching season.   Poor Things Website

Until Next Time!

Friday, September 1, 2023

The Equalizer 3

My View: The Equalizer 3 (2023) R  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. So McCall is having a bit of a personal crisis and finds himself in a sleepy seaside town in Sicily. Of course, bad things tend to follow McCall around; in this case, the village that McCall is falling in love with has a Mafia problem. You can imagine what happens next. Plenty of bad guys getting killed in lots of imaginative ways. I loved the first film of the series and enjoyed the second one. This one works because it’s so much fun to watch Denzel on the screen, doing that Denzel thing of saying something ordinary but giving it special meaning. Dakota Fanning is thrown into the mix as a CIA agent that McCall guides from afar. The plot is a little weak, and the whole Fanning side-plot feels thrown together, though there is a nice payoff in the end. I don’t know if there will be another Equalizer film. I hope there isn’t because I would like to think that McCall is having too good a time with his unfolded napkins and tea to disturb him with more killing.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The Equalizer 3 Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.  

My View: Bottoms (2023) R  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. This is a funny and absurd comedy where the football players wear their uniforms with pads to class every day, and horrible deaths caused by the rival high school are just accepted as normal. I loved this film, and the sold-out advanced screening audience I saw it with did, too. It’s goofy and surreal that utilizes the comedy chops of Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri. Sennott, who was terrific in Emma Seligman’s earlier film, Shiva Baby, is brilliant as PJ, who is always thinking of ways for the two girls to find someone to love or at least make out with. Sennott gives us a smart performance that almost dominates the film, as PJ jumps into any and everything without thinking about the consequences. Ayo Edebiri, as Josie, the more responsible of the two, is willing to go along with PJ’s plans because, frankly, they are nuts and desperate. The film has a great supporting cast, including a remarkable performance by Ruby Cruz as Hazel, someone who desperately wants to be apart of the PJ/Josie gang but isn’t confident enough to speak up. The film also has a hilarious performance by Marshawn Lynch as Mr. G, a laid-back teacher whose concepts of history are, shall we say, challenging. I loved the ending, which is as weird and funny as the rest of the film, and I want to see these characters again at college. Hopefully, one as strange and goofy as this high school.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See It Again  Bottoms Website  Now playing in theatres. 

My View: Choose Love (2023)   Cami (Laura Marano) is a young woman who seems to have it all: a great boyfriend, Paul (Scott Michael Foster), good friends, and a fantastic job. However, when a fortune teller tells Cami she has something missing in her life, and the clock is ticking, she starts to feel like it’s true. Cami soon, two guys come into her life. Rex (Avan Jogia) is a rock star, and Jack (Jordi Webber) is an old boyfriend, and now Cami has some choices to make. So this is an interactive film where Cami will talk directly to you and ask you to decide what she should do. Then, you get to see the consequences of what you picked. The film is very short, but it’s meant for you to go back and choose other choices, including who Cami ultimately ends up with. Choose Love is a very plain romantic film, even when you pick the different options. Which will you choose for Cami? The steady boyfriend, the activist boyfriend from the past, or the rockstar that will give Cami a life on the road? Or will you choose all three?   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Choose Love Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

My View: The Good Mother (2023)  Journalist Marissa (Hilary Swank), who, after the murder of her estranged son, forms an alliance with his pregnant girlfriend (Olivia Cooke) to track down those responsible for his death. They are about to travel into a world of drugs, corruption, and danger. This is a film where, once again, the performances are better than the film itself. With a murder that is incredibly easy to figure out, Swank isn’t given much to work with. She is a journalist who has lost her spark, suffering from a death and finding relief only in the bottom of a bottle. When her son, a druggie, is murdered on the street, she and his girlfriend decide to find out what happened. The plot is a cluttered mess as the film loses its way as it tries to be either a whodunit or a sad commentary on how we treat drug addicts, and it doesn’t succeed in either storyline. I liked the chemistry between Swank and Cooke, the girlfriend whom Swank at first blames for her son’s death, but we never get any back story on the girlfriend, and it’s hard to root for anyone in this film. The ending is as messy as the rest of the film, making it feel very unsatisfying.   My Rating: Cable  The Good Mother Website  Now playing in theatres.

Indiefest: Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose (2023) PG-13 The story of Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose takes place in 1935 when a para-psychologist named Nandor Fodor (Simon Pegg) travels to the Isle of Man, where a British family claims that a mysterious entity on their farm has contacted them. That entity, a talking mongoose named Gef. This strange little film starts and ends with two friends discussing the possibility that a mongoose on a farm can not only talk but can tell you secrets about yourself. The film can’t decide if it wants to be a comedy or a drama, and it unfortunately fails at both. I did like the chemistry between Simon Pegg as the stuck-up professor and Minnie Driver as his put-upon assistant. The film jumps between us believing that Gef can talk (we never see him, just bits of hair and tail) or if it is all a big joke put on by a strange little family. The film never finds its footing, and the mystery (based loosely on a true story) is never solved. Unfortunately for us, the tone of the film is never solved either.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose Website  Now playing in select theatres

Indiefest: Slotherhouse (2023) PG-13  Emily (Lisa Ambalavanar) is a senior and is desperate to be elected as her sorority’s president. She adopts a sloth named Alpha as the sorority’s mascot, hoping that it will help her win. It starts out well, but then the sloth becomes the prime suspect in a series of murders. Well, this is one of those films, which I seem to see a lot of lately, that would work much better as a midnight film at a horror film festival, rather than one that will work well in a midday theatre like where I saw this film. The idea is that this sloth differs from the slow-moving sloths of the jungle. This sloth is fast and a killer, as we see in the film's first scene when she is attacked by a crocodile and not only survives but kills the croc. The film is meant to be funny, but the deaths aren’t creative enough, the script is sloppy, and the movie is never scary. Overall, I got bored by about a third into the film. Because of the success of Cocaine Bear, the Sharknado film series, and the Winnie the Pooh horror film, I think we will see more of these animals gone murdering. I just hope they have better scripts.   My Rating: Cable  Slotherhouse Website  Now playing in theatres. 

Forgotten Film: Career Girls (1997) R Two young women, Hannah (Katrin Cartlidge) and Annie (Lynda Steadman) are former college roommates who are reconnecting after being apart for six years. Hannah still lives in the same apartment in London, and Annie is visiting with the idea of moving back. They will soon realize that nothing much has changed in six years, including how their lives are going. This film is from seven-time Oscar-nominated Mike Leigh (Topsy-Turvy, Vera Drake, Happy-Go-Lucky, Another Year). Leigh likes to give us interesting characters in how they see life, but the stories are more about how they react or talk about their lives than actually live it. In this film, we have two women who come to realize that they may never attain what they thought their lives would become. They aren’t necessarily failures, but neither are they a success. They are just living.   My Rating: Full Price  Career Girls Info Available on DVD. 

Weird Credits: From the credits of Bottoms: Conform Editor

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Creator (2023) PG-13   There is a war going on between humans and the forces of artificial intelligence. Joshua (John David Washington) is recruited to hunt down and kill The Creator, the architect of the advanced AI. The Creator has made a mysterious weapon with the power to end the human race, and it just might be the little girl that Joshua has just rescued. The Creator is one of those films creating a lot of excitement for sci-fi fans.  The Creator Website  Arriving in theaters in late September.

Until Next Time!