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!

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