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.