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.