Friday, June 28, 2024

A Quiet Place: Day One

My View:  A Quiet Place: Day One  (2024)  PG-13  A Quiet Place: Day One takes place on the first day of the alien invasion. Sam (Lupita Nyong’o) and her pet cat must survive in an ever-isolated New York City. Sam tries to figure out a way out while evading the bloodthirsty alien creatures with ultrasonic hearing. She teams up with a young law student, Eric (Joseph Quinn), who is just looking for help and guidance. I am a big fan of John Krasinski’s first two Quiet Place films, as they were a perfect mix of great drama with some horror thrown in. I will admit it took me almost a day to change my opinion of this film, which takes place on the first few days of the invasion by killer aliens who locate their victims by sound. My first reaction was that the film didn’t give us much information about the aliens and why they have invaded. But with further thought, this isn’t about the aliens; it’s about the people trying to survive and make connections in a world where talking rarely happens. Day One is not a film about survival, but rather about living your life, finding connections with others, and finding solace in the little things that make up the world. Yes, there are plenty of scary aliens seemingly around every corner, and it’s a world where the slightest mistake could cost you your life. But it’s also a story of finding humanity, sometimes in small gestures, that connect people. Oh, and cat lovers will fall in love with Sam's cat, who constantly steals the movie from Nyong'o, something I thought would be impossible. So pack a few cans of cat food, a couple of flashlights and go on a journey with Eric and Sam as they try to evade the invaders and survive together with a cat that has more than nine lives.  My Rating: Full Price  A Quiet Place: Day One Website Now playing in theaters nationwide. 

My View:  Horizon:  An American Saga- Chapter 1   (2024)  R  Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1 spans the  years of the Civil War, as 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 expanded its boundaries. If you are hoping for another Costner-directed Dances with Wolves, you will be sadly disappointed. Horizon is a film that has too many characters to keep track of, and I have no clue if they will all somehow connect in Chapter 2. While Costner, the director, still has an eye for some stunning shots of the American West, the film suffers from characters you don’t care about and a script that meanders like the wagon train that Luke Wilson is leading. Who the heck thought he could be perfect as the trail boss? Costner’s character shows up about an hour into the film, doing what I never was clear about, and quickly gets involved with a prostitute played by Abbey Lee and gets into a whole bunch of trouble. By the way, Abbey Lee’s character, Marigold, is the only character I enjoyed. And apparently, in what seemed like 5 minutes of highlights from Chapter 2, shown at the end of the film, Marigold does not appear again. I am not sure the audience will show up for Chapter 2 either. As a fan of Westerns, I was hoping Mr. Costner would give us something to enjoy, but other than a very talkative prostitute, he doesn’t. It’s just a long, a big mess of a story that may never end.   My Rating: Cable  Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1 Website  Now playing in theaters. 

My ViewDaddio  (2023)  R   In Daddio, a woman (Dakota Johnson) takes a cab ride from JFK to the city. On the way, she converses with a widower cab driver, Clark (Sean Penn), who has a habit of asking questions. Sometimes, it’s easier to discuss your personal life and loves with a stranger. All it takes is a conversation with someone you don't know to figure out a few things. It’s a time-honored thing for someone to talk to a stranger. Sometimes, it’s a bartender, or a fellow stranger at the bar, or on a long cab drive. This used to be more common before people could bury themselves in their phones. To pass the time, you would talk to a stranger, and if you connected, someone might bear personal things. That's what happens in Daddio: during a long taxi ride from the airport to midtown, with heavy traffic in between, they have time to discuss love, life, and mistakes. Daddio is a fine match between two strong and personal actors in Johnson and Penn. Both portray likable characters, which is essential because we, the audience, are along for this hour and forty-minute ride. Johnson plays a successful computer programmer who is in a relationship that, through Clark’s probing and guessing, we discover, is with a married man. To make the young woman comfortable, Clark makes a game of these confessions, one secret given for one in return. The back-and-forth chemistry between the two actors and a realistic dialogue, where we almost feel guilty for being allowed to ride along, without us having to share a secret or two in return. We get to ride along and do not have to pay Clark for the privilege of being invited into the lives of the two people. Like most cab rides, we will never see them again, and that’s okay; we got to learn a few things about these two people and us as well.  My Rating: Full Price   Daddio Website  The film is now in theaters.

My View: I Am: Celine Dion  (2024) The documentary I Am: Celine Dion gives the audience a behind-the-scenes look at the iconic singer, her Vegas residency, and her struggle with a life-altering illness that Celine vows to overcome and be on the stage again. The numerous concert clips and behind-the-scenes footage are sure to delight Celine Dion fans. Plus, Celine gives us a tour of her costume collection, which makes up a whole warehouse, and we get a ton of scenes in her Las Vegas home, with her kids and dog. However, I will warn you that this is not a warm and fuzzy movie. I Am gives us a close-up of the battle that Celine is waging with the rare neurological disorder, Stiff Person Syndrome, that has taken her away from the concert stage. I commend Celine Dion for allowing the cameras to see her both at her best and worst, showing how devastating this condition is and how it has robbed her of what she loves almost as much as her family: performing. There are two heartbreaking scenes. One is where Celine struggles to record a new song, something she hasn’t done in years, with a singing voice that doesn’t want to respond. The second is near the film’s end when we see her go into a total seizure, brought on by trying to do too much. It’s a scary and heartbreaking scene that she recovers from because of her team. At one point, near the end of the seizure, she is asked if she wants the cameras to be cut off, and she bravely says no. I Am: Celine Dion is a brave and insightful film that shines a spotlight on a devastating neurological disorder that few have ever heard of. Before watching this film, I was not a big fan of Celine Dion, the singer, but I am now a fan of Celine Dion, the person. My Rating: Full Price  I Am: Celine Dion Website  The film is now on the Amazon Prime format.

My View Kinds of Kindness  (2024)  R  Kinds of Kindness is a trilogy of stories about a man who tries to take control of his life, a police officer whose wife has become seemingly a different person, and a woman who searches for someone with a special ability. This is a film from Yorgos Lanthimos, who gave us the 11-nominated, four-time Oscar-winner comedy Poor Things. Poor Things was a comedy with a bit of darkness. Kinds of Kindness is the exact opposite: it’s a drama full of darkness with a bit of comedy. So you have been warned. This is a film built from three different stories. One character connects each story, but that connection is so slight and quick that you might not even notice it. Kinds of Kindness comprises three stories. The first is a man who has had his life predetermined for him and tries to break the chain. The second story is about a cop who is convinced that his wife, who has been missing and presumed dead, is not really his wife. Story number three is about a couple who are on the search for someone who can raise the dead. All three stories are strange and take almost absurd turns that leave you wondering if what you saw is true or a figment of a character's imagination. Unlike Poor Things, which, because Emma Stone played such a bizarre and fun character, along with all the strange animals/people in the film, was fun to watch, this film can be brutal and extremely dark. Surprisingly, I think I found this film more enjoyable than Poor Things. It’s a film that seems to have more substance than the comedy. Somehow, someway, I was more involved with these dark and strange stories, all of which surprised me with how they told, and how the stories each ended. So, if you dare, get into the purple muscle car that Emma Stone’s character drives in the third story and take a ride with a film that will take you on a very bumpy ride.   My Rating: Full Price   Kinds of Kindness Website   Now playing in theaters.

IndiefestJanet Planet  (2023)  PG-13  Janet Planet is about 11-year-old Lucy (Zoe Ziegler), who is spending the summer of 1991 with her mother, Janet (Julianne Nicholson), at their home. As the summer goes along, three strangers enter Janet’s world and are captivated by her and her very insightful daughter. Janet Planet is a film about a young girl trying to find her place in the world with a mother who doesn’t seem to have ever found her place. Buoyed by two powerful performances from Zoe Ziegler and Julianne Nicholson, the film is about two people living together but not always on the same page. Lucy is someone who likes to be the center of attention. Her mother seems to collect people, often being influenced by the people she lets into her life, but it's never permanent. The only constant in Janet’s life is her daughter, who she often opens up to her as they lie in bed together at night. Lacy's entire world revolves around her mother, and there is no room for anyone else. We never know if this is also the case with Janet, but it’s clear that their relationship is the only thing that ultimately matters. Not much happens in Janet and Lacy’s world, and they seem fine with that.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Janet Planet Website  Now playing in theaters.

My ViewFancy Dance  (2023)  R    In Fancy Dance, Jax (Lily Gladstone) is obsessed with finding where her missing sister has disappeared to. Jax’s sister has left behind Roki (Isabel Deroy-Olson) in Jax’s care, much to the dismay of Jax’s father, Frank (Shea Whigham). At the risk of losing custody, Jax sets out for the state powwow, hoping to track down Roki’s mother before the ceremonies begin. While Lily Gladstone’s character, Jax, is the one making the decisions, we see how all the drama that is happening with the family through the eyes of Roki, who desperately wants to see her mother again. Gladstone lets Deroy-Olson be the emotional one, allowing her to reflect on what is happening in their lives through Roki’s actions and facial expressions. Jax knows the deck is stacked against her in finding her sister, Roki’s mother. It’s stacked because of the lack of resources given to finding missing persons who live on the reservation. It’s stacked against Jax because of someone who has made mistakes in her past, and the courts will use it against her. And it’s stacked against her because, in her heart, Jax thinks this might be a lost cause. The story slowly teaches us about life on the reservation and about Roki’s mother. Fancy Dance is a film that lets us peek into the lives of two women with a bond of more than just aunt and niece; It’s a bond of history, culture, and a way of life. Life is full of injustices, but family can help you deal with them, even if it takes dancing to do it.  My Rating: Full Price    Fancy Dance Info  Now playing on the Apple TV+ format.
My View:  
A Family Affair  (2024)  PG-13  In A Family Affair, Zara (Joey King) has been a personal assistant for a couple of years to super mega movie star Chris Cole (Zac Efron), a selfish, demanding womanizer. The job has taken a toll on Zara, and because she is fed up dealing with Chris and his constant demands, she quits. Soon after, to her horror, she discovers that her widowed mother and successful author, Brooke (Nicole Kidman), has begun a romance with Zara’s former boss. So with Zac Efron playing the selfish, boorish star, Nicole Kidman playing the widow/perfect mom, Kathy Bates playing the wise and fun grandma, and Joey King playing the put-upon, smart, lovable personal assistant, this film should have been a smash hit. However, the'meet-cute'/jumping into bed is too easy (sorry Nicole, pun intended), and everything else in the plot is predictable and lazy. Despite the star power, the film falls flat on its face. Besides his winning smile and rock-hard abs (they are brought up several times), you wonder what Brooke sees in Chris. Sure, he is someone who looks good in anything he wears, but the man treats Zara, Brooke’s beloved daughter, like crap. In addition, Chris is a shallow idiot who thinks he can persuade his assistant to order fresh air for him to breathe. This same person then meets Brooke and is suddenly a nice guy who reads books and can converse with an author without boring her to tears. The laughs are few, and the chemistry between Efron and Kidman is sorely lacking. Do we truly believe that this love affair will span beyond a six-month shooting schedule? The only bright spot is Joey King, who tries as hard as she can to be kooky, lovable, and willing to be silly when it’s needed. But try as hard as she can; nothing can save this rom-com from needing a rewrite or two. Or three.  My Rating: Cable   A Family Affair Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Forgotten Film: Eye of the Needle  (1981)  R  A ruthless killer and German spy, Henry Faber, nicked named The Needle (for the way he kills) is in Britain during WWII and has gotten important information about the upcoming Allied invasion of Europe that must get to Hitler himself. As he waits to be picked up on an Isolated island off the Scottish coast and against his better judgment, he becomes involved with the wife, Lucy (Kate Nelligan), of a disabled man (Christopher Cazenove). This is a story about lost souls finding each other, even in wartime. However, this is not a romantic tale as Henry is a killer who doesn’t think twice about murder if it benefits Henry. Henry is a troubled man, and no matter how much Lucy falls for him, she won’t be able to change him.  Or will it? Donald Sutherland gives an outstanding performance as only he can, making a man with all the makings of a serial killer, someone who is so complex that you wonder if he can find happiness with Lucy.  My Rating: Full Price  Eye of the Needle Website  The film is available for rent/buy on Amazon and Apple TV.

Weird Credits:  From the credits of A Quiet Place: Day One:  Wire Assistants 

Coming Soon to a Screen Near YouLonglegs  (2024)  R  FBI Agent Lee Harker (Maika Monroe) is a gifted new recruit assigned to an unsolved case involving a serial killer and the occult. Agent Harker discovers she has a personal connection to the killer and must stop him before he strikes again. The cast includes Nicolas Cage, Blaire Underwood, and Alicia Witt.  Longlegs Website  The film will be released in theaters on Friday, July 12, 2024. 

Until Next Time!

Friday, June 21, 2024

The Bikeriders

My View:  The Bikeriders  (2023) R  In The Bikeriders, it’s the mid-1960s, and after a chance encounter at a local bar, Kathy (Jodie Comer) becomes involved with Benny (Austin Butler), the newest member of a biker club named The Vandals. The biker club is led by Johnny (Tom Hardy), and under his leadership, the club is starting to change. It’s a change that will force Benny to choose whether to stay with Kathy or The Vandals. I was excited when I heard about this film because you have three Oscar nominees in the cast: Austin Butler (Elvis), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), and Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Nocturnal Animals). However, they are all let down by a script that goes nowhere and dominated by a performance by Jodie Comer, who makes this film watchable. Comer is brilliant and captivating as the girlfriend/wife of Benny, a woman who speaks her mind, is in love with her man (from first sight), and is the storyteller of this tale as she is interviewed by a reporter/photographer (Mike Faist) who documents the early days of the biker gang. While Hardy, going full brood, is dominated as the biker gang leader who seems to make the rules up as he goes along, the performance of Austin Butler is a letdown. Butler seems to believe that his character's look is too cool for him to do anything else. Of the three main characters, Benny, the focus of much of the film, is the most uninteresting character in the bunch. Kathy's presence made this film enjoyable and entertaining, even with the subject matter of a violent, rebel-rousing biker gang. My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Bikeriders Website  Now playing in theaters.

My ViewThelma  (2024) PG-13  Thelma is about 93-year-old Thelma Post (June Squibb), who gets duped into giving away 10,000 dollars in a phone scam. With the help of a few friends, Thelma decides to go on a treacherous quest across the city to get her money back. This is one of those rare films that is precisely what you think it is: an enjoyable film with some fun performances and a story that isn’t going to win any Oscars but is going to delight a lot of people. Thelma is June Squibb’s first headlining film in her long career. We fell in love with Squibb in her Oscar-nominated performance as Kate, the feisty mom in Nebraska. While Thelma isn’t going to speak her mind like Kate, she is a strong-willed woman, still living on her own, and is determined to confront the people who stole her money. Squibb is aided by an outstanding supporting cast. Parker Posey and Clark Gregg play a married couple, with Fred Hechinger portraying their son Daniel, Thelma's 20-something grandson. Posey and Clark's overreaction to any information about Thelma and her journey is hilarious. I loved how the film portrays Daniel, who loves his grandmother and is on her side (his parents are on the verge of putting Thelma in a home), even when she escapes from his care. The movie features Richard Roundtree's final performance, and it's a delight to watch him on screen with June Squibb. Roundtree is perfect in the role of Thelma’s friend, who provides Thelma with his scooter, but only if he can come along so she won’t get in trouble. And here’s where the fun begins with Squibb going on a road trip (of sorts) that will involve breaking and entering, gunplay, and maybe an explosion or two. So maybe drink a nutritional supplement, put on your best tennis shoes, and get ready to ride with Thelma as she tracks down the bastards who stole her money. And by the way, June Squibb did almost all her own stunts.   My Rating: Full Price  Thelma Website  Now playing in theaters.

IndiefestGhostlight  (2024)  R   Ghostlight is about Dan (Keith Kupferer), a construction worker struggling to deal with life after a family tragedy. He is not talking to his wife, Sharon (Tara Mallen), and has no idea how to relate to his troubled daughter, Daisy (Katherine Mallen Kupferer). Dan finds comfort and community after he stumbles upon a misfit company of amateur actors rehearsing Romeo and Juliet. When Dan joins the company, he realizes that confronting his buried emotions is crucial to becoming the actor he aspires to be. As a former theater kid, I always enjoy watching films that showcase the behind-the-scenes stories of putting on plays, particularly when it's a local production. That’s what we get in Ghostlight, a film that follows Dan, a father who isn’t dealing well with a traumatic event that has affected him and his family. Dan is having trouble sleeping and isn’t communicating well with his wife. Almost every time he tries to connect with his daughter, Daisy, she becomes hostile. Things change a bit when Dan stumbles upon a local community theater group, and they convince him to join their group. What makes this film work so well is the performances of Keith Kupferer and his real-life wife Tara Mallen and daughter Katherine Mallen Kupferer. The performances are outstanding and feel so touching, as all three characters are trying to deal with the tragedy in their own ways. Even when Dan's daughter Daisy tries to bring him into her therapy sessions, he has chosen not to talk about it. Daisy is always angry, and Sharon is just trying to keep the family going while also trying to keep a lawsuit the family has filed on track. Ghostlight is a heartfelt and moving story that lets the cast take us on a journey of discovering and healing, as Dan learns to get in touch with his emotions through his work as an actor. Ghostlight is a film that examines the power of art to aid in healing and comprehending our emotions and feelings. So, study your lines and help Dan and his family put things back together, maybe in time for a performance of Romeo and Juliet.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Ghostlight Website  Now playing in theaters.

My ViewBlack Barbie: A Documentary  (2023)  Black Barbie: A Documentary chronicles the journey of three former Mattel workers who questioned why Barbie didn’t look like them and then made it happen. This is the personal journey of filmmaker Lagueria Davis, whose Beulah Mae Mitchell was one of the first Black employees at Mattel and was there when Black Barbie was first released. The film gives us a history of not only how and when black Barbie dolls were introduced but also how those dolls impacted the lives of kids around the world. The film features an interview with Kitty Black Perkins, the creator of Black Barbie, and the individuals who followed her at Mattel. We also receive personal stories from Gabourey Sidibe, Shonda Rhimes, and Misty Copeland about Barbie's influence on their childhood. I loved the behind-the-scenes footage and the fascinating history of the Barbie doll. The movie reveals that Mattel still needs to work on bringing Black Barbie from the shadows to the spotlight she deserves.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Black Barbie Website Now playing on the Netflix platform.
My View:
 The Exorcism (2024) R   A troubled actor, Anthony Miller (Russel Crowe), is known for his past addictions. When he exhibits disruptive behavior on the set of a horror film, his estranged daughter (Ryan Simpkins) wonders if he has slipped again or if something more sinister is at play. This film marks the return of Russell Crowe to his I've Met the Devil phase of his career, following the release of The Pope's Exorcist in 2023. At least The Pope’s Exorcist had a bit of fun with Russell as a scooter-riding Father sending The Devil packing. In this film, Russell is an actor who plays a priest. Apparently, Tony has ruined his career and his relationship with his daughter by drowning his sorrows in liquor and drugs after his wife's death to cancer. Now, Tony has returned from rehab and is trying to mend fences. He is given the lead role in a film called The Georgetown Project, a knockoff remake of the classic 1973 horror film The Exorcist. Despite its promising beginning, the movie quickly goes off the rails with a plot that is downright silly. The film uses only jump scares coming from the dark because the budget couldn’t afford more than one light at a time. An unbelievable sequence occurs about an hour into the film that brings the film to a crashing halt. I guess we are to think that everyone on the Georgetown film crew thinks that what they see is just something that happens to actors from time to time. At that point, I thought about leaving, but I wanted to see how it ended and if David Hyde Pierce, playing a Priest/psychologist, would say the words “The Power of Christ compels you!” Unfortunately, he doesn’t. Can Russell Crowe please put down the priest collars and make a sequel to The Nice Guys instead?   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again  The Exorcism Website  Now playing in theaters. 

Forgotten FilmRoad to Perdition  (2002)  R  The story of two men, Mike Sullivan (Tom Hanks) and Connor Rooney (Connor Rooney), who are henchmen for mob boss John Rooney (Paul Newman). Even though Mike is not flesh and blood related to John Rooney, John sees Mike more as his son than the volatile Connor. After Mike’s young son (Tyler Hoechlin) witnesses a botched killing by the two men, Mike realizes that he and his son must go on the run to escape the mob. However, they won’t be able to escape the past. Road to Perdition is a film with incredible performances and Oscar-winning cinematography but it has been forgotten because Tom Hanks plays a hitman who kills for a living. There is a great supporting cast that includes Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Stanley Tucci, and Ciaran Hinds. If you are a fan of gangster films and film noir, this is a film for you.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Road to Perdition Info    The film is available for rent/buy on Apple TV+ and Amazon. 

Weird Credits:  From the credits of The Bikeriders: Principal Fitter

Coming Soon to a Screen Near YouDidi (2024)  R  In 2008, during the last month of summer before he starts high school, Chris (Izaac Wang), a thirteen-year-old at the horror of his mother (Joan Chen), is constantly shooting videos and trying to make friends, instead of studying. He is a typical American boy, learning to be a teen while trying not to disappoint his Taiwanese family. The film won two awards at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for three awards at the Seattle International Film Festival.  Didi Website  The film will be in theaters in late July.  

Until Next Time!


Friday, June 14, 2024

Inside Out 2

My View:  Inside Out 2  (2024)  PG  Riley is now a full-time teen, and her mind is going through some changes. The gang of Emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, have been doing a great job, but they are about to meet a new addition to the group: Anxiety. And it looks like she isn’t alone. When we last left Riley (Inside Out (2015)), she was still a preteen trying to get over moving to a new city and dealing with a lot of new emotions. Just when Riley thinks she has things handled with some great friends and a budding ice career, she becomes a teenager. With that comes a whole bunch of new emotions show up: Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hause), Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos), Envy (Ayo Edebiri), and worst of all, the ever hyper Anxiety (Maya Hawke). Just as these new emotions move in, Riley is given the immense chance to impress her future high school coach as she has been specially invited to a summer hockey camp. In the past, Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) has run the show, but now Anxiety has taken control, and things aren’t going well for Riley or her old emotions. Inside Out 2 is a wonderful addition to the Pixar lineup, and while not entirely on the level of the first film, it’s still a rousing, fun time, full of comedy and adventure. The new characters are hilarious, especially Ennui (think of her as a bored, too-cool French teen), with the standout being Maya Hawke as Anxiety. Hawke brings a fresh energy to the film, and her comedy timing is spot-on, making Anxiety antics over-the-top funny. Oh, and there are a couple of awesome new characters that I don’t want to spoil, but fans of old kids’ animation and old video games will be in heaven. Can Joy and the rest of the gang get control back from Anxiety? Well, you will have to see if Riley can conquer her emotions to survive hockey camp and the horrors of being a teenager. Make sure to stay through all the credits to see a bonus scene that perfectly caps off the film.  My Rating: Full Price  Inside Out 2 Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide.
IndiefestTuesday  (2023)  Zora (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a single mom, has devoted her life to her terminally ill daughter Tuesday (Lola Petticrew). One day, Death, in the form of a size-altering macaw, arrives at their home and tells the two to prepare for the end. Death’s arrival sends Zora and Tuesday on a journey that explores life, death, and love. I am not giving anything away (since it’s on the poster and in the trailer) that Death shows up in the form of a macaw parrot. When I saw the trailer for this film, I was expecting a film where Death and Zora talk about life and death, much like the professor and the genie in the Tilda Swinton drama Three Thousand Years of Longing  (2022). Instead, we get a wandering film that never can find its footing, as, at first, Tuesday befriends Death, convincing Death to let her live until her mother returns from an outing. Then it becomes Zora trying to defeat death in any way to keep her daughter alive. I never corrected to this film and never felt any of the emotions that the film wanted me to. I also felt that early on, the film was slow to get going because Death has a hard time speaking, and it takes a while for Death to make any sense at all. But mostly, Tuesday never fully gives us characters that we can understand and embrace, as its theme seems to be a one-note film.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Tuesday Website  Now playing in theaters. 
IndiefestTreasure  (2024)  R  In 1991, Ruth (Lena Dunham), a neurotic journalist from New York, takes after her father, Edek (Stephen Fry), back to Poland to visit his childhood home. However, Edek, a survivor of the Ghettos during the Holocaust, does not want to relive the trauma and does his best to sabotage the trip. Treasure works because of the performances of Dunham and Fry. Dunham plays Ruth as a sad sack person who desperately wants to connect with her father but doesn’t know how and is too stuck in her own misery to see how hard this trip is on Edek, making him relive a past he wants to forget. Edek is also at fault, and Fry plays him as a man who tries to make everything full of sunshine and laughs when he won’t open up to Ruth to tell her how he is feeling. Ruth feels she can make things right between her father and his past by confronting it. Edek would rather avoid the past and live in the present. Treasure is full of both funny and harsh moments as the two people try to connect, but don’t have the guts to truly make a connection. The film tackles the idea that it’s hard to tackle the horrors of the past when you can’t even confront the present. The film’s big moments are not only in the actual Auschwitz grounds but in those moments when the two are both trying to connect in hotels or cabs and can’t find the words to reach each other.   My Rating: Full Price  Treasure Website  Now playing in theaters. 
Indiefest 20,000 Species of Bees (2023)   While on a family vacation in a village house linked to beekeeping, a mother, Ane (Patricia López Arnaiz), and her eight-year-old son, Altor (Sofía Otero), will learn about themselves and each other, changing their lives forever. This is a film about trying to find a place in the world where you are comfortable in your own skin. The film moves at a pace that allows us to get to know the characters and how they deal with life’s pressures. Right from the start, we know something is up, as Altor keeps telling her brother that his name is not Altor but Coco. We soon learn that Coco is a child who is used to staying behind with his mother, not taking part, even at a pool with other kids. As the film moves along, we see that Altor/Coco doesn’t feel right in his skin, that he knows things don’t seem right, and that maybe, just maybe, he should have been a she. I loved this film, as we slowly see a child discover that the world isn’t in black and white, but full of color and choices. Ane tries to understand her child but has problems of her own, with a marriage that is falling apart, a disapproving mother, and pressure to create a sculpture in time for a job interview that her family desperately needs. Altor/Coco finds a friend in her mother’s aunt, who takes the child under her wing and teaches Coco about life and how to deal with/care for bees. 20,000 Species of Bees is a beautiful film about life and young person trying to figure out a way to live a life they feel they must follow.   My Rating: Full Price  20,000 Species of Bees Website  Now playing in theaters.  
FamilyfaireUltraman: Rising  (2024)  PG  Ken Sato, a superstar baseball player, has returned to Japan to become the latest hero to carry the mantle of Ultraman. His dreams are shattered when he is given the task of raising a newborn kaiju monster. The newborn is the offspring of his greatest enemy and will be Ultraman’s greatest challenge. Ultraman: Rising is a collaboration between Tsuburaya Productions, the creators of the Ultraman franchise, and Netflix Animation. That makes this an excellent primer for kids to get into the world of the Kaiju monsters (think monsters from the Godzilla world) without getting scared. The core of this film is family and how sometimes we don’t realize the sacrifices that our parents make to ensure that we are safe and happy. Ken has returned to Japan to reluctantly take the mantle of being Ultraman from his father, who, because of all the battles he has been in, must retire. Their relationship is not great and is getting worse since Ken’s mother disappeared and is presumed dead. Ken is also coming back to Japan to prove that he is a winner in baseball, having never won a championship in the U.S., even with all his baseball heroics. What makes this film fun for kids is when the baby kaiju falls into Ken’s lap, and he becomes an instant father to a giant pink baby kaiju monster named Emmy, who has a tendency to get heartburn that projects fire and, of course, throws up green slime. The battle sequences are fun and have plenty of action, but I will warn you that the family I saw it with and I were not ready for the almost 2-hour run time. Also, like a lot of Japanese manga animation, there are a lot of discussions that go on, making those parts boring for kids (and sometimes adults too). The family storyline goes on a little too long, but as 5-year-old Miles said after the screening, ‘The best thing was Emmy and the fighting.’  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Ultraman: Rising Website    Now playing on the Netflix platform. 
IndiefestLate Bloomers  (2023)  Louise (Karen Gillan) is a 28-year-old woman who is recently single again, in need of a job, and depressed. When she drunkenly falls while doing something stupid, Louise breaks her hip and finds herself in a physical therapy ward full of people twice her age. There, she meets Antonina (Małgorzata Zajączkowska), a cranky elderly Polish woman who doesn’t speak English. Somehow, Louise gets a job as a caretaker for Antonina, and it just might be time for her to grow up with Antonina’s help. Late Bloomers is a coming-of-age story that isn’t about a teen but a 28-year-old woman who acts as if she is still in high school. Louise is a person who is lost, selfish and isn’t willing to listen to anybody, including her friends. Along comes Antonina, a woman who speaks no English and seems to hate everyone and everything. The two start bonding, even without the ability to converse, with Louise feeling she has found someone she can finally relate to. This is a fun, sweet film that is helped by a captivating and sometimes brave performance by Karen Gillan. Gillan plays Louise as a person who we don’t like at first, but we soon learn that there are reasons Louise has never grown up. We soon root for this newfound relationship that is strange and mystifying but somehow works between Louise and Antonia. So grab a walker or a crutch and join Louise and Antonia on a journey where they learn about each other and themselves. My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Late Bloomers Website  Now playing in theaters and On Demand. 
 I Used to Be Funny (2023) I Used to Be Funny is about Sam (Rachel Sennott), an aspiring standup comedian and sometimes nanny who struggle with PTSD and depression. Sam sets out to find Brooke (Olga Petsa), a troubled teen she used to nanny who is missing, but only if Sam can get off her bed and out of the house. While the film wanders a bit with its structure of going back and forth from the past to the present, the film is a delight to watch because of the awe-inspiring performance by Rachel Sennott. Sennott plays Sam in the present as someone who has gone through a traumatic event that has changed her outlook on life and the world. This is a contrast to Sam we saw in the past, because she is confident, quick to make humorous comments, and adept at addressing a very moody preteen in Brooke. Sennott handles both with incredible grace, causing you to fall in love with Sam, even when she's challenging and unapproachable. Sennott flows through the past scenes with superb comic timing while she gives the present, Sam a multilayered personality, one who wants to hide but knows it is best if she keeps trying to live her life. I Used to Be Funny is a film about friendship, love, and, with the help of good friends, putting your life back together when it seems hopeless, which writer/director Ally Pankiw delivers with a sure hand and an ear for creating real and natural dialogue. Sennott anchors the film with a performance that actors with 20 more years of experience couldn’t deliver. I Used to be Funny that gives us both laughs and tears with a performance that you won’t soon forget. My Rating: Full Price  I Used to Be Funny Info  Now playing in theaters.
Forgotten FilmO  (2001) Modern-day telling of Shakespeare’s Othello. Coach Duke Goulding (Martin Sheen) runs his high school basketball team with a firm hand, often taking it out on his own son, Hugo (Josh Hartnett). Josh feels he is the star of the team but is put out when his own father makes Odin (Mekhi Phifer) the award winner of ‘Best Player,’ who then shares the award with his best friend, Michael (Andrew Keegan). Hugo decides to take Odin down and using Odin’s own girlfriend Desi (Julia Stiles), to create a plot that will destroy both Odin and the high school basketball team. O was a film that very few people saw (the original studio delayed its release by two years because of the original release date being around the Columbine High School shootings). The young cast is outstanding, with Phifer and Stiles shining in their parts as teens on a collision course with tragedy. Fans of Shakespeare should check this film out.  My Rating: Full Price  O Info  The film is available on most streaming platforms. 

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Inside Out 2:  Character Groom Lead

Coming Soon to a Screen Near YouDeadpool & Wolverine  (2024)  R  Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is recovering from some serious injuries when he comes across someone he really doesn’t like, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds). After trying to kill each other, the two frenemies team up to defeat a common enemy. I am a huge fan of the Deadpool series and can’t wait to see this film. I love how Reynolds kept after Jackman to put on the yellow uniform for one last time. And by the way, it’s rumored that a certain baldheaded man in a wheelchair may show up.  Deadpool & Wolverine Website  The film will be released in theaters on Friday, July 26, 2024. 

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Friday, June 7, 2024

The Watchers

My View: The Watchers  (2024)  PG-13  Mina’s (Dakota Fanning) car breaks down while she is traveling on a forest road in Ireland. Taking off on foot, she suddenly sees a woman yelling at her to run to a concrete bunker. Mina makes it before the bunker’s door closes, and she finds herself in another world where creatures observe their captive humans and terrible things happen when people don’t reach the bunker in time. The Watchers is Ishana Shyamalan’s directorial debut. The daughter of M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs) shows that she has an eye for creating some cool horror scenes, but like her father, her film falters as it writes itself into corners it can’t get out of. The movie starts out with great promise, with a lead character, Mina, who isn’t going to go down without a fight. The problem (among many with this film) is that it sets up a series of rules that the humans are not supposed to break and then go about breaking them at every turn. Not giving anything away, but I figured out just about everything that was supposed to be a mystery about ten minutes into the film, with the rest of the mysteries hitting me over the head as the story went along. The Watchers ends with a whimper and never answers a ton of questions that would typically come up. It looks like the daughter is following right in her father’s footsteps.    My Rating: Cable  The Watchers Website  Now playing in theaters.

My ViewBad Boys: Ride or Die  (2024)  R  In Bad Boys: Ride or Die, the bad boys (Will Smith and Martin Lawrence) are back and in trouble. The late Captain Conrad Howard is being accused of being on the take with the Romanian Mafia. The guys set out to exonerate the late captain but get set up themselves, and now, as fugitives, they will have to work outside the law to solve the case. I am not a huge fan of this series. I like the first film and somewhat enjoy the relationship between Mike and Marcus, with Marcus, played by Martin Lawrence, being the comic relief of the two. The two stars work well together on screen, and there are some funny moments (and one great one which I won’t give away), but I tired of Lawrence’s performance rather quickly, as Marcus has a near-death experience and feels that he can’t die, all the while pushing that fact to no end. The storyline is weak (no reason is given why the mean, big bad guy starts the whole mess into action), but the action sequences are imaginative, and there are some great set pieces that are both funny and thrilling. Directors Arbi and Fallah do some brilliant things with the camera during the shootouts that put you right into the action. Overall, I had more fun than I thought I would. I wish Lawrence would dial it down to about an 8 instead of a 15.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Bad Boys: Ride or Die Website  Now playing in theaters. 

My View Am I OK?  (2022)  R  Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and Jane (Sonoya Mizuno) are lifelong friends, even though Lucy is a mess. Jane is in a stable relationship with her boyfriend, and the dates with the guy Lucy is interested in always end with a hearty handshake. Things change when Jane announces she is moving to London, leading Lucy to reveal a secret about herself. Lucy just might be gay. I loved this film and Dakota Johnson’s performance. Am I OK? is a sweet, funny, and at times moving look at someone, realizing that they may haven’t been true to themselves. This is a film about friendship and how we need friends to help us find our path. The chemistry between Johnson and Mizuno is better than some of the recent rom-coms out there, making their friendship enjoyable to watch and all that more believable. Lucy is a person who needs someone to push her past her comfort zone, and Jane is that person who does it out of love. Am I OK? is a rom-com, not about two people falling in love but about two people whose friendship will get them through anything, even if it’s life-changing. My Rating: Full Price  Am I OK? Website   Now on the Max platform. 

My ViewHow to Rob a Bank  (2024)  In the documentary How to Rob a Bank, a bank robber, Scott Scurlock, nicknamed Hollywood, was the most prolific bank robber in the 1990s. His robberies were straight out of the movies, and he was taking a ton of money out of the banks with the FBI not having a clue who he was or how he was doing it. However, everything must end, and it all comes crashing down in one spectacular final heist. Ever wonder what makes a person become a bank robber? Right out of a Hollywood film (Scurlock was inspired by the 1991 film Point Break), this documentary has all the thrills of some of the best that movies have put out. With interviews with the people who helped Scott rob banks and the FBI agents who were trying (for years) to catch him, you get an inside look at how Scott was so successful in doing something that most people who attempt it fail. Scott was a person who was probably too smart for his own good, and combined that with someone who was an adrenaline junky; it made a perfect combination for a person who outsmarted the FBI and might have gotten away with it if he hadn’t tried for too big of a haul that caused his downfall. The documentary tells a story about a man who, if you saw it in a fictional film, you would think, this isn’t possible, but it was. How to Rob a Bank does a fantastic job of telling the story of a man who lived a life his way, for a while.  My Rating: Full Price  How to Rob a Bank Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Forgotten FilmGirl 27  (2007)  Documentary about a chorus girl named Patricia Douglas, who in 1937 was raped at an MGM promotional event. The studio had tricked her and 100 other women (many underage) into attending a party on an isolated Hollywood studio ranch. Although the attack and trial received newspaper headlines in the day, the case was covered up by MGM, the police, and the LA D.A.. 70 years later, filmmaker David Stenn came across the story while researching a book on Jean Harlow. Girl 27 is a fascinating look at how much power the studios had in Hollywood and how they could make almost anything disappear, all to protect their product. The film uses interviews, archival footage (including footage of the man who attacked Patricia), and newspaper clippings to piece together what happened and why. Girl 27 is a ‘Me Too’ story before the movement started, but it shows that not a lot has changed in 70 years.   My Rating: Full Price  Girl 27 film website  Now available on YouTube. 

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Bad Boys: Ride or Die:  Helicopter Mockup Provided By

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: MaXXXine  (2024)  R  In 1980s Hollywood, adult film star and aspiring actress Maxine Minx (Mia Goth) is about to get the big break she has been dreaming about. However, there is a mysterious killer stalking the streets of Tinseltown, and Maxine’s bloody past may be catching up to her. This is the third of filmmaker Ti West’s X trilogy, after X (2022) and Pearl (2023), all starring Mia Goth.  Maxxxine Website  The film will be released on Friday, July 5th.

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