Film

In Theaters    All Reviews A-Z

Technically, no films are playing locally, but the ones below are the most recent.

 

The Old Guard (review)

The Old Guard (review)

Charlize Theron plays yet another badass. This time she’s the leader of a secret group of noble fighters who are also immortal. Their latest assignment threatens their privacy and freedom, when big pharma wants to capture their eternal essence. It’s often said in an action movie’s publicity that it has heart, but it’s seldom true. This time it’s true. The fight sequences are full of quickly-dispatched brutality (more comic book than bloody), but the characters have depth and meaningful moments that give the personal drama some warmth. The writing adds an interesting perspective to the curse of living for centuries. Even though much of the plot is by the numbers, there’s plenty of well-staged action and involving characters to help it rise above the average action flick.

 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

 

Netflix link

Quibi revisited

Quibi revisited

In April I reviewed 4 shows on Quibi, the new streaming platform that features episodes of 10 minutes or less to be consumed on a cell phone (my review). Probably caving to popular pressure, they’ve now made their content available for big screens thru screen mirroring. They advertise new shows every week, so the library continues to grow.

 

I watched 4 more of their high profile shows and here’s my take:

 

HOME MOVIE: THE PRINCESS BRIDE

This may be the breakout series for Quibi. Numerous big names (Hugh Jackman, Rob Reiner, Common, Josh Gad, Chris Pine, Tiffany Haddish, Adam Sandler) take on the roles from the popular movie. They’re all working from their back yards with low-budget homemade props and costumes, taking the roles seriously while having lots of fun. Any big scenes are recreated with toys and other silly props, while graphics identify the original actors who played the scenes. Despite the purposefully funky resources, it’s generally clever and lots of fun. NOTE: All actors contributed to benefit World Central Kitchen. Show link

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

DUMMY

Anna Kendrick plays a Hollywood writer who discovers her boyfriend’s sex doll (voiced by Meredith Hagner). When she comes alive (to Kendrick’s character only), they form a friendship that takes them on some wacky adventures. This was originally developed for TV by Cody Heller, who based it on her real-life experience with her partner Dan Harmon. This unique and tastefully raunchy show has its moments, but the concept is more original than the results. Show link

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

 

 

ROYALTIES

Darren Criss created this series about a songwriting team. His partner is played by the quirkily charming Kether Donohue (best known as the best friend on You’re The Worst). They interact with various musicians and singers in an attempt to spread the love for their compositions. It’s directed by Amy Heckerling, so there’s a zippy energy that keeps it moving. Jennifer Coolidge, John Stamos and Rufus Wainwright make enjoyable guest appearances. Overall, this format lends itself well to short episodes with no superflous dialogue to slow things down. Cute but not especially funny. Show link

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

 

 

THE STRANGER

On her first day in LA, a rideshare driver (Maika Monroe) picks up a man (Dane DeHaan) who terrorizes her for the rest of the show. Ironically, each of the 10 short episodes takes place in a new hour, when the game of pursuit and escape escalates. Even though they try to explain the flaws in the plot with a privacy invasion rationale, there are many lapses in logic that make this pursuit hard to swallow. In this case, the short episodes conspire against this show’s ability to create any tension. There are some nice twists, but it lacks the grit and power to thrill. Show link

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

 

 

WHEN THE STREET LIGHTS GO ON

This mystery that starts when a student and the teacher she’s screwing are shot. However, this is not a police procedural (despite Queen Latifah with weird asymetrical hair being on the case). It’s much more about the relationships that develop in the wake of the tragedy. On the positive side, the actors playing the students actually look their age. This is more a teen romance than a mystery thriller. Show link

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)
Streaming ends on Friday

Streaming ends on Friday

Friday, 7/10 is the LAST DAY to order the streaming version of Spider Mites Of Jesus: The Dirtwoman Documentary.

 

After Friday, it will only be available on DVD until Ariztical Entertainment releases the newly-edited streaming version (at least 2 months).

 

Click here to order.

 

BTW, that’s me as Dirtwoman for Halloween in the 80s (note the Dirtwoman T-shirt). It never made it into the doc, so it’s an exclusive look to echo this final offer.

 

 

Dave (review)

Dave (review)

Dave Burd aka Lil Dicky is a rapper/comic who created this series around his character’s neurotic namesake. His attempts in fitting in with the hip-hop community, interacting with his circle of friends and coping with his Jewish parents form the basis for these stories. The series works in the same vein as Donald Glover’s Atlanta and Ramy Youssef’s Ramy, examining a confident but troubled man who’s background and social influences create the conflicts. Some of Dave is funny and some of the later episodes are surprisingly touching. While Lil Dicky is sometimes…a dick…he manages to maintain meaningful relationships with his group. Not hilarious and sometimes veering into silly, this series features a keenly-observed culture with interesting characters. (Ten 30-minute episodes)

 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

Hulu link

It’s a Disaster (review)

It’s a Disaster (review)

Even though this movie was made in 2013, it takes on a new meaning today. A quartet of friends and their partners gather for brunch. Drama ensues from the outset, when relationships start to crackle. It all intensifies when they discover that a dirty bomb has gone off and they must seal themselves in the house to avoid horrible death. This heightened situation pulls out secrets, confessions and new conflicts, but the script manages to keep a dark comic edge. The cast includes familiar names like America Ferrera, David Cross and Julia Stiles and all of the actors create interesting characters. Even with the apocalyptic scenario, this isn’t a sci-fi thriller, but an enjoyable and suitably clever encounter with a group of friends facing their final minutes. (Streaming on Amazon and Hulu)

 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (review)

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (review)

Many Americans have never heard of this massive international talent contest that’s been capturing the attention of Europeans since 1956. Will Ferrell plays an aspiring Icelandic musician who, along with his partner (Rachel McAdams), sets out to win the competition against massive odds, including their scant talent. This isn’t Ferrell’s first satirical spoof, but it’s surely his worst. The plot arc is obvious throughout and too much time is drowned in his dramatic moments with his co-star. While the musical numbers are supposed to be smirking send-ups, they didn’t go far enough. Meanwhile, there’s little comedy in the script (co-written by Ferrell) and none of the characters are especially amusing. Even Graham Norton, who acts as a commentator and is usually funny, isn’t. The good news: The only cost to Netflix subscribers is 2 hours.

 

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

 

Netflix link

Mrs. America (review)

Mrs. America (review)

This Hulu series chronicles the history of the Equal Rights Amendment from its inception in the 70s thru the Reagan era. Cate Blanchett is, of course, compelling as Phyllis Schlafly, the stern woman who led the movement against the ERA. After introducing her, each episode features one of the other leaders FOR the movement. They’re not solo profiles, they still interact with the others: Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Betty Friedan (Tracy Ullman), Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale), Jill Ruckelshaus (Elizabeth Banks) and Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba). While all of the performances are wonderful, Aduba is especially touching and powerful in the “Shirley” episode. This is one long history lesson with the various political subplots and a few glimpses into their personal lives. The period is enacted effectively (with real news footage sprinkled throughout) and the conflicts are given some complexity. Overall, it’s a very educational series featuring a powerhouse cast. NOTE: The Virginia Legislature celebrating the passing of the ERA is the last visual in the show. (9 one-hour episodes)

 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

Hulu link

Dirtwoman gets a distributor

Dirtwoman gets a distributor

THE DIRTWOMAN DOCUMENTARY has signed an exclusive distribution deal with Ariztical Entertainment, one of the leading names in quality LGBT and independent films that challenge contemporary cultural boundaries.

 

Michael Jack Shoel, President of Ariztical noted; “We love Dirtwoman! With his uncanny resemblance to Divine and his own legendary experience with “Sh#t,” he is the embodiment of entertaining, empathetic cultural assassination.” About this new collaboration, Dirtwoman producer Jerry Williams says, “I’m excited to work with Ariztical’s experience and expertise to spread the love for this unique individual.”

 

Ariztical is known for the production and worldwide distribution of the Eating Out film franchise comedy series along with over 150 independent films available internationally on television, VOD, DVD and Ariztical.com and ArizticalNow.com.  Shoel concludes, “We’ve just inked the deal. Now the fun starts. We look forward to helping the rest of the world appreciate the exceptional character that is Dirtwoman.”

 

For anyone who might have seen the documentary in Richmond or at the film festivals, the original title (Spider Mites of Jesus) has been streamlined for more readily accessible on-line recognition.

 

IMPORTANT! The streaming version will only be available thru July 10 at DirtwomanDoc.com

After that, streaming will released by Ariztical.

The Square (review)

The Square (review)

If you appreciate the contemporary art world, you’ll probably find this film an interesting look into that culture. Claes Bang plays the curator at a big Stockholm museum who’s preparing for a new exhibit, but the story delves into other aspects of his life. To say much more would be to spoil one of this film’s best aspects…surprise! There are numerous times when something unexpected happens, taking the narrative in a new direction (not really plot twists but interesting detours). The people are interesting and the situations are sometimes fascinating. Writer/director Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure) continues to create work that crosses between drama and satire, while crafting personal stories that present varied and engaging characters. (In Swedish with subtitles)

 

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

 

Movie website

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Please Like Me (review)

Please Like Me (review)

Josh Thomas is a popular Australian comedian who created, wrote and stars in this 4-season series. The fact that he’s very gay is handled in the first episode. After that it’s about his close circle of friends (all of whom are straight), his parents (who are separated) and a string of cute boyfriends (with lots of kissing). What makes the show so much fun is Thomas’ clever, quirky, neurotic, snotty, but ultimately captivating character. Add an enjoyable supporting cast and snappy dialogue and the result is lots of fun (with moments of earnest sweetness). After season one, Hanna Gatsby (who has become famous for her stand-ups) makes a delightfully deadpan addition.

His follow-up series Everything’s Gonna Be OK is also on Hulu.

 

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

 

Hulu link

Love, Victor (review)

Love, Victor (review)

This may be the first G-rated gay series (Hulu). It’s the follow-up to the feature film Love, Simon, which was hailed as the first mainstream teen gay romance (my review). That movie was relatively bland in its cast and dialogue, while this series is even more so. However, the producers must have read my review, because this cast is also much more diverse. Kevin (Michael Cimino) and his Hispanix family move to Georgia, where he ends up attending the same high school that Simon did in the movie. This allows a narrative device where he messages Simon for voiceover advice on his own coming out. The show focuses much of the series on the relationship with his girlfriend, while having him secretly lust after his sexy job mate. All of the leads are bland and uninteresting, but there are some enjoyable supporting characters. This very gentle handling of the coming out story only really develops any thrills in the final 2 episodes (and leaves it obviously open for a 2nd season). Before that, there’s a lot of typical high school drama in a relatively lackluster package.

 

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

 

Hulu link

7500 (review)

7500 (review)

This movie is almost a one-man show in one small space. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a pilot, whose flight from Berlin to Paris is hijacked. After the initial attack, he’s trapped inside the cockpit, while trying to cope with the threat in the cabin. Along with Patrick Vollrath’s claustrophobic direction, Gordon-Levitt manages to maintain moderate anxiety with his intense yet controlled performance. The tension isn’t always as compelling as it could be and the final few minutes drag down the drama and dilute the film’s full effect. Still, it’s a frightening scenario effectively realized with Gordon-Levitt’s solid performance.

 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

 

Amazon Prime Video link

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