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!

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