Lily Topples the World


Great art requires patience.

(2021) Documentary (Wheelhouse Creative) Lily Hevesh, Will Smith, Katy Perry, Lucy Belvin, Shane O’Brien, Mark Hevesh, Danny Lichtenfield, Aaron Kyro, Brian Cen, Yong Wa Kim, Lucas Dotson, Catherine Hevesh, Chris Wright, Nathan Heck, Jason Epnick, Tiffany Szeto. Directed by Jeremy Workman

 

In this era of social influencers and instant YouTube stars, one of the biggest is Lily Hevesh. With over three million subscribers and more than a billion views of her more than three hundred videos, she has become a YouTube celebrity. What does she do for this fame? She knocks down dominos.

Actually, it’s a lot more complicated than that. She refers to it as “domino art” and even that sells it a bit short. She sets up dominos in complicated lines and structures, utilizing architectural and engineering skills as well as aesthetic ones. Putting these installations together takes a great deal of patience and a light touch. The dominos are not the standard black with dots kinds, but colored pieces that form figures and words and cause viewers to ooh and aah when they are knocked down.

You’ve probably seen some of her videos on social media without knowing it was her – she goes by the name of Hevesh5 online – and many of her peers who also create domino art were quite surprised to discover that she’s a young woman – the niche field is dominated by men. There is no doubt, however, that Lily is one of the very best at what she does, if not THE best.

The documentary picks up with her freshman year at Rensselaer Polytechnic University, where the freshman class is delighted to discover that they have a celebrity among them. Lily’s eventual roommate Lucy Belvin is shocked to discover that the celebrity is her roommate – Lucy was unfamiliar with her channel before she met Lily. We eventually discover that Lily was adopted at age one from a Chinese orphanage by a white couple in New Hampshire; Lily was raised in a largely Caucasian environment, to the point where she describes that she would do double takes when seeing Asian faces because they would be so rarely glimpsed when she was growing up.

She developed her fascination with dominos at a young age and started her YouTube channel at nine, where it steadily increased until it became the juggernaut it is today. Her one to three minute videos show a good eye for camera movement and an understanding of the physics of toppling, which unfortunately doesn’t translate so much to the documentary which often captures the dominos from the wrong angle, or the dominos pass out of frame. Also, Workman often puts music over the toppling dominos; Lily’s videos allow you to hear that lovely clicking of the falling dominos.

After a year at RPI, Lily came to the conclusion that college would not be the path to what she wanted to do, which was to further develop her YouTube channel and her brand, translating to her own line of competition toppling dominos. To do so, she attends a number of toy fairs hoping too hook up with manufacturers, most of whom pass because they see her dominos as more of a niche market. But her persistence and determination are inspiring.

Besides that, she’s just a charming subject, very genuine indeed. She truly appreciates her fans who in turn treat her with hero-worship, which she reacts with compassion. I would have liked to have gotten some insight as to her feelings about the recognition but that’s a question that’s never asked. In fact, a lot of questions don’t get asked here. Instead, we are treated to ten different large-format installations that get toppled from all over the world, including one on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and her many appearances at conventions for YouTube content creators. I didn’t think it would be possible to end up being bored with domino toppling, but that happens here. Even Lily would be the first to tell you why she keeps her videos at three minutes apiece.

I don’t think that Workman, who had previously done the excellent documentary The World Before Your Feet, intended to make this a documentary about domino toppling, but the insistence of putting so many installations into the 90 minute run time turns it into just that. The most interesting parts of the movie are those that center on Lily’s journey, her reams and ambitions and what makes her get out of bed every morning. I wish we could have seen more of that.

The movie is currently playing at the Florida Film Festival where Florida residents can view it virtually by going to the link below. Currently without a distributor, the movie will doubtlessly be making the estival rounds throughout the spring and summer but I think it likely it will find a home with some distributor and end up with either a limited theatrical run or maybe even a spot on PBS or Discovery Plus. In the meantime, you can view Lily’s YouTube channel here and subscribe to it if you wish.

REASONS TO SEE: As fascinating as the domino art is, Lily’s story about finding her identity and creating a brand for herself are much more so.
REASONS TO AVOID: Spent too much time on toppling dominos and not enough on Lily’s story.
FAMILY VALUES: Suitable for all audiences.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Lily was responsible for the domino toppling scene in the Will Smith movie Collateral Beauty.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Virtual Cinema (through April 18)
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/14/21: Rotten Tomatoes: 92% positive reviews; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Levitated Mass
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT:
Looking for a Lady with Fangs and a Moustache

New Releases for the Week of January 17, 2020


DOLITTLE

(Universal) Robert Downey Jr., Michael Sheen, Antonio Banderas, Jim Broadbent, Jessie Buckley, Harry Collett, Emma Thompson (voice), Rami Malek (voice). Directed by Stephen Gaghan

The beloved series of children’s stories gets a modern retelling as the Victorian-era veterinarian and physician Dr. John Dolittle, who much prefers the company of animals to humans, races against time to save a gravely ill little girl, voyaging to a mysterious remote island in search of a cure. Did I mention he can talk to the animals?

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Fantasy/Family
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for some action, rude humor and brief language)

Bad Boys for Life

(Columbia) Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Joe Pantoliano. Bad boy detectives Lowrey and Burnett go for one last ride on the mean streets of Miami to take on a well-heeled and ludicrously armed villain who is out to blow away the both of them. Wha’cha gonna do?

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Action
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for strong bloody violence, language throughout, sexual references, and brief drug use)
 

Color Out of Space

(RLJE) Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Brendan Meyer. When a meteorite lands in a small New England town, it brings with it an extraterrestrial organism that infects the minds and bodies of the inhabitants. Based on a classic H.P. Lovecraft story.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Now Playing: Enzian Theater (Wednesday Only)
Rating: NR

The Song of Names

(Sony Classics) Tim Roth, Clive Owen, Catherine McCormack, Jonah Hauer King. As Europe prepares to erupt into World War II, a prodigal violinist disappears without a trace on the eve of his debut concert performance. His adopted brother spends his life trying to track him down and discover why he fled so abruptly.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG-13 (for some strong language, brief sexual material, thematic elements and smoking)

Weathering with You

(GKIDS) Starring the voices of Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori, Tsubasa Honda, Sakura Kiryu. A young runaway surviving (barely) on the streets of Tokyo meets a young girl who can seemingly control the weather.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for suggestive material, some violence and language)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Anjaam Pathira
Entha Manchivaadavuraa
Intrigo: Death of an Author
Miracle in Cell No. 7
Pattas

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE/KEY WEST:

Anjaam Pathira
Big Brother
Disturbing the Peace
Entha ManchivaadavuraaNana Mori
Host
Intrigo: Death of an Author
Invisible Life
Miracle in Cell No. 7
My Hindu Friend
Pattas

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG/SARASOTA:

Ashfall
Entha Manchivaadavuraa
Pattas

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

63 Up
Entha Manchivaadavuraa

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Bad Boys for Life
Color Out of Space
Dolittle
Weathering For You

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

Miami Jewish Film Festival, Miami Beach, FL
Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival, West Palm Beach, FL
Saint Augustine Film Festival, St. Augustine, FL
Sunshine City Film Festival, St. Petersburg, FL

New Releases for the Week of December 27, 2019


LITTLE WOMEN

(Columbia) Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, Meryl Streep. Directed by Greta Gerwig

This re-imagining of the classic Louisa May Alcott novel introduces the four March sisters as they struggle to live life independently on their own terms. This could be your Best Picture at the Oscars in a couple of months, folks.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for thematic elements and brief smoking)

Good Newwz

(Zee) Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor, Diljit Dosanjh, Kiara Advani. Two couples – one a blue-collar husband and wife from Mumbai and a posh wealthy couple from Paripat, are both trying to have a child at the same time and despite their personal antipathy towards each other, find themselves tied together in their quest for a baby.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Cinemark Universal Citywalk, Touchstar Southchase
Rating: PG-13 (for traumatic material including violent images)

Spies in Disguise

(20th Century Fox) Starring the voices of Will Smith, Tom Holland, Rashida Jones, Ben Mendelsohn. A suave superspy is forced to team up with a nerdy scientist when the spy is transformed into a pigeon. With the fate of the world on the line, the two opposites must learn to work together.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for action, violence and rude humor)

Uncut Gems

(A24) Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Eric Bogosian, LaKeith Stanfield. A New York City jeweler with a penchant for gambling looks to make that score that gamblers only dream about, but must balance his family, his business and his adversaries who are closing in like sharks from all sides if he is to get the ultimate win.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, AMC Lake Square, AMC New Smyrna, Cinemark Orlando, Cinemark Universal Citywalk, Cobb Daytona, Cobb Plaza Cinema, Enzian Theater, Epic Clermont, Epic Mount Dora, Epic West Volusia, Regal Ormond Beach, Regal Oviedo Marketplace, Regal Pavilion Port Orange, Regal Pointe Orlando, Regal Waterford Lakes, Satellite Ocean Walk, Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk
Rating: R (for pervasive strong language, violence, some sexual content and brief drug use)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Driving License
The Mall, The Merrier
Synonyms

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE/KEY WEST:

Ip Man 4: The Finale
The Mall, The Merrier
Midnight Family

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG/SARASOTA:

The Kingmaker
Mathu Vadalara

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

A Christmas Tale

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Little Women
Midnight Family
Spies in Disguise
Synonyms
Uncut Gems

New Releases for the Week of October 11, 2019


GEMINI MAN

(Paramount) Will Smith, Clive Owen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Benedict Wong, Ralph Brown, Douglas Hodge, Linda Emond. Directed by Ang Lee

An elite assassin finds himself targeted by a younger man who seems in all ways to be his equal. It turns out, there’s a very good reason for that.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, video featurettes and B-roll video here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Science Fiction
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for violence and action throughout, and brief strong language)

The Addams Family

(United Artists) Starring the voices of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Bette Midler. Although better known as an iconic television series, the Addams’ originally started off as a series of cartoons by illustrator Charles Addams. Now they come full circle in this animated feature about the creepy and kooky family.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for macabre and suggestive humor, and some action)

Fronteras

(Vertical) Steven Sean Garland, Wade Everett, Cortez Chappell, Larry Coulter. A Hispanic border patrol agent must confront his own sense of morality when a task force arrives to contain a deadly narcotic that is beginning to sweep through the Southwest.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Action
Now Playing: Touchstar Southchase
Rating: NR

Jexi

(CBS) Adam DeVine, Alexandra Shipp, Michael Peña. Rose Byrne. A millennial addicted to his phone and with no appreciable life gets an upgrade which includes Jexi, a kind of cyber-life coach and cheerleader who helps him develop a better life. Unfortunately the A.I. begins to get jealous of her human’s new-found friends and wants to keep him all to itself.

See the trailer, clips and interviews here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for strong/crude sexual content and language throughout, some drug use and graphic nudity)

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool

(Abramorama) Miles Davis, Carl Lumbly, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock. Davis was one of the greatest innovators in the history of jazz. This is his story.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Music Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian Theater
Rating: NR

Polaroid

(Vertical) Kathryn Prescott, Mitch Pileggi, Grace Zabriskie, Tyler Young. A high school student discovers a vintage Polaroid camera and begins to take photos of her friends until she discovers the horrifying truth; that those whose pictures are taken by the camera meet grisly ends.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Touchstar Southchase
Rating: PG-13 (for violence/terror, thematic elements, brief strong language, some teen drinking and drug material)

The Sky is Pink

(Gravitas) Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar, Zaira Wasim, Ronit Saraf.  The relationship of an Indian couple is seen through the eyes of their teenage daughter who is battling a lethal disease.

See the trailer, clips and a video featurette here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Family Drama
Now Playing: AMC West Oaks
Rating: NR

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Adhya Rathiri
Cuck
Dilili in Paris
Family History
Indian Horse
Lucky Day
The Parts You Lose
Semper Fi

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE/KEY WEST:

Adhya Rathiri
The Dead Center
Durj
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
First Love
High Strung Free Dance
Lucy in the Sky
Where’s My Roy Cohn?

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG/SARASOTA:

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
Family History
Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Adhya Rathiri
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
Gemini Man

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

South Asian Film Festival, Maitland
Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa

New Releases for the Week of May 24, 2019


ALADDIN

(Disney) Will Smith, Naomi Scott, Mena Massoud, Marwan Kenzari, Billy Magnusson, Nasim Pedrad, Alan Tudyk (voice), Jordan Nash. Directed by Guy Ritchie

Continuing Disney’s recent spate of live action remakes of animated hits, a young Arabian thief discovers a magic lamp and frees the genie within, allowing him to be transformed into a handsome prince to win the princess of his dreams. However, an evil sorcerer has his own plans for the lamp.

See the trailer, video featurettes, clips and promos here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Family
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for some action/peril)

Booksmart

(Annapurna/United Artists) Kathryn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Billie Lourd, Skyler Gisondo Two hard-working high school seniors who were academic champions at their school come to the realization that they should have spent a little more time having fun. They are therefore determined to cram four years of fun into a single night.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, video featurettes and B-roll video here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for strong sexual content and language throughout, drug use and drinking – all involving teens)

BrightBurn

(Screen Gems) Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones. A childless couple find a child in a crashed spacecraft and raise them on their own. Sound familiar? Think of this as Superman Dark.

See the trailer and a clip here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for horror violence/bloody images, and language)

India’s Most Wanted

(Fox STAR) Arjun Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma, Prasanth, Gaurav Mishra. Based on the true story of the largest covert operation in the history of India in which a vicious terrorist is captured without firing a single bullet.

See the trailer and clips here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Action
Now Playing: Touchstar Southchase
Rating: NR

Photograph

(Amazon) Nawazuddin Siddiqi, Sanya Malhotra, Akash Sinha, Abdul Quadir Amin. A struggling street photographer in Mumbai, heavily pressured by his grandmother to marry, manages to convince a shy young stranger to pose as his fiancé. Unexpectedly, the two form a deeper bond that transforms them in ways they couldn’t have predicted.

See the trailer and a clip here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Romance
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG-13 (for some thematic material)

PM Narendra Modi

(Rising Star) Vivek Oberoi, Boman Irani, Barkha Bhist, Anjan Srivastav. The story of the often controversial Indian Prime Minister, who was recently re-elected to a second term.

See the trailer, clips and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: AMC West Oaks
Rating: NR

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Assimilate
Between Maybes
Combat Obscura
The Poison Rose
The Professor

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

All is True
Between Maybes
The Cold Blue
Non-Fiction
Sita

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG:

Isabelle
Ratnamanjari
Sita

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Between Maybes
Sita

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Aladdin
Booksmart
BrightBurn

Bright


Not your two ordinary cops.

(2017) Fantasy (Netflix) Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, Edgar Ramirez, Lucy Fry, Veronica Ngo, Alex Meraz, Happy Anderson, Ike Barinholtz, Dawn Olivieri, Matt Gerald, Margaret Cho, Joseph Piccuirro, Brad William Henke, Jay Hernandez, Enrique Murciano, Scarlet Spencer, Andrea Navedo, Kenneth Cho, Bobby Naderi, Carlos Linares, Bunnie Rivera. Directed by David Ayer

 

This Netflix film, released last Christmas, is a perfect example of the dichotomy between critics and audiences. Film critics hammered the film, calling it confusing and preposterous. Audiences loved it, making it one of the most watched non-theatrical movies ever. Netflix called for a sequel which is likely to be on the streaming giant’s front page in two to three years.

Smith, one of the most appealing actors in Hollywood for the past two decades, stars as a bitter and curmudgeonly L.A. cop who has a new partner that he doesn’t want. That sounds like the plot to dozens of cop buddy movies but this one’s a little different – it turns out his partner, Nick (Edgerton) is not just a different ethnicity. He’s an Orc – a completely different species.

The two are on the trail of a magic wand so powerful that whoever wields it can essentially bend the world to their will. Fortunately, only a select few can actually wield the wand; these worthies are called “Brights” and they only appear once every generation or so. Also on the trail of the wand is a bunch of corrupt cops, a gang of Orcs (who are portrayed here essentially as low-riding gangbangers) and an evil elf named Leilah (Rapace). Assisting Nick and Daryl (the Smith character’s name) is a less corrupt elf named Tikka (Fry).

There are some pretty decent effects here and Smith has never been so badass as he is in this film. I’m not kidding when I say that this is his best performance in a decade. Daryl walks around in a perpetually foul mood, like there’s a rock in his shoe he can’t quite get rid of or he has a particularly painful case of hemorrhoids. Either way, he’s far from cheerful; he’s like the anti-Fresh Prince.

It should come as no surprise that Max Landis wrote this; one of the things he does extremely well as a writer is world-building. The world of Bright is believable despite the mash-up of high fantasy and urban crime drama. There is a lot of detail and one gets a lot more detail that didn’t make it into the script. This is the kind of thing that can turn a single picture into a franchise.

David Ayer is the perfect director for this. Not so much for the fantasy elements although he is just fine with those but there are few directors who intuitively understand the workings of an urban crime drama like Ayer, whose previous credits include Training Day (as a writer), End of Watch, Harsh Times and Street Kings.

I don’t understand all the critical hate; this is really a good movie but I suppose this kind of fantasy mash-up isn’t for everybody. Still, I found it not just solidly entertaining but actually absorbing. This is one I wouldn’t mind seeing regularly (I’ve already watched it several times since it debuted). As far as I’m concerned, I only wish that this movie had a more widespread theatrical run; I would have liked to have seen it on a big movie theater screen. Ah well, if wishes were horses…there would undoubtedly be a few of them trotting around in the world of Bright.

REASONS TO GO: The filmmakers do an excellent job of world-building. Will Smith is at his badass best in this one.
REASONS TO STAY: The final action sequence is a bit disappointing.
FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of profanity, fantasy violence and some nudity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: With a $90 million production budget, this is the most expensive Netflix movie to date. Also, it is the first Netflix film to generate a sequel which was signed shortly before the movie was released to the streaming service.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Netflix
CRITICAL MASS: As of 6/29/18: Rotten Tomatoes: 26% positive reviews: Metacritic: 29/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Alien Nation
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
Three Identical Strangers

Collateral Beauty


Just sitting on a park bench chatting with Death; nothing crazy going on here...

Just sitting on a park bench chatting with Death; nothing crazy going on here…

(2016) Drama (New Line) Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Peña, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Jacob Lattimore, Naomie Harris, Ann Dowd, Lisa Colón-Zayas, Natalie Gold, Kylie Rogers, Shirley Rumierk, Alyssa Cheatham, Benjamin Snyder, Mary Beth Peil, Andy Taylor, Michael Cumpsty, Jonathan Rivera Morales, Joseph Castillo-Midyett, Ella Monte-Brown. Directed by David Frankel

 

We all deal with grief in different ways. Some of us pour ourselves into our work; others lose all focus. Some of us rage against the universe; others try to find something constructive to do, such as create or work for a charity. Sooner or later however all of us must deal with the loss of a loved one.

Howard (Smith) is doing just that. His beloved daughter has passed away and now, two years later, the successful advertising agency he built is floundering, losing clients left and right because Howard, their main creative force, just doesn’t care anymore. His best friends all work at the company; Whit (Norton), who co-founded the company with him, Claire (Winslet) who has given up marriage and children to give her full focus on the company and Simon (Peña), the numbers man.

There is an offer on the table to buy the company but Howard won’t even consider it. All of the principals stand to lose everything if they can’t salvage the situation and the window of opportunity is rapidly closing. Whit, Claire and Simon, desperate to understand what’s going on with Howard, hire a private detective (Dowd) to figure out what their friend is doing. Nothing much; mainly building domino constructions, biking back and forth from work and writing letters.

The latter is kind of the peculiar part; they’re not letters to people but to things; concepts, really. He’s been writing to Love, Death and Time. The three partners hit upon an idea that, well, never would have occurred to me; to hire three unemployed actors that Whit has found who can play the parts of Love, Death and Time who will personally answer Howard’s letters. They’re not really hoping that this performance will bring Howard back but the detective can film Howard talking to them (yelling at them really) and then digitally remove the three actors so that Howard can be proven incompetent and the sale go through without him.

The actors that Whit recruits – Brigitte (Mirren) who plays Death, Amy (Knightley) who plays Love (now, that I can believe) and Raffi (Lattimore) who plays Time each begin to spend time with one of the partners – Brigitte with Simon, Amy with Whit and Raffi with Claire – and end up helping them with their own problems. In the meantime, Howard has started attending a support group for grieving parents run by the lovely Madeleine (Harris) and looks like he might finally be emerging from his shell. But will it be in time to save everything he’s built, including his friendships?

If the plot summary sounded implausible that’s pretty much because it is. I can’t imagine “friends” doing something that awful to a friend, and the movie portrays them as genuinely concerned for Howard’s well-being. I can’t really reconcile the actions of concocting an elaborate scam to prove their friend incompetent (which has other ramifications beyond the sale of his company) with all the mea culpa chest-beating about what a great guy Howard is and how much they “miss” the old Howard. I mean, friends just don’t do that.

The cast is one of the best you’ll see gathered in a single movie with a couple of Oscar winners and four nominees. None of them will be adding to their nomination total here but the performances are nonetheless solid. Peña caught my attention for a very emotional performance as a family man facing a terrible crisis of his own, and Smith who is the main performance in what is essentially an ensemble cast gets to keep everything in until the last scene in which he unleashes some of his best acting of his career.

That ending however contains a twist so unbelievable that at that point most people are just going to throw their hands up in the air and give up on the movie, and I can’t blame them. However, if you do as I do and just enjoy the ride rather than try to make sense of things, you’ll be far happier.

Now as you can tell the critical response has been harsh. Keep in mind however that most professional critics don’t like being emotionally manipulated and films that do that tend to get harsh scores. In that sense, critics can’t be trusted with films like this. You really have to go and experience it on your own and judge for yourself. You, after all, may not mind being having your emotions manipulated. Maybe you need it. I do, sometimes. Sometimes I need the release of a good cry. Catharsis makes us all emotionally healthier after all.

REASONS TO GO: Strong performances throughout, particularly by Peña and Smith. The premise is at least intriguing.
REASONS TO STAY: Many of the plot twists are telegraphed. The ending is a bit preposterous.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a little bit of profanity but mostly the themes are pretty adult in nature.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Winslet, Mirren and Smith were all nominated for Oscars in 2007, although only Mirren was victorious.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/7/17: Rotten Tomatoes: 12% positive reviews. Metacritic: 24/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Meet Joe Black
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT: The True Memoirs of an International Assassin

New Releases for the Week of December 16, 2016


Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

(Disney) Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Jimmy Smits. Directed by Gareth Edwards

The first stand-alone theatrical film in the Star Wars universe concerns the plans of the Death Star. How did the Rebels acquire them? It was only a couple of lines about how many died getting those plans to the Alliance. Now we can see the story of how it happened. Expect this to be one of the biggest (if not the biggest) box office hits of the year.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and featurettes here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D
Genre: Science Fiction
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action)

Collateral Beauty

(New Line) Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet. After a successful advertising executive on Madison Avenue suffers an incalculable tragedy, he retreats from life, trying to find answers. In his suffering, he writes letters to Love, Time and Death. What he doesn’t expect is to get personal answers.

See the trailer, clips, an interview and a featurette here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements and brief strong language)

Jackie

(Fox Searchlight) Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup. The story of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, one of America’s most iconic figures of the 20th century, at one of the defining points in American history – the assassination of her husband. Portman’s performance is considered the strong favorite to take the Oscar for Best Actress this year.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, a featurette and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: Enzian Theater (opens on Wednesday)

Rating: R (for brief strong violence and some language)

La La Land

(Summit) Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt. An actress and a musician, both struggling, are drawn together by their passion for their art and eventually that passion is amplfied  for each other. However as they each begin to achieve success they are forced to make choices between their relationship and their careers which threaten both.

See the trailer, interviews, a featurette, a clip and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Musical
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, Regal Winter Park Village (expanding Christmas Day)

Rating: R (for some disturbing violence and language throughout)

We Are X

(Drafthouse) Yoshiki, Gene Simmons, Toshi, Pata. In America, the band X are punk legends, but this isn’t about them. This is about the Japanese band X, one of the most accomplished metal bands in the world.  Their story isn’t well-known in America nor is their music but that should change once people see this documentary, part of the Music Mondays series at the Enzian. This is a band that may be considered rock gods but that doesn’t mean they’ve had it easy.

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

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Music Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian Theater (Monday only)

Rating: R (for some language)

Suicide Squad


Wanna come out and play?

Wanna come out and play?

(2016) Superhero (Warner Brothers) Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Cara Delevingne, Jay Hernandez, Jai Courtney, Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Karen Fukuhara, Adam Beach, Kenneth Choi, Alain Chanoine, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Common, Jim Parrack, David Harbour, Shailyn Pierre-Dixon. Directed by David Ayer

 

There are those who maintain that a hero is nothing without a memorable villain to oppose him. That’s largely true; what would James Bond be without Blofeld, Holmes without Moriarty or Luke Skywalker without Darth Vader? We usually see things from the hero’s point of view but rarely do we get a glimpse into the world of the super villain.

Following the events of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the American government is extremely nervous. What would happen, posits Amanda Waller (Davis) who works for a shadowy intelligence agency, if Superman had instead of saving the world decided to destroy it? Who would stop him? Waller has an idea, one that is magnificent in its simplicity and alarming at its utter amorality.

She “recruits” (i.e. forces) several super villains locked up in the Belle Reve black ops prison in the swamps of Louisiana to form up a team to take on certain situations which are essentially hopeless. Situations in which the superheroes that are out in public (which are essentially Batman (Affleck) and the Flash (Miller) at this point) shouldn’t be risked as they aren’t exactly expendable. These guys are exactly that. Waller knows that and at the same time, she knows they have nothing to lose by running. She has a solution that recalls The Running Man to a certain extent but absolutely doesn’t say anything particularly nice about the woman.

And who are these guys? For one, there’s Deadshot (Smith), an assassin for hire who never misses with any firearm you give him. Then there’s Harley Quinn (Robbie), the deranged ex-psychiatrist who is now the Joker’s (Leto) girlfriend but who is a formidable opponent of her own. Then there’s Diablo (Hernandez), a gang banger who can shoot flames in any direction but when his powers caused the death of his wife and son, is attempting to reform and has vowed to never use his powers again.

=Add to that list Killer Croc (Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a horribly mutated man who is half man, half crocodile and eats people when he gets the chance. Then there’s Enchantress, a demonic spirit that has possessed archaeologist June Moon (Delevingne) and possesses incredible magic powers, Captain Boomerang (Courtney), an Aussie thief whose weapon of choice is a boomerang that he is absolutely deadly accurate with. Finally there’s Slipknot (Beach), whose ability to climb any surface makes him a useful scout.

Overseeing these representatives of the lunatic fringe is Captain Rick Flagg (Kinnaman), a Navy SEAL who just happens to be Professor Moon’s boyfriend – and who is himself tough as nails. Having his back is Katana (Fukuhara), a Japanese martial artist with an enchanted sword that captures the souls of its victims – which include her husband among their number. Katana is able to communicate with the spirits in the blade, including her late hubby.

They are battling a mystical opponent who wants to essentially open a rift in the dimension that will end civilization as we know it. The problem is that the Suicide Squad as they have come to be known as don’t really give a rat’s tush about civilization. If they can stop fighting amongst themselves, though, they might just come through of it alive. The odds are not good for either however.

Let’s be blunt to start out; the DC Extended Universe (what they call their cinematic division) has not had the kind of success that Marvel has and the critics have absolutely excoriated this movie. Now, I will be the first to say that DC’s cinematic path hasn’t caught on for a reason; in trying to duplicate the tone of the very successful Dark Knight trilogy of Christopher Nolan. You’ll notice that the Marvel cinematic universe is anything but.

But is this movie really that bad? I don’t think so…for one thing it’s entertaining as all get out. Ayers is a director who has a very fine eye and a well-developed story-telling sense. He also knows how important it is for there to be fun in the equation, and there’s lots of great by-play between the characters and a lot of humor injected into the script.

He also has a helluva cast. Smith, one of the biggest stars in the world, has rarely been better than he is here. Yes, his Deadshot is one of the more developed characters in the film, but Smith gets to play a villain who has some human qualities as well (he’s absolutely devoted to his daughter, played by Pierre-Dixon for one). He also shows the kind of leadership skills shown by Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers in the Marvel Universe. The DC Universe sorely needs that.

Robbie has almost as much time in the movie as Smith and her Harley Quinn took a different path to the silver screen; Harley Quinn didn’t initially come from the comic books but from the television animated shows. She went from there to the comic books which she became something of an icon, particularly to female comic book fangirls. Robbie fills the role well; while some have groused that the character has been overly sexualized here (including Robbie herself), she turns in an intense performance, particularly since she has to go up against Oscar winner Jared Leto as her boyfriend/abuser the Joker.

Leto has been very vocal in his disappointment about what the role turned out to be, and in all fairness the Joker was never supposed to be a central character here. However, it stands to reason that you can’t really have Harley Quinn with Mr. J; it doesn’t work. His take on the Joker is a lot different than that of Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, Heath Ledger or even Cesar Romero. Not better, not worse, just different. I liked Leto’s Joker just fine; he’s supposed to be unpredictable and Leto certainly makes him that. He isn’t nearly as menacing as Ledger’s Joker, nor as twisted as Nicholson’s. However, this Joker is wilder, more untamed than either. It is a good interpretation.

There are a lot of special effects, particularly involving the mystical vortex thingy that the Big Bads are creating. There are an awful lot of trans-dimensional vortices in superhero movies as of late and as those sorts of things go, this one is no worse nor any better than most. It just isn’t all that impressive; neither are most of the practical effects. Also, there are moments when the plot gets a little bit, ahh, thick. I found it a touch confusing at times and perhaps more casual comic book fans might feel the same.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the heck out of the movie. These really aren’t the A-list of DC villains (although the Joker is present) but some of the mid-level guys. Quinn and Deadshot both look like slam-dunks coming back for more cinematic superhero goodness. And all things considered, this didn’t do the DC Extended Universe better; it might well be the best of the three that have appeared so far, at least in my book. However, it still isn’t slam dunk enough to really elevate the franchise into a place where I’m actually excited about it. Maybe Wonder Woman will bring that to the game.

REASONS TO GO: There is excellent interaction between an excellent cast. Smith is at his very best here. Brings some of DC’s lesser villains to light.
REASONS TO STAY: The special effects are unimpressive. The story is occasionally confusing.
FAMILY VALUES: As you’d expect, plenty of violence and superhero action, some sexually suggestive material and a bit of profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Harley Quinn’s baseball bat was given to Kevin Smith to thank him for hosting the TV special Dawn of the Justice League shortly before this film came out.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/29/16: Rotten Tomatoes: 26% positive reviews. Metacritic: 40/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Deadpool
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT: Gleason

New Releases for the Week of August 5, 2016


Suicide SquadSUICIDE SQUAD

(Warner Brothers) Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Ben Affleck, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Cara Delevingne. Directed by David Ayer

There are some jobs that a superhero just can’t do. They are far too valuable to risk. That’s when you send in the other guys, or in this case, a government-selected group of super-villains who have nothing to lose and are completely expendable. Given no option but to succeed or die, will they take on an impossible task and perhaps save the world, or bicker among themselves and go down in flames along with the rest of us?

See the trailer, a clip, a promo, a featurette and a video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX
Genre: Superhero
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language)

Bazodee

(Serafini) Staz Nair, Kabir Bedi, Natalie Perera, Valmike Rampersad. The daughter of an Indian businessman agrees to marry a wealthy man in order to get her father out of the crushing debt he’s under. However, at her engagement party she meets an intriguing reggae musician with whom she develops a complicated friendship…which leads to forbidden feelings that catch the eye of the protective brother of her fiance who sets out to ruin everything and everyone involved.

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

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Romance
Now Playing: AMC West Oaks

Rating: PG-13 (for some suggestive content and brief language)

Nine Lives

(EuropaCorp/Relativity) Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Robbie Amell, Christopher Walken. A workaholic Dad on the eve of his biggest career triumph ever is on the way home to his daughter’s 11th birthday with the gift she’s always wanted – a cat. He hates cats, but had to scramble to find a gift and this is what he came up with. After a terrible car accident, he awakens with his consciousness inside the cat. He begins to get an entirely new outlook about his family through the eyes of the cat and begins to understand what he could potentially lose. It will take an extreme effort on his part to earn back his humanity and rejoin the family he’d taken for granted for so long.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Family Comedy
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG (for thematic elements, language and some rude humor)