Friday, March 29, 2024

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

My View: Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024) PG-13   Two mighty forces, the fearsome Godzilla and the mighty Kong, will have to unite to defeat a new enemy that threatens our world and challenges their very existence and our own. While watching this film, I realized it was a wrestling movie. It uses the age-old wrestling troupe of two mortal enemies to come together to create a tag team to defeat a possibly worse evil wrestler that can only be defeated if they work as one. That’s what this film is about, and there are even a few wrestling moves that Kong and Godzilla use to defeat the bad guy, or should I say bad guys. Yeah, instead of one evil force, there are two. My big problem with this film, besides that it’s almost two hours long with a lot of people talking about what is about to happen, is that the bad guys aren’t all that evil. I never felt that the combined forces of Godzilla and his new best bud, Kong, wouldn’t defeat these new baddies. It’s a lot of build-up that never delivers. Fans of Godzilla and Kong will have fun with all the battles and yeah, Godzilla destroys a lot of stuff even when he is trying to save the world (clean up on aisle Rome!). And sure, that’s fun, but man, there are some plot holes three Godzillas could walk through. I also had trouble remembering what the heck happened in the last film, Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), which introduced a bunch of the characters like the scientist that Rebecca Hall plays or the internet blogger that Brian Tyree Henry plays. Some big names from the past Kong/Godzilla films are gone, like Alexander Skarsgard and Millie Bobby Brown. I think the biggest problem that this film has is the hangover that the brilliant film from last year, Godzilla Minus One, has caused, making us spoiled for films that value the human element to these films versus, let’s see how much stuff these monsters can wreck on the screen. And I am guessing that if this film does some box office business, we will get more of these films because I bet there are more worlds to discover in the hollow world that Kong now lives in. I will say this, there is a new addition to the Kong universe and I won't give it away but it's going to give Baby Yoda a run for his money.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Website Now playing in theaters nationwide.

My View: Steve! (martin): A Documentary in 2 Pieces (2024) The documentary Steve! (martin) chronicles how Steve Martin became one of the biggest figures in comedy, from his early years as a writer to filling arenas as a standup and then as a respected writer and actor in films and TV. The documentary is separated into two parts, ‘Then’ and ‘Now’. ‘Then’ is about Steve’s childhood and how he got into performing at an early age with the help of magic and Disneyland. And then his slow ascent to becoming a standup comedian over the years to filling arenas and stadiums that made rock stars jealous. All to quit the standup game at the very height of his fame. ‘Now’ is the 2nd half of Steve’s career; first as an actor, then as a writer and musician. And now (no pun intended), back telling jokes on stage but as a part of a comedy team with Martin Short. I expect you will laugh a lot in the ‘Then ‘ film as we see the intellectual madness of Martin and how he pushed the boundaries of comedy. I love Martin gives us a behind-the-scenes thinking of why he did the routines that he did and how he perfected them. But like the man himself admits, you didn’t really get to know who Steve Martin was in those years, and they make it very clear that he felt very alone and isolated, especially at the heights of his fame. The ‘Now’ film is a gentler look at Martin as he got out of the standup spotlight and started making movies. Martin lets us see him as a man who has become comfortable in his life, has finally found love, and has come to terms with his past, including a father who never could show Steve any love or support. ‘Then’ is a much more personal look at Martin and how he has become someone who is finally happy and loved. I think the pairing with Martin Short as his on-stage partner also has mellowed Steve, and we see that the back and forth they do on the stage goes on behind the scenes. As a massive fan of Steve Martin, someone who not only treasures his standup years but also loves his books and his stage show with Short, this is a couple of documentaries that I will go back and watch again.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See Them Again  Steve! (martin) Info Both films are now on Apple TV+.

My View: In the Land of Saints and Sinners (2023) R  Finbar Murphy (Liam Neeson) is a man who has killed many times, working for a local mob boss (Colm Meaney). Finbar wants to retire, but his plans go south when a terrorist cell blows up a local pub in Belfast, killing three children, and is now hiding out in Finbar’s area. Finding out who is responsible and making them pay for their mistakes is Finbar's task now. I know what you are thinking: another Liam Neeson film where he kills a bunch of people using a particular set of skills. But wait, this is a bit of a different movie, as Finbar is a killer who is tired of killing and wants to live in his little town and have a pint or two. Neeson portrays a man who is haunted by the past and delivers an understated performance that elevates this film. The problem is that Finbar cares too much for his fellow townspeople, and when some IRA terrorists use his town as a hideout and start causing trouble, Finbar must react. The IRA terrorists are led by Doireann, played by the always interesting Kerry Condon. Doireann is filled with a sense of righteous indignation, believing that blowing up pubs is God's work. Condon plays Doireann as a woman who isn't afraid of confrontation and will do the unexpected if it gets her bloodshed and revenge. The scenes between Neeson and Condon make this a film to watch, as they practically bring sparks to the screen as the two face off, with us not knowing when they are both going to erupt into violence. In the Land of Saints and Sinners is a film about redemption, friendship, and doing the right thing, even when morality is not in play. My Rating: Full Price    In the Land of Saints and Sinners Website   Now playing in theaters.

Indiefest: La Chimera (2023) La Chimera is about Arthur (Josh O’Connor), an Englishman in Italy looking to make some money. He joins a group that locates and digs up artifacts that can be sold on the black market. Can Arthur keep ahead of the authorities trying to hunt him down before he can make the big sale? This is not an ordinary tale, as the film used different film stocks and mixed the aspect ratios to give the movie a surreal feel. I am not always a fan of films that push the boundaries between real and fantasy, where you question what is happening at any moment. The story is about a man who has lost the love of his life but thinks he has found a treasure that will make him rich. However, things go from bad to worse as we meet a cast of characters that seem right out of a Fellini movie from the 60s. I didn’t find the film funny, even though it tries to be comedic most of the time. And I hated the ending that tries to tie everything up in a bow that won’t tie.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  La Chimera Website Now playing in theatres.

My View: The Beautiful Game (2024) PG-13 The Beautiful Game takes place during the Homeless World Cup, a soccer tournament organized to end homelessness. Mal (Bill Nighy) manages England’s homeless soccer team and takes a chance on a talented but troubled player named Vinny (Michael Ward). Vinny has to learn how to trust and depend on others for his team to succeed. The Beautiful Game is a film that, while not great, has heart and shows us that something so simple as a soccer tournament can change people’s ideas about the homeless and give us insight into their world. The film is saved by Bill Nighy, who puts together a team with the idea that they may not win the tournament but will win when they believe in themselves and their teammates. Nighy is perfect as a man who knows how to interact with his players, getting them to mold as a team. The Beautiful Game is also helped by a moving, stellar performance by Michael Ward, playing Vinny, the one person on the team who really has soccer talent but refuses to believe that he isn’t above his fellow players, that he doesn’t belong on a team full of life’s losers. The Beautiful Game is about finding a purpose and a way to believe in yourself and see your fellow man/woman as people worth knowing and celebrating.   My Rating: Full Price  The Beautiful Game Website  Now playing on Netflix.

Indiefest: Carol Doda Topless at the Condor (2023) R  Documentary that tells the story of Carol Doda, a cocktail waitress who turned dancing on a piano, into an overnight sensation by becoming the first dancer to go topless. Carol became a tourist attraction, a center of controversy, and a woman who changed the landscape of San Francisco entertainment. With a cast of characters that would be home in a Mickey Spillane crime thriller and a woman who loved the spotlight, this is a documentary that is a fascinating look at the 60s world where people wanted to say goodbye to the boring 50s and explore a free-wheeling world. The film has a ton of interviews from newsreels and people who somehow survived those days to give us an up close and personal look at what it was like to live and work in the San Francisco entertainment area. The film loses a bit of steam when it travels into the 70s and 80s, when, like Carol, the novelty wore off and the world had gotten over the shock of the nudity. I came away not knowing as much about Carol as I did about some of the people who shared her world, but that has to do with Carol herself. She was someone who loved the spotlight, but only as long as it was when she was on the stage.   My Rating: Full Price  Carol Doda Topless at the Condor Info  Now playing in theaters.

Forgotten Film: Cactus Flower (1969) M   A middle-aged dentist, Julian (Walter Matthau), has a mistress, Toni (Goldie Hawn), whom he has told he can’t leave his wife because of the children. Julian has fallen in love with Toni, but he has a problem: he isn’t married. So he convinces his dental assistant, Stephanie (Ingrid Bergman), to act like she is his wife so that they can then get a ‘divorce’ and he can marry Toni. However, Toni takes Stephanie’s side and things get messy. This film is very dated, but Goldie Hawn is brilliant in the role of the naïve young girl who sees the good in everyone. In her first feature role, Hawn got an Academy Award nomination for her performance. Based on the hit stage play, the script is written by the talented I.A.L. Diamond, and the jokes are fast and furious. So go back in time and fall in love with Goldie; it’s worth the trip.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Cactus Flower Info Available to rent/buy on Amazon.

Weird Credits: From Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire: Soft Furnishing Lead

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Civil War (2024) R Civil War follows a small team of journalists who are traveling as the country is embroiled in its first Civil War since the 1800s. California and Texas have seceded from the United States to form the Western Forces and its war. The cast includes Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Cailee Spaeny, Nick Offerman, and Jesse Plemons, and is directed by Alex Garland (Ex-Machina (2015)).  Civil War Website  Releasing in theatres on Friday, April 12th. 

Until Next Time!

Friday, March 22, 2024

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

My View: Ghostbuster: Frozen Empire (2024) PG-13 The Spengler family returns to the iconic New York City firehouse, where it all began to team up with some of the original Ghostbusters. Their mission is to stop an evil force unleashed by an ancient artifact that threatens to turn the world into a second Ice Age. I am a big fan of the original 1984 Ghostbusters film directed by Ivan Reitman. Made at the height of Bill Murray’s appeal as a comedic leading man, and with a fun and original storyline, the film took the world by storm. In my review I let you know that wasn’t a big fan of the Ghostbusters: Afterlife film that came out in 2021, feeling that it was stealing a lot from the original movie, and Paul Rudd isn’t even close to filling Bill Murray’s shoes. I had some hope for this film since they were returning to NYC, where it all began, and some of the original cast would be in it. I liked this film more than the 2021 one, but not by a lot. I am not a huge fan of Dan Aykroyd, and he has a lot of screen time in this film. Aykroyd always delivers lines like he is also passing a kidney stone at the same time. The film tries to capture some of the old magic by bringing back a bunch of the characters from the original, including a few favorite ghosts (I do love the antics of the little stay puff guys), but it seems like they are trying too hard. I was glad they made the setting NYC, where the series belongs, making the city part of the cast. I remember being wowed by the 1984 special effects, but this time, it seemed the effects were on the cheap, as I was never scared by the big evil guy, probably the worst villain ever in the Ghostbuster series. And yes, Bill Murray shows up, but they don’t give him much to do. Way to waste a talent there. There is a funny scene after the first bit of end credits that is worth staying for.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire Website Now playing in theaters.

My View: Immaculate (2024) R  Cecilia (Sydney Sweeney) is a woman who believes God has a plan for her. She is warmly welcomed to her new convent with open arms. But it becomes clear to Cecilia that the convent is not what it appears to be, harboring dark and horrifying secrets. Sydney Sweeney loved the story idea so much that she found a screenwriter, produced the film, and found a studio to buy it. I am a fan of Sweeney, but maybe she should find someone else to find her material. The film is full of empty jump scares, a plot that holds no mystery, and not a lot of horror. It’s a storyline that is easy to figure out with the church leaders doing something terrible, and our girl Cecilia is a little slow in picking up the signs that something is wrong. The film is incredibly slow, with a lot of Cecilia going around the convent at night with just a candle. I did enjoy the inventive ending, but it takes a long time to get there. My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Immaculate Website It is now playing in theaters.

My View: Roadhouse (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 Dalton off. So the original 1989 movie became a hit, not because of a big box office (it did ok) but because it played on cable stations almost non-stop and had a winning cast in Patrick Swayze, Sam Elliot, and Kelly Lynch as the love interest. There are some considerable differences between this film and that beloved original. The first is that while Gyllenhaal is a better actor than Swayze, Patrick had a likability as an on-screen presence that made you want to root for his character. Gyllenhaal tries to be the kooky, nice guy, but it doesn’t quite work. Second, there isn’t a Sam Elliot character in the film, so there is no one to play off Gyllenhaal or give us the reason Dalton goes rogue at the end of the film. The fight sequences are shot incredibly awkwardly, with some point-of-view shots of a beat-up Gyllenhaal that I didn’t need. And finally, the bad guy doesn’t have the menace that Ben Garza had in the original. In this movie, Ben Magnussen plays the son of a crime boss who is out of his league and can’t help but mess up. The ending of this film doesn’t come even close to the satisfying ending of the original. Now I will say, just like the original, there are a few laughs, especially brought to the screen by UFC bad boy Connor McGregor, who plays his part of the ultra-tough guy brought in to kill Dalton. McGregor chews up scenery and swaggers about as if he is getting paid by how many times he shows his butt. Still, I feel Amazon made a mistake and didn’t release this in theatres, where crowds could cheer as the beer bottles crash against the band’s cage and Dalton gives it to a few drunk bad guys. Stay through the first part of the credits for a bonus scene that may set up a sequel.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Road House Website  Now playing on Amazon Prime.

Indiefest: They Shot the Piano Player (2023) PG-13 This animated docudrama is about Jess (voiced by Jeff Goldblum), a music journalist, who travels to Brazil to uncover the truth about a young samba-jazz pianist, Tenório Júnior, who disappeared without a trace in 1976 after a promising start of his music career. The film uses beautiful animation with a fantastic jazz soundtrack that captures the spirit of the samba-jazz craze of the 60s. They Shot the Piano Player is a perfect introduction to a jazz form that few know about. The film does an amazing job of letting the people who knew Tenorio and what an amazing pianist he was, while letting us know about how quickly people disappeared in South America countries during this time, sometimes for very little reason. It’s a perfect way to capture a place in time when samba ruled the airwaves and the bars of not just Brazil but the world.   My Rating: Full Price  They Shot the Piano Player Website Now playing in theaters. 

My View: Shirley (2024) PG-13  Shirley tells the story of Shirley Chisholm (Regina King), who made history as the first Black woman elected to Congress and to run for President in the 1972 election. So you know when you see that Regina King is playing the lead character, you will get a performance worthy of watching. I wish the film was on the same level as her performance. Shirley feels like someone gave John Ridley a bullet-point presentation of Shirley Jacksons’ run for the Democratic nomination for President in 1972, and he followed it to the letter. Other than getting to see Shirley on her first few days as a congresswoman and verbally tearing down a fellow freshman congressman in the halls, we don’t get a lot of background on her. We are almost instantly thrown into the race without a lot of information on why she thought this would work. We get to see how Shirley played the game of politics, but we didn’t get to know why. I wanted more from this film, and frankly, I got more out of the closing credits when we learn what happened to a lot of the principal players in her run than I did in the film itself. Still, watching Regina King work her magic on the screen is always fun.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Shirley Website Now playing on Netflix.

Indiefest: Riddle of Fire (2023) PG-13 Riddle of Fire starts when their mother asks three children to run an errand to the grocery store. Their journey will be filled with kidnappings, battles with a witch and fairies, and a showdown with a huntsman. This is a fun film about the adventures of three friends who go on a quest to get some eggs to make a pie so that their mother will let them play video games. The opening sequence, where the three successfully carry out a raid on a warehouse to steal a new gaming console, is so much fun. The film relies on you believing that the kids think the world is filled with witches and fairies, and that another adventure is just around the corner. It’s about how you could spend a whole day with your friends fighting off the bad guys to save the day. The film slows down a bit in the second half, and some of the performances are lacking, even so, the three kids have a lot of charm besides, did it all really happen? To the three heroes of the story, it did, and that’s all that matters.  My Rating; Bargain Matinee  Riddle of Fire Website Now playing in theaters

My View: Late Night with the Devil (2023) R  A live television broadcast in 1977 goes horribly wrong, unleashing an unspeakable evil into the nation’s living rooms. The movie is centered around footage from a late-night talk show, with some behind-the-scenes footage thrown in. It’s an exciting film that plays with many stereotypical late-night talk show tropes. Halloween night is when the show is broadcast live. The guests are a man who can talk to the dead, a former magician who now spends his time debunking people who say they can talk to the dead or the devil, and a woman who claims one of her patients can take the form of the devil. Into the mix is the talk show host, played by David Dastamlchian, named Jack Delroy, who, after he lost his wife to cancer, is trying to revive his talk show by doing stunt shows like this one. Nevertheless, things start to deteriorate, like the man who converses with the dead experiencing a seizure on live television. As it becomes clear that something is not right in the studio, things only get worse. This is a fun and occasionally terrifying adaptation of the horror film genre, with a touch of nostalgia for the old late-night talk show format. I loved David Dastamichian, who plays the host and is willing to go the extra mile to save his show until he realizes it’s gone too far. He is perfect in portraying the man who believes he is the smartest and most talented person in the room, but is really not. The film perfectly captures the talk show look and feel of the late 70s, which makes it a blast to watch. I’m not totally happy with the ending, but up to that point, it’s a fun ride back to a time when everyone watched late-night talk shows and talked about it around the water cooler the next day. I wonder what they said after they saw this broadcast? My Rating: Full Price   Late Night with the Devil Website  Now playing in theaters.  

Forgotten Film: The Last Samurai (2003) R Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise), a Civil War vet, is hired by the Japanese emperor to train the emperor’s army in the ways of modern warfare and defeat an army of traditional samurai warriors led by Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). Algren’s army is badly routed, and he is wounded, but Katsumoto spares his life. Algren soon learns the ancient ways of warfare are honorable and he decides to help Katsumoto’s quest. Because of the success of the FX/Hulu TV series Shogun, I thought I would revisit this film, which doesn’t always come up when discussing Tom Cruise’s career. The Last Samurai is a film that is not your ordinary white savior type of film. The film is more about two warriors finding common ground and respect, with Algren learning that there is more to life than just killing by the easiest way possible. Cruise plays off of Watanabe well, and there are some incredible battle sequences that make this film work so well.   My Rating: Full Price  The Last Samurai Info The film is available to rent/buy on Amazon.

Weird Credits: From the credits of Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire: Hair Punching

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Monkey Man (2024) R Monkey Man is about a man (Dev Patel) who wears a gorilla mask when he enters the ring as he fights for money. This man has a plan, and it involves violence and getting revenge for the murder of his father by corrupt leaders. The film won the Audience Award at the 2024 SXSW Film Festival.  Monkey Man Website  The film will be in theatres on Friday, April 5th.

Until Next Time!

Friday, March 15, 2024

Arthur the King

My View: Arthur the King (2024)  PG-13   Mikael Lindnord (Mark Wahlberg) is an adventure team racer who believes this is his last chance to win the 435-mile endurance race through the Dominican Republic. Mikael befriends a wounded stray dog named Arthur. Against the odds, Arthur joins the team in the race and becomes a valued team member. We all know what suckers we are for movies that center around dogs, especially if the dog is cute. I am glad to say that Ukai does a great job playing the remarkable Arthur. Unfortunately, Ukai can’t save a storyline that feels slapped together with some band-aids and twine. I think the problem is that the film does a lot with the set-up and doesn’t do enough with the race's hardships. Early in the race, there is a remarkable sequence where the team decides to zip-line across a deep gorge to cut some time and it becomes a spectacular rescue that has to be seen to be believed. However, once our favorite dog joins the gang on the trip, the film becomes about Mikael's journey to learn about himself and how to be a leader who listens. The last fifteen minutes feel a little too much in an attempt to finally pull on the heartstrings. Still, you may need a tissue or two for this final bit. I don’t recommend this for young kids, as some scenes involving Arthur are a little unsettling (hence the PG-13), but older kids will enjoy rooting for Arthur to complete the journey.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Arthur the King Website  Now playing theaters nationwide.

Indiefest: Problemista (2023) R  Alejandro (Julio Torres) is a young man from El Salvador who dreams of being a toy designer. His work visa is about to run out, and he makes a deal with the devil, an erratic, demanding art critic (Tilda Swinton) who is on a mission to retrieve her dead partner's art and mount a show. It’s a job that Alejandro may not survive. Julio Torres is a four-time Emmy-nominated writer (SNL) and won a Peabody Award for his TV show Los Espookys. He has now written and directed a funny and creative surreal comedy that borders on the absurd. This comedy deals with a real problem: the hoops people have to go through to get a work visa in this country. He is fired from his job, which seems to be sitting in a room with a frozen person and their artwork, but is saved when the artist’s wife takes a liking to him and offers him a way to get her to sponsor his work visa. Little does Alejandro know he has just made a deal with a crazy person who changes her mind every few moments and has no idea how to survive in the modern world; all the while, the clock is counting down on Alejandro’s ability to stay in America. The film uses Alejandro’s rich imagination to give us insight into how he is feeling and thinking like when he sees someone being told their application to stay has been rejected, they vanish into thin air, or when he is told what he needs to get his work visa, Alejandro imagines a series of maze-like rooms with hidden doors that never lead to the key he needs to unlock his future. As a director, Torres lets Tilda Swinton have a blast as the widow who is convinced the whole world is out to get her. Swinton gives us a character that is outlandish and sometimes cruel but, in the end, is still likable because she only cares about one thing: the legacy of her dead husband, whom she dearly loved. Problemista is about having the courage to try, the perseverance to keep moving, and the guts to finally speak your mind.   My Rating: Full Price  Problemista Website  Now playing in theaters. 

Indiefest: Love Lies Bleeding (2024) R  Lou (Kristen Stewart) is a gym manager in her small town where her father, Lou Sr. (Ed Harris), runs the area with an iron hand. Into Lou’s gym walks Jackie (Kate O’Brian), a bodybuilder who takes Lou’s breath away. It’s a meeting that will change their lives forever. In fact, someone may die. Part film noir, part 80s nostalgia, Love Lies Bleeding is a film where our hero, Lou, no matter what she does, gets pulled further and further into a mess that she probably will never get out of. Set in a time (the 80s) when female body-building was all the rage with women like Corey Everson and Rachel McLish, who were not only on the covers of muscle mags but appeared in mainstream movies and TV shows. Love Lies Bleeding is a love story that goes off the rails. The film is full of violence, sometimes done to shock and other times done to almost comedic tones. The film starts as a romance but quickly becomes bigger than life, like Ed Harris, who has the longest mullet ever seen on the big screen. Kristen Stewart shows us again that she is one of the best actors in the cinema today. Her reaction shots are amazing, as we see on her face how smitten she is from the first time Jackie comes into the gym. The film keeps you guessing what will happen next, though you can almost bet that someone else will die a gruesome death. And there is an ending that will have you talking to your friends as you head to the parking lot. Love Lies Bleeding isn’t a film for everyone, but for fans of Stewart and weird film noir, it’s a delight.  My Rating: Full Price  Love Lies Bleeding Website  Now playing in theaters. 

My View: The American Society of Magical Negroes (2024) PG-13   Aren (Justice Smith) is recruited to join a secret group, The American Society of Magical Negroes, made up of magical Black people who dedicate their lives to a cause of utmost importance: making white people feel better about themselves. I enjoyed the first half of this film when Arne is still learning the ropes and is shown how the Society keeps white people from causing harm. It’s a fun swipe at how Hollywood has made through the years where a Black supporting character will help in some way the main White hero find his way and save the day. The movie runs into problems in the 2nd half, when Aren starts falling for Lizzie (An-Li Bogan), who works at the same company that Aren’s subject he is supposed to help succeed, Jason (Drew Tarver). Things get complicated when Aren is instructed to help Jason date Lizzie, something that Aren, who by now has connected with Lizzie, wants to avoid. The film is aided by the great chemistry between Smith and Bogan, and their ‘meet-cute’ is fun and imaginative.  The American Society of Magical Negroes dies in the third act when it tries to tie everything up in a nice bow that the film doesn’t need or deserve. I wish the 2nd half of the film had been as imaginative.   My Rating: Cable  The American Society of Magical Negroes Website  Now playing in theaters.

My View: Irish Wish (2024)  Irish Wish takes place when the love of Maddie’s life, Paul (Alexander Vlahos), gets engaged to her best friend, Maddie (Lindsay Lohan), against her better judgment, goes to Ireland to be in the wedding. While in Ireland, Maddie makes a wish that she was the one marrying Paul and wakes up the following day discovering that she is now the bride-to-be. Be careful what you wish for; they might come true. I enjoyed Lindsay’s last rom-com she did for Netflix, Falling For Christmas, as I felt it utilized Lohan’s star power and ability to elevate anything with her charm and ability to play a bit with the humor of the film. In this film, Lindsay plays a woman, Maddie, who is secretly in love with an author she has worked closely with to make him a success. Sadly, she doesn’t let him know her feelings, and he falls for her best friend. So off we go to Ireland for the wedding. Maddie makes a wish, not knowing the Irish magic is in full force, and wakes up the next day as the bride-to-be, getting married to a man she thinks she is in love with. She soon learns the grass is not always greener, even when it's all the way in Ireland, and of course, she soon discovers that maybe the one Maddie thought she was destined for isn’t the one she should be involved with. Irish Wish is a fun film that sometimes tries a little too hard, but still, it’s filled with some beautiful shots of Ireland, a fun romance in the making for Maddie, and, of course, a happy ending. Go ahead, Netflix, keep making these Lindsay Lohan rom-coms, and I’ll keep watching them.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Irish Wish Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

My View: Remembering Gene Wilder (2023)   The documentary Remembering Gene Wilder is about the legendary actor Gene Wilder, who went from the Broadway stage to starring in classic films like Blazing Saddles (1974), Young Frankenstein (1974), and Silver Streak (1976). This documentary is an absolute delight to watch as Wilder (using audio from his autobiography, Kiss Me Like a Stranger) narrates his life to us as we watch his magical career develop because of both talent and luck. It’s a remarkable film that makes you miss Wilder even more as we see just how talented an actor he was, someone who could play the meek or underdog but also could erupt in the blink of an eye, making a scene go from funny to on the floor laughing till it hurt. The film gives us a man who never thought he would be a leading man, but that was part of the charm of Wilder; he was an everyman who could make you love him, even in the silliest film. The uses behind-the-scenes footage, along with interviews with Wilder that are combined with current interviews with his last wife, Karen Boyer, along with Alan Alda, Mel Brooks, Carol Kane, and Richard Pryor’s daughter, Rain. The film will bring you many laughs and a few tears as we go down memory lane with a great talent and wonderful person. You will want to see a film or two of his after this documentary. I will never forget seeing Silver Streak back in 1976 and thinking, hey, if that goofy guy has a chance with Jill Clayburgh, then maybe I do, too.   My Rating: Full Price  Remembering Gene Wilder website  Now playing in theaters. 

My View: One Life (2023) PG  This is the story of Sir Nicholas ‘Nicky’ Winton, a young London broker, who, in the months leading up to World War II, almost single-handedly rescued over six hundred children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. This is a gripping tale of a man who saw a disaster waiting to happen and felt that he had to try to rescue as many children as he could at significant risk to himself and his fellow volunteers. The film starts in the mid 80s when Nicky is feeling a bit melancholy, forced to organize and get rid of stuff he has collected through the years by his wife, to make room when his family, soon to be larger when a grandbaby arrives, comes to visit. Nicky revisits his time in Czechoslovakia and his attempts to get as many children out before the Nazis invaded. The film works because Hopkins gives us a man haunted by the past and all the children left behind. We see how remarkable it was to get as many children out as he did, navigating all the bureaucracy, money, and physical transport to find homes for these children, leaving their loved one’s behind. The last third of the film is a tear fest; first, as we learn, Nicky wasn’t always successful. However, the film ends on a good note, and if you don’t know the final part of the story, I won’t ruin it for you. One Life is worth seeing how it all turns out, along with another in a long line of memorable performances by Mr. Hopkins.  My Rating: Full Price  One Life Website  Now playing in theaters. 

Indiefest: Club Zero (2023)   Miss Novak (Mia Wasikowska) is a new teacher at an exclusive private school, where she is about to teach a course called conscious eating. Miss Novak forms a strong bond with five students, a relationship that eventually takes a very dangerous turn. Club Zero is a dark comedy with some horror aspects peeking through, about what happens when someone starts using their influence and made-up facts to brainwash young people looking for something to latch onto. I had some trouble getting fully absorbed by the film because most of the parents of the kids Miss Novak puts under her spell seemed to be one-sided, almost cartoonish characters. This is a film that pushes a few boundaries and does its best to make you feel uncomfortable but never shows you too much, something that maybe it should have. I felt unattached to the characters, never quite invested in their welfare or how they would turn out. By the end of the film, this made me feel empty, not caring too much about Miss Novak or her students. It felt a bit like a meal where you aren’t given enough to eat, and there aren’t any seconds in sight.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Club Zero Website

Indiefest: Uproar (2023) PG-13   Uproar is about Josh (Julian Dennison), a seventeen-year-old who is just trying to keep his head down and survive high school as an Aboriginal native surrounded by white kids in his New Zealand hometown. Talked into taking drama from one of his teachers (Rhys Darby), his life opens up, and he is suddenly aware that the world needs his views and presence. Julian Dennison was in one of my favorite surprise films of the past ten years, the Taika Waititi comedy adventure Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016), where Dennison and Sam Neil play a son and foster father who get lost in the New Zealand wilderness. Dennison spreads his magic again, as Josh, a teen attending a rich, private school only because his brother and father were ruby stars at the school. Josh is constantly picked on and is most comfortable spending his time either in the library or on a paper route, where he gets help from his best friend, a teen girl named Grace (Jada Fa’atui). It’s the 80s and a time of unrest in New Zealand as the South African rugby team, a symbol of the ongoing apartheid in that country, comes to New Zealand, and protests erupt throughout the country. Josh, at first, tries to stay in the background, convinced that he will never do anything special, but he soon learns, through his friends, his brother, and a teacher, that he has talent and a skill that will bring people together. It’s Josh’s time to leave the background and make some noise. Uproar is a beautiful and funny film that is a joy to watch, and Dennison is an incredible talent who brings Josh to life.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Uproar Website  Now playing in theaters.
Frida (2024) R  The documentary Frida is about the life of dynamic and iconic artist Frida Kahlo, who led a raw and magical life, bringing joy to millions through her artwork. Using her illustrated diaries as a voice for Frida, the documentary tells the story of a woman whose paintings became more powerful and forceful after her death, giving her success that she never got during her lifetime. Frida spent much of her life in the shadows of men, and this film provides insight into why. Fernanda Echevarria del Rivero gives Frida her voice, and I loved how she was able to bring Frida and her personality to life, and we get to see her sense of humor. I was first enchanted by the animation of Frida’s paintings in the film, but I soon wanted those paintings to stand alone and not be so busy. To me, Frida’s paintings have always told her story, and I feel the animations did some disservice to her work. However, the film gives us an up close and personal feel to the life and loves of Frida. Using both home movies and newsreel footage, along with a treasure trove of photographs, we see Frida throughout her life, in good times and bad, from her childhood to her last days. The film Frida gives her a voice that she didn’t always get to express, and I am glad she is so loved now by the art world and the public. Like Frida herself, it’s an interesting and complex portrait.   My Rating: Full Price  Frida Website  The film is currently playing on the Amazon Prime platform. 

Forgotten Film: The Good Father (1985) R  Bill (Anthony Hopkins) is a man who is very bitter about his divorce and how he has limited access to his son. Bill finds out a friend of his is being sued for divorce, and the wife is leaving for Australia with her lesbian lover and wants to take their son with her. Bill decides to help the man sue for custody, using every trick in the book to win. I love how a film made almost 40 years ago remains relevant. Bill is a man who is angry at the world and feels that feminism has robbed him of the life he wanted to lead with his family. This is a man who you will not like for most of the film because he is so self-centered and plays the blame game. However, through the brilliant acting of Hopkins, the layers of Bill are slowly exposed and we see a man who has never learned how to love or be loved.   My Rating: Full Price  The Good Father Info   The film is available to buy on Amazon. 

Weird Credits: From the credits of Arthur the King: Dog Colorist

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Challengers (2024) R  Tashi (Zendaya) was a tennis prodigy about to set the tennis world on fire before she suffered a devastating injury she couldn’t recover from. Now, years later, she is a coach and married to a former champion who is on a losing streak, and the question is how far Tashi is willing to go to get him back on his winning streak. It will be interesting to see how well this film does at the box office. Can Zendaya’s star power lead a film?  Challengers Website  The film will be released in theaters on April 26th. 

Until Next Time!

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Mike's Fearless Oscar Picks 2024


As always these are who I think are going to win on Sunday night, not who I think should win.  If I have a Spoiler listed, it's a film that I think has a chance to win. 

Winners in Green.

Best Picture:  Oppenheimer

Best Director: Christopher Nolan - Oppenheimer

Best Actress: Lily Gladstone - Killers of the Flower Moon     Spoiler: Emma Stone - Poor Things

Best Actor: Cillian Murphy - Oppenheimer     Spoiler: Paul Giamatti - The Holdovers

Best Supporting Actress: Da’Vine Joy Randolph - The Holdovers

Best Supporting Actor: Robert Downey Jr. - Oppenheimer

Adapted Screenplay: Cord Jefferson - American Fiction     Spoiler: Christopher Nolan - Oppenheimer

Original Screenplay: Justine Triet and Arthur Harari - Anatomy of a Fall      Spoiler: David Hemingson - The Holdovers

Animated Feature Film: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse      Spoiler: The Boy and the Heron

Documentary Feature Film: 20 Days in Mariupol

International Feature Film: The Zone of Interest

Original Score: Ludwig Göransson - Oppenheimer       Spoiler: Robbie Robertson - Killers of the Flower Moon

Original Song: Billie Eilish and Finneas: What Was I Made For? - Barbie      Spoiler: Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt: I’m Just Ken - Barbie

Sound: Oppenheimer       Spoiler: The Zone of Interest

Makeup and Hairstyling: Maestro       Spoiler: Poor Things

Costume Design: Jacqueline Durra - Barbie      Spoiler: Holly Waddington - Poor Things

Cinematography: Hoyte van Hoytema - Oppenheimer       Spoiler: Killers of the Flower Moon

Production Design: Poor Things       Spoiler: Barbie

Film Editing: Jennifer Lane - Oppenheimer      Spoiler: Anatomy of a Fall

Visual Effects:  Godzilla Minus One   Spoiler:  The Creator

Short Subject Documentary: The Last Repair Shop        Spoiler: The ABCs of Book Banning

Short Subject Live Action:  The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar       Spoiler: Red, White and Blue

Short Subject Animation: WAR IS OVER!         Spoiler: Letter to a Pig

Friday, March 8, 2024

Kung Fu Panda 4

Familyfaire: Kung Fu Panda 4 (2024)  PG  Po (voiced by Jack Black) has been picked to become the Spiritual Leader of the Valley of Peace, meaning he must find a new Dragon Warrior. Meanwhile, a wicked sorceress plans to re-summon all the master villains Po had vanquished and get her revenge. I’m not a huge fan of the Kung Fu Panda films and this is probably the weakest of the bunch. Po is on his own this time with the exception of a new sidekick, a fox named Zhen (voiced by Awkwafina), who is a thief who tags along with Po on his latest adventure. The kids will enjoy all the colorful action sequences but the adults are going to be very bored by the constant attempt to make a joke or two or three. The pacing seems off and I think the film misses all the Kung Fu masters that Po is used to dealing with. So fans of the big Panda will probably enjoy the film but the rest of us, it’s a miss with that round house kick, even with the ‘skadoosh’ finish. My Rating: Cable   Kung Fu Panda 4 Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide. 

My View: Ricky Stanicky (2024) R   Ricky Stanicky is about three best friends who, when they were kids, invented the imaginary Ricky Stanicky as a handy alibi to get them out of trouble. Now, as adults, the three (Zac Efron, Andrew Santino, and Jermaine Fowler) continue using the nonexistent Ricky anytime they need to get out of immature behavior. Unfortunately, their friends and spouses have grown suspicious of Ricky and demand to meet him. So, the three hire a washed-up actor (John Cena) to play the part of Ricky. What could go wrong? Well, a lot, and I’m not talking about the plot but the overall mess of this film. If you think John Cena dressed as Boy George and singing a song about masturbation is funny, then you will enjoy this film. I don’t, hating this film almost from the first appearance of Cena. John Cena has a talent for comedy, but this film always goes for the low bar, with the easy, crass joke. I also have a problem with three guys always lying to their significant others so they can have a good time without their ‘loved ones.’ I think I laughed once, and it may have been laughing at how many weird little cut-downs on pop culture the film enjoys doing for no reason at all. As expected, the film’s plot goes from stupid to incredibly stupid, where we are asked to believe way too much that would never happen, even in a bad movie. And yes, this is one.   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See It Again.   Rickey Stanicky Website Now playing on Prime Video. 

My View: Damsel (2024) PG-13   Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown), a young noblewoman, has agreed to marry a handsome prince. Elodie discovers that the marriage has only happened so that she can be sacrificed to repay an ancient debt. Elodie is now trapped in a deep cave with a dragon bent on killing her. She will need all her strength and wits to survive and get out to get her revenge. I have become a fan of Millie Bobby Brown, enjoying her work on Stranger Things and the Enola Holmes films, so I was looking forward to this film of Brown’s character taking on a dragon. After a lengthy setup of how bad Elodie’s kingdom is doing and how the new kingdom she is marrying into is right out of a fairy-tale, the film takes a turn where it's a cat-and-mouse game of Elodie evading the dragon. And keeps evading the dragon. I am guessing half the film is about the trials that Elodie goes through in the caves with the dragon (who talks, by the way). From her work in Enola Holmes and Stranger Things, we know that Brown can hold her own in action sequences, but all she does is a lot of falling, running, and crying out. It’s not until the last 15 minutes of the film that we get Elodie actually taking on the dragon, with an ending that is too quick and too much of a letdown. That revenge I mentioned earlier in the review is over in the blink of an eye. Even if it is still a large dragon eye, it’s still a blink.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Damsel Website   Now playing on the Netflix platform. 

My View: Imaginary (2024) PG-13  Jessica (DeWanda Wise) has returned to her childhood home with her daughters. Jessica is shocked when she discovers that the imaginary friend she left behind is very real and is targeting Jessica’s youngest daughter because he is unhappy that she abandoned him so long ago. Imaginary is a fun, but not any sense, great or even really good horror film. There are too many ‘jump out of the dark’ scares in the film's first half, but the second half makes up for that a bit with some nice twists and turns and a few horrifying moments. Still, it's a fun premise to have an imaginary friend who isn't so friendly when you get to know them better. I am a fan of Betty Buckley, but she is wasted in a role that brings some of the film down with a couple of downright silly plot twists. Imaginary is one of those movies you see just because you're in the mood for a horror film, not because you think it will be great, but because you can have fun with it. I mean, a stuffed bear with a really creepy song that plays when you pull his string has to be a little evil, right?   My Rating: Cable   Imaginary Website  Now playing in theaters. 

Forgotten Film: House of Games (1997) R  A psychologist, Margaret (Lindsay Crouse), wants to help a patient escape a gambling debt. She visits a bar where Mike (Joe Mantegna) runs a poker game. Mike convinces her he will forgive the debt if she helps him look for ‘tells’ in the gamblers to get an edge in the game. What seems to be an easy way out becomes much more complex. House of Games is a film by David Mamet (The Verdict (1983), Glengarry Glen Ross (1993), and Wag the Dog (1998)) about con artists and gamblers. It’s how there is always one more con in the game, and nothing is as it seems. I love the dialogue in this film, and the appearance of one of the greatest magicians/con men of all time in real life, Ricky Jay, as the Vegas man. Jay was also a consultant on the film and helped with staging all the con jobs in the movie. It’s a fascinating film with plenty of twists and turns to keep you interested till the end. My Rating: Full Price  House of Games Info  The film is available on multiple streaming services. 

Weird Credits: From the credits of Ricky Stanicky: Dog/Duck Trainer

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Immaculate (2024) R   Cecilia (Sydney Sweeney) is a woman who believes that God has a plan for her. Cecilia is warmly welcomed to her new convent with open arms. But it becomes clear to Cecilia that the convent is not what it appears to be, harboring dark and horrifying secrets. Sydney Sweeney is having a good run in her career, with her breakout role on The Handmaid’s Tale, getting Emmy nominations for her roles in the TV series The White Lotus and Euphoria, and a hit in the rom-com Anyone But You. Now, let's see what she can do, headlining a horror film.  Immaculate Website  In theaters March 22nd. 

Until Next Time!