Friday, January 26, 2024

Miller's Girl

My View: Miller’s Girl (2024) R  Cairo (Jenna Ortega) is a high school student who excels at everything she sets her mind to. Her English teacher, Jonathan (Martin Freeman), sees talent in Cairo and gives her extra attention. When he realizes things may have gone too far, he rejects her, and now Cairo is out for revenge. I am a fan of both Freeman (Sherlock and Fargo TV series, The World’s End (2013)) and Ortega (Scream (2022), X (2022), Wednesday TV series), so I hoped that this wouldn’t be the mess that the trailer made it look like it could be. Sadly, it is a big mess. The film tries too hard to be cutting-edge and controversial, but the writing makes it seem like a bad attempt at a modern Tennessee Williams adaptation. I mean, you have a popular, charismatic high school teacher who can actually talk to his students, married to an alcoholic wife who spends too much of her time on her work, and a brilliant young student who is bored and wants out of the small-town life. So, she sets her sights on her English teacher, and he falls for it. Because of her over-imagination and a script that waxes poetics at the drop of a hat, we never really know if they ever did anything. Did they even kiss? We will never know. The title comes from the assignment that Jonathan gives Cairo to write something in the style of her favorite writer. So she picks Henry Miller, an author known for his pushing the window of eroticism in his writing. And Jonathan says, sure, why not? What could go wrong? The rest of the film, that’s what.   My Rating: Cable  Miller's Girl Website  Now playing in theaters

Indiefest: Sometimes I Think About Dying (2023) PG-13  Fran (Daisy Ridley) is good at her office job but is incredibly socially awkward. Fran spends most of her time alone, which gives her a way to daydream about how she could die. Fran’s world changes when Robert (Dave Merheje) starts working at her office, and he takes a liking to her. Now, the only thing standing in the way of her happiness is Fran herself. I went in thinking that this film was going to be quirky, funny, and fun. While incredibly odd, it’s not a funny film but more of a serious movie about a woman who doesn’t fit in, loves doing her job, and tries to avoid interaction as much as possible. All that changes when she finds herself attracted to her new office mate, Robert. He gives mixed signals to Fran, and she tries as hard as possible to let him know she is interested. The problem is that Fran doesn’t have a clue about how to interact with people. Instead, to escape her office mates chatting on about nonsense, she has daydreams about what it would look like if she died in the forest or on a beach. As much as she wants a relationship with Robert, he isn’t the perfect match, falling asleep on a date or not picking up the signs that she wants more than to be kissed once. Still, it’s an interesting ride that Daisy Ridley takes us on, far from her role as action adventurer roles in the Star Wars films. Fran is a role that Ridley seems to relish in, one that is profoundly understated, even so, she creates a character that we root for. We want Fran to find love or at least acceptance, but we may never know if she will ever see the happiness she finds in daydreaming about her dying.   My Rating: Full Price  Sometimes I Think of Dying Website  Now playing in theaters. 

My View: Badland Hunters (2024)  Badland Hunters takes place after a massive earthquake has transformed Seoul into an apocalyptic wasteland, where civilization has collapsed, and it’s everyone for themselves. Nam-san (Don Lee) protects a group of people living in a wasteland. When he finds out that a friend could be in trouble, he leads a couple of friends on a quest to rescue the friend, who is needed for an evil experiment by a mad doctor. Badland Hunters is a silly, fun romp with lots of grisly fights with lots of kung fu theatrics. It’s a film that includes zombies, a mad scientist, a formula to give everlasting life, and lizard men. What’s not to love when the hero’s primary weapon is a giant machete? What’s better to chop off quasi-zombie soldiers' heads with?   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Badland Hunters Website  Now playing on Netflix.

Indiefest: American Star (2024) R Wilson (Ian McShane) is an assassin who takes a job where he is commissioned to kill a man on a tropical island. The target is delayed, and instead of going home, Wilson decides to stay on the island and becomes involved with the people there. Now, the target has arrived, and Wilson is forced to choose between his job and his newfound friendships. This film is about a man who isn’t used to connecting with people while on the job. He is a man who prides himself on getting in and out of a job before the dust has settled or the blood spatters have dried. Wilson, for reasons we will never know, decides to spend some time on the island and slowly gets to know the people, townspeople, and tourists alike. The film is a slow burn and works only because of the star power and charisma of McShane. It’s a subtle bit of acting by McShane. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t entirely give us anything other than the few interactions that Wilson allows himself with: a pretty bartender who may be involved with the man he is there to kill and a young, lonely kid who spends a lot of his time locked out of his room by his continually drunk parents. I loved the film's cinematography, and there are some beautiful shots of Wilson in his black suit exploring the island. The film ends with a bit of a whimper, which is not what the film needed to give us. What we get has been like Wilson’s constant cigarettes, a long, slow burn.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  American Star Website  Now playing in theaters.

Indiefest: Pictures of Ghosts (2023)   Filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho revisits the downtown of the Brazilian city of Recife, where he explores the now vacant movie palaces that made such an essential part of Brazilian life. This is a deeply personal film about life in the town where the filmmaker grew up and lives. The first third of the film is about Filho’s life in the apartment that he not only grew up in but in the same place where he lives now. His apartment is a place that not only did he live in but also one that has starred in both his childhood films that he made with video cameras and his current professional life as a narrative filmmaker. The 2nd third of the film is about the movie theatres downtown, most of which are long gone. They are the places that Filho and the rest of the community went to from the 30s on to see the world’s best films come to their downtown theatres. He gives us the history of these theatres and shows us what they once were in their glory days and what they have become. It’s a painful journey, one of looking back at the joy that these movie palaces gave to millions and millions of people. The last third is a look at what could be one last theatre trying to survive by becoming a revival house. While sad, the film is also a celebration of movies and the theatres that show them. Pictures of Ghosts show us what those theatres of yesteryear brought to a community, they were part of its lifeblood.   My Rating: Full Price  Pictures of Ghosts Website  Now playing is select theaters.

Forgotten Film: Rembrandt’s J’Accuse…! (2008)  Documentary from filmmaker Peter Greenaway that investigates the mystery of one of the most famous paintings in the world, Rembrandt’s The Nightwatch. Using actors Martin Freeman, Eva Birthistle, Toby Jones, and others, Greenaway takes a forensic look at the painting and the implications that a murder has occurred in it. The film looks at all thirty-four painted characters and points a finger at who could be the shooter. It’s a fun film with plenty of laughs while exploring the world of one of the world’s most famous painters and a painting that has been a mystery for hundreds of years.  My Rating: Full Price  Rembrandt's J'Accuse Info The film is available for rent/buy on Amazon.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Miller’s Girl: Vault

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Road House (2024) R  A down on his luck, former UFC fighter Elwood Dalton (Jake Gyllenhaal) ends up working at a ‘Road House,’ a rowdy bar in the Florida Keys. Hired to clean up the troublemakers in the bar, it turns out the job is a lot more complicated than that. One key thing, don’t piss Elwood off. Road House is a remake of the 1989 film of the same name that starred Patrick Swayze and became a cult classic. Let's see what Mr. Gyllenhaal can do with the role. It should be a lot of fun.  Road House Info  Premiering on Prime Video on March 21st. 

Until Next Time!

Friday, January 19, 2024


My View: Origin (2023) PG-13  Isabel (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who is asked to write about the murder of Trayvon Martin. At first, she doesn’t want to write the piece; however, with the support of her husband Brett (Jon Bernthal), she decides to write not about the death but about what made it possible and why. Isabel is about to go on a journey that will be the most challenging year of her life but one of great discovery. The film is based on the nonfiction book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson and has been adapted to a fictional narrative by Ava DuVernay (Selma (2015), 13th (2017). It’s a thoughtful and imaginative film that doesn’t always work because it feels it has to hit so many complex topics. Still, the narrative is filled with the book's major ideas, and combined with a magical feel through its cinematography and the performance of Ellis-Taylor, the film is destined to make you think and feel that Isabel is onto something important, something to be discussed. Origin is a film that I came away feeling that while the film overall doesn’t quite flow and not all the parts make a good fit. However, those parts are full of moments worth experiencing and thinking about.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Origin Website   Now playing in theatres. 

Indiefest: The Zone of Interest (2023)  PG-13  Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) and her husband Rudolf (Christian Friedel) have built a beautiful home for their family with a lovely garden and an excellent servant staff. Rudolf is the commandant of Auschwitz, and their house is directly next to the camp. This is a disturbing film showing none of the horror and atrocities of Auschwitz. We hear the constant gunshots, and we see the plumes of smoke from the ovens, but it’s all taking place outside the walls of the house and the fields and rivers that the family interacts with. This is the story of a family living a good life while horrors are happening on the other side of that pretty garden wall. I am not as big a fan of this film as many of my fellow film critics. Primarily because we spend over two hours with this family and learn nothing about them we don’t know after ten minutes into the film. The Zone of Interest gives us very little to react to other than the callousness of the Nazis, but I think we already knew that. The film also does some bizarre things with the narrative, including showing us a daughter of a servant, who is leaving food for the workers in the concentration camp. The act is shown to us as if seen through a night vision lens, which just threw me out of the film altogether. The Zone of Interest take on viewing life next to a camp of horrors did not resonate with me and failed to convey anything other than that the Nazis were horrible people.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Zone of Interest Website  Now playing in theaters.

Indiefest: Freud’s Last Session (2023) PG-13  World War II is about to start as the Germans have invaded Poland, and one of the world’s greatest psychologists, Sigmund Freud (Anthony Hopkins), is dying of cancer. He invites a young Oxford professor, C.S. Lewis (Matthew Goode), to debate the importance of religion in the age of war. Freud’s Last Session is a film where the acting far exceeds the material they are given. Based on a meeting that may or may not have happened, we have two men at odds over how we deal with God and Christianity. Two men are at odds in their belief in a higher power and spend the film discussing the topic. The film is based on a stage play and sometimes feels too much like that. The film finds interesting topics and then drops them to show something from each of the two men’s past in flashbacks that take away any momentum the film has. There is also a subplot of Freud’s daughter Anna, played by Live Lisa Fries, who tries to escape the gigantic shadow her father spreads over her. This also takes away from the conversations between the two men and seems as if it is added to give us another reason to question Freud’s ideas and values. I felt the film spent too much time on Freud’s couch, trying to explore their subconscious and not enough on each man’s own words.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Freud's Last Session Website Now playing in theatres. 

My View: I.S.S. (2023) R   I.S.S. takes place when a new group, comprised of both American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts, has just arrived at the International Space Station. Things are fantastic until they witness a war breaking out beneath them on Earth, and the astronauts are given orders from the ground: take control of the space station by any means necessary. I wanted this film to be a thriller with some smarts, but much like the astronauts that inhabit the space station, the script goes for the easy out and never creates enough tension or twists to make the film more than predictable. While watching this film about six people in a space station, what stuck with me is that other than the sleeping quarters (a closet with a vertical sleeping bag you strap into), the film never feels like a confined, closed place. At one point, two of the astronauts think they can hide in a section of the station, which just boggled my mind. For six highly trained people who are subjected to a ton of tests to get into their programs, they are some pretty stupid people. At one point, one astronaut tells our heroine, Dr. Foster (Ariana DeBose), not to let anybody else look out the space station's windows. Yeah, that will work.   My Rating: Cable  I.S.S. Website  Now playing in theatres.

Indiefest: The End We Start From (2023) R   After a massive environmental crisis submerges London and a great deal of England,  a mother (Jodie Comer) and her newborn son attempt to find their way home, battling the environment and the odds. The End We Start From is the story of a woman who is determined to not only survive but take her baby back to where he belongs, her home. This is a horror film, but only in the sense that the monsters are us and what we will do to survive. It’s also about love and friendship, finding both in unexpected places. The world can be a cruel place, but also can be filled with kindness. Jodie Comer is magnificent as the mother who takes her newborn on a journey with one thought, to get back home. The supporting cast makes this film work so well with Joel Fry as the husband, Benedict Cumberbatch as a fellow traveller also trying to get home, and Katherine Waterston as a fellow mother with a newborn who joins up on the journey. Far scarier than some of the horror films I’ve seen, The End We Start From is a sobering account of a world gone mad because of a natural catastrophe and the power of the pull of needing to be home.   My Take: Full Price  The End We Start From Info    Now playing in theatres. 

Indiefest: Driving Madeleine (2023)   Charles (Dany Boon) is a cab driver having a bad day/week/year when he picks up what he thinks will be an easy fare, an old woman named Madeleine (Line Renaud). However, Madeleine is about to move to a care home, and this could be her last cab ride in Paris. Madeleine will want to make a few stops along the way, and Charles is about to learn about the rich, adventurous, and sometimes sad life she has led. Driving Madeleine is a film that is a joy to watch because of the chemistry between Dany Boon, the rough and always angry taxi driver, and Line Renaud, the woman who takes her taxi driver on a trip through a Paris of memories. Line Renaud is brilliant as the woman who refuses to dwell on the bad things and celebrate the good times in her life. It’s a beautiful performance full of sweetness and subtlety. Dany Boon is perfect as a man who slowly lets his guard down and slowly becomes under the spell of a woman who has lived a full and interesting life. I could have used fewer flashbacks and more time in the cab, but that’s a minor problem because of the performances of the two principals. So sit back and enjoy a long cab ride full of stories and insights from a woman who has experienced life and is willing to share it.   My Rating: Full Price  Driving Madeleine Website

Forgotten Film: Lovely & Amazing (2001)  R  Jane Marks (Brenda Blethyn) is a mother of three daughters. Michelle (Catherine Keener), the oldest, is a former homecoming queen in an unhappy marriage. Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer) is an actress on the brink of stardom, but spends her time rescuing dogs, even when they don’t want to be rescued. The youngest sister is Annie (Raven Goodwin), an eight-year-old African-American Jane adopted. All the women of the Marks clan have serious issues, including body issues and insecurity. However, the Marks women have one thing in common: they love each other and seek redemption, each in their own way. What I love about this film is that the women in the movie are all dealing with problems, but none of them are superficial. They know they are flawed and are trying to deal with their problems, though sometimes not well. The film tackles a serious subject of how women are constantly bombarded with attaining the perfect body and how it’s a struggle to keep your sense of worth and, better yet, your sense of humor to deal with these issues.  My Rating: Full Price Lovely & Amazing Info The film is available on disc. 

Weird Credits: From the credits of Origin: Lunchbox Driver

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Sometimes I Think About Dying (2023) PG-13 Fran (Daisy Ridley) is good at her office job but is incredibly socially awkward. Fran spends most of her time alone, which gives her a way to daydream about how she could die. Fran’s world changes when Robert (Dave Merheje) starts working at her office, and he takes a liking to her. Now, the only thing standing in the way of her happiness is Fran herself. The film was a Grand Jury Prize nominee at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.  Sometimes I Think About Dying Website  Releasing in theatres on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.

Until Next Time!

Friday, January 12, 2024

Mean Girls

My View: Mean Girls (2024) PG-13   New student Cady (Angourie Rice) has it made! An elite group of popular girls called ‘The Plastics’ has welcomed her into the top of the social situation at her school. The Plastics are ruled by conniving queen bee Regina (Reneé Rapp), and she isn’t someone you want to cross. However, Cady makes a major mistake by falling for Regina’s ex-boyfriend Aaron (Christopher Briney), and now she finds herself in Regina’s crosshairs. Can Cady survive the wrath of The Plastics and High School? This film suffers from what I call ‘The Broadway Bloat,’ when a musical has too many songs, some of which do absolutely nothing to progress the plot or give character insight. A good example is ‘Sexy,’ which Avantika sings at a Halloween party. It’s just a waste of screen time. The film also does a horrible job of making Renee Rapp stand out. Rapp played Regina in the 2nd year of the Broadway run, and I can see how she would dominate the stage with her presence, but with her two best songs, Someone Gets Hurt and World Burn, Rapp is second to the attempt to make the film look like a TikTok video. Having recently watched the 2004 film, I was stuck on what Tina Fey cut out of the film, including some fun jokes and funny sequences from the original. A perfect example of how badly shot the film is when Cady’s two best friends are watching a horror movie (one of the Friday the 13th films) on Halloween, when Cady, dressed as a zombie bride, walks in on the two. In the original film, Cady’s sudden appearance in the doorway scares them, right out of a horror movie. It’s a funny moment. In this version, the shot is so poorly done that it seems the film, not Cady’s sudden appearance scares the two. I also didn’t like the change of songs that the Plastics sing at the Winter Talent show. I loved in the original film how Cady saves the day by singing Jingle Bell Rock when the music starts skipping because of Gretchen’s stumble, which makes Cady the center of the spotlight and the hero. The song is different in the musical and the impact of what happens misses the mark on elevating Cady in the eyes of the audience. I will say the casting of Jenna Fisher as Cady’s mother was a brilliant move, as Angourie Rice looks and acts so much like Fisher that it’s uncanny. Overall, I came away from the film wanting more. I wanted it to be funnier, the songs to stand out more, and I wanted to go away from the film humming a song or two.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Mean Girls Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: The BeeKeeper (2024) R   Clay’s (Jason Statham) world is rocked when his neighbor (Phylicia Rashad) is scammed by a phishing operation, which causes her financial ruin, and she takes her own life. Clay is about to get revenge for his neighbor because they don’t know who they messed with. Clay is a former operative of a powerful and clandestine organization known as ‘Beekeepers.’ I saw three action films this week, and this is the only one that I had fun watching. It’s got all you want from a Statham film. Jason beats up and kills a bunch of bad guys, sometimes in very imaginative ways. Check! Jason is on the side of right vs wrong and he doesn’t care who he is taking on to get retribution. Check! Jason says a few lines commenting on how the over-confident bad guy will die. Check! Things blow up bigger than they should, and maybe even if they shouldn’t. Check! The Beekeeper is what I call a ‘stupid fun’ movie. It knows what it is and has fun with it. Statham, who has made an excellent living doing this kind of part, does his Statham thing and is serious throughout, even in the touching moments (there is one early on to show he has a heart). For a few minutes, I didn’t recognize Josh Hutcherson, who plays the main bad guy as the troubled son of a wealthy person. He is ok in the role, but to make up for that, we have Jeremy Irons chewing up scenery only like Jeremy can, as the bad guy’s head of security slash trouble fixer. Spoiler alert: if this is the box office, I think it will do; I can see this being a Statham series where he rights further wrongs for the weak and defenseless. How about The Beekeeper II: The Sting is back!?   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Beekeeper Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: The Book of Clarence (2023) PG-13  Clarence (LaKeith Stanfield) is a hustler whose days may be numbered because he owes money to a local mobster. A mobster who happens to have a sister that Clarence is in love with. Clarence notices his brother is doing well following a local Messiah named Jesus. Clarence claims he is also a Messiah, but soon discovers that life becomes very complicated when dealing with things like God. Like his western film, The Harder They Fall (2021), where he played off the Hollywood westerns of the 40s and 50s, filmmaker Jeymes Samuel takes on the classic Hollywood religious spectacles and gives it his unique spin. The result is a film that is engaging and sometimes hilarious but doesn’t always succeed in what Samuel is trying to do. LaKeith Stanfield is brilliant as Clarence, who is madly in love with local mobster Jedediah’s sister (played by Anna Diop). Clarence owes a lot of money to Jedediah (Eric Kofi-Abrefa) and spends most of his time early on in the film trying to find a way to raise the money while dodging Jedediah and his henchmen. There are some shout-outs to the classic religious films, including a rousing chariot race and a couple of scenes reminiscent of Jesus Christ Superstar. The film explores Christianity, the power of belief, and how we look for messiahs in times of strife. At its heart, the film is a journey of discovery and enlightenment. It just takes a long and winding road to find it.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Book of Clarence Website  Now playing in theatres.

My View: Role Play (2023) R  Emma (Kaley Cuoco) is married to Dave (David Oyelowo), and they have a great life with two kids in the suburbs of New Jersey. Couples sometimes have a secret or two they keep from their loved ones. Emma’s secret is she is an assassin for hire and is wanted for murder…many murders. I am a fan of both Kaley Cuoco and David Oyelowo, so I was looking forward to this film, which looked like it would be a lot of fun—a sexy assassin living a double life as a housewife in the suburbs. The film starts with a nice encounter with a fellow killer, played by the always enjoyable and stylish Bill Nighy, who messes up Emma and Dave’s big night out on the town. Unfortunately, the film goes downhill from there. The film takes too long to reunite the couple once Emma’s cover has been blown and then there isn’t the fun or thrill that the encounter with Nighy’s character gave us. I wanted more of Oyelowo, as the mild-mannered husband, having to help Emma defeat the bad guys, but he mainly just reacts to his continual disbelief that his wife is a killer. Cuoco is fine as the assassin and does well in the action sequences, but the film doesn’t let her comedic talents come out at all. I think the film suffers from a villain, played by Connie Nelson, who doesn’t have the magnetic pull of Nighy’s bad guy from the early portion of the film.   My Rating: Cable  Role Play Website  Now playing on Amazon Prime.

My View: Lift (2024) PG-13   An Interpol agent named Abby (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and her ex-boyfriend Cyrus (Kevin Hart), a renowned art thief, are teaming up to steal 500 million in gold bullion from an evil arms dealer (Jean Reno). The only problem is that they must steal it while transported on a 777-passenger flight. Lift is a film that aspires to be clever but keeps throwing tech stuff at you to show you how brilliant the film’s heroes are. I am not a fan of movies that keep something from you until the end, and this film does a poor job of just doing that. We know the good guys will win in the end, but the build-up takes too long to get there, and I was never clear on the heist’s details to begin with. Kevin Hart tries to play the suave thief who has one weakness: he is in love with the Interpol agent (Mbatha-Raw) who is trying to catch him. The plot is razor thin on how and why the gang has to help Interpol steal the gold and then even thinner when getting an internet billionaire to lend him his fancy jet to do the heist. I am guessing that it’s an inside joke that the ‘master of disguise’ character Denton, played by Vincent D’Onofrio (who seems like he has just woken up from a nap in every scene), has some of the worst disguises in the history of film. Lift is a film that wants to be clever and fun but instead feels as if the writer and director felt as if we keep throwing tech stuff at them, they won’t notice we don’t really have a plan.   My Rating: Cable  Lift Website  Now playing on Netflix.
My View:
Self Reliance (2023) R  Tommy (Jake Johnson) is a single guy who, right off the street, is given a chance to win a million dollars on a dark web internet program. He must stay alive for 30 days while a team of assassins try to kill him. His only way to stay alive is that they can only kill him when he is alone. Can he convince someone he just met, a woman named Maddy (Anna Kendrick), to stay with him 24 hours a day for a share of the prize? So if you were single and had a nowhere job, and Andy Samberg pulled up in a limo, invited you inside, and then said you could win a million dollars, would you? Even if it meant that you could die? And so starts Self Reliance, a film that Jake Johnson wrote, directed, and stars in. I wanted to like this movie, but it never pushes the boundaries of comedy or drama far enough into absurdity for it to be interesting for the entire hour and twenty-five minutes. There is a great bit early on when none of his family believes his story, and for most of the film, we go back and forth on whether we think this is real or some psychotic episode that Tommy is having. Adding Maddy into the game mix was a fine addition, but that storyline gets lost when Tommy pushes things too far. I would have loved Anna Kendrick to have gone on some of Tommy’s adventures with him. Kendrick plays off of Johnson well, and she could have helped take the film over the top. Self Reliance has some funny moments, but it could have been more, with an ending feels rushed and dwindles away. I wish the film had gone all out, either darker or more absurd. Overall, I look forward to seeing what Jake Johnson can develop next, just let it go further.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Self Reliance Website  Now playing on Hulu. 

Forgotten Film: It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010) PG-13  Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is a high-school student who is infatuated with his best friend’s girl and can’t focus on his schoolwork. Depressed and suicidal, he checks himself into the psychiatric ward. The juvenile side is full, so he gets stuck in the adult ward, where he makes friends with Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), who takes Craig under his wing. Along the way, Craig meets Noel (Emma Roberts), who just might solve all of his problems, or at least that unrequited crush. The film has a wonderful cast that includes Zoë Kravitz, Jim Gaffigan, Lauren Graham, and Thomas Mann. Gilchrist is perfect in the role of the teen who is cracking under the pressure of high school and high expectations, and Galifianakis is fun as his guide to survive the psych ward. It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a warm-hearted film that didn’t deserve to get lost, and Emma Roberts shows why she was destined for stardom.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  It's Kind of a Funny Story Info  Available to rent/buy on Amazon and Apple TV+.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Mean Girls: Math Consultant

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Madame Web (2024) Cassandra Webb (Dakota Johnson) is a NYC paramedic who develops clairvoyant powers and repeatedly crosses paths with three young women (Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, and Celeste O’Connor). Cassandra realizes these women must be protected at all costs because they are destined to become super-heroes. The film is being promoted as a stand-alone film in the Marvel Universe. I have become a fan of Dakota Johnson after trying to forget those Fifty Shades films, so I look forward to this one.  Madame Web Website   The film will be released on February 14, 2024. 

Until Next Time!

Friday, January 5, 2024

Night Swim

My View: Night Swim (2024) PG-13  Ray (Wyatt Russell) and Eve (Kerry Condon), along with their daughter Izzy (Amélie Hoeferle), have just moved into a house with a pool that has been drained and looks in bad shape. They decide to fix the pool, not knowing that something evil is living there, just waiting to come out and play. January is considered the worst month for movies as studios then dump’ films that they don’t think will do well. So we tend to get horror films during January, and occasionally, we get a good one like Me3gan (2023) or Warm Bodies (2013). Unfortunately, Night Swim isn’t one of them. Based on an excellent short film of the same name, this is a film where one great idea can’t be sustained for an entire hour and a half. Ray is a baseball player who has been diagnosed with MS, and his career is over. He and his family fall in love with a house with an abandoned pool in its backyard. They decide to do some repair work on the pool (it turns out it’s spring-fed), and things start out great, including Ray’s MS gets better. It’s a miracle of the pool! Then things go bad, including a lot of near-drownings and a missing cat. I think you can see where this is going. The film throws in some mystical stuff to explain the pool, but the reasons are murky (pun intended), and the film goes from bad to worse. Night Swim is a production of the new combination of Jason Blum’s Blumhouse and James Wan’s Atomic Monster companies, and it’s not worthy of either of them. So maybe stay out of the pool and visit a better horror film from January’s past, like From Dusk to Dawn, Cloverfield, or The Mothman Prophecies.   My Rating: Cable  Night Swim Website   Now playing in theatres.

Indiefest: Memory (2023) R   Memory is about Sylvia (Jessica Chastain), who leads a simple and structured life as a social worker and a mom. She reluctantly attends her high school reunion, and a man named Saul (Peter Sarsgaard) follows her home. Their encounter will affect both of them as they open the door to memories of the past. Memory is a film about two characters: one who wants to forget the past and another who can’t remember it. Sylvia is a damaged woman who is an alcoholic and hasn’t talked to her mother in over 13 years. Saul is a man who is suffering from dementia. Saul can remember some things from the past but has trouble with the present. The two meet unexpectedly, and this chance encounter changes both of their lives. This is a film that only works if you have two strong actors that can make you instantly root for them, and filmmaker Michel Franco (Chronic (2015), New Order (2020)) has chosen two actors in Chastain and Sarsgaard who are more than up to the task. Both give us heartbreaking and profound performances that touch on how memory can make up so much of your personality. Chastain gives a moving rendition of a woman who has had her memory questioned by people close to her, and her character finds solace in a man who lives in the present and not the past. Sarsgaard gives us Saul, a man who, at first, we don’t know what to make of him, but regardless of his failing memory, he is good-hearted. Memory is a film to let wash over you and get to know two people as they get to know each other as best as they can.   My Rating: Full Price  Memory Website   Now playing in theatres.

My View: Good Grief (2023) R  After his mother’s death, Marc (Daniel Levy) jumped into a relationship with an older man and got married. However, that did not last, as his husband unexpectedly died. A year later, Marc takes his two best friends (Ruth Negga and Himesh Patel) on a soul-searching trip to Paris, revealing some hard truths about love and relationships. Good Grief is a film about how grief can dominate you as long as you let it and how relationships are often messy and complicated. This is Daniel Levy’s directorial debut, and it’s a good, though not great, start. The film follows three friends as they go to Paris for a weekend of fun and remembrance. Marc, who after a year is still in shock over the loss of his husband, is determined to put the past away. Sophie (played by the always vivacious Ruth Negga) has just broken up with her boyfriend right after he proposed. Thomas (played by Himesh Patel), who once was Marc’s boyfriend, is convinced he will never find someone to love. The three go to Paris to start anew, but things from the past have a way of rearing up to confront the three, and they will have to work through this before moving on. I liked this film, but I needed a bit of lightness and comedy to break up all the sadness that this film has from almost start to finish. Levy has a nice touch with the camera, letting us get to know the characters and how they react to each other so that we know where they are coming from and where they are going. Hopefully, to a life that is filled with some happiness. Because they need it.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Good Grief Website  Now playing on Netflix.

Indiefest: Society of the Snow (2023) R  In 1972, a Uruguayan rugby team was flying on a chartered flight to Chile when it crashed on a glacier in the heart of the Andes. Only 29 of the 45 passengers survived, and now they find themselves in one of the world’s harshest environments, forced to resort to extreme measures to stay alive. Society of the Snow is not an easy watch, and frankly, I don’t think it will play very well on Netflix, where you can easily quit watching or fast forward through the tough-to-watch parts. This film is an inspiring tale of survival and will; when things are the darkest, we look for support and comfort from our friends to get through. I am not as high on this film as some of my fellow critics. The film takes an ensemble take on telling the story, and it’s sometimes hard to tell who is who. It is more about survival than letting us understand the individual personalities, and we rarely get to know any of the character’s past. The film lags as the first third of the film is just the first few days after the crash, and the film is hampered because, most of the time, the survivors are stuck inside the shell of the plane. Still, this is a remarkable tale of survival and how to accomplish the impossible when the stakes are high. Society of the Snow is probably the best of the three films that have told this story. I think it’s a story that is too hard to tell in a cinema.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee Note: The Academy Awards has put the film on their short list for nomination for the International Feature Film Award.   Society of the Snow Website  Now playing on Netflix.

Indiefest: Anselm (2023) Anselm is a documentary on Anselm Kiefer, one of the greatest contemporary artists in the world. The artist works in different styles and shapes, sometimes in gigantic proportions, to comment on the world and its harsh realities, including fascism and war. Anselm is a film shot in 3-D and being shown in some theatres in that format. Regardless, this is a film you will want to see in theatres to grasp just how large and impressive the artwork of Anselm Kiefer is. Keifer is a man who has a massive warehouse that houses his collection. There is a shot early in the film where there is a shot of the warehouse floor from above, and a painting is being wheeled out. The size of the painting shocked me when the person pushing the item across the floor was dwarfed by the artwork he was moving. Kiefer is not only one of the most successful modern artists (his wealth is as massive as his artwork), but he is also someone who doesn’t mind being controversial, especially on topics such as war and Germany’s Nazi past. Wait until you see his 200-acre farm in France, where he has created artwork consisting of four-story towers and what seems like never-ending tunnels that open into rooms containing his artwork. Anselm is a fascinating look at an artist and his art, both of which are bigger than life.   My Rating: Full Price  Anselm Website  Now playing in theatres.

Indiefest: Monster (2023) PG-13  Saori (Sakura Ando) is a widow trying to bring up her son Minato (Soya Kurokawa). Minato is having a tough time at school, and Saori has noticed that his behavior has changed noticeably in the past weeks. Saori soon learns that Minato’s odd behavior is because of his teacher, who Minato says hit him. We soon realize that there are many sides to the same story. Much like Akira Kurosawa’s film Rashomon, this is a film where we get three separate viewpoints on the same story. One is told from the perspective of the mother of Minato, a woman raising her son by herself because of her husband’s death. She is a loving mother who gets frustrated with how her son’s story of abuse isn’t handled well by the school. The second side of the story is told from the perspective of the teacher, a young man whose life is turned upside down by being accused of bullying a student. Finally, we get the point of view of the student himself, Minato. I loved that this is a mystery that slowly gives us clues along the way, but we don’t get the full story until we see what happened from Minato’s viewpoint. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and loved the last third of the film, which answered all the questions we had from the other two stories. The performances are vibrant and nuanced, with a brilliant performance by Soya Kurokawa as the student who does the accusing. And yes, the title is explained by the film’s end, along with almost all of the mysteries.   My Rating: Full Price  Monster Website   Now playing in theatres.

Forgotten Film: I Know Where I’m Going! (1944)   I love this WWII-era British film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, known as The Archers (The Red Shoes (1948), A Matter of Life and Death (1946)). Shot to give the British a bit of a lift from the war, this is the story of a young woman on her way to get married to a wealthy man. She is going to be married on a remote island in Scotland. She makes the trip from London and is about to take the last leg of the journey, a short boat ride to the island, but the weather turns bad, and she can’t make it to the island for a few days. There, she meets a navy officer and sparks fly. I Know Where I’m Going! is a fun movie with great chemistry between Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey. The film has been restored, and the new print is beautiful. This is a film for fans of British romantic comedies of the 40s. It is notable that it utilizes the beautiful scenery of Scotland and two fantastic performances about two characters destined to fall in love.   My Rating: Full Price   I Know Where I'm Going! Info  Available to rent/buy on Amazon.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Night Swim: Creature Rigger

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: How to Have Sex (2023) Three British teenage girls go on a holiday that promises to be filled with drinking, clubbing, and hooking up in what should be the best summer of their lives. Until one of them goes missing. The film has been a massive hit on the film festival circuit, and Mia McKenna-Bruce, as one of the teens, is getting praise for her performance, including winning the Best Lead Performance at the 2023 British Independent Film Awards.  How to Have Sex Movie Info  The film releases into theatres in early February. 

Until Next Time!