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

Mapplethorpe: The Director’s Cut


Matt Smith gets high.

(2018) Biographical Drama (Goldwyn) Matt Smith, Marianne Rendón, John Benjamin Hickey, Brandon Sklenar, Tina Benko, Mark Moses, Carolyn McCormick, Thomas Philip O’Neill, Mickey O’Hagan, Anthony Michael Lopez, McKinley Belcher III, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Karlee Perez, David J. Cork, Kerry Butler, Hari Nef, Robert George Siveris, John Bolton, Christina Rouner. Directed by Ondi Timmoner

 

There are figures in popular culture that loom large, directly or otherwise, in the national psyche, but for one reason or another we don’t really know much about them well, other than what our own personal prejudices tell us about them. One such is Robert Mapplethorpe.

His name still evokes powerful feelings among many today. Some see him as an artistic genius, one who pushed boundaries on male sexuality and the male body. Others see him as little more than a pornographer, a gay man whose work epitomized the bathhouse scene of New York in the 70s and 80s. His work was so controversial that it was the first (and to date only) exhibition to ever cause the gallery owner displaying it to be arrested on obscenity charges.

This biopic, helmed by able documentary filmmaker Timmoner, stars Matt Smith (roaming much further from Doctor Who than even Gallifrey) in the title role. We see him as a member of the ROTC at Pratt Institute, just before dropping out and moving to Greenwich Village in the 1970s, where he would take up with legendary punk goddess Patti Smith (Rendón) who was then a struggling musician. The two carried on a brief romantic relationship but it soon became obvious that young Robert swung for the other side. Eventually his relationship with gallery owner Sam Wagstaff (Hickey) would lead to him being championed by Wagstaff and his work to be discovered.

This isn’t a very flattering portrait of Mapplethorpe, who here is portrayed as someone who habitually used people and discarded them when they were no longer of use to him – including his own brother. He spent most of his life trying to catch the brass ring and when he finally did, found that it didn’t bring him any more happiness than chasing it did.

Smith is wonderful here, inhabiting his role admirably. The thing with biopics that most viewers, nearly all critics and quite a few filmmakers seem to never understand is that except in very rare cases, the actor’s job is not to portray the subject as they are/were, but as the audience thinks they should be/have been – after all, the audience likely never met Mr. Mapplethorpe or know anyone who did. We have only what we read about him (assuming we’ve read anything about him) or heard abut him or, more to the point, what we think about him. We think of Mapplethorpe as a gay man who was obsessed with male genitalia and homoerotic images; we are given a Mapplethorpe who is just that. So in that sense, Smith is entirely successful.

The movie covers some of the bases here; the effects of his strict Catholic upbringing, his contentious relationship with his father, the estrangement from his brother and so on. Timmoner doesn’t really get us too far into Mapplethorpe’s head; we rarely know what he’s thinking, although to be fair, Mapplethorpe played his opinions pretty close to his chest when he was aiive.

What is more disappointing is that the movie feels choppy and fragmented. There’s no flow to the film, no fluidity. Instead, we move from one set piece to the next, almost as if each scene was directed by someone completely different. It leaves you feeling like the film was directed by committee.

The film was originally released in 2019 without making much of an impression so I’m not exactly sure if anyone was calling for a director’s cut of the film. 12 minutes of additional scenes are added to the movie, which doesn’t really improve the film any. It just means you have to sit through twelve more minutes of it. The expanded edition is available on Hulu and Amazon Prime; most of the others have the original theatrical version.

REASONS TO SEE: Matt Smith loses himself in the role.
REASONS TO AVOID: Fragmented and overly long and ponderous.
FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of profanity, sexuality and nudity, adult themes and drug use.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Mapplethorpe’s mother passed away three days after her son did.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Hoopla, Hulu, Kanopy, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/17/2021: Rotten Tomatoes: 33% positive reviews; Metacritic: 44/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Basquiat
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT:
Cryptozoo

Barry


Even reading a Ralph Ellison book in a Harlem schoolyard as a 20-year-old, the future President can’t get away from Joe Biden!

(2016) Biographical Drama (Netflix) Devon Terrell, Anya Taylor-Jay, Jason Mitchell, Ellar Coltrane Jenna Elfman, Linus Roache, Avi Nash, John Benjamin Hickey, Ashley Judd, Sawyer Pierce, Eric Berryman, Ralph Rodriguez, Danny Henriquez, Tessa Albertson, Tommy Nelson, Annabelle Attanasio, Matt Ball, Markita Prescott. Directed by Vikram Gandhi

 

Barack Obama is a President who has provoked very extreme reactions. To the left he is a hero, a model of decorum and grace, whose intelligence and class has carried him through one of the roughest most vitriolic attacks from the opposition in the history of the Presidency. To the right he is nothing short of a terrorist, a Muslim whose mission was to destroy our country from within. There are some who take the middle ground between the two of course but largely those two extremes have been the popular conception from each political point of view.

But there was a time before that when he was just an ordinary college student. Back then, everyone called him Barry (Terrell) and he had about as much confidence in his future as any college student, maybe even less so. I suspect if anyone had told Barry that he was going to be the 44th President of the United States he’d probably want some of what you’ve been smoking – Barry after all is not above occasionally partaking in the wacky weed.

He has just transferred to Columbia University in New York City looking for a degree in political science. The product of a white mother and an African father, his parents are divorced; his mom is in Hawaii where he grew up, his dad has returned to Kenya. Barry is trying to write a letter to his dad to express what he feels but can’t find the words. Barry also feels like an outside in both the white and African-American spheres.

He meets Charlotte (Joy), the daughter of wealthy parents and the two begin dating but as always Barry isn’t sure where he fits in. He plays street ball with local guys from the neighborhood like PJ (Mitchell) with whom he strikes up a friendship, but he feels like an outsider. Similarly he doesn’t belong in the world of country clubs and pricey restaurants that his girlfriend is used to. His roommate Will (Coltrane) tries to help but mostly the two get high together.

To my way of thinking this isn’t so much a biography of the President as it is an exploration of how young men can be lost in not knowing who they are. Of course, it’s especially true for someone in Barry’s situation but it should ring true for just about everybody. This isn’t, strictly speaking, a biography in any case (Charlotte, for one thing, is a composite character) but it supposedly reflects Obama’s inner turmoil and his personality pretty well at that time of his life.

The overall tone is pretty laid-back which flirts with actual boredom from time to time. There is a whole lot of philosophizing going on and not a ton of conflict. Most of the conflict is pretty much internal; while Obama struggles with finding a place he’s truly comfortable with in both the white world and the African-American and there are moments in which he feels discrimination from both sides, it isn’t as if he is overly oppressed here. There are times he is hassled by a University Security guard for likely the color of his skin. He also is targeted by angry African-Americans who resent the opportunities he is getting because of his Caucasian blood.

Terrell does a pretty good job of playing Obama, capturing his very recognizable cadence of speech. This isn’t always a flattering portrait but then again, think of yourself as a 20-year-old and see if a film biography of you at that age will be one you’re particularly proud of. It’s a pretty layered performance and Terrell captures the essence of the man. How close it is to the real man is best left answered by those who know the ex-President well (which certainly doesn’t describe me) but I think that there are at least elements of the real Barack Obama here, or at least the real Barack Obama at 20.

As I’ve said with similar movies about public figures of recent years, I don’t know that this gives us any real insight into the heart and mind of our 44th president who is a notoriously private individual. It isn’t scintillating material but those who admire President Obama will find this interesting. Those who feel the opposite aren’t going to watch this anyway.

REASONS TO GO: It seems to be an attempt to humanize the 44th President by portraying him as a young college student trying to find himself.
REASONS TO STAY: I thought it went a little too low-key.
FAMILY VALUES: You’ll find a little bit of violence, some drug use, a smidgen of sensuality and a small amount of profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is the debut feature film of both director Vikram Gandhi and star Devon Terrell.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Netflix
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/29/17: Rotten Tomatoes: 80% positive reviews. Metacritic: 72/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Southside With You