Friday, May 31, 2024

Hit Man

My View:  Hit Man  (2023)  R   Gary (Glen Powell) is your typical, boring philosophy professor with two cats. Except, Gary has a side job, he poses as a hit man for the New Orleans police department and he is good at catching criminals who want someone dead. Things are going great until he meets Madison (Adria Arjona), who wants to hire him to kill her husband. There are two problems: Gary is falling for Madison, and her husband just turned up dead. Glen Powell has been working in Hollywood for quite a while, mainly as a supporting actor, playing roles such as John Glenn in Hidden Figures (2016). However, filmmaker Richard Linklater gave Powell a starring role in his baseball film Everybody Want’s Some (2016) set on a small college campus in the early 90s. Then Hollywood figured out that maybe there was more to Mr. Powell when he blew everyone away in his role as Lt. Jake ‘Hangman’ Seresin in Top Gun: Maverick (2022). He then showed he could be the leading man in the successful rom-com Anyone But You last year. Now he shows us what a great and mesmerizing actor he is in the role of a college professor who moonlights as a fake hitman to catch crooks for the New Orleans police department. Powell is exceptional in the role, letting him play Gary as a man with a talent and a passion to be a chameleon, meeting his potential clients in disguises and outfits to match their expectations of what a hit man should look and act like. Powell gives one of those performances where you can’t take your eyes off him, commanding the screen, even when he is playing the quiet, mild Gary. And that’s saying a lot when you have someone like Adria Arjona on the screen with him. I loved their scenes together, as they just about combust on the screen as the two characters constantly joke and flirt, and you know from that first meeting that they are destined to end up together. The film is a blast to watch as Gary gets deeper and deeper into a relationship with Madison, one that we know could blow up in his face at any time. Hit Man is an outstanding date film, and it could be called a rom-com with a few dead bodies along for the ride. The film moves at a quick pace, and as things start to get sticky for Gary, we wonder how he will ever get away with it. You will have to go on a few capers for that answer as Gary plays hit man for a while.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Now playing in theaters and on Netflix on June 7th.

My View:  Ezra  (2023)  R  Ezra is about Max (Bobby Cannavale), a struggling standup comedian who is co-parenting his autistic son Ezra (William A. Fitzgerald) with Max’s ex-wife (Rose Byrne). Max gets the break of a lifetime but has to go cross-country to do it. Against his better judgment, Max decides to take Ezra on the trip. It’s a trip that could change both their lives. This is another in a long line of films that its heart is in the right place, but it has a hard time staying there. I loved William A. Fitzgerald as Ezra, who spouts lines from TV and movies when he needs to make a point and often tells the truth when others won’t. It’s a beautiful and thoughtful performance, making this film watchable. The problem is his dad is a self-centered jerk who won’t listen to anyone, at times, even his son. It’s hard to root for a character like Max, who thinks only his way is right, even though he has a wife (played by Rose Byrne) who puts up a lot with Max (more than she should) and struggles to raise their son. The film does show the hardships it is to raise a child with autism and how the world seems always like a hard place to raise a child with special needs. But Max goes too far in his attempt to make sure his son is given a chance in the world, and it hurts the film that we aren’t on board with what Max is doing. The film also does a lousy job of giving us bits and pieces of Max’s upbringing, which shows that he might have had some of the difficulties that Ezra is now experiencing. I liked every character in this film, including the people in Max’s life we meet along the way. I don’t like Max, and that’s a problem when we are supposed to root for him. Oh, and there is a bizarre bonus scene at the end of the film that took me entirely out of what good feeling I had for the film.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Ezra Website Now playing in theaters.

My View:  Young Woman and the Sea  (2024)  PG  Trudy Ederle (Daisy Ridley) is a woman who is used to setting her mind to something and succeeding. Trudy took swimming lessons from her father when no one would teach her. She joined a swim team when no one wanted her. She competed in the 1924 Olympics. Now, Trudy has a bigger goal. One that no woman has ever done swim across the English Channel. Young Woman and the Sea is the type of film that Disney does so well. The underdog who fights incredible odds and a system that is set against them to not only succeed but to prove that they belong. This is an inspiring tale of a young woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Instead, she would find a way to complete and push the boundaries that society had set up for her to overcome. Ridley is perfect as Trudy, a woman who is sure of her abilities and has the drive to keep going, no matter what comes up in her way. Young Woman and the Sea is perfect for young women to see, as Trudy not only goes past any barrier she encounters but also destroys it. Like Trudy did in the 1920s, this film will inspire girls to go further and break those barriers, just like Trudy did.  My Rating: Full Price  Young Woman and the Sea Website  Now playing in theaters.

Indiefest:  The Dead Don’t Hurt  (2023)  R  The Dead Don’t Hurt takes place right before the Civil War when Vivienne (Vicky Kreips) meets a Danish immigrant, Holger (Viggo Mortensen), who convinces her to follow him to his ranch outside of a small town in Nevada, where they start their life together. The outbreak of the Civil War happens, and Olsen joins the Union Army to fight for his newfound country, leaving Vivienne to fend for herself on their homestead. It’s a decision that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. I am a big fan of Westerns, so it’s always fun to see a new one, this time with one of my favorite actors, Viggo Mortensen, at the director’s helm. Mortensen has a great eye for framing, and there are some magnificent shots of how a man and his woman make a home in the middle of a vast and harsh country. This is a love story between two people who were meant to fall in love and how that love stands the test of time in a world that can be cruel. I will tell you that, at first, the story is a little hard to follow as we go back and forth between the present and the past. We see how the two met and how their unconventional love story starts between two unique individuals who are used to being alone and independent. Their love is short-lived when the Civil War comes knocking on their doorstep, and Olsen decides to join up. Leaving Vivienne to deal with the rough conditions on her own. While Mortensen wrote and directed this film, a good deal of the story is in the hands of Vicky Kreips, and she carries the movie with an emotional and charismatic performance portraying a character that won’t give up on love, no matter what happens. The Dead Don’t Hurt is an impressive film that goes off into uncharted territory, which makes the film even more powerful. The Dead Don’t Hurt makes me want more from Viggo Mortensen, and I hope it’s soon.  My Rating: Full Price  The Dead Don't Hurt Website  Now playing in theaters.

Indiefest:  In a Violent Nature  (2024)  R   In A Violent Nature starts when hikers come across a burned-out fire tower, and one of them discovers a necklace that they take. That mistake will cost them their lives, as the vengeful spirit is resurrected and now is haunting the woods, hellbent on getting the necklace back. In a Violent Nature is a unique horror movie that doesn't rely on scary music, jump scares, or the killer's perspective. What it does do is give you an origin story of a bogeyman that appears every ten years or so and kills in incredibly gruesome ways. This is a slow ride of a film as, like many of his fellow slashers, our killer takes his time, waiting in the woods for the right time to strike. And he isn't exactly fleet of foot. You are nowhere safe in these woods, and our killer may strike at any time; though he doesn’t hide his approach, people just don’t think there is anything out in those woods until it is too late. In a Violent Nature is not a film for your ordinary horror fan; it’s far too slow, and the kills tend to go on for a while, but for the hardcore horror fan who wants to see something different, this is right up their alley. Just remember, if you come across a necklace out in the woods, leave it there. Please.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   In A Violent Nature Website  Now playing in theaters. 

My View:  MoviePass MovieCrash  (2024)    Documentary about the founding and destruction of a radical idea, a way to get people to see more movies without breaking the bank. As a film critic, I get to see a lot of movies for free that the studios send me or have me attend a screening. However, as a movie fan, I also pay for movies when I miss a movie screening or the studio doesn’t set up one. So I was an early adopter of MoviePass, a service where you could see any movie, any theater (almost), and one a day, all for ten dollars. Too good to be true, right? Yep, turns out it was. This film proves that 1). It’s hard to be an entrepreneur, especially a black one 2). Greed will take over when dealing with big business and investors who only want to see the bottom line. This is a film about injustice and the men who take over companies not to succeed but to make as much money as possible before getting out. I was an early MoviePass subscriber and was sorry to see it go, but even I could see that the business model could never sustain the low price and the unlimited movies you got with the plan. As it turns out, we see that the people who ran the company (in the last few years of its existence) knew this also, and the film does a great job of clueing us to this. The film has heroes (I’m looking at you brave people in customer service), villains, and an ending with a bit of hope for justice and success. It’s kind of like the movies they wanted us to go to the theater to see.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  MoviePass MovieCrash Website   Now playing on HBO Max. 
My View:  
Jim Henson: Idea Man  (2024)  The documentary Jim Henson: Idea Man is about the man behind The Muppets, Sesame Street, and films like The Dark Crystal, following Henson’s career from the early days, centering on his partnership with his wife, Jane Henson. It is a fascinating film that gives you an inside look at the magic and genius of Jim Henson. The film traces his life from childhood to college, where he met his wife Jane and developed an interest in puppetry. This is a must for any fan of The Muppets as it gives you a look at the early days of creating Kermit and the journey of creating live TV with puppets in Jim and Jane’s early days. Early footage of their live TV show, including commercials they created to keep the operation going, is fantastic. What I loved while watching this movie is we see how Jim found and hired the creative people who would design such wonderful puppets as Fozzie, Big Bird, Burt and Ernie, and, of course, Miss Piggy. There is a ton of behind-the-scenes footage from everything, including the early days of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show (which was, by the way, turned down by all three networks). Jim's passing was unexpected, shockingly young, but he left a legacy that is celebrated in this fabulous documentary for us to enjoy.   My Rating: Full Price  Jim Henson: Idea Man Website  Now playing on the Disney+ platform.

Forgotten Film:  Robot Dreams (2023)   Dog is living alone in an apartment in 1980s New York City when he sees what could be the solution to not having any friends, an ad for a home robot. He orders Robot, and they have a great time together until one fateful day at the beach when a horrible mistake causes them to separate. Will they find each other again? I loved this fun and quirky film about a dog who finds a pal in a robot and then keeps trying to rescue his buddy Robot when an afternoon at the beach goes horribly wrong. What more could you want from an animated film than a robot and a dog roller skating a dance to Earth, Wind and Fire’s September? Robot Dreams is a fun and sometimes touching film about finding someone to connect with, and it can bring happiness and completeness to your life. The animation is bold and colorful, set in NYC in the 80s (the Twin Towers keep showing up), and I loved all the brand name products that are part of the story, especially Cheetos, which Dog has a fondness for and always has trouble opening the bag (don’t we all). The story is a simple one that hits the heartstrings and makes you laugh and cry a bit too. Kids will love the Robot and Dog’s constantly wagging tale, and adults will love the story of friendship and love. Note: While the film is from Spain, there isn’t any dialogue spoken throughout the film.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Robot Dreams Website The film had a limited release in Dec (which is where this review is from) and is being given a full release to theaters. 

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Hit Man:  Featured Cats

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1  (2024)  R  Spanning the four years of the Civil War, from 1861 to 1865, the film looks at the people who made up the Old West at a time of conflict. The story is told through the lens of families, friends, and foes as America grew its boundaries. This is Kevin Costner’s first directorial effort since his 2003 film Open Range. The films are in two parts and span over fifteen years and has a cast that includes Will Patton, Kathleen Quinlan, Thomas Haden Church, Luke Wilson, Sienna Miller, Jena Malone, and Tom Payne.  Horizon: An American Saga Website  Chapter 1 releases in theaters on Friday, June 28, 2024.

Until Next Time!

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