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

Hitchcock/Truffaut


The man who is arguably the greatest director of all time frames a point like he frames a shot.

The man who is arguably the greatest director of all time frames a point like he frames a shot.

(2015) Documentary (Cohen) Alfred Hitchcock, François Truffaut, Martin Scorsese, Matthieu Amalric (voice), Wes Anderson, Paul Schrader, Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, Olivier Assayas, Arnaud Desplechin, Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Directed by Kent Jones

Greatness isn’t a title we’re allowed to proclaim for ourselves; it is rather bestowed upon us by those who follow in our footsteps. And, hopefully, an honor bestowed upon a favored few.

Certainly, Alfred Hitchcock and François Truffaut are worthy of such accolades. Hitchcock, once lauded as the Master of Suspense, was mainly relegated to the standing of a competent director of popular entertainment. It wasn’t until Nouvelle Vague darling Truffaut interviewed him and wrote a book about their conversation that Hitchcock began to be taken more seriously by film cognoscenti.

Much of the documentary is about the conversation between the two legends, with audiotape from the actual interviews that are augmented by film clips and commentary by ten modern directors who are clearly influenced by Hitchcock in particular. I don’t know that the commentary augments the book with much insight other than as to how Hitchcock has influenced modern movies, particularly in how carefully he framed and set up his shots. You might not know it from looking at him, but Hitch was a driven artist who labored intensely to make his vision come to life.

Much has been made of Hitchcock’s disdain for actors and in many ways he used them as living props. He was a visual storyteller more than anything, which makes sense considering he got his start in silent cinema. He worked with some of the great names in Hollywood – Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Doris Day, Tony Perkins, Janet Leigh and so on – but for him, they meant little other than how they looked in the shot. He was a master storyteller however and he always got the best from his actors, no matter how much they personally disliked him.

The thing is though; I’m not sure why this documentary exists at all. The book that it is about is a landmark book that essentially provides readers with a Film Directing 101 course and continues to do so to this day. Anyone interested in going into movie production should make it required reading. But the question is what does this documentary give you that you couldn’t get from reading the book yourself?

The answer is not much. Sure some of the director commentary helps, and Jones – whose day job is as a film historian (he also has collaborated in the past with Scorsese, a well-known film buff) – provides some historical context to Hitchcock’s career. Some of the footage of his older films from the silent era and in England in the 30s was stuff I hadn’t seen. I wish there had been more of it.

Certainly there is plenty of interest here and if you haven’t read the book, this is a fine introduction to it. I read it back when I was in middle school and high school and my lifelong love of film was in part primed by it and other such tomes (The MGM Story, for example) for which I’m duly grateful. However, recommending this has to come with a codicil – read the book. If you have more than a passing interest in movies, you should read it anyway.

REASONS TO GO: Fascinating insights to some of his classics. Gives a great director his due.
REASONS TO STAY: Couldn’t ya just read the book? Glosses over most of his films other than Vertigo and Psycho.
FAMILY VALUES: Some images of violence as well as suggestive material.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The conversations, recorded on audiotape and partially on film, took place over a week in a conference room on the Universal lot in 1962.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/29/15: Rotten Tomatoes: 96% positive reviews. Metacritic: 79/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Hitchcock
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT: In the Heart of the Sea

Twenty Feet from Stardom


Sweet harmony personified.

Sweet harmony personified.

(2013) Musical Documentary (Radius) Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fisher, Judith Hill, Tata Vega, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, Bette Midler, Chris Botti, Lynn Mabry, Claudia Lennear, Sheryl Crow, Patti Austin, Gloria Jones, Janice Pendarvis, Stevvi Alexander. Directed by Morgan Neville

Florida Film Festival 2013

We all know the stars. Their faces, their voices, their music. We can hum their songs in our sleep. We don’t always get the full components of what goes into that classic music however. We rarely know who the backup singers are.

This documentary aims to rectify that. Focusing mainly on four African-American women, the movie looks at the importance of back-up singers to popular music of the last say, 50 years or so. There’s Darlene Love, for example, who not only sang leads on a lot of classic songs (“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” comes to mind) but her voice can be heard on some of Phil Spector’s classic hits – as part of The Blossoms, an early girl group she fronted, her powerful voice decorated some of the classic songs of the ’60s. Still, she’s primarily known as playing Danny Glover’s wife on the Lethal Weapon films.

Merry Clayton, like many of the great backup singers the daughter of a preacher, is perhaps best remembered as the female voice on the Rolling Stones classic “Gimme Shelter” for which she was awakened in the middle of the night to do and sang in pajamas and curlers.  She’s sang for some of the biggest names in music and while her face may not be familiar, I guarantee you’ve heard her voice many times.

Lisa Fisher may have the most amazing voice of them all. While much in demand (she has been the Stones’ touring backup vocalist for more than 20 years) she has for the most part shunned a solo career (although she won a Grammy for her lone solo album). She prefers to sing for the simple joy of singing, preferring to remain in the background rather than pursuing the solo career she more than has the talent to achieve.

Judith Hill famously sang at Michael Jackson’s memorial service and is heavily featured in the documentary of the rehearsals for his final tour that never happened due to his untimely death. She writes and performs not only for herself but for other big stars and recently became a contestant on the singing competition The Voice which I would count her a heavy favorite to win it all.

These women and many others like them (and a few men too) may not be well known but they are absolute titans in the industry. The respect that is paid them by the stars who are interviewed is palpable and as is mentioned by Claudia Lennear during the film, most people when they’re singing along to a song are singing what the backup singers are singing.

I will confess to having been a music critic for nearly a dozen years in the San Francisco Bay Area and like most people – critics included – I kind of took the contributions of these amazing singers for granted. One of the best thing this movie does is break down the importance of the background singers in the song. One stark illustration of this is found when ”Gimme Shelter” is played with the tracks removed one at a time until only Clayton’s vocal track remains. It’s a very simple yet effective reminder of the power of the human voice.

The human connection through music is universal. There are those who feel a particular passion for it and have the talent and the desire to express themselves through their music. Some of them make it and some of them don’t regardless of how good they are – it’s largely a matter of luck and timing. For my money, regardless of the fame and fortune these ladies and others like them have gathered (or lack thereof) they are every one of them stars in my book. If you love rock and roll or hell, any sort of pop music, you owe it to yourself to see this. It will change your outlook on music – in a good way – forever.

REASONS TO GO: Amazing music and spiritually uplifting. Everything a documentary should be.

REASONS TO STAY: If musical documentaries don’t interest you…

FAMILY VALUES:  There are a few swear words and some brief nudity.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Producer Gil Friesen, the former head of A&M records, came up with the idea and title after attending a Leonard Cohen show with his friend Jimmy Buffett. Unfortunately, Friesen passed away shortly before the film debuted at Sundance earlier this year.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/6/13: Rotten Tomatoes: no score yet. Metacritic: no score yet; the film has appeared at Sundance but won’t see theatrical release until June 14th but frankly, I don’t see critics not falling in love with this early Oscar contender.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Young @ Heart

FINAL RATING: 10/10

NEXT: Nancy, Please and more from the 2013 Florida Film Festival