Eating Our Way to Extinction


Vegans will inherit the earth.

(2020) Documentary (Seine) Kate Winslet (narration), Sir Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, Otto Brockway, Joanne Kong, Joseph Poore, Peter Wadhams, Jeremy Rifkin, Bruce Friedrich, Tara Garnett, Roger Roberts, Oliver de Schurrer, Gerard Winterbern, Dr. Sylvia Eagle, Don Staniford, Liv Holmefjord, Udo Erasmus, Gemma Newman, Taryn Bishop. Directed by Ludo and Otto Brockway

 

Climate change is, without a doubt, one of the signature agenda items of our generation. It might surprise you, though, to learn that one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere come from what you might consider a harmless source: animal husbandry. The raising of animals for food creates an enormous amount of hydrocarbons but in order to keep all those animals fed, much of the crops that we grow go directly to them and not to hungry humans. It does seem somewhat bizarre.

This slick, well-meaning documentary charts how our lust for hamburgers and chicken nuggets are leading to an absolutely ruinous future. Oscar-winner Kate Winslet narrates, soberly ticking off points and captioning footage that is, to say the least, disturbing. The makers of the film claim that this movie will change the way you look at food, and it might very well do that.

Now, there are an awful lot of scientific talking heads, and that’s all well and good, but it can get a little bit dry, although the nifty animations help. What I found to be a major failing of the film, though, was that it seems to be presenting veganism as the only solution to the problem. That doesn’t take into account that humans have been raising animals for food for thousands of years and it is only recently that it’s become a problem. And while I admire the passion behind the project, I don’t appreciate being hammered over the head with a point of view that reminds me of an overzealous Christian missionary trying to convert me to Evangelical Christianity.

But it IS a problem, and we need to insist that our meat comes from healthier sources and not factory farms. Whenever possible, buy locally sourced meat and yes, that may be more expensive, but we should also be eating more vegetables anyway. I don’t think that the solution is for the entire planet to go vegan – that would bring on a whole slew of other problems. There is a tendency to think that because a problem is extreme that an extreme solution is required. What we need is to act in moderation. Eat less meat. Eat healthier meals. If we can stop consuming the massive amounts of beef, pork and chicken that we do, we can actually slow down climate change. But we also need to regulate Big Agriculture and their use of toxins like pesticides, growth hormones, dyes and preservatives. This movie, while on the strident side, gives us a good starting point in how to change our ways to make a difference for future generations.

The movie is playing tonight only as part of Fathom Events. Check your local listings to find the nearest theater playing it. Otherwise it will be appearing on most major streaming platforms later this fall.

REASONS TO SEE: Intelligently presented.
REASONS TO AVOID: Tends to hammer the viewer over the head with its points.
FAMILY VALUES: There are some disturbing images.
TRIVIAL PURSUITS: The Brockway brothers also directed the official promo for Virgin Galactic.
CRITICAL MASS:As of 9/16/21: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Fed Up
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT:
No Responders Left Behind

New Releases for the Week of September 17, 2021


CRY MACHO

(Warner Brothers) Clint Eastwood, Dwight Yoakam, Eduardo Minett, Fernanda Urrejola, Natalia Traven, Horacio Garcia Rojas. Directed by Clint Eastwood

An ex-rodeo star and former horse breeder gets a job from a former boss to bring his son hoe from Mexico. The journey is unexpectedly challenging as they take the back roads of Texas in 1979. Could this be Eastwood’s last hurrah? Maybe.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Wide (also on HBO Max)
Rating: PG-13 (for language and thematic elements)

The Alpinist

(Roadside Attractions) Marc-André Leclerc, Brette Harrington, Alex Honnold, Reinhold Messner. A 33-year-old Canadian who makes some of the boldest free ascents in mountaineering history, shuns the limelight. When a documentary crew approaches him to tell his story, a tug-of-war ensues between the needs of the filmmakers and his desire to capture the purest essence of the sport.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG-13 (for some strong language and brief drug content)

Blue Bayou

(Focus) Justin Chon, Alicia Vikander, Mark O’Brien, Linh Dan Pham. A Korean adoptee who grew up in the South, is happily married and stepdad to an adored daughter, but he could lose everything as he finds out that me may end up being deported from the only country he has ever known.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for language throughout and some violence)

Copshop

(Open Road) Gerard Butler, Frank Grillo, Toby Huss, Ryan O’Nan. A wily con-artist on the run from a lethal assassin decides to hide out in the office of a small-town police department, where an unsuspecting rookie cop will be caught up in the crossfire.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Action
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: R (for strong/bloody violence, and pervasive language)

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

(Searchlight) Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Cherry Jones, Fredric Lehne. The rise, fall and ultimate redemption of Tammy Faye Bakker who went from the wife of a disgraced televangelist (and national joke) to advocate for AIDS patients and LGBTQ Christians in general. Chastain is getting early Oscar buzz for her performance here.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, Enzian
Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content and drug abuse)

Lady of the Manor

(Lionsgate) Melanie Lynskey, Judy Greer, Justin Long, Ryan Philippe. A stoner-slacker working as a costumed tour guide in a historic mansion – portraying the former lady of the house – is surprised when the ghost of the REAL Lady Wadsworth shows up and warns her to mend her ways.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Supernatural Comedy
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grille Sunset Walk
Rating: R (for language throughout, sexual material and drug use)

My Name is Pauli Murray

(Amazon) Pauli Murray, Patricia Bell-Scott, Dolores Chandler, Brittney Cooper. Before Rosa Parks, before Gloria Steinem there was Pauli Murray, a black gender-fluid attorney raised in the segregated South who was a pioneering activist who helped shape some of the most important social issues of his day, and whose work continues to resonate now.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: CMX Plaza Café Orlando
Rating: PG-13 (for disturbing/violent images and thematic elements)

COMING TO VIRTUAL CINEMA/VOD:

Best Sellers
Black Power
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Hudson (Tuesday)
The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain
Last Night in Rozzie
Little Vampire
(Tuesday)
The Mad Women’s Ball
Night of the Animated Dead
(Tuesday)
The Nowhere Inn
Prisoners of the Ghostland
Savior for Sale: Da Vinci’s Lost Masterpiece?
(Tuesday)
The Subnormal: A British Scandal
Uprising
The Wonderful: Stories from the Space Station

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Best Sellers
Copshop
Cry Macho
The Eyes of Tammy Faye
The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain
Last Night in Rozzie
The Nowhere Inn
Prisoners of the Ghostland


I Love Us


What’s not to love?

(2021) Crime (Vision) Katie Cassidy, Danny A. Abeckaser, Robert Davi, David James Elliott, Elya Baskin, Jackie Cruz, Greg Finley, Jasper Polish, Harlow Jane, James Madio, Courtney Mazza, Eliad Nachum, Christian George, Ray Bouderau, Diana Madison, George V. Andreakos, Frank Florio, Diana Davis. Directed by Danny A. Abeckaser

 

Love is mysterious. It can begin in the most unlikely of places. It can take us to the most unlikely of places. There is no telling who we’ll fall in love with. Sometimes we fall in love with people we never in a million years imagined that we could.

Career criminal Sammy (Abeckaser) robs jewelry stores. He’s good at it. He works for his father Harvey (Davi) who himself trod on the wrong side of the law before leaving the grunt work to his son. Sammy is paying off a gambling debt to his Uncle Ira (Baskin), a much more successful mobster. Harvey and Sammy dream of a big score that will allow them both to retire, but so far nothing has turned up that’s even remotely a possibility. After another successful but low-yield heist with his partner Richie (Madio), Sammy takes the bus home where he meets single mom Laura (Cassidy). While it would seem that Sammy and Laura at a glance would be totally mismatched, it’s essentially love at first sight.

The two end up getting married, much to the chagrin of Laura’s older daughter Rachel (Polish) who makes no secret of her disdain for Sammy, and the delight of her younger daughter Audrey (Jane). And for awhile, things seem to be going the way Sammy hoped, although he studiously keeps his real profession a secret from his new family. Then, the opportunity he and Harvey have been waiting for arrives, but it will take planning and efficiency to pull off. However, Sammy is hit by an unforeseen tragedy that changes his outlook on everything, and the crew that are planning the heist may not be as trustworthy as Sammy thought.

This is a combination of a family drama and a heist flick, and I would love to say that Abeckaser works the two together seamlessly, but I can’t. The two plotlines often work at cross-purposes and it doesn’t help that many of the plot points feel arbitrary and somewhat cliché, which is never a good feeling for a movie that is certainly trying to stand out as being unique. There are also an awful lot of moments that can only be classified as maudlin and manipulative, and they do leave you wanting to turn off the movie and move on to other things.

But you have to hand it to Abeckaser for pouring on the Brooklyn charm here; that particular borough of New York always has come off with a certain kind of magic and it’s very much in evidence here. Cassidy, best known as Laurel Lance/Black Canary in the CW comic book-based series Arrow (and perhaps less so for being the daughter of former pop star David Cassidy of the Partridge Family) is extremely memorable in her role here; her screen time may be too brief of necessity, but she does leave you wishing that there were more scenes with her in them. Abeckaser isn’t bad in the lead, but he isn’t as striking.

I do wish the film had taken a few more chances with the script; at times it felt like there was a bit too much plot. More simplicity would have suited the story better and the elimination of some sub-plots might well have made this a better film.

REASONS TO SEE: Oozing with Brooklyn charm.
REASONS TO AVOID: Contrived and maudlin.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some profanity and adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Abeckaser and Elliiott previously appeared together in Lansky.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/15/21: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: They/Them/Us
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Eating Our Way to Extinction

Azor


Banking on Argentina.

(2021) Drama (MUBI) Fabrizio Rongione, Stéphanie Cléau, Elli Medeiros, Alexandre Trocki, Pablo Torre Nilson, Juan Pablo Geretto, Gilles Privat, Carmen Iriondo, Yvain Julliard, Juan Trench. Directed by Andreas Fontana

 

The veneer of gentility is often thin indeed, particularly in an atmosphere dominated by uncertainty and fear. In Argentina as the 20th century turned into its eighth decade, a brutal military junta had begun a period of repression in which thousands disappeared. Not all of these were from the poor classes; anyone who expressed disagreement with the regime might find themselves gone, even those from the aristocracy.

Swiss banker Yvan de Wiel (Rongione) has arrived in Buenos Aires along with his sophisticated wife Ines (Cléau). He’s a third-generation partner in a Swiss private bank – one only open to the super rich. They are there to reassure their clients that all is well after his partner Rene Keys disappears. Yvan travels from board rooms to opulent gardens, from oak-paneled studies to modern offices, meeting with Argentina’s elite.

Conversations rotate around small talk, rarely lingering long on Argentina’s political situation. People are disappearing and there is palpable fear underneath the genteel world of cocktails, formal dresses, palatial homes and luxury cars. As Yvan quietly investigates the disappearance of his more passionate partner (Yvan is low-key to the point of stupor), he comes more and more into the orbit of those near the junta who are behind the repression and brutality. Especially threatening is the Monsignor Tatosky (Nilson), who purrs “Parasites must be eradicated, even from the best families.” It chills one to the bone.

This is not the kind of movie that has a machine-gun pace; it’s a slow burn, so much so that the viewer might get a chill from time to time. Fontana keeps the tension high without resorting to anything overt; everything is done with subtle glances here, an oblique camera angle there, a pregnant silence over there. In fact, I don’t thin there are many films that have utilized silence as well as this one does; it is the things unsaid in this film that matter almost more than the things that are said.

He gets stellar performances from his two leads who are perfectly cast; Cléau eggs her husband on much like Lady Macbeth, only more cultured and urbane, picking out his suit so as to impress but not outshine. She advises him on matters of decorum and is anything but a conscience; more like a cattle prod, in that regard, urging him to do whatever is necessary to maintain the couple’s status and privilege. “Your father was right; your weakness makes you mediocre,” she observes at one point. It is her way of motivating him, because Yvan is just filled up with self-doubt enough not to trust in his own competence.

In some publications, there are comparisons for the final act with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and there is certainly some justification for that. It involves a river journey that…well, I won’t spoil it, but suffice to say is the heart of this film’s darkness. This is a movie chilling in ways that horror films are not, nor can they be. This is the banality of evil, on display in the latest Armani suits.

REASONS TO SEE: Elevates the tension nicely under the thin veneer of gentility. Fine performances throughout the ensemble cast. Captures a period in Argentine history not well-chronicled in the States.
REASONS TO AVOID: May be too slow of a burn for some.
FAMILY VALUES: There is period smoking.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Fontana’s grandfather was a Swiss private banker; the film is loosely inspired by his experiences.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/14/21: Rotten Tomatoes: 100% positive reviews; Metacritic: 85/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Missing
FINAL RATING: 8/10
NEXT:
I Love Us

Language Lessons


Beauty and the beast.

(2021) Drama (Shout!) Mark Duplass, Natalie Morales, Desean Terry, Christine Quesada. Directed by Natalie Morales

 

Friendships can develop in unlikely places, and in unlikely ways. In this modern age of communication, we don’t even need to live in the same hemisphere to develop a deep and meaningful relationship with someone else. That can be a double-edged sword.

Cariño (Morales) is a Spanish teacher living in Costa Rica when she dials into a Zoom meeting with a new student. That turns out to be middle aged Adam (Duplass), who received 100 lessons in Spanish as a birthday gift from his husband Will (Terry). Adam and Will live in a rambling mansion in the Oakland hills and fairly drip with wealth and privilege. Cariño lives in an area of much natural beauty that she likes to show off to her students. As it turns out, Adam already speaks Spanish fairly fluently, but had mentioned offhandedly that he was rusty and needed an immersion course to get him back to fluency. Will pounced on that tidbit of information, as married partners will, and voila.

But the situation turns on a dime when Adam informs her of a personal tragedy. He is numb, bewildered and somewhat lost. Cariño, who barely knows him, is nevertheless kind, sympathetic and comforting and Adam begins to feel a real friendship with her.

As the lessons progress, we see that the two people from apparently disparate backgrounds begin to bond, and despite the reluctance of Cariño to let her walls down, the teacher and student become friends. But isn’t it true that some boundaries shouldn’t be crossed? Not in this case.

I think it’s safe to say that this movie is long on charm and short on production values; it’s essentially filmed as a series of Zoom calls and while the two stars are almost always onscreen together, they’re never physically in the same place until the very final scene. Even so, there’s a great deal of chemistry between the two. Both Morales and Duplass have a great deal of onscreen charm and charisma, and both utilize both of those traits to the hilt here. Duplass, in particular, delivers a performance that is often raw and emotional, although Morales gets a few juicy scenes of her own. However, the one thing that is the center of the film – the friendship between the two – is believable every second that it develops.

There is a bit of fantasy indulgence here – I wonder if the movie would have fared a little bit better had Adam been not so wealthy, although two years’ worth of weekly Spanish lessons might be an indulgence only a wealthy person would consider. It’s just that the ending felt a little contrived because of it, and might have been a bit more realistic had the writers not been given too easy of an out.

One thing I really liked about the movie is that you never know where it’s going next. Too often, movies follow familiar formulae and tread well-travelled trails. Not so this one; even though there are a few tropes here and there, they feel like they belong rather than they were inserted for convenience or as cinematic shorthand. You do have to work for this one a little bit, but in a pleasant way and that is certainly not often the case, even for a lot of independent films.

Most of the movie is in Spanish, although it is amusing to note that the subtitles also reflect Adam’s grammatical errors as well. And while the movie is about the beginnings of an unlikely friendship, there is also dealing with loss and disappointment, but in the grand tradition of movies dealing with grief, it ends up being a life-affirming experience.

Some might be suffering from Zoom fatigue and may not necessarily want to spend an hour and a half watching someone else’s Zoom conversation, but that would be a shame because this is a deeply emotional movie that delivers all the feels, something all of us can use lately. Also, as an additional bonus, it doesn’t mention COVID at all, although clearly the pandemic had a lot to do with the way this was filmed. While it’s playing exclusively in theaters at the moment, it will doubtlessly be available to stream soon. And although I find myself writing a closing sentence I never thought I’d ever use, you may want to wait for it to hit a streaming or VOD service – if ever a movie was meant to be seen on a laptop, it’s this one.

REASONS TO SEE: Duplass and Morales are both incredibly charming and deliver powerful performances. You never know where the movie is going. Like most films about loss, it’s very life-affirming.
REASONS TO AVOID: People might be a little burned out by communicating via Zoom.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some brief mild profanity and adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is Morales’ first feature film as a director; she also directed several episodes of Duplass’ anthology TV series Room 104.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/13/2021: Rotten Tomatoes: 96% positive reviews; Metacritic: 68/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Italian for Beginners
FINAL RATING: 8/10
NEXT:
Azor

They/Them/Us


How easily your world is turned upside-down when you’re a teen.

(2021) Romantic Dramedy (Blended Family) Joey Slotnick, Amy Hargreaves, Jack Steiner, Shanna Strong, Abi Van Andel, Lexie Bean, Sarah Eddy, Robert Pavlovich, Trina Gardiner, Esther Cunningham, Johanna McGinley, Abigail Esmena, Shyra Thomas, Richard Hagerman, Heidi Lewandowski, Cheyenne Poz, Graham Caldwell, Dominic McNeal, Tre Ryan, Lisa DeRoberts. Directed by Jon Sherman

 

The idea of blended families is nothing new; Hollywood has been making comedies about them for decades. However, as time goes by and familial relationships become more complicated, so too does blending two families together become all that much more of a challenge.

Charlie Goldman (Slotnick) is a divorced film professor whose ex-wife Deborah (Van Andel) is eager to get back together with him, something he is interested in not at all. He has taken a job at a Christian university, masquerading as a devout Christian when in fact he is a virtual embodiment of a neurotic Jewish man. His son Danny (Steiner) smokes enough weed to make Cheech and Chong go “Whoa, you might wanna slow down a little bit there Homeboy” and daughter Anna (Strong) blames him for the divorce.

He meets Lisa Harper (Hargreaves) on a dating site. As it turns out, they click almost immediately. She’s mainly looking for a sexual partner, though – a series of one-night stands to “play the field,” as she puts it. Her daughters Maddie (Bean) and Courtney (Eddy) miss their Dad, who has moved away to Europe and both have a none-too-cordial relationship with their mom. Not one of the teens is anxious to see their parent find love with another person.

But love is what Charlie and Lisa find, and it isn’t long before Charlie invites Lisa to move in with her kids. The kids take to the idea like a cat taking to having its tail dipped in brown mustard. It’s hard enough to make a relationship work in this day and age without having openly hostile kids who are rooting for it to fail. Can love survive, let alone thrive, in such an environment?

The humor here is broad, what I like to call “Har-de-HAR-har-har” humor. In other words, I get the sense that the writers were going for as broad and as universal a humor as possible and end up coming up with nothing that is particularly funny. The characters are painted in extremely broad strokes; Charlie’s a nebbish, Danny is a stoner who is an absolute dickweed when sober, Lisa has a secret yen for BDSM…but other than Hargreaves who gives her character a great deal of patience and care, most of the actors seem not to have much direction in terms of where they are taking their characters and as a result, we end up not caring for any of them – with the exception, perhaps, of Hargreaves’ Lisa.

The plot is fairly predictable for a movie of this nature and the ending is about as Hollywood as it gets, which is kind of an odd duck for an independent flick. The soundtrack is loud, obnoxious and intrusive, almost cartoony in nature. Yeah, there are a lot of problems with this movie.

But Hargreaves isn’t one of them, and she has a lot of potential to make an impact as an actress. I hope she gets some better parts in better movies after this, because she deserves better. And frankly, so do you.

REASONS TO SEE: Hargreaves is magic in a role that could easily become self-parody.
REASONS TO AVOID: Too many rom-com tropes.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity, drug use and plenty of sexual situations and sexual situations, as well as some adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Makes its world premiere tonight (as this is published) at the Dances With Films 2021 film festival in Los Angeles.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/11/21: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Yours, Mine and Ours
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Language Lessons

499


The conquistadors of colonialism still haunt Mexico.

(2020) Documentary Drama (The Cinema Guild) Eduardo San Juan Breña, Alicia Valencia (voice), Jorge Sánchez, Martha González, Sixto Cabrera, Lorena Gutierrez. Directed by Rodrigo Reyes

 

The lines between documentary and feature are normally well-delineated. Sometimes, truth and fiction can blur and through the use of both, we can discover the greater truths that lie beneath the mere facts.

A nameless conquistador washes up on a Veracruz beach. The last he knew it was 1521 and he was sailing home with the ill-gotten riches of his expedition. Suddenly, he finds himself in 2020, 499 years later, in modern Mexico. Something inside him is urging him to retrace his steps, the march that Cortes took from what is now Veracruz to the Aztec capitol of Tenochtitlan, what is modern-day Mexico City. Along the way, he loses the ability to speak and is forced to listen to the sadness of others caught in their own tales of woe.

We hear from those who search for loved ones who have disappeared at the hands of the drug cartels, often with the complicity of the police and federal law enforcement that is supposed to be protecting them. We are shown the overwhelming grief and horror as they describe atrocities that seem foreign to us, but are everyday events where they come from. There is a brutality, a barbarity that is present in these acts that make them more than mere violence.

But the conquistador is not without his own madness. He brags about his own atrocities, committed against the indigenous tribes of Mexico. He talks about manipulating them to join the cause against the all-powerful Aztecs, enabling a small band of Spanish soldiers to conquer a nation. He brags about promising them heaven with no intention of keeping any of their promises. Inelegantly and subtly, Reyes draws a direct line between the brutality of colonialism and the violence of the modern cartels.

Cinematographer Alejandro Mejia captures lovely vistas that are both familiar and alien as the conquistador wanders through natural settings and man-made, through pueblos and garbage heaps. The further he travels, the more stories he hears, the more he is forced to reckon with the consequences of his actions five centuries previous. In that sense, this is true for Mexico as well, a country that has never adequately reconciled their native heritage with their colonial one. For that matter, neither have we.

Reyes also tackles the immigration issue and portrays the Central American immigrants not as hordes of ravening murderers nd rapists, as an ex-President of this country portrayed them, but as people fleeing violence and poverty, willing to undertake an extremely perilous journey to hopefully make it to a country where they have a shot at a decent life. When I think of what these people have seen, what they have endured, it just makes me heartsick for their suffering, and enraged at the callous disregard by the demagogues who demonize them. Karma is coming at those sorts like a freight train.

Through all of this we witness the sad-eyed figure of the conquistador. He is both anachronistic and completely belonging in this culture, for it is a product of his brutality. He is to be scorned and pitied, becase for all his posturing about carrying the cross before him, there is nothing Christ-like in his actions, and he gradually comes to realize it. The film ends in a somewhat unexpected way – I won’t share any details, but it did take me by surprise and quite frankly, upon reflection, makes perfect sense.

IOne thing worthy of mention; the sound here. Reyes leans heavily on natural sounds; the waves of the ocean, the wind through the grass, the soft patter of rain. The movie is entirely in Spanish (with subtitles) so those who don’t speak Spanish may well find themselves being seduced by the sounds of the film; even those who do speak Spanish will appreciate the way sound plays a role in the film.

I have visited Mexico numerous times, and have many Mexican friends, both Mexican nationals and immigrants to this country. Those that live here now are proud of their heritage, but proud to be Americans as well. They preserve as much of their culture as they can while trying to navigate this one. There are conflicts from time to time and it isn’t easy – but that’s true of any immigrant to any country. I know this firsthand from the experiences of my own parents, who emigrated from Cuba and Canada to make lives here.

But Mexico haunts us like a quiet ghost, lurking at our Southern border and I don’t use the description lightly; Reyes has given us a movie that is almost otherworldly in nature and of course it invites such similes. We are aware peripherally of the violence, of the corruption, and we think of the citizens as backwards savages who deserve it. In our arrogance, we repeat the attitudes of those who came to Mexico in 1521 and fail to learn the lessons that history teaches us, if we only open our eyes and see.

REASONS TO SEE: Some very intense, firsthand emotional testimony about the atrocities committed by cartels. Wonderful use of sound.
REASONS TO AVOID: Some may find the weaving of fiction and fact off-putting.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some profanity, sexual content and vivid descriptions of violence and rape.
TRIVIAL PURSUITS: 2021 is the 500th anniversary of the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortes. The title of the movie reflects the year of conquest when the movie was released.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/2/21: Rotten Tomatoes: 81% positive reviews; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Cartel Land
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT:
They/Them/Us

New Releases for the Week of September 10, 2021


MALIGNANT

(New Line) Annabelle Wallis, Madison Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jean Louisa Kelly, Susanna Thompson, Jake Abel. Directed by James Wan

A woman is having terrifying visions of grisly murders, but her fear is turbocharged when she discovers that her visions are actually happening.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: R (for strong horror violence and gruesome images, and for language)

The Card Counter

(Focus) Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, Willem Dafoe. The latest from legendary director Paul Schrader concerns a former military interrogator turned compulsive gambler who is haunted by the decisions of his past.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for some disturbing violence, graphic nudity, language and brief sexuality)

Catch the Bullet

(Lionsgate) Peter Facinelli, Tom Skerritt, Jay Pickett, Gattin Griffith. A U.S. Marshall returns home to discover his father sick and his son kidnapped by an outlaw. Forming a posse with a trigger-happy deputy and a stoic tracker, they head out into Indian territory where the danger will increase exponentially.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Western
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grille Sunset Walk
Rating: R (for some violence)

Dogs

(Dekanalog) Dragos Bucur, Gheorghe Visu, Vlad Ivanov, Costel Cascavl. In this Romanian thriller, a man inherits land from his Uncle and decides to sell it off. This doesn’t sit well with the criminals who are squatting on that land, and the man must decide whether to cut and run, or stay and fight.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

Queenpins

(STX) Kristin Bell, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Vince Vaughn, Paul Walter Hauser. Based on actual events, a pair of coupon-clipping moms get involved in a scam of counterfeit coupons that are costing mega-corporations millions. Chased by a U.S. Postal Inspector and a hapless grocery store chain loss prevention officer, they make millions while helping fellow shoppers save on their grocery bills, blurring the line between who the real criminals are.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Cinemark Lakeland Square, Cinemark Orlando, Cinemark Universal Citywalk
Rating: R (for language throughout)

Show Me the Father

(Affirm) Eddie George, Tony Evans, Stephen Kendrick, Sherman Smith. A faith-based documentary on the role of fathers in our American society, and how their role reflects our relationship with God.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: PG (for thematic material)

Small Engine Repair

(Vertical) Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, Ciara Bravo, John Pollano. Three lifelong friends gather for a night of drinking and bonding, unaware that one of them will ask the others to do a favor for his brash young daughter whom they all adore, a favor that will send their lives spinning out of control.

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For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Avenue 16 Melbourne, AMC Disney Springs, CMX Plaza Café Orlando
Rating: R (for pervasive language, crude sexual content, strong violence, a sexual assault, and drug use)

Thalaivi

(Zee) Kangana Ranaut, Arvind Swamy, Bhagyashree, Madhoo. The story of East Indian actress turned politician J. Jayalalithaa who served six terms as Prime Minister of Tamil Nadu.

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For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: AMC West Oaks
Rating: NR

We Need to Do Something

(IFC Midnight) Sierra McCormick, Vinessa Shaw, Pat Healy, Lisette Alexis. When taking shelter from a strange and violent storm, a family becomes threatened by horrors they may have brought in with them.

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For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Enzian
Rating: NR

Wildland

(Film Movement) Sandra Guldberg Kampp, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Joachim Fjelstrup, Elliott Crosset Hove. After her mom is killed in a car accident, a teenage girl moves in with her aunt and two sons. They seem a loving family, but they lead a criminal life. When an unforeseen murder puts the family under scrutiny, they are forced to decide how far they’ll go to protect one another.

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Genre: Crime
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

COMING TO VIRTUAL CINEMA/VOD:

Blood Brothers: Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X (Thursday)
Chompy and the Girls
(Tuesday)
Dating & New York
Detainee 001
Hood River
The Influencer
(Tuesday)
Nightbooks
(Wednesday)
Skinwalker: The Howl of the Rougarou
(Tuesday)
Straight Outta Nowhere
(Tuesday)
The Voyeurs

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

The Card Counter
Dating & New York
Hood River
The Influencer
Malignant

Good


Talking – and dining – at cross purposes.

(2020) Drama (Gravitas) Keith David, Justin Etheredge, Nefetari Spencer, Kali Racquel, Christen Roberts, Sarah Scott-Davis, Ken Colquitt, Aaron Nayer, Gwen Cesta-Persichetti, Harrison Rodriguez, Lettye Smith, Aiden Weems, Kyle L. Jacobs, Jeff G. Mungai, Elizabeth Capps. Directed by Justin Etheredge

 

Parenthood is not something to be entered into lightly. It is so easy to mess up a child’s future without meaning to. It is also true that we can mess up a child’s future simply by not being there. Nothing says “you don’t matter” as much as a parent who chooses not to be a part of their offspring’s life.

Peyton Poitier – “no relation,” he is quick to point out while watching In the Heat of the Night starring Sidney Poitier – has lived such a life. His father was never in the picture, and his mother died when he was young. He was mostly raised by his grandma, who passed away herself recently. He sometimes goes to her favorite diner where she used to take him as a child.

That’s where he meets Gregory Devereaux (James), an old man who likes to eat at that particular diner because they remember his name and call him by it. He is a curmudgeonly sort who takes guff from nobody, and he recognizes b.s. when he hears it. But he recognizes something of himself in Peyton, and has Peyton drive him home so they can share a drink or two and watch the aforementioned In the Heat of the Night.

Peyton is at what you might call a crossroads of his life. He has some potential but has never fulfilled it, but now things seem to be looking up. He’s engaged to marry Shannon Kitzmiller (Racquel) who is beautiful, a little bit self-absorbed and from wealthy parents. However, there’s a blip on that radar. It turns out that his girlfriend before Shannon, Jeneta (Roberts) is in a family way and Peyton is the baby daddy. This couldn’t come at a worse time for him. He’s convinced that Shannon will drop him like a cheap cell phone if she finds out about his predicament. And in the meantime, Gregory’s estranged daughter Barbara (Spencer) has hired Peyton to be Gregory’s caretaker because most of the nurses that have seen to his needs recently have been chased off by the grumpy growly antics of her dad. And she finds Peyton to be like sexual catnip as well. What’s a man to do?

Etheredge wrote and directed this as well as starred in it, and it is never a good thing when someone wearing  all three of those hats posits that the main character is absolutely irresistible to women. Not to comment on the desirability of Etheredge, but I think it’s safe to say that Mike Colter he is not. Every one of the women in this movie other than the extras has been or currently is willing to hop into bed with Peyton at a moment’s notice; there’s a little bit of ego there that is a bit of a turn-off, frankly. Justin, if you’re reading this, don’t just chalk it up to jealousy on my part (although day-um!) but take it to heart that the subplot of having Barbara come on to Peyton was completely unneeded.

That said, there is some charm here and Etheredge is actually a pretty likable lead. David has the stentorian authority of a James Earl Jones and lends gravitas to a role that sometimes gets played for laughs. Gregory is far too Old Testament for that.

The commentary here is on parental responsibility and taking responsibility in one’s own life. When Gregory thunders, “Just another young black man making babies he won’t raise,” he’s leveling an accusation that is often made against young African-American men. There are those who protest that as a racist trope that isn’t as true now as it was twenty or thirty years ago, so that could be a hot button item for some who are sensitive about such things.

In general, my main issue with the movie is the pacing, which is a mite on the slow side; also, some of the plot points seem a bit forced, maudlin and contrived. It felt a little bit unconvincing and all the charm in the world isn’t going to rescue a movie with those sorts of issues. All in all, not a horrible movie but a deeply flawed one.

REASONS TO SEE: Takes on how families can screw up their children.
REASONS TO AVOID: Slow-moving, maudlin and soapy.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Filmed and set in Atlanta.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, DirecTV, Google Play, Microsoft, Spectrum, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/8/21: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Upside
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT:
499

Reminiscence


Life is no carnival in the near future.

(2021) Science Fiction (Warner Brothers) Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Cliff Curtis, Marina de Tavira, Daniel Wu, Mojean Aria, Brett Cullen, Natalie Martinez, Angela Sarafyan, Javier Molina, Sam Medina, Nono Nishimura, Roxton Garcia, Giovannie Cruz, Woon Young Park, Han Soto, Rey Hernandez, Gabrielle Echols, Andrew Hyatt Masset III, Nico Parker. Directed by Lisa Joy

 

I guess that it makes sense that when you have nothing to look forward to, one’s attention will turn to what came before. In a world where climate change has wreaked havoc, the citizens of a half-drowned Miami find solace in reliving their own memories.

This is the world that Nick Bannister (Jackman) finds himself. A former military man in the border wars that erupted when the oceans rose, he makes a living with a machine that was used to extract information from the memories of military prisoners but he now uses it on civilians who want to relive their favorite memories – a wedding day, playing with a beloved dog, a romantic evening and so on. He also has a side business using his machine to interrogate prisoners of the Miami DA (Martinez).

He has a pretty good life, all things considered – his partner Watts (Newton), although a high-functioning alcoholic, keeps him fairly honest. Until Mae (Ferguson) walks in. She’s lost her keys and needs help locating them. The Reminiscence machine might just be the trick she needs. While in her mind, Bannister discovers that she is a chanteuse, singing a song (“Where and When”) he has fond childhood memories of. He initiates a relationship with her, and for awhile it is summer in Miami.

But then she disappears, and he just can’t believe she up and ran out on him. Using his detective skills, he discovers a dark conspiracy with which Mae may or may not have been involved. At the heart of it is a wealthy developer (Cullen), his mentally ill wife (de Tavira), a corrupt cop (Curtis) and a New Orleans-based drug lord (Wu). Despite Watts’ skepticism, Bannister is convinced that Mae is an innocent caught in events beyond her control, and he will stop at nothing to find her – and the truth.

This is the motion picture debut of Lisa Joy, best known for being co-creator of HBO’s Westworld series with her husband Jonathan Nolan (yes, that makes her Christopher Nolan’s sister-in-law and there is no little of his influence felt here). The world that Joy has created here is melancholic and believable. The overall feel is very much like an old noir movie with a healthy dose of romance injected in, as well as some innovative production design and strong visuals. She definitely has a very cinematic eye, from the images of a partially submerged Miami, to a grand piano sinking into the waters during the climactic fight scene.

The noir elements become overbearing, particularly in the overly florid narration which is overused. Joy seems so taken with it that she utilizes the opening monologue twice which I suppose is meant to lend emphasis but instead lends repetition. I get that the elements of the story lend themselves to a noir retelling, but in a lot of ways it feels kind of gimmicky here.

That doesn’t extend to the script which has some pretty interesting ideas throughout, and the production design brings many of them to life. The overwhelming feeling is resignation; people are growing restive at being pushed into soggier and soggier environs while the ultra-wealthy stay largely dry, but the feeling is that we’re on a downward spiral and we might as well just accept that and live in the past because it’s so much better than what we have in store. Not the most heart-warming of messages.

But Joy does coax some strong performances, particularly out of the ever-expressive Jackman who generally does better when his characters are drowning in their own dark sides; while his chemistry with Ferguson (a strong actress in her own right) is oddly flat, it might be due to the somewhat incomprehensible accent she takes on from time to time. It’s jarring and sounds absolutely phony.

Critics have absolutely savaged this movie, and there is some reason for it – the film is definitely flawed, but the visuals are compelling and as I said there are some interesting ideas developed here. Sadly, the insistence on turning this into a Raymond Chandler adaptation instead of letting the story stand on its own really hurts the movie overall, although I will say if you hang in there, the final 30-45 minutes do pick up.

REASONS TO SEE: Lots of interesting ideas and visuals here.
REASONS TO AVOID: The noir element is heavy-handed, particularly the florid narration.
FAMILY VALUES: There’s violence and profanity, some sexual content and drug content throughout.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Jackman and Ferguson previously starred together in The Greatest Showman.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: HBO Max (through 9/20)
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/1/21: Rotten Tomatoes: 38% positive reviews; Metacritic: 46/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Inception
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT:
Good