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.
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.