New Releases for the Week of August 13, 2021


FREE GUY

(20th Century) Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Taika Waititi, Channing Tatum, Camille Kostek, Alex Trebek, Lil Rel Howley. Directed by Shawn Levy

A bank employee who is happy in his job and his life? Despite the fact that he is surrounded by violence, mayhem and odd happnings, he is content. However, it turns out he is a non-player character in a video game whose world is about to be shattered. He decides to be the hero he knows he can be – and change everything.

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

Genre: Action Comedy
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: PG-13 (for strong fantasy violence throughout, language and crude/suggestive references)

About Us

(Self-Released) Ross McCall, Allison Miller, Alessandra Mastronardi. A young couple whose marriage is in peril decide to return to the bucolic place where they spent their honeymoon eight years earlier in a last-ditch effort to save their relationship.

There is no trailer available online currently.
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Romance
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk
Rating: NR

Buckley’s Chance

(Greenwich) Bill Nighy, Victoria Hill, Martin Sacks, Milan Burch. After his father passes away, Ridley and his mom move from New York City to Western Australia to live with his estranged grandfather. Ridley promptly gets lost and while his grandfather and mother desperately search for him in the outback, Ridley befriends a dingo he released from a leg trap and the two will rely on each other to survive.

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

Genre: Family
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk
Rating: NR

Charming the Hearts of Men

(Gravitas) Sean Astin, Anna Friel, Kelsey Grammer, Diane Ladd. A sophisticated woman returns to her Southern hometown in the Sixties to discover her options limited but discrimination is plentiful. With the help of a friend in Congress, she inspires historic legislation which gives women protection and freedom they hadn’t had up to then.

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

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: CMX Merritt Square
Rating: NR

Crime Story

(Saban) Mira Sorvino, Richard Dreyfuss, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Cress Williams. An elderly man suffering from cancer decides to spend his remaining days exacting revenge on the criminals who destroyed his family.

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

Genre: Crime Drama
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk
Rating: R (for violence, language and some sexual content)

Don’t Breathe 2

(Screen Gems) Stephen Lang, Brendan Sexton III, Madelyn Grace, Rocci Williams. Set years after the events of the first film, blind Norman Nordstrom lives a quiet life, keeping to himself until his past sins inevitably catch up with him.

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

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

The Meaning of Hitler

(IFC) Matilda Tucker, Martin Amis, David Irving, Deborah Lipstadt. With white supremacy, anti-Semitism, fascism and authoritarianism on the rise globally, this film traces the roots of Nazism and traces the path that led directly from Hitler to Charlottesville and beyond.

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

Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: CMX Plaza Orlando
Rating: NR

Naked Singularity

(Screen Media) John Boyega, Olivia Cooke, Bill Skarsgård, Ed Skrein. An idealistic young public defender in New York City is becoming burned out and beaten down by the system. With his universe collapsing around him, he decides to take part in a daring robbery of a drug deal by one of his clients.

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

Genre: Crime Comedy
Now Playing: Cinemark Universal Citywalk
Rating: R (for language throughout, some violence, sexual references and drug use)

Never Gonna Snow Again

(Kino Lorber) Alec Utgoff, Maja Ostraszewska, Agata Kulesza, Weronika Rosati. A charming but mysterious masseuse comes to work in a toney upper class neighborhood in a Polish suburb and changes the lives of his mostly middle aged female clients.

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

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

Respect

(MGM) Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Marc Maron. A biography of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul whose music changed popular culture forever.

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

Genre: Musical Biography
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic content, strong language including racial epithets, violence, suggestive material, and smoking)

Searching for Mr. Rugoff

(Self-Released) Robert Downey Sr., Costa-Gravas, Lina Wertmuller, Ira Deutchmann. Donald Rugoff was one of the most important figures in art and foreign cinema in the mid-60s to 70s. His Cinema 5 chain distributed films from Europe and independent directors that remain, to this day, essential cinema. A man who was equally reviled for his temperament and self-destructive personality, he eventually left the scene and disappeared. One of his former employees, Ira Deutchmann, sets out to discover what became of him and why he withdrew so completely. This kicks off a new Meet the Filmmaker series for the Enzian in which Deutchmann will conduct a Q&A session after the film via Zoom.

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

Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian (Sunday only)
Rating: NR

Sublet

(Greenwich) John Benjamin Hickey, Lev Nissim, Lihi Kornowski, Mickey Kam. A New York Times writer, who is recovering from tragic events, is sent to Tel Aviv for coverage of the Middle East. There, the city’s youthful energy – and the presence of an intriguing, much younger man – serve to bring him back to life.

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

Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Cinematique
Rating: NR

Swan Song

(Magnolia) Udo Kier, Jennifer Coolidge, Linda Evans, Michael Urie. It is the last wish of a dying elderly woman that her now-retired hairdresser style her hair for her funeral. For the hairdresser, it is a chance to confront the ghosts of his past as he collects the supplies he needs to do the job properly.

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

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Enzian
Rating: NR

What We Left Unfinished

(Dekanalog) Lasif Ahmadi, Sherindad Dakkoi, Said Miran Farhad, Wall Latafi. During the communist era in Afghanistan (1978-1991), five filmmakers risked censure, imprisonment and even death to make five films which were left uncompleted and unreleased, either due to the State pulling the plug or the filmmakers abandoning the projects. With the footage recently discovered and newly restored, the filmmakers take a look back at a pre-Taliban era and at the energy of a filmmaking community that believed they could effect change through art.

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

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

Witch: We Intend to Cause Havoc

(Utopia) Jagari, Emmanuel Chanda, Jacco Gardner, Nic Mauskoviç. Witch was the name of the biggest rock band in Zambia – and one of the most popular in Africa during the 1970s. Largely forgotten and mostly unheard of in the West, the group is enjoying a resurgence of popularity as Western tastemakers are discovering their powerful music.

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

Genre: Music Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian (Monday only)
Rating: NR

COMING TO VIRTUAL CINEMA/VOD:

After the End (Tuesday)
Beckett
CODA
Curiosa
Evangelion: Thrice Upon a Time
The Land of Owls
(Tuesday)
Overrun
(Tuesday)
The Smartest Kids in the World
(Monday)

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Beckett
CODA
Don’t Breathe
Free Guy
Naked Singularity
Never Gonna Snow Again
Respect
The Smartest Kids in the World

Olympia (2018)


A true American original.

(2018) Biographical Documentary (AbramoramaOlympia Dukakis, Louis Zorich, Rocco Sisto, Armistead Maupin, Alan Poul, Edward Asner, Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Dukakis, Austin Pendleton, Laura Linney, Norman Jewison, Lainie Kazan, Diane Ladd, Christina Zorich, Apollo Dukakis, Thomas Kean, Peter Zorich, Lynn Cohen, Stefan Zorich, Alexandra Dukakis, Bonnie Low Kramen . Directed by Harry Mavromichalis

 

Many casual filmgoers of a certain age group will know Olympia Dukakis only for her Oscar-winning role as Cher’s mother in Moonstruck. Some will remember her for her role as transgender Anna Madrigal in the groundbreaking Tales from the City PBS miniseries back in 1993. Theatergoers in the Northeast and in particular New Jersey may even be aware that she founded her own theater group – the Whole Theater Company in Montclair, NJ back in 1973 – because she was tired of being passed over for roles because of her ethnicity.

This documentary takes a fairly comprehensive look at her career and personal life and the first thing that becomes immediately apparent is that Dukakis embodies the truism “what you see is what you get.” The feistiness, brashness, outspokenness of her film roles are very much part of who Dukakis is offscreen. She is salty, outspoken about her opinions, sometimes crudely expressed (“When you get to a certain age you realize how much you take a good hard prick for granted” she confesses).

Amidst the celebrity testimonials from the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, Laura Linney and Diane Ladd (which are strangely devoid of any personal connection to Dukakis; they could have easily been talking about any other actress), we hear some candid, occasionally vulnerable confessions about her sexuality, her drug abuse, suicidal feelings, her failings as a mother, her sometimes rocky relationship with her own mother. Dukakis is forthcoming but sometimes you get the sense if she wonders she shared too much.

We see Dukakis hard at work, not only practicing her craft but teaching it as well. We also meet her husband Louis Zorich, a fellow actor (who sadly passed away in 2018, shortly before the film first started screening on the festival circuit) who was her better half for a half century. Before that, she says glibly, “I was the queen of one-night stands.”

The movie isn’t edited well, unfortunately. Some sequences seem to be too brief to make an impression, while we see others that extend for a long time without really being very informative at all. We see Dukakis in a grocery store getting recognized by fans but this smacks of being staged, even though I get the sense that Dukakis herself is above such shenanigans.

Dukakis is without doubt an American original. She is entertaining both on and off-screen, and spending time with her is an absolute joy. I just wish the director had given the movie a smoother flow and spent more time letting Dukakis tell her own story, rather than listening to empty testimonials or take part in scenes that don’t add anything to her story. I almost would have preferred a two-hour one-on-one interview with Dukakis and an expert interviewer. That would have been just as entertaining if not more so.

REASONS TO SEE: Dukakis is an American treasure. he
REASONS TO AVOID: Some odd decisions in the editing bay.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity, some smoking, a few drug and sexual references as well
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Former Massachusetts governor and Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis is her cousin.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Virtual Cinematic Experience
CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/12/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 78% positive reviews, Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Kaye Ballard: The Show Goes On
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT:
Battle Angel: Alita

Joy


Jennifer Lawrence anticipates another Oscar nomination.

Jennifer Lawrence anticipates another Oscar nomination.

(2015) Dramedy (20th Century Fox) Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Dascha Polanco, Elisabeth Röhm, Susan Lucci, Laura Wright, Maurice Benard, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Ken Howard, Donna Mills, Melissa Rivers, Ray De La Paz, John Enos III, Marianne Leone, Drena De Niro. Directed by David O. Russell

The world isn’t designed so that the little guy achieves success. It is even less designed so that the little gal achieves it.

Joy (Lawrence) is not your ordinary housewife. For one, she is surrounded by a family that seems tailor-made to bring her down. Her father Rudy (De Niro) owns a body shop and after being tossed out on his ass by his girlfriend, moves into the basement of Joy’s house where Joy’s ex-husband Tony (Ramirez), a budding Latin singer, is living. Also in the house is Joy’s mother Terry (Madsen) who has withdrawn from everything, staying in her bedroom and watching her soap operas. Only Joy’s grandmother Mimi (Ladd) – who is narrating – believes in Joy other than maybe her daughter and her son. Also in the mix is Joy’s super-critical and bitter half-sister Peggy (Röhm).

Joy has always had an imagination and a willingness to make things but has been held back by circumstances; she is basically the one who cooks and cleans in her household; she also is the breadwinner, although her Dad helps with the mortgage. Then, after an outing in which she is required to mop a mess of broken glass and ends up cutting her hands when she wrings the mop – regularly – she comes up with an idea for a mop that not only is more absorbent and requires less wringing, but also wrings itself. She calls it the Miracle Mop.

But a good idea requires money to become reality and she is forced to convince her Dad’s new girlfriend Trudy (Rossellini) to invest. Attempting to market and sell the mop on her own turns into dismal failure but it’s okay because that’s what everyone expects out of Joy. Heck, that’s what she expects of herself. But with the unflagging support of her best friend Jackie (Polanco), she takes her product to something new – a home shopping network on cable called QVC and an executive there named Neil Walker (Cooper) and a legend is born, not to mention a whole new way to market and sell new products.

Loosely (make it very loosely) based on the life of the real Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano, the movie has a lot of David O. Russell trademarks; a dysfunctional family that seems hell-bent on destroying the dreams of the lead character, resolve in the face of insurmountable odds and an extraordinary performance by Jennifer Lawrence.

Say what you want about Russell (and there are critics who make no secret of the fact that they think him overrated) but he seems to be a muse for Lawrence. Perhaps the most gifted actress of her generation, Lawrence has received most of her Oscar attention (and she’s pretty much a lock for a nomination here after winning the Golden Globe last weekend) in films she has been directed in by Russell, including her win. Some have criticized the film for a variety of reasons, but you can’t fault Lawrence. She has given yet another outstanding performance as Joy, going from a nearly abusive lifestyle that seems bound to keep her down to becoming a wealthy, self-confident self-made entrepreneur whose success is like a protective shield. In the latter part of the movie, there is an almost emotionless feel to Joy who has erected barriers even when expressing warmth to women who were in similar circumstances to herself. I found Lawrence’s range inspiring, and even though her character keeps a lot in, it’s there if you know where to look for it.

In fact, most of the cast does a terrific job here, with De Niro once again showing he can do comedy just as well as anybody, and the trio of Rossellini, Ladd and Madsen all wonderful as older women with at least some sort of quirky characteristics to them although Ladd is more of a traditional grandmother as Hollywood tends to imagine them. Madsen in particular impressed me; she has been to my mind underutilized throughout her career which is a shame; she has given some terrific performances in films like Creator.

Where the movie goes wrong is in a couple of places. For one, the middle third is tough sledding for the viewer as the pace slows to a crawl. The ending is a little bit off-kilter and I left the screening curiously unsatisfied, sort of like craving good Chinese food and eating at Panda Express. One of the complaints I’ve noticed about the film is that most of the characters in the film are really not characters as much as caricatures. I understand the beef; there are actions taken by some of them that for sure don’t feel like things real people would do. However, I think this was a conscious decision by Russell and although at the end of the day I don’t think it worked as well as he envisioned, I understood that this was part of the comic element of the film in which Joy’s family was somewhat ogre-ish, particularly towards her dreams.

I blow hot and cold when it comes to Russell; I think he has an excellent eye for good cinematic material but other than The Fighter there really hasn’t been a film of his that has blown me out of the water. Joy is in many ways the most meh of his movies, neither hot nor cold, good nor bad. It hasn’t lit the box office on fire and quite frankly I’m siding with the moviegoers on this one; it’s certainly one worth seeing on home video but there are plenty of other movies out there in the theaters that I would recommend you see before this one.

REASONS TO GO: Another fine performance by Lawrence. She gets plenty of support from the rest of the cast.
REASONS TO STAY: Lags in the middle. The ending is ludicrous.
FAMILY VALUES: Some rough language.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Joy Mangano, one of the main sources for the Joy character, developed the Miracle Mop (as seen on TV) in 1990 – the same year Jennifer Lawrence was born.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/12/16: Rotten Tomatoes: 60% positive reviews. Metacritic: 56/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Jobs
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT: Carol

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation


Norman Rockwell or Norman Bates?

Norman Rockwell or Norman Bates?

(1989) Holiday Comedy (Warner Brothers) Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, John Randolph, Diane Ladd, E.G. Marshall, Doris Roberts, Randy Quaid, Miriam Flynn, Cody Burger, Ellen Hamilton Latzen, William Hickey, Nicholas Guest, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Brian Doyle-Murray, Mae Questel, Natalia Nogulich, Nicolette Scorsese. Directed by Jeremiah S. Chechnik

hollynquill-2013

We all have our ideas of what an ideal Christmas is – snow on the ground or fun in the sun. Most of our ideals however involve being surrounded by family. There’s nothing quite like a traditional family Christmas.

Clark Griswold (Chase) believes that with all his heart. He has become reasonably successful and provides well for his wife Ellen (D’Angelo), his daughter Audrey (Lewis) and his son Rusty (Galecki – yes that one). His gift to the family is a swimming pool and although the ground is too hard to start digging, he needs to put the deposit down for it before Christmas. He’s counting on his bonus at work to pay that bonus but it is late in arriving.

Clark is planning on having all the grandparents at his place this year – his own parents Clark Sr. (Randolph) and Nora (Ladd) as well as Ellen’s mom (Roberts) and dad (Marshall). Naturally the two sets of parents take to ceaseless bickering.

Add to the mix the unexpected arrival of cousin Eddie (Quaid) and his family in a dilapidated RV which it turns out the family is living in after Eddie lost his job and was forced to sell the family home. Clark offers to buy cousin Eddie’s Christmas presents this year which Eddie gratefully expects. With senile Aunt Bethany (Questel) and crotchety Uncle Lewis (Hickey), things descend into utter chaos.

With nothing going right, Clark loses it a little bit – all right, he loses it a lot, especially when he finds out that his bonus isn’t what he thought it was going to be. Power grids will be overloaded, sleds will fly as will flaming Santas and sewage will explode before Christmas comes to town.

The third movie in the Vacation franchise broke with formula a little bit. For one thing, the Griswolds weren’t fish out of water in some unfamiliar place – they were in their home base which was being invaded by others. Legendary director John Hughes wrote the screenplay based on his own short story which had been published in National Lampoon (the first movie in the franchise was also based on a short story in National Lampoon). Quite frankly this wasn’t his shining hour.

And yet it was a cut above the odious National Lampoon’s European Vacation. There are some terrifically funny moments (like Clark’s sled ride from hell) but not enough of them. However the funny moments are so hilarious it kind of makes up for it. There’s also a heartwarming element that’s present in most of the other Vacations but more so here than in any of the others.

There are those that consider this a “classic” Christmas movie. I wouldn’t quite go that far but it certainly is one of the more popular ones from the 80s. By this point in his career I was finding Chase less funny than he had been during his SNL days (and I think most people agree) and certainly less funny than he’d been in Caddyshack. Still while the Griswolds weren’t particularly subversive, they did strike a chord with the American public and for many people of a certain generation this is required Yuletide viewing. To each their own.

WHY RENT THIS: When it’s funny, it’s funny.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: It’s not funny often enough.

FAMILY VALUES:  Some rude humor and sexuality, more than a bit of bad language and comic violence.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This would be Mae Questel’s final film. She is best known as the voice of Betty Boop.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: The Ultimate Collector’s Edition comes in a Christmas tin with a Santa hat, coasters, an “I Survived a Griswold Family Christmas” button and a plastic cup. While no longer available in stores, you might try picking one up on E-Bay or Amazon. Otherwise you’ll just have to make do with the standard Blu-Ray or DVD which have the same features as this more expensive edition.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $71.3M on a $25M production budget.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Christmas With the Kranks

FINAL RATING: 5/10

NEXT: More of The Holly and The Quill!