New Releases for the Week of July 25, 2019


ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

(Columbia) Leonardo di Caprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Luke Perry, Dakota Fanning, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Timothy Olyphant, Bruce Dern. Directed by Quentin Tarantino

In 1969 the world was undergoing a radical change and so was Hollywood. For action star Rick Dalton and his longtime stunt double Cliff, those changes are getting increasingly hard to navigate. Rick has an ace up his sleeve though – a very famous next door neighbor whose career is just taking off. A young star by the name of Sharon Tate.

See the trailer, clips, video featurettes and promos here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for language throughout, some strong graphic violence, drug use, and sexual references

The Farewell

(A24) Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Shuzhen Zhao. A Chinese-American family returns to China, ostensibly to attend a wedding but really to spend time with their grandmother who has a short time to live but following Chinese tradition hasn’t been told the truth about her condition. The adult daughter of the family has an especially hard time concealing the truth from her beloved Nai Nai in this acclaimed indie comedy from visionary director Lulu Wang.

See the trailer, clips and a video featurette here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Enzian Theater
Rating: PG (for thematic material, brief language and some smoking)

Sea of Shadows

(National Geographic) Marc Davis, Andrea Crosta, Carlos Loret de Mola, Cynthia Smith. When a group of Chinese and Mexican criminals’ over-the-top methods of poaching fish in the Sea of Cortez threaten one of the most endangered species of whales in the world, a team of journalists, activists and undercover agents take on the syndicates to protect the whales and bring the perpetrators to justice.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: NR

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Above the Shadows
Clarita
Dear Comrade
iSmart Shankar
Sword of Trust

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

Asako I & II
Astronaut
Dancing Elephant
Dear Comrade
iSmart Shankar
Judgementall Hai Kya
Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love
The Other Story
Yuli

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG/SARASOTA:

Dead Water
Dear Comrade
Judgementall Hai Kya
The Raft
See You Soon
Skin
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Dear Comrade

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

The Farewell
Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood

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Redemption Road


Morgan Simpson is just realizing that Michael Clarke Duncan switched hats with him when he wasn't looking.

Morgan Simpson is just realizing that Michael Clarke Duncan switched hats with him when he wasn’t looking.

(2010) Drama (Freestyle Releasing) Morgan Simpson, Michael Clarke Duncan, Luke Perry, Kiele Sanchez, Taryn Manning, Tom Skerritt, Melvin van Peebles, Linds Edwards, Catherine McGoohan, Jet Jurgensmeyer, Brooke Byam, Heather Simpson, Charlie Poe, James Cook, Lee Perkins, Wendy Keeling, Cinda McCain, Denise Johnson, Elizabeth Ayers. Directed by Mario van Peebles

 

Singing the blues has few requirements, but they are important. For one, you must have an expressive voice. It doesn’t need to be pretty, but it needs to convey pain and heartache. In fact, sometimes the roughest most un-lovely of voices are best-suited to singing the blues. Secondly, you must be authentic – true believers can spot a phony a mile off. Finally, you must have lived your blues to at least some extent.

In the case of Jefferson Bailey (Simpson) he’s lived those blues to the fullest. A blues singer with stage fright, he is a raging alcoholic deeply in debt living hand to mouth in Austin, Texas. One night a mysterious stranger named Augy (Duncan) shows up with news – his grandfather has passed away and has left him an inheritance. Rather than stick around and wait for an angry loan shark to take payment out of his hide, Jefferson elects to blow town and head to Huntsville, Alabama to collect. As it so happens Augy is headed his way.

The two form a kind of a bond on the way to Huntsville. This is no trip down the Interstate; this is a ride through the back roads of the Deep South. Once they arrive, Jefferson will discover that there is more than meets the eye to his friend Augy and that some things happen for a reason. There is also a cuckolded husband hot on his trail and even though the road to redemption stretches out before him, he must first confront his past in order to make his way down that road.

This is one of those movies that sounds a lot deeper than it actually is. Lots of the characters spend time pontificating on the nature of the blues and how it relates to life. The truth about the blues is this – nobody really knows what it is exactly but they know it when they hear it. Trying to put a handle on the blues is like trying to create an absolute definition of love – it changes from person to person.

The late Michael Clarke Duncan also co-produced this and this is one of his better performances since his Oscar-nominated turn in The Green Mile. There is an air of mystery about him but as the movie progresses we get to see a more human side of Augy. Duncan gives the character the distinct gravitas of his trademark baritone but also the humanity he brought to roles like John Coffey. Those fans of the actor who haven’t seen the film should by all means seek it out; it is a reminder of just what a tremendous actor he was and what a great loss his passing was.

On the flipside, Simpson – who co-wrote the script – seems to be a little bit out of his depth. Much of the movie hangs on his….well, redemption and we don’t get a sense of the journey the man is taking. Sure he has made some incredibly bad choices but we don’t get a sense of who Jefferson is, what prompted him to make those choices and to a great extent that cripples the movie overall.

Those who love the blues will be in for a treat as there are several noted blues artists on the soundtrack including the criminally ignored Blind Willie Dixon. One gets a sense of the roadhouses and juke joints, the summer night sweat with a cold beer and the blues being played well. There may be no more quintessentially American experience than that.

Cinematographer Matthew Irving and director Van Peebles both seem to have a deep abiding affection for the South because it is photographed so beautifully here. There are some beautiful Southern sunsets, small towns and rural fields juxtaposed with neon beer signs and a battered pick-up truck making its way up the highway.

This is a movie meant to appeal to both the heart and the mind. While it has its moments, it just doesn’t quite pull it all together as a whole. While the performances of Sanchez, Skerritt and especially Duncan merit a look, that’s about all I can recommend about it.

WHY RENT THIS: Great soundtrack and cinematography. Duncan, Sanchez and Skerritt excel.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Overly sentimental. Too many homilies. Simpson lacks the charisma for a role as central as his.

FAMILY VALUES: Definite adult themes along with some violence, some sexuality and some foul language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Made its world premiere at the Nashville Film Festival in 2010.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $29,384 on a $2.3M production budget.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Black Snake Moan

FINAL RATING: 6/10

NEXT: My Week With Marilyn