Friday, October 20, 2023

Killers of the Flower Moon

My View: Killers of the Flower Moon (2023) R The story of the Osage tribe, who were given land no one wanted to create their reservation. However, oil was discovered on their land, and the tribe became wealthy. Because of this new development, the tribe is being murdered one by one under mysterious circumstances. Into the mix comes Ernest (Leonardo DiCaprio), a WWI vet who has come to work for an uncle named King (Robert De Niro) to work on his ranch. Ernest sees himself as a man who loves women and sets his sights on Mollie (Lily Gladstone), a member of the local Osage tribe. He uses his charm to put Mollie under his spell and eventually marries her with a full blessing from King. But all is not well in the town where the Osage have become rich. They are being murdered, and no one is doing anything about it. The film is from master storyteller Martin Scorsese, and he gives us a world where it might be the 20th century, but the laws of the Wild West still prevail. I loved how Scorsese immerses us into the world of the Osage, showing us their past while also giving us a clue what their future will entail. DiCaprio isn’t in the pretty boy role of his past but portrays a man who loves a woman but maybe loves money even more. It’s a part with a lot of depth to it, and Leo is up for showing us a man who thinks he is smarter than he is. After some horrible comedies, De Niro is back with a role that may get him another Oscar. His portrayal of King is a masterful job of giving us a complex man who is always two moves ahead of everyone else, or at least he thinks he is. De Niro provides us with a man who could be your favorite uncle if you don’t ask too many questions. The film, though, belongs not to the men but to Lily Gladstone, as Mollie, a woman who is smart and deeply devoted to her family and her tribe but falls for a white man, an outsider whom she knows she should be wary of, but she can’t turn off her heart. She dazzles us every time she shows up on the screen as Mollie is slowly captivated by the charms of the man she will marry. I will warn you not to buy that large drink right before the film starts because it’s almost three and a half hours long. And that makes this film not in my top five Scorsese movies. After two and a half hours, the film starts to feel long, but Jessie Plemons' brilliant performance as a federal agent investigating the murders gives it a necessary boost. It’s a film that spends too long giving us the day-to-day workings of Ernest as he does the bidding of his brother Byron (Scott Shepard) and King. And I would have loved an intermission at some point to give us a chance to catch our breath and digest what we had seen. Nevertheless, I encourage you to see this impactful film in a cinema and be captivated by the incredible performances, especially Lily Gladstone's, and the enchanting Osage traditions.   My Rating: Full Price  Killers of the Flower Moon Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
My View: Nyad (2023) PG-13  The story of Diana Nyad (Annette Bening), a retired marathon swimmer turned sports journalist. At 60, she teams up with her best friend and coach (Jodie Foster) to accomplish her lifelong goal. To swim the 100-plus mile open-water trek from Cuba to Florida. I am a big fan of Diana Nyad, both as a swimmer and as a broadcaster, so I looked forward to this biopic. And happily, I can tell you that I was not disappointed. A mark of a great sports film is when you know the outcome and are still on the edge of your seat, wondering if the task will turn out how you remember it. Two incredible performances lead the film and give it depth and feeling. Annette Bening provides us with a woman who is driven to win and doesn’t care who she runs over to get it. Bening is outstanding, making Diana seem real and making us root for her even though she is a hard act to like. I was even more impressed by Jodie Foster’s performance as Diana’s close personal friend who becomes her coach. It’s a brilliant performance that lets Bening dominate the screen while still giving us insight into both characters, especially in times of strife (which there is a lot). I loved this film, and you feel you are in the water with Diana, helping her take that next stroke. So strap on your swim goggles, take a few deep breaths, and join Diana in doing what everyone told her was impossible.   My Rating: Full Price  Nyad Website Now playing in theatres and on the Netflix platform on Nov. 3rd. 

My View: The Devil on Trial (2023)  The Devil on Trial is a documentary that explores the first and only time ‘demonic possession’ has been officially used as a defense in a U.S. murder trial. This is a documentary that, for about an hour, is all promise but never delivers. We go through the possibility that a young man is possessed by a demonic presence, and with the help of legendary demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (yes, the real people the Conjuring film series is based on), they successfully rid the demon out of the child, only for it to go inside his older brother. Later on, the brother was charged with murder, and they wanted to use the defense that he was possessed when he committed the crime. The problem with this film is that you can tell that the movie never takes the possession seriously, and that hampers the film, as you know how it will turn out. There is an interview that the filmmakers don't reveal until almost an hour in that hampers virtually everything they have thrown at us earlier.  The Devil on Trial feels like the news reports of that time about the trial, all-flash and promise with no return.  My Rating: Cable  The Devil on Trial website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: The Pigeon Tunnel (2023) PG-13 Documentary from Academy Award winner Earl Morris on the legendary writer John le CarrĂ©, whose writing thrilled readers for over six decades with novels The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and A Perfect Spy. This is more than a documentary; it’s an interrogation of a man who wrote about spies for a living. Men who lied for their country and their lives. Morris interviews le Carre off camera, leading the writer to do what he does best: tell a story. This time, the story revolves around a man's troubled childhood with his father, a slick gambler and conman, constantly fleeing from the law and the mob. Le Carre first became a schoolteacher and then a spy, working for MI5 and then MI6, before writing his first international bestseller, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold. Le Carre is the perfect subject, able to weave a story with the best of them. Le Carre sometimes gets very personal, almost uncomfortably so, but there is always a reason he tells us something; no words are wasted. Using the vast movie and TV shows produced from his work, the film shows us how Le Carre’s life was interwoven with his writing, along with events happening in the world while he was a spy. The Pigeon Tunnel is a fascinating look at a man who shares a few secrets of his life and his writing while keeping a bit of mystery because a great writer always lets us fill out a few things with the imagination of our own.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  The Pigeon Tunnel Info Now playing in select theatres and on Apple TV+.

Indiefest: Dicks: The Musical (2023) R The simple plot of this film is Dicks: The Musical is a story about two business rivals (Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson) who find out they’re twins. They come up with a wild plan to reconcile their parents. This explanation does not even come close to what this movie is about (I wrote it for my Preview This! column). Let’s just say this film is about as wild a musical as I have ever seen. The movie immediately sets the tone with a song where the main characters boast about their sexual prowess in graphic detail. This film is based on a musical that played at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, where Sharp and Jackson played all the parts. Dicks is an outrageous musical where two gay men play straight guys who don’t look at all alike but are supposed to be identical twins. The twins realize their parents separated them at birth, and they want to be part of a ‘real family,’ so they hatch a plan to get their parents to remarry. The problem is that their father, played by Nathan Lane, is gay, and their mother, played by Megan Mullally, is just plain nuts. There are a bunch of musical numbers, with lots of background dancers that seem to follow the cast around, ready to fill in the scenery with dancing at a moment’s notice. There are a lot of short cameos in the film, which is fun to spot, but the film comes (no pun intended) into its own with a rousing, extremely dirty number by Megan Thee Stallion, who plays the twins’ boss. The film gets a little too silly at times and keeps trying to shock us, but you become numb after a while to all the outrageousness. Dicks: The Musical is a movie that isn’t for everybody and will insult many people. However, if you like lots of gay humor and maybe have a taste for John Waters films, you might have a good time. Many of you will ask, how did this film ever get made?   My Rating: Bargain Matinee Dicks: The Musical Website  Now playing in theatres.

Indiefest: Silver Dollar Road (2023) PG  Documentary that tells the story of a Black family in North Carolina who has owned their waterfront property for generations are harassed and tormented for decades by developers who want to take away their property by any means necessary. This is a film that the more you watch it, the more you will get mad. Mad at the system that is rigged against poor landowners. Rigged for developers and the rich. And rigged to keep poor people in jail because they can’t afford lawyers. All this is in play in this documentary that lets you get to know the people living on Silver Dollar Road and the ancestors who proudly started their families on the land no one else wanted. Now, it’s prime land for development, and the documentary follows the struggle through the years to try to keep the land their ancestors rightfully bought. What I loved about this film is you get to meet and learn about the families that call this area home. Let’s hope justice will prevail, though I am not counting on it. But one thing this film taught me is not to give up. My Rating: Full Price Silver Dollar Road Info  Now playing in theatres and on Amazon Prime. 
Indiefest:  Butcher’s Crossing(2023) R  Will (Fred Hechinger) has dropped out of Harvard to explore the American West. He joins a group of buffalo hunters led by Miller (Nicolas Cage), who is out to bring back a record haul. Will’s great adventure will turn into a journey that risks his life and sanity. Butcher’s Crossing is a movie with an admirable message that it never delivers with any punch. Miller’s obsession with killing more buffalo than anyone else shows us man’s ability to put greed above all else, even if it means killing off a species. The problem with this film is that it takes its time getting to the killing of the buffalo, and then when it does, we never feel the impact that the scene should have given us. Butcher’s Crossing is a film that takes place over a year, but through some poorly done montage sequences, we don’t get the full effect of how long and arduous the journey was to get to the buffalo and how long it took to get back. Nicolas Cage gives a restrained performance, and I wanted a little of that madness that only Cage can provide us with, but it is only hinted at and never really comes out. I expected a journey into madness and instead got a travelogue on the majesty of the Montana wilderness.   My Rating: Cable  Butcher's Crossing Website  Now playing in theatres. 

Forgotten Film: To Die For (1995)  Suzanne (Nicole Kidman) is a local weather forecaster for a small station, but she has big plans for her career, and her husband (Matt Dillon) has become a person who she believes will get in her way to fame. She convinces three local idiots, Jimmy (Joaquin Phoenix), Russell (Casey Affleck), and Lydia (Alison Folland), who are just happy to be in the presence of a ‘celebrity,’ to kill her husband. With a script by the legendary Buck Henry and directed by two-time Academy Award nominee Gus Van Sant, this is a master class in taking a minor story and turning it into gold. Matt Dillon is brilliant as the young husband who slowly starts failing in the eyes of Suzanne. Nicole Kidman gives us one of the great performances of her career as a woman who knows she is bound for greatness, or at least an anchor role on a network news broadcast.  My Rating: Full Price  To Die For Info The film is available for rent/buy on Apple TV+ and Amazon.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Nyad: Synthetic Voice Artist

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Napoleon (2023) R Directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator (2001), Black Hawk Down (2002), and The Martian (2016)) and staring Joaquin Phoenix in the starring role, it tells the personal story of Napoleon Bonaparte, his origins, and his swift and ruthless climb to emperor view through the relationship with his wife and one true love, Josephine (Vanessa Kirby). Many think this is a sure thing for many Oscar nominations, including Vanessa Kirby. Napoleon Website   In theatres nationwide on Nov. 22, 2o23.

Until Next Time!

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