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.

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