My View: Lisa Frankenstein (2024) PG-13 An ordinary teen named Lisa (Kathryn Newton) has a crush on a boy. The only problem is that he is dead and buried. After a set of horrific circumstances brings him (Cole Sprouse) back to life, Lisa has the boyfriend she has always wanted, even if he is still sort of dead. Set in the 80s, Lisa, whose mother was killed by a crazed hatchet welding intruder, is now stuck living with her father and his new bride, along with a step-sister, Taffy (Liza Soberano), who happens to be the most popular girl in school. In walks, or should I say, limps The Creature, whom Lisa has been visiting his grave, and now he has come to life, sort of. This film is by a first-time director, Zelda Williams (Robin Williams's daughter), and it shows. With a script by Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult) that pulls in 80s horror tropes right and left, the film has a lot going for it but fails to fully deliver its promise with a movie that keeps changing its tone and pace. Kathryn Newton is a lot of fun as the shy, mousey girl at first who blossoms with the help of The Creature. Lisa Frankenstein shifts between being campy and dark, sometimes at a moment's notice, and that’s the problem. It never knows quite what it is, much like The Creature himself. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Lisa Frankenstein Website Now playing in theaters.
My View: Suncoast (2024) R Doris (Nico Parker) is a high school student whose brother Max's illness has taken a turn for the worse, and he has moved into a hospice where their mother, Kristine (Laura Linney). Doris begins to make friends, especially since her mother is never home, so Doris’s house becomes a place to hang out for parties and sleepovers. At some point, things are going to get messy. Nico Parker is fantastic in this film about dealing with the impending loss of a loved one. I loved the chemistry between Parker and Woody Harrelson, who plays a Christian protestor on a vigil outside the hospice where Doris’s brother is in. They meet by chance and become friends, discussing their lives and why they have become who they are. There are some wonderful moments between the two that make the film worth watching. Laura Linney gives us a woman who is hard to like, as she has put all her time and attention on her son, leaving her daughter to fend for herself. Suncoast is a personal story for filmmaker Laura Chinn, and she lets Nico Parker shine in this coming-of-age story with a unique twist, much like its star. My Rating: Full Price Suncoast Website Now playing on Hulu.
Indiefest: The Teachers’ Lounge (2023) PG-13 Carla (Leonie Benesch) is a well-liked teacher whose students love being in her class. When one of her students is suspected of theft, Carla tries to find out the truth. However, sometimes times, the truth is best left alone. This is a film where you fall in love with the main character but want to reach into the screen and stop her from doing some of the things she does. This film starts as a quiet little movie about a teacher and suddenly becomes a tense thriller with much to say about the role of teachers and parents as they try to navigate the educational world that gets more complicated each day. The Teachers' Lounge is a story about a teacher who, like a detective, keeps pushing to find out the truth and suffers because of that search. This is a film that, once it ramps up, grabs you by the collar and won’t let go until the final frame. My Rating: Full Price The Teachers' Lounge Website Now playing in theatres.
My View: Upgraded (2024) R Ana (Camila Mendes) is an art intern who works for an over-controlling, perfectionist boss, Claire (Marisa Tomei). Somehow, Ana has been picked to fly to London to accompany Claire. Ana meets the man of her dreams, William (Archie Renaux). The only problem is that Ana lets William think she is her company's boss. Upgraded is a delightful bit of fluff of a rom-com with a winning paring of Mendes and Renaux, who have sparks from the very start of their ‘meet cute.’ The film is greatly helped by Marisa Tomei as the boss who is never satisfied and by Lena Olin as William's charming mother. Tomei has a blast as the stuffy, demanding boss who starts to see that maybe Claire has something worth keeping. Olin gives the film a bit of class and fun as the famous actress who loves her son and wants him to find someone to love. Mendes has a great presence and makes you want her to succeed in both work and in love. So, find room in first class and take a trip to London to find romance and maybe a little success in work as well. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Upgraded Website Now playing on Prime Video.
Indiefest: The Taste of Things (2023) PG-13 The story of Eugenie (Juliette Binoche), an esteemed cook, and Dodin (Benoît Magimel), her gourmet benefactor with whom she has been working for over the past 20 years. As they work together, their bond becomes one that each other can’t ignore, but Eugenie is reluctant to commit to Dodin, so he begins cooking for her. This is one of the most beautiful-looking films of the year, made by a filmmaker who loves both food and romance. The Taste of Things is not only a film about culinary arts, it’s about relationships. How we deal with food can tell you a lot about a person, and the cook and her benefactor are in love with preparing a meal. It’s also a film about relationships that build with time between two people who work together and, from time to time, sleep with each other. I fell in love with this film from the first ten minutes, in which we get a full, intense look at the workings of the kitchen and how each person fits in making a meal. Binoche and Magimel work beautifully on the screen as they push the boundaries of their characters' relationships. So, pull up a seat in the kitchen, though don’t be surprised if you are given a task or two. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again The Taste of Things Website Now playing in theatres.
Indiefest: Perfect Days (2023) PG Hirayama (Koji Yakusho) is a toilet cleaner for a company in Tokyo. He takes pride in his work, puts up with his annoying, talkative co-worker, and has a passion for music, books, and trees. Hirayama is about to revisit a past he had hoped to forget because of a series of unexpected encounters. From the start, this film is deceptively simple. It’s about a man who has made peace with his life and his role in it. He is happy finding the routine and tasks of cleaning toilets. However, the film slowly peels back the layers of Hirayama, and we learn why he is the way he is. Perfect Days is a master class in storytelling that gives us insight into a man with just how he deals with situations and people. This film is about finding peace within yourself, finding your center, and reveling in it in small, simple ways. Koji Yakusho is brilliant as Hirayama, as his character finds delight in simple things and can handle both the small and large problems of the day with grace and wisdom. Perfect Days is a film that I will revisit so that I can learn a thing or two about life each time I watch it. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Perfect Days Website Now playing in theatres.
Indiefest: The Monk and the Gun (2023) PG-13 The Monk and the Gun occurs when an American named Ronald (Harry Einhorn) has been sent to Bhutan to track down a priceless Civil War rifle. Ronald has arrived just as the country is transitioning from a monarchy to a democracy and is rife with change. It turns out that the rifle Ronald is looking for is in the possession of a monk, who has been sent on his mission, one that Ronald will get to know very well. I liked this film, especially the ending, but I didn’t love it. It’s a really slow build and was not as quirky as I would have liked. It’s an interesting premise and has a lot to say about culture and politics, especially the U.S. version that we tend to push onto other cultures. The film hits you over the head at times with symbolism, including naming the American Ronald Colman, who starred in the classic 1937 film Lost Horizon, which is about a lost culture being invaded by outsiders. The film didn’t hit the emotional punch I needed at the end, but I am still happy I went on the journey. My Rating: Bargain Matinee The Monk and the Gun Website Now playing in theaters.
Forgotten Film: They Only Kill Their Masters (1972) PG A small-town police chief (James Garner) has his first murder case involving a suspicious death where the victim’s own dog might be the killer. This is one of those films that probably would have been better as a movie of the week on TV, but I like this film because of Garner, who is always fun to watch, and the chemistry he has with Katherine Ross, who plays the dog trainer that turns out is one of his main suspects. It’s also fun because the supporting cast is so good, including Hal Holbrook, June Allyson, Tom Ewell, Edmond O’Brien, and one of my favorite character actors, Arthur O’Connell. They Only Kill Their Masters isn’t a great film by any means, but getting to watch James Garner can’t be all bad. My Rating: Bargain Matinee They Only Kill Their Masters Info The film is available to rent/buy on Amazon
Weird Credits: From the credits of Upgraded: Chaperone
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Drive-Away Dolls (2024) R Jamie (Margaret Qualley) regrets her breakup with her girlfriend and needs to get away to forget her troubles. Her best friend Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan) just wants to get away. The two embark on a road trip to Tallahassee in search of a fresh start. They rent a car intended for a group of inept criminals, and now the chase is on, but the girls don’t know that. This is the first film directed by Ethan Coen without the involvement of his brother Joel and has a cast that includes Bill Camp, Colman Domingo, Pedro Pascal, Beanie Feldstein, and Matt Damon. In theatres on February 23rd. Drive-Away Dolls Website