Wednesday, November 22, 2023


My View: Napoleon (2023) R Napoleon tells the personal story of Napoleon Bonaparte (Joaquin Phoenix), his origins, and his swift and ruthless climb to emperor viewed through the relationship with his wife and one true love, Josephine (Vanessa Kirby). I will tell you right off the bat that this probably isn’t the film you think it is. You will be disappointed if you are expecting huge two-and-a-half hours of sweeping cinema. This is an up-close and personal film about a man who thought he was bigger than life but was also full of doubts, especially about his wife’s love for him. I am going to say something that might shock you. Napoleon is a comedy. Ok, it’s really a comedy/drama, but there is a lot of humor in the film, with director Ridley Scott making the ‘Little General’ the butt of many a joke. It’s a strange mixture of drama, comedy, and glorious battle sequences. It’s a film that doesn’t always work, but when it does, it packs a wallop. I have always enjoyed Joaquin Phoenix on the screen, and his Napoleon is an interesting take. A man who seems destined for greatness, or is he? Napoleon, at times, seems to let things happen to him instead of being the driving force you would expect. I loved Vanessa Kirby as the temptress Josephine, who knows from their first meeting (Napoleon can barely talk) that she has her hooks in him, and he is powerless to deny her anything. Napoleon is a film that seems to be all over the place, and sometimes it fails. Is it worth seeing? Yes, but don’t expect to be swept away by the spectacle. And by the way, spoiler alert, it doesn’t end well.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Napoleon Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

Familyfaire: Wish (2023) PG A young girl named Asha (voiced by Ariana DeBose) worries that an evil force will take over her kingdom. When she wishes upon a star, her plea is answered by a boundless ball of energy called Star (Alan Tudyk). Together with her talking goat, Valentino (voiced by Alan Tudyk), Asha and Star will work to save their world and defeat evil. This is a movie that only huge Disney fans will love. Wish contains more easter eggs for fans to look for that sometimes it throws them out to keep people from figuring out that the storyline is incredibly weak. I was disappointed by the animation, as the film feels from the start full of dull and faded animated scenes that never bring any wonder or amazement. There isn’t a song that stands out in the film, even with the talents of Ariana DeBose singing them. This is a film that feels like it needed a few more rewrites, maybe to find more of a heart to move the film along. I did like Ariana DeBose as the wide-eyed young girl who realizes that perhaps the magic she has been led to believe in her whole life isn’t so magical after all. And Chris Pine as the villain is fun and does an admirable job singing his songs. But the film lacks that big number that we all want, and though the Star is adorable, that only goes so far when that creature can’t talk. Overall, Wish was a disappointing movie that kids might enjoy, but I think parents will be bored, and I don’t see anyone going out to buy this soundtrack. Disney needs to quit returning to the past and give us something new. And hopefully, with better songs.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Wish Website   Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Saltburn (2023) R Oliver (Barry Keoghan) has struggled to fit into Oxford University. Oliver is drawn into the world of charming and aristocratic fellow student Felix (Jacob Elordi). Felix invites Oliver to spend the summer on his eccentric family’s sprawling estate. It’s a summer that will change everything. Barry Keoghan is one of the great young actors working today, and Saltburn shows us he can carry the lead. This film is full of twists and turns, and I will warn you, there are some incredibly shocking scenes. So much so that I thought one audience member I saw the film with would throw up. It’s a very clever film about people who think they are far smarter than the rest of us and let us know it. I had a blast watching the cast, including the amazing Rosamund Pike as Felix’s loopy mother, who can easily be misled by killing her with kindness and compliments. Saltburn is a wild film that quickly turns from a fish-out-of-water movie to one of intrigue and one-up-man-ship. It’s a story about a young man who starts as someone who wants to belong. You will have to watch to see just how well he does at doing that. My Rating: Full Price  Saltburn Website  Now playing in theatres.

Familyfaire: Leo (2023) PG  Leo is an animated film about a lizard named Leo (voiced by Adam Sandler) and his best friend, Squirtle the Turtle (voiced by Bill Barr), who live in a terrarium in a Florida elementary school classroom. All Leo wants to do is escape and see the world. The school’s students have a different idea for Leo, for him to be their best friend. I am not a big fan of Adam Sandler because, too many times, he goes for the easy laugh or the feeble attempt at comedy. Unfortunately, that’s this film. It’s a movie with a beautiful message that will be lost because the film has too many nonsense songs that drag the film down. Must every character sing a song? Apparently, in this film, the answer is yes. The film, I think, is meant to be a film for kids to teach them about friendship and how to be nice to each other. However, the message gets lost in all the fart jokes and the extended attempts at humor at the expense of parents. The humor sometimes gets too gross or crude for me to think this is a kids’ movie, but then it turns and gets sweet with a great message. That message is hard to find between a million songs and jokes about a missing lizard tail.   My Rating: Cable  Leo Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (2023) PG  All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt is the decades-long exploration of a woman’s life in Mississippi as she experiences the world through generations of people, places, and the moments that shape us. This is a film to see in the theatre. If you try to see it at home on a computer or even on your TV, the film will be lost on you because it is a film you have to commit to wholly. Otherwise, you will get bored and move on to other things. All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt is a film that jumps back and forth in time as we follow Mack from childhood to motherhood and back again. The film’s characters are constantly immersing themselves (and us) in the world of nature. This is a film full of small gestures, like a touch on a back or hand reaching into a river, and then it lets the camera linger on that movement. Faces in the film are paramount, and we are constantly looking into the face of someone while they are experiencing life. The movie is full of love. Love of life, of family, and nature. It’s about learning about life and trying new things. The film explores how a simple touch can be simple, and it can be everything.   My Rating: Full Price  All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt Website  Now playing in theatres. 
Indiefest:  Dream Scenario (2023) R   Paul (Nicolas Cage) is a family man who teaches at a local college. Nothing is unusual until Paul appears in people's dreams, usually just in the background. He becomes an overnight celebrity and enjoys the attention until his appearance in the dreams becomes more pronounced, sometimes violent and disturbing. Paul's newfound fame has now become a burden. The question is, how to stop his appearances in everyone's dreams? Nicolas Cage is a blast to watch in this strange film that deals with celebrity in the age of the internet. The film deals with instant celebrities, ad agencies, cancel culture, and how quickly the public can build someone up and then tear them down. I enjoyed the first half of the film, with Cage playing a college professor who is a person who you would try to avoid at a party or not invite at all. Paul is the type of guy who thinks he knows everything and lets you know it, always spouting knowledge that people rarely care about. Then, he appears in everyone's dreams and becomes a celebrity. Then things go bad, and Paul's life literally becomes a nightmare. The film peters out in the end with a third act that needs a rewrite and doesn't match the inventiveness of the film's first half. However, Dream Scenario is worth watching because Nicolas Cage nails it as a sad sack of a guy who wants to be liked and publish his book. Even if he hasn't even started writing it yet. My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Dream Scenario Website  Now playing in theatres. 

Forgotten Film: The Hidden (1987) R There is a criminal who has committed a series of increasingly violent crimes. The criminal commits these crimes with almost no regard for his own safety. A cop, Tom (Michael Nouri), is assigned to help an FBI agent named Lloyd (Kyle MacLachlan) track this killer down. Tom soon realizes that there is something strange about Lloyd, and as they work together, things get very weird; the killer is taking the shapes and bodies of different people to commit further crimes. The Hidden is a thrilling crime drama with some sci-fi thrown in. MacLachlan is excellent as the strange FBI agent who is hiding something from the rest of the world. While not a great film, The Hidden a lot of fun to watch, and the storyline goes along at a fast pace.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Available to rent or buy online.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Wish: Chicken Ensemble 

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Ferrari (2023) R In 1957, Enzo Ferrari’s (Adam Driver) auto empire is in trouble, and all that he and his wife Laura (Penélope Cruz) built in the last ten years is about to crumble. Enzo decides to bet it all on winning one race, the 1,000-mile trek across Italy, the iconic Mille Miglia. Directed by Michael Mann (Manhunter, The Last of the Mohicans, Heat), who has been trying to make this film for over ten years (both Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman were attached to the movie at one time). Race cars, Italy, and Penélope Cruz! I’m in.  Ferrari Website  Will be released on Christmas Day.

Until Next Time!

Friday, November 17, 2023

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

My View: The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (2023) PG-13   This is the story of Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth), whose destiny will be to become President of Panem. But before he becomes an all-powerful man, he must rise from poverty and see his chance when asked to be a mentor for the 10th Hunger Games. His elation is dashed when he is assigned to mentor a girl tribute from the 12 District. A young woman named Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler). The review of the film will be up on Friday night. I was a big fan of both the Hunger Games books and movies, so I was looking forward to this origin story of how President Snow became the man he was when he clashed with Katniss. I was not disappointed in this film. It’s got a great cast, with both Viola Davis and Peter Dinklage playing the bad guys in the movie. Davis looks like she is having a blast as the evil doctor who is the Hunger Games developer. Davis practically eats up the scenery in the film as she makes it known she is out for blood. Dinklage is more of a cerebral villain who enjoys tormenting Coriolanus as his teacher. Now, don’t expect Rachel Zegler to go full-out Katniss, as her character is more of a singer/lover than a fighter. Still, there are the Games, and how Snow will get Lucy Gray to survive them is the mystery. And add in why and how Snow becomes such a villain himself. And yes, the roses are explained. My Rating: Full Price    The Hunger Games Website   Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Next Goal Wins (2023) PG-13  Film about the American Samoa soccer team, who, in 2011, suffered the worst loss in World Cup history, losing to Australia 31-0. With the 2014 World Cup approaching, the team recruits a down-on-his-luck coach (Michael Fassbinder) to get them back to respectability. It’s going to be a long road back, especially when all they want to do is score one goal. Next Goal Wins is a fun movie that may not be a blockbuster or win awards, but it's a crowd-pleasing delight. The supporting cast delivers with humorous and unique performances, notably Kaimana as the first openly non-binary and transgender woman to play in a World Cup game, and Oscar Kightley as an exceptionally positive local soccer official. Kaimana gives us a strong woman who wants to win more than anything, and Kightley is perfect as the soccer official who believes his coach can get the best out of his team if he believes in himself and his players. The film is based on an unbelievable true story and hits all the buttons on the upstart sports movie about winning against the odds. Go see Next Goal Wins and just have fun at the movies again.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Next Goal Wins Website Now playing in theatres.

My View: Thanksgiving (2023) R  Thanksgiving takes place after a Black Friday sale ends in riot and tragedy when a mysterious Thanksgiving-inspired killer terrorizes Plymouth, Massachusetts. The birthplace of Thanksgiving. The review of the film will be up on Saturday night. Thanksgiving is from horror filmmaker Eli Roth, and the film’s origin is that it was a fake trailer that played during the 2007 movie Grindhouse that Robert Rodriquez and Quentin Tarantino did. The trailer was fun, and maybe it should have stayed a trailer. The film, a long hour and forty-five minutes, quickly petters out after the initial shock of the Black Friday riot. We move forward a year, and the community is still recovering from the tragedy when people who were involved in the riot are violently murdered by a figure in a Pilgrim costume. Some of the kills are inventive, but Thanksgiving becomes a run-of-the-mill slasher film with a bad guy who is way too easy to figure out and an ending that feels unsatisfying. Thanksgiving attempts to be a social satire with commentary on greed and the vulgarity of the holiday shopping season. Instead, it feels like another in a long line of gory slasher films with a few funny lines that were better in the fake trailer.   My Rating: Cable    Now playing in theatres.  Thanksgiving Website 

Indiefest: May December (2023) R  In the film May December, it’s been twenty years since their notorious tabloid romance shocked the nation. Elizabeth (played by Natalie Portman), an actress, arrives in town to research for a film about the couple (Julianne Moore and Charles Melton). Sometimes, the past is best left behind. This film explores what happens long after the tabloid headlines have disappeared and people are trying to carry on with their lives. Natalie Portman plays an actress who immerses herself in the lives of a couple who, after a shocking affair and jail time, are still together. Portman plays Elizabeth as a woman driven to find every detail and nuance from her subject, Gracie (Julianne Moore), a woman who had an affair and children with a middle school student. May December is a complicated film where things aren’t always what they seem to be on the surface, and an actress who doesn’t care about anyone or anything but what she can mine for her upcoming performance disturbs that surface. I loved the casting in this film, with Charles Melton as the young man who fell in love with a teacher and had children with her. He now has to be a father to children who aren’t much younger than him. It’s a striking performance, and Melton holds his own with both Portman and Moore. Moore's character is complicated and concerned about how Elizabeth will portray her, trying to exert control over a situation she can't completely control. May December is a film where you have a hard time liking anyone in the movie but, at the same time, want things to work out. They probably never will.   My Rating: Full Price  May December Website  Now playing in theatres and on the Netflix platform on Dec. 1st. 

Indiefest: The Disappearance of Shere Hite (2023) R   The Disappearance of Shere Hite is a documentary about Shere Hite, the woman who rocked the world with her bestselling book The Hite Report, which revealed the most private experiences of sex and the female orgasm. Shere Hite wrote a book, The Hite Report, that shocked a nation and pushed both women’s sexuality and women’s rights to the forefront. Hite had the gall to tell men that women weren’t satisfied with their sex lives and it was a man’s fault. Hite was a strange woman who was flamboyant and, at the same time, mysterious. She knew how to create press for her books and what buttons to push to make headlines. She also felt she and her work were misunderstood and, in her later years, became very defensive about her work. The documentary tells the story of a woman who wrote a book that is one the top sellers of all time but is mostly forgotten today. This documentary brings her and her thoughts on sexuality back into the limelight where they belong. My Rating: Full Price  The Disappearance of Shere Hite Website  Now playing in theatres. 

My View: The Lady Bird Diaries (2023)  The Lady Bird Diaries is a documentary on Lady Bird Johnson, who, as President Lyndon Johnson’s wife, was one of the most influential and least understood First Ladies in history. Lady Bird Johnson has always been a hero of mine, as a strong Texas woman who was her husband’s partner and confidant. She was a remarkable woman who did extraordinary things for the environment and the citizens of the inner cities. This documentary by Dawn Porter uses Lady Bird’s own recordings to narrate her time as First Lady after the assignation of JFK. It’s a look at a woman who was a groundbreaker in the role of First Lady. I love how we get an inside look, warts and all, into the life of the White House. Lady Bird fearlessly expresses her opinions on her husband, race, economics, and the Vietnam War. She also stands by her husband and children, who both got married while she was in the White House. The film uses newsreel footage, home movies, and animation to illustrate what Lady Bird is discussing. We listen to real conversations between her and the President, as well as conversations he has with MLK Jr. and other leaders. This is a fascinating look when the U.S. was not only at war with the Viet Cong, but with it itself. We get to see and hear how it all went down in the most powerful home in the country, The White House.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  The Lady Bird Diaries Website  Now playing on the Hulu platform. 

Forgotten Film: The Wrestler (2008) R  Randy ‘The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) is a broken man who has burned all his bridges and is doing the only thing he has ever done well: wrestle. Once a star, now Randy wrestles in the small halls for a little money and those few moments of glory in the squared circle. Randy has realized he has made mistakes in his personal life and is trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood). He is also trying to start a relationship with a stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). This is an incredible and moving performance by Mickey Rourke, who, like his character, was an actor at the top of his game for a while and then was his own worst enemy. If you are not a wrestling fan, you will be sucked into the story and may come away with an appreciation of a sport that is fake, but its performers take as many hits and falls as a boxer or a football player. The Wrestler is a remarkable film directed by Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan (2012), The Whale (2022)) and is a film that will make you sad but for the character of Randy and the performer, Mickey. Both show how good they once were and could be again.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  The Wrestler Info  Available to rent/buy on Amazon and Apple Tv. 

Weird Credits: From the credits of Next Goal Wins: Drone Gimbal Ops

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Iron Claw (2023) R  The story of the professional wrestling family, the Von Erichs, who went from fame and fortune to horrible tragedy in just a few years. This much talked about film stars Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, Stanley Simons, Maura Tierney, Holt McCallany, and Lily James. I grew up watching wrestling, and the Von Erichs were legends in Texas, filling stadiums way before WWF’s Vince McMahon even dreamed it was possible.  The Iron Claw Website In theatres nationwide in late December.

Friday, November 10, 2023

The Marvels

My View: The Marvels (2023) PG-13 Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) is an astronaut working for S.A.B.E.R. and Nick Fury. While investigating a wormhole linked to the Kree, Monica’s powers become entangled with Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), and Ms. Marvel, Kamala Kahn (Iman Vellani). The trio will have to team up to defeat a new enemy while trying to figure out why they are swapping places with each other every time they use their powers. As a film critic, I get upset when films are judged before anyone sees them. Such is the case with The Marvels. I am a huge fan of Brie Larson as she is in two films from 2013 that I love, The Spectacular Now and Short Term 12. While I liked the Ms. Marvel and Wandavision series, I felt both ran out of steam by the end of their respective episodes. However, I had high hopes that the charisma of Larson would meld with the high energy of Iman Vellani and the cool factor of Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau. I was right. First, this works because of the brilliance of Iman Vellani as Kamala Kahn, who breathes a bit of fresh air into every scene she is in. She is so much fun to watch as Ms. Marvel, a superhero who is still figuring out what she can and cannot do but is ready to try. Vellani gives us a character full of adventure and life while still being a fangirl of Captain Marvel. You almost feel that Vellani isn’t acting, but is that excited to be an actor in this film as much as her character is. Now it is known that I am not a fan of cats, but occasionally one shows up that I like, and Moose the alien cat is hilarious as Captain Marvel’s sidekick. The film is fast, funny, and I loved you don’t have to have seen the TV series to figure out each character. My problem with the film is that the bad guy in the movie, Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), is a pretty weak one, and the final battle doesn’t live up to the rest of the film. Still, The Marvels is a lot of fun to watch, Iman Vellani is terrific, and Moose is, well, Moose. And the film is 1 hour and forty-five minutes long, which is a brisk pace for so many recent releases. And there is, as usual, a bonus scene after the first round of final credits. So go have some fun at the movies and see The Marvels. But be sure to watch out for Moose. He tends to spit up a hairball or something bigger occasionally.   My Rating: Full Price The Marvels Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide.

My View: The Holdovers (2023) R  Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) is a history teacher at a remote prep school known for being demanding and cranky. The last thing he wants to do is babysit a student named Angus (Dominic Sessa), who has no place to go during the holidays, but he has no choice. They are now stuck together along with the school cafeteria manager (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) for the holiday break. It’s going to be a holiday that both won’t forget. This is a funny and touching film about three lost souls who aren’t happy about having to spend the holidays with each other. As you would expect, Paul Giamatti is just about perfect in the role of the teacher who looks down on his students and expects far more than they are willing to give. Da’Vine Joy Randolph is a delight as the cook with an attitude who isn’t going to take any gruff. The surprise of the film is Dominic Sessa, who holds his own with Giamatti, able to act toe to toe and hold his own. The two play off each other wonderfully, and their timing and chemistry is a wonder to behold. I also want to mention Carrie Preston, a favorite of mine, who lights up the scenes she is in as the love interest for the teacher. With its clever twists and turns, The Holdovers is a delightful and entertaining exploration of finding family and understanding in unexpected places. So class, find your places, because Mr. Hunham is about to teach us a thing or two. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  The Holdovers Website  Now playing in theatres.

My View: What Happens Later (2023) R Willa (Meg Ryan) and Bill (David Duchovny) are ex-lovers who were together over twenty years ago. They are now stuck in an airport overnight together. Will they find the spark again, or is it too late? Meg Ryan has been in our hearts since that wondrous appearance as Goose’s wife in Top Gun. A queen of the rom-com in the 90s, she dazzled us on the screen. Now, after quite a few years away, she is back in a film she not only stars in but directs and co-writes. I wish I could say it’s a triumphant return, but it’s not. The film explores the theme of lost love and the regrets that come with it, as two people with a shared past meet at an airport and share their stories. What Happens Later tries to be too cute, with an airport announcer as the third character in the film. I would have enjoyed this film more without the announcer's voice constantly guiding the characters' discoveries at the airport. The film tries to make this a magical thing, but instead, it becomes tiring very quickly as a plot device to get the characters to do something. There is some chemistry between Duchovny and Ryan, but the film doesn’t have a lot of charm to it, and so a lot of the discussions (and there are many) don’t feel fun; they feel like the characters want to revel in the sorrow of the past regrets. I think the film might have had a chance to work without the magic airport and its announcer, but we will never know, just like we won’t know what their lives would have been like if the two characters had stayed together.   My Rating: Cable  What Happens Later Website  Now playing in theatres.

Indiefest: AKA Mr. Chow (2023)  Documentary on the life of Michael Chow, a Chinese immigrant who started a restaurant in 1968 in London that soon became a hangout for the rich and famous, including The Beatles and every fashion model on the cover of Vogue. He soon expanded to Hollywood, where stars went to be seen. I found the first part of this documentary fascinating, as Michael Chow was the son of Zhou Xinfang, the Peking Opera Grand Master performer. Michael was sent to Europe to boarding school, and he followed in his father’s footsteps and became an actor (along with his sister), appearing in films and TV shows in the 60s. The documentary becomes too much of a promo from Mr. Chow as we spend too much time on his present-day ‘job’ as a painter. I felt sorry for his assistants, who kept getting splattered with paint as Michael created his paintings using a mallet to bang paint on his canvas. The film slows down when transitioning between Mr. Chow's marriages, and I wished for more focus on the earlier days of the restaurants. I wanted to know what was happening in the 80s and 90s when there were stories coming out every week from those restaurants. Overall, I would send this dish of a film back to the kitchen; it’s just too lukewarm for my taste.   My Rating: Cable  AKA Mr. Chow website Now playing on the Max platform.

Forgotten Film: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) In a world where forests are poisoned and giant insects move at will, enters Princess Nausicaä, who vows to save her people living in a valley from an invading army. This is one of the first feature films of Hayao Miyazaki, and while the animation feels very 1980s, the storyline is still relevant for today’s audience. The characters are vibrant and stand out, with the Princess determined to save her people. Unlike some of Miyazaki’s other early films, like Castle in the Sky (1986) and Porco Rosso (1992), this film feels a little more adult in its storyline. Still, this is a beautiful film and a great starting point into the world of Miyazaki’s animation.   My Rating: Full Price Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind Info  Now available to rent/buy on most online forums.

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Marvels: Blues Standby Rigger

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: The Boy and the Heron (2023) PG-13  A young boy, Mahito, loses his mother in a fire and is haunted by her memory. His father has remarried and moved to a new house in the countryside. Mahito keeps hearing his mother call his name, and he sets out to find her in an abandoned and magical tower that will take him to a world he never knew existed. Legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Wind Rises) brings us another tale from his inventive mind. The Boy and the Heron could be the last of Miyazaki’s incredible animated film collection and is one of the most anticipated films of the December releases.  The Boy and the Heron Website   The film will be in theatres nationwide on Friday, December 8.

Friday, November 3, 2023


My View: Priscilla (2023) R   Priscilla tells the story of teenage Priscilla Beaulieu (Cailee Spaeny), who meets rock and roll superstar Elvis and begins a romance that the world followed until his death. Priscilla tells the story of the one woman who knew Elvis the best in private moments: a thrilling crush, an alley in loneliness, and a vulnerable best friend. The film is Pricilla’s story, and it is not always a pretty one. I can see why the Elvis estate did not allow any of his music to be put into the film, as the ‘King’ doesn’t come off very well. Cailee Spaeny does the impossible, effectively playing a young girl of 15 to a young mother in her late 20s when she left Elvis. The film gives us an inside look at what it was like to live in Elvis’s shadow, a prisoner of his celebrity and lifestyle. The film makes it clear that Elvis groomed Priscilla to be his wife, almost from their first meeting when she was just a teenager in Germany living on a base. Watching Priscilla can be uncomfortable, especially when Elvis relies on his friends and family to court her. Jacob Elordi does an outstanding job of playing the Elvis we rarely got to see, a man full of insecurities and one who was addicted to pills from the first moments that he met Priscilla. This is a beautiful-looking film, and we get to see what it was like to live inside the halls of Graceland. The opening shots of Cailee walking on the now-famous shag carpet of the home of Elvis is marvelous. The film's visuals and the main cast's performances were enjoyable, but the storyline became boring during Elvis' run in Las Vegas. I am not sure how fans of Elvis will react to this film, but fans of Priscilla will love it. I, on the other hand, just liked it.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Priscilla Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide. 

My View: The Marsh King’s Daughter (2023) R   Helena (Daisy Ridley) has a past that she has tried to forget. Her father, known as the Marsh King, kidnapped Helena’s mother, and two years later, Helena was born. At age ten, the Marsh King was caught and put away. Now, he has escaped and is after Helena and her daughter. Helena will use everything he taught her about surviving in the wilderness to keep her family safe. This is another in a long line of films based on a book where the source material is far better than the film. I wanted to love this film because I read a lot of books like this one, but the film doesn’t deliver the needed suspense and has an ending that we can see coming from a mile away (maybe with a rifle’s scope). I liked Ridley as the woman whose first ten years of life were spent in the wilderness, being shown how to survive using your senses and hunting skills. The film has a series of flashbacks about Helena’s life as a ten-year-old and then shows us her life as a mom and a wife. It’s a contrast that doesn’t always work, as the flashbacks are far more interesting than what is happening in the present day. I wanted more of a cat-and-mouse game between Helena and her dad after he escapes from prison, but most of what should have been thrills are wasted as just slight hints of what could happen.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Marsh King's Daughter Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Quiz Lady (2023) R  Anne’s (Awkwafina) mother owes eighty thousand dollars to the mob because of gambling debts and has run away from the nursing home. Anne and her sister (Sandra Oh) devise a plan to get Anne on a game show to win the money to get their mother off the hit list. Quiz Lady is a film that is perfectly suited for seeing online. This film is light and funny, though it doesn't always hit the mark with its jokes and has a weak middle part. However, it ends on a high note, making it a fun watch. I am a fan of Awkwafina, and she is perfect in the role of a woman who tries to be the sensible one between her mother, the gambler, and her sister, who never can settle on what she wants to do in life. I got a little tired of Sandra Oh’s performance; it was just a little too broad for my taste, but Awkwafina is always able to reel Oh in with a look or a line. Quiz Lady is bolstered by a cast that includes Jason Schwartzman as a smarmy quiz show champ, Holland Taylor as the grumpy next-door neighbor, and, of course, Will Ferrell as the quiz show host who is loved by his audience. So, find a comfy place on the couch and take a trip to a quiz show that isn’t great, but still a fun ride.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Quiz Lady Website  Now playing on the Hulu platform. 

Indiefest: Radical (2023)  Sergio (Eugenio Derbez) is a teacher in a Mexican border town where his students live in a world filled with neglect, crime, and violence. However, Sergio is a different type of teacher who challenges his students’ curiosity and drive to succeed, even when the odds seem against them. I haven’t always been a big fan of Eugenio Derbez, as he tends to overreact in his comedies. However, in this film, Derbez gives us a powerful and moving performance of a man who wants to teach kids but doesn’t want to follow the rules. Sergio, we find out, is a man who has lost his faith in his abilities to teach and reach young children. He takes a job at a school that no one wants to teach at and try something different to inspire his students to think independently and not be force-fed a curriculum that becomes a babysitter for a few years. I loved that what we see on the screen feels real, and Derbez gives off an energy that excites us to the possibilities his character is trying to do might work. Radical is helped by a cast of students that are all believable and touching. So join the class and sit down to be wowed by a teacher who might teach you a thing or two while having fun doing it.   My Rating: Full Price  Radical Website  Now playing in theatres. 

My View: Rustin (2023) PG-13  Rustin tells the story of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin (Colman Domingo), who broke barriers everywhere he went, including helping Martin Luther King Jr. and others organize the 1963 March on Washington. Colman Domingo gives a performance that needs to be seen to be believed! It’s a brilliant portrayal of a man who was forgotten for too long because he was Black and gay at a time that either could get you arrested, beaten, or killed. Rustin, the true architect of the March on Washington, was a charismatic force of nature who used his brains and charm to get things done. However, Rustin paid a heavy price, often being put in the background because of his being gay, and never got the credit he deserved. The film drags a bit before Rustin comes up with the idea of a gathering of 100,000 people in Washington, DC, to make the President and Congress act on Civil Rights legislation. Rustin is a film where a performance of the leading actor dominates every scene, and Colman Domingo is nothing short of brilliant in this story that needed to be told.  My Rating: Full Price  Rustin Website  Now playing in theatres and on Netflix on Friday, November 17th. 

My View: Fingernails (2023) R Anna (Jessie Buckley) and Ryan (Jeremy Allen White) are in love, and their love has been proven to be confirmed by a controversial new technology. Anna has doubts and begins working at the company that uses the technology to put people together. Soon, her doubts will become more than just thoughts when she becomes attracted to her co-worker Amir (Riz Ahmed). The reason to see this film is the on-screen chemistry between Riz Ahmed and Jessie Buckley. From their first meeting, we know they will end up being drawn together. We can feel that draw right from the get-go. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t let us enjoy this very much as it revolves around a technology that doesn’t make a whole heck of a lot of sense. The film takes a long time for the two main characters to realize that maybe, despite the odds, they are meant together, no matter what technology says. Fingernails spends a lot of time on how stupid the technology is, but this isn’t a comedy, and it tries too hard to be a black comedy. I still had fun watching Buckley and Ahmed together, but in the end, it wasn’t worth the effort.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Fingernails Info  In select theatres and on Apple TV+.
My View:
The Persian Version (2023) R  The Persian Version takes place when a large Iranian-American family gathers, and a family secret is uncovered that will force an estranged mother, Shireen (Niousha Noor), and her unconventional daughter, Leila (Layla Mohammadi) into a journey of exploration. It turns out that mother and daughter are more alike than ever imagined. Leila is a lesbian who just broke up with her wife and decides one drunken Halloween night to have sex with a guy (though it must be said he was in a Hedwig and the Angry Inch costume). Leila's mother is an unstoppable force, having come from Iran to the U.S. with her husband and now manages a big family and successful real estate business. The two do not get along. Shireen disapproves of her daughter’s lifestyle, and Leila doesn’t feel she fits in with the family. Then things happen. The Persian Version is one of those films you long for as a film critic. It’s a funny, smart, moving film that touches on a ton of subjects, including marriage, single living, religion, politics, and the love of family. The two leads are so much fun to watch. Layla Mohammadi is funny and gives us, through her character’s narration, a look at a family that has roots in Iran and its culture but has found a place in America. Niousha Noor has the tougher part of giving us a mother that we don’t always understand where she comes from, but we soon learn that her past has shaped her present. There are a couple of fantastic dance sequences, including a rousing number done to ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,’ courtesy of a very young Leila smuggling in a Cyndi Lauper cassette tape into Iran. The Persian Version is a film about fighting for your rights as a woman, as an Iranian, and as a family member. The Persian Version is a dazzling look at two women who seem to be miles apart but learn that they share a lot more than just the family bond. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  The Persian Version Website  Now playing in theatres.

Forgotten Film: Miracle of St. Anna (2008) R  Set in Italy during the Allied invasion during WWII, four African-American soldiers (Michael Ealy, Omar Benson Miller, Laz Alonso, and Derek Luke) are behind enemy lines taking refuge in a small village after rescuing a small boy caught in the firefight with German soldiers. Now, its citizens and the four men must unite to protect the town and the boy against impossible odds. Miracle of St. Anna is a Spike Lee film, and with many of his movies, there are some fantastic moments and some that don’t work at all. The battle sequences are brilliant, and there are some beautiful moments between the soldiers and the young boy. However, there are a few scenes that seem out of place, including a dance that takes place in the village as the enemy surrounds them. Still, Miracle of St. Anna has some powerful moments, and the battle sequences are some of the best war scenes of the last 20 years. My Rating: Full Price   The film is available to rent or buy on most online platforms.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Rustin: Background Taylors

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You:  The Fall Guy (2023) PG-13  Colt (Ryan Gosling), a former stuntman, comes out of retirement after discovering his ex (Emily Blunt) is directing a big-budget movie. It’s not a joyful reunion, but Colt is needed when the enormous star of the film has gone missing, and he must find him before the picture is shut down. This looks like it will be fun to watch with Blunt and Gosling. Based loosely on the 1980s Lee Majors TV show, which was loosely based on a real-life stuntman.   The film comes out in March 2024.

Until Next Time!