Movies at a Glance & New DVDs



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THERE ARE 2 NEW MOVIE REVIEWS THIS WEEK:  CALM WITH HORSES; OUR FRIEND                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          ANOTHER ROUND. (DRUK) (1hr 55min) ** ½  In Danish with sub-titles. The film won at the San Sebastian Film Awards for Best Actor - shared by the four stars: Mads Mickelsen as history teacher Martin, Thomas Bo Larsen as soccer coach Tommy, Lars Ranthe as Peter and Magnus Millang as Nikolaj, all middle-aged teachers in Copenhagen, dealing with unmotivated students and feeling that even their personal lives have become dull and stale. While celebrating Nikolaj’s 40th birthday, they discuss psychiatrist Finn Skårderud’s theory that you are more relaxed, creative and likeable if you have a blood alcohol content of 0.050. Peter has marriage problems, and he drinks even at work. The others try Skårderud’s theory to better their daily lives at home and at work. With a breathalyzer, the BAC should not be above 0.05 and the friends found life improved with vodka, and  Peter reconciled with his family. Does alcohol open up and stimulates the mind?  They try binge drinking (druk) to see if it affected their bodies and minds, and that proves disastrous. (VOD)
BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC (1hr 29min) *** ½  Leave your brains at the door, dude!   The third installment of the Bill & Ted Trilogy is wildly funny, imaginative and totally bonkers and should be a massive hit for the two time-traveling lovable characters now middle-aged, Bill (Alex Winter) and Theo (Keanu Reeves). In Dimas, California devotedly married,  Bill to Princess Joanna (Jayma Mays) now has daughter Thea (Samara Weaving) and Ted to Princess Elizabeth (Erin Hayes), has daughter Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine). Both daughters are devoted to each other and their dads. For 25 years the guys and daughters have not worked, having difficulties creating their masterwork. A giant pod from the Future brings Rufus’ daughter Kelly (Kristen Schaal) warning them of future destruction and disaster. Kelly takes them to meet their powerful mother The Great Leader (Holland Taylor), confirming that they must create the song in 78 minutes that would unit humanity across all time "at 7:17pm at MP 46" or time and space will collapse! They decide to steal the already written song from their future selves in 2720 by utilizing Rufus’ time traveling phone booth, but in different centuries they come across themselves in ever increasing disastrous encounters, ending on their deathbeds in 2067!  Party on, dudes! (EST. VOD / DVD / Bluray; Blueray Combo)
BLACK BEAR (1hr 44min) *** This intriguing and unique little gem was written and directed by Michael Lawrence Levine, responsible for the impressive performances of cast co-stars: Audrey Plaza, Sarah Gadon and Christopher Abbott, as well as his own exhilarating razor-sharp screenplay. The result is mesmerizing, especially in the 46 minutes of Part One: Allison (Plaza), a former actress, has turned her hand to writing/direction, and is now desperately searching for inspiration. The spacious villa is being looked after by musician Gabe (Abbott) and his girlfriend Blair (Gadon) whose constant petty sparring and sniping continues throughout the evening. Blair senses an attraction between Allison and Blair. That’s Part One and it is obvious what will happen when Blair is asleep. Could this result in Allison’s screenplay?. Part Two starts similarly with the girl in the red swimsuit writing in her notebook, except, as the shot expands, we see an independent feature film being shot with the same three characters, but their roles have now changed drastically, and I don’t want to give away anymore except that manic Audrey Plaza is absolutely stunning. (VOD)   
THE BOYS IN THE BAND (2hrs 2min) *** ½  Originally a 1968 off Broadway play written by Matt Crowly, it was adapted into a film with the original stage cast directed by William Friedkin in 1970. The 2018 Broadway revival won awards leading to a film version starring its all gay cast  Recovering alcoholic Michael (Jim Parsons) assisted by conflicted sometime lover Donald (Matt Bomer) is throwing a 32nd birthday party for their “ugly, pock-marked, Jew fairy” friend Harold (Zachary Quinto). The guests include flamboyant effeminate Emory (Robin de Jesus) and his African-American best friend Bernard (Michael Benjamin Washington), live-in boyfriend schoolteacher Hank (Tuc Watkins) and his monogamy-impaired lover Larry (Andrew Rannells), and Emory’s gift for the birthday boy, blond Cowboy (Charlie Carver). Their riotous party is cut short by the unexpected arrival of Michael’s heterosexual college buddy Alan (Brian Hutchison). What follows is a night of bitchy soul searching and everyone being forced to confront uncomfortable aspects of themselves.  (Netflix))
BRIDGERTON. Season 1. 8 Episodes. ** ½  Here’s a trashy, overblown American fantasy drama of Regency-era England during George 111’s reign, adapted by American screenwriter Shonda Rimes from the series of books by American historical-romance author Julia Quinn. It’s shocking to find King George 111’s (James Fleet) consort Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) was black!  In 1813’s London ton season of anxious mothers searching for wealthy aristocratic suitors for their daughters at high society lavish balls, at which debutantes are presented for the Queen’s approval. Simon Bassett, the powerful black eligible Duke of Hastings (Rege-Jean Page) is single and has vowed never to have children.  Single, attractive Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor), is the eldest daughter of widowed Lady Violet Bridgeton (Ruth Gemmili), mother of 8, scanning the crowds for a potential husband for her since marrying well would bolster the family’s problems.  Simon and Daphne meet, pretend not to be interested in each other and decide to fake a relationship to keep suitors away. Their fake disinterest spans over several episodes till the inevitable. Historically inaccurate with numerous sex scenes, this over-crowded romcom will appeal mainly to women. (Netflix)
NEW: CALM WITH HORSES (1hr 41min) ** ½  Weird title! This Irish crime drama was released in the US with the more appropriate title The Shadow of Violence.  You wont see the picturesque countryside featured in the majority of movies filmed in Ireland, as this location is bleak, poverty stricken and the crime ridden backwater coastal town of Glanbeigh (in actuality Kilkee), with its closest city being Cork. The screenplay by Joe Murtagh is from Irish author Colin Barrett's short story of the same name in his 2014 collection Young Skins. It is centred on muscle-bound, former boxer, stolid Douglas “Arm” Armstrong (Cosmo Jarvis), the feared enforcer of the deadly drug-dealing Devers family headed by psychopathic murderous scum Paudi (Ned Dennehy) and ruthless relative Hector (David Wilmot).  The mobsters have taken Arm into their family and he travels to his “jobs” with outwardly aggressive but physically smaller buddy Dymhpna Devers (Barry Keoghan) who keeps Arm constantly supplied with booze and drugs, encouraging him to beat the living daylights out of his victims. On occasions, a far gentler Arm drops in to see his former girlfriend Ursula (Niamh Algar) and their five month old autistic son Jack (Kiljan Tyr Moroney) who frequently has high pitch screaming fits. The three attend the local horse-riding therapy program which has a calming effect on the boy (hence the title). Ursula intends to move to Cork where Jack would benefit from a special-needs school but that is costly and she has applied for a local job. She requests any financial assistance from Arm and he intends to find the cash somehow. The Devers discover that a family friend, Fannigan (Liam Carney), during a drunken party at their home, attempted to bed the youngest of their teenage daughters.  Pauli insists that the culprit should not merely be beaten to a pulp but he must be exterminated in order to save the family’s honour, and the job falls on loyal, conflicted Arm who has never murdered. He desperately wants to be a good father and still loves Ursula. Will he obey the Devers demand, and, if not, what will be the consequences?  There’s really not much to the story and I’m glad subtitles were added for those who might have problems with the Irish dialect. A warning - be prepared for the brutal physical violence. .(Netflix)
THE CLIMB (1hr 36min) ** ½ Based on a 2018 Sundance seven minute short film of the same name, two lifelong middle-aged friends, Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin, star, produce, write and, in the case of Covino, directs in 7 long elaborate talk sequences their tumultuous bromance over the course of approx 10 years. The stunning opener, lasting about 10 minutes, finds the two bickering friends mountain biking up a steep hill in the south of France, during which the guys talk about Kyle’s fiancée, when Michael, cycling ahead of a panting Kyle, suddenly confesses that he has slept with Michael’s French girlfriend (Judith Godreche) and not just once!!!  Huffing and puffing and trying to catch up so he can kick Kyle’s ass, a shocked Michael is furious and demands to know all the details. It is by far the funniest chapter in the film, the follow-ups covering various episodes in their lives being an uneven mixture of mildly amusing but nothing like as funny as the opener. With no stars, this may have difficulty in finding an audience. Still, the opening is absolutely hilarious.
THE CROWN  Season 4. 10 episodes. **** Recommended. Truly engrossing as with the previous 3 seasons, this fictional drama covering 1977 to ’80 opens with the Royals approval of Prince Charles' courtship to shy teenager Lady Diana Spencer, although they are aware and concerned of his love for married Camilla Parker-Bowles. Margaret Thatcher becomes Britain’s first female Prime Minister. The Provisional IRA blows up the boat which includes Charles’ surrogate father Lord Louis Mountbatten. Diana accepts Charles’ proposal and the marriage goes ahead with massive celebrations. Argentina invades the Falkland Islands and the Iron Lady retaliates successfully. Diana is pregnant but their marriage looks precarious as Charles still courts Camilla. The couple make an attempt at reconciliation in Australia but that doesn’t last and they return to two separate homes.The Queen and Thatcher clash over imposing sanctions on apartheid South Africa. The Queen learns that Charles and Diana were having affairs. Thatcher is forced to step down as PM and receives the rare Order of Merit. A lonely Diana travels to New York on a Concorde and conquers the public. At Balmoral Castle for Christmas, Charles mentions to his parents the possibility of divorce. The production is lavish and sumptuous, the acting superb, especially by Olivia Colman as the Queen. Some items tend to be too extended and 10 episodes could have been improved by editing to 8. (Netflix)
THE CUBAN (1hr 49min) *** Here’s a heartwarming melodrama with appealing performances by Louis Gossett jr and Ana Golja and a soundtrack of glorious Cuban salsa beats. Luis Garcia Gossett) is a heavily sedated elderly musician confined to a care home. Premed student Mina Golja), originally from Afghanistan and living with her Afghan aunt (Shohreh Aghdashloo), is his new carer and when she starts humming Cuban songs, she notices he gradually comes alive. When she brings in her father’s Cuban dance records, his transformation is immediate. Next she smuggles in home cooked Cuban meals and photos and he starts conversing. Ana meets grad-student Kris (Giacomo Gianniotti), studying psychology at the same college. “Music stimulates the dorsal lateral frontal cortex,” explains Kris as he joins her in helping Luis reconnect with his past via the healing power of music. In his mind Garcia sees the flamboyant Cuba of the past, but what happens when they sneak out to a Cuban nightclub where he is recognized as the most respected Cuban jazz guitarist, and they are caught having broken strict rules?
CUT THROAT CITY (2hrs 12min) ** ½ A brilliant animated opening depicting a novel from an African-American artist Blink (Shameik Moore), who aspires to be comic book Cut Throat City animator but is rejected, leading us to the four impoverished leads, planning a heist in this gangster based, excessively long, often disjointed and repetitive thriller. Based in New Orleans, there are too many characters adding to the confusion. Blink’s childhood friends from the Lower Ninth Ward are aspiring jazz trumpeter Andre (Denzil Whitaker), dope dealer Miracle (Demetrius Shippe jr) and young white Junior (Keean Johnson), all destitute following hurricane Katrina. Blink has married Demyra (Kat Graham), and she is related to notorious sociopath crime lord “Cousin” Bass (Tip T I. Harris). The out of work friends approach Bass for permission to do an illegitimate job robbing the local Fairground Casino. Fairly successful, the heist attracts the attention of ambitious detective Lucy Valencia (Eiza Gonzales). The crooks hideout with Blink’s estranged recluse father Lawrence (Wesley Snipes). Ethan Hawke plays Jackson Symms, an ex cop. (VOD /DVD / Blu-ray)
HILLBILLY ELEGY (1hr 55min) ** ½  Based on the critically acclaimed 2016 memoir of author James David Vance, about his Appalachon upbringing and specifically his difficult life with a mother who struggled with prescription pain medication which led to heroin addiction throughout his and his sister’s childhood.  J.D.(Gabriel Basso) was born in Kentucky and raised by his grandparents as a self-described hillbilly in Middletown, Ohio.  The dysfunctional family struggled with poverty and domestic violence of which he was a frequent victim. While studying at Yale with his supportive Indian/American girlfriend Usha (Freida Pinto), his older sister Lindsay (Hayley Bennett) phoned that their mother’s severe heroin addiction has again landed her in hospital. Uninsured, he rushed back to Ohio to get her into a rehab facility. He had been preparing for an important meeting involving a paid summer intern job with a prestigious law firm. Repetitious scenes of an alternating charming and hostile, violent and hysterical mother Bev (Amy Adams) become tedious. Bev has a fractious relationship with her domineering, feisty though compassionate mother (Glenn Close), a strong supporter of JD. Director Ron Howard may have 2 award nominations there. (Netflix)
HONEST THIEF (1hr 39min) *** Former Marines demolition expert, Tom Dolan (Liam Neeson), following financial injustice to his father, earned the title “the-in-and-out bandit.” In 12 years around Boston he accrued 9 million dollars in 7 bank robberies without anyone getting hurt. At a storage unit, he met psychology grad student Annie Welkins (Kay Walsh) and the attraction is mutual. In 12 years they have fallen in love and he made a decision to come clean, confess his thefts to the police while returning all the money. In exchange he would receive a reduced prison sentence.  Annie knows nothing of his past. He phones FBI agent Sam Baker (Robert Patrick), stating “I want to turn myself in. I want to make a deal.” Initially Baker refuses to believe him and then sends subordinates John Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Ramon Hall (Anthony Ramos) to interview him. As proof, Dolan lends them his keys, directing them to the storage unit where they find boxes of $3 million of the stolen cash. They decide to keep it and kill Dolan, but mistakenly shoot Baker. Dolan seeks revenge and the chase is on. (DVD)
THE LAST VERMEER (1hr 57min) *** Based on the Jonathan Lopez 2008 book The Man Who Made Vermeers, this is the true story of Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce), a flamboyant eccentric Dutch painter, who swindled millions of dollars from the Nazis by selling them forgeries of Johannes Vermeer paintings and to Nazi Reich Marshal Hermann Göring a very large painting of Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus. Actually he swapped the fake Vermeer in exchange for more than 100 Dutch paintings that Göring had confiscated. The unique WW11 story is considered to be one of the 20th century’s biggest and most dramatic spy adventures. Jewish Dutch officer Joseph Piller (Claes Bang) had the job of recovering lost and bought art for the Nazi regime and seeks to redistribute them back to previous owners. Dutch artist Vermeer had painted only 30 in his lifetime. The film builds to van Meegeren’s fascinating 1947 trial when he was brought out of prison and Piller was there to prove that the paintings were not real but forgeries, painted by van Meegeren himself!
LET HIM GO (1hr 54min) ** ½  In the early 1960s, retired sheriff George Blackledge (Kevin Costner) and wife Margaret (Diane Lane) lived a quiet life on a farm in Montana along with son James (Ryan Bruce), his wife Lorna (Kayli Carter) and their infant son Jimmy. When James died in an accident, three years later Lorna married Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain). Margaret noticed Donnie slapping Lorna and Jimmy downtown and, shortly after, Donnie and his family took off for the Weboys Ranch in North Dakota without notifying the Blackledges. Margaret, concerned and determined to check on Jimmy, persuaded George to join her locate the notorious Weboys clan, under the controlling hand of Blanche (Lesley Manville). Along the way they befriended native American “Pete”(Booboo Stewart) who had escaped a Government re-education school, and would become useful to the couple. At the Weboys' heavily armed fortress, Margaret requested to see grandson Jimmy and were invited to a taut, tense dinner. Seeing frightened Lorna and Jimmy convinced Margaret they needed rescuing, but the violent Weboys fully expected that. Slow moving and uneven, the film takes an eternity before picking up its pace for the climax.
THE LIFE AHEAD (1hr 34min) *** ½  After at least a decade, Sophia Loren, now 86, again dominates on the screen.. She plays feisty Madame Rosa, former prostitute and Holocaust survivor who makes ends meet by taking in the underprivileged children of sex workers in Bari, an Italian port city which has its share of drugs, prostitution and armed crime. Overworked neighbor Dr Coen (Renato Carpentieri) brings to her an angry, street smart 12 year old orphaned Senegalese boy, Momo (Ibrahima Gueye), who Coen has been fostering, and he requests Rosa to take him in for a few weeks. She reluctantly does after negotiating a fee. Working the streets selling drugs, Momo has impressed his boss Ruspa (Massimiliano Rossi) as he sold in one day what others sold in a week. Rosa is haunted by ghosts from the past and, although she butts heads with Momo, they also share occasional touching, bonding moments as they form a unique connection.  Directed by Loren’s son Edoardo Ponti, he gets a remarkable debut from Gueye and it is expected Loren will receive a nomination at the Oscars. (Netflix) 
MANK (2hrs 11min) ** That’s Herman J. Mankiewicz, legendary screenwriter who, with Orson Welles, wrote the screenplay for 1941’s Best Original Screenplay “Citizen Kane” aka Charles Foster Kane. It’s a disappointing, bloated tale of Old Hollywood. Following a car crash in 1940, self-destructive cynical alcoholic Mank (Gary Oldman) with a leg in plaster, was taken to a secluded ranch in the Mojave Desert to work with his secretary Rita (Lily Collins) on the directorial debut for 25 year old Orson Welles (Tom Burke) who sought sole writer’s credit. In flashbacks to the 30s, Manx, known for his conversational prowess and wisecracks, bantered with the show biz elite. He particularly amused publishing magnate Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), his inspiration for Kane’s anti-hero, and attended parties at San Simeon, Kane’s “Xanadu,” where movie-star mistress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) hosted celebrity parties. The film is emotionally not involving, the dialogue stilted and on occasions even boring. (Netflix)
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM (1hr 35min) *** ½  Based on the 1982 play by August Wilson, the 2020 drama is directed by George C. Wolf. The setting is ‘20s Chicago and an afternoon recording session of songs for an album, where black musicians and white producers await the arrival of imperious, legendary Ma” Rainey (Davis). The band, pianist Toledo (Glynn Turman), guitar/trombonist Cutler (Coleman Domingo), double bass player Slow Drag (Michael Potts) and edgy, innovative trumpeter Levee (Boseman), arrived early to set up and tell stories. Ma arrives late with young girlfriend Dussie Mae (Taylor Paige), manager Irvin (Jeremy Shamos) and Ma’s stuttering nephew Sylvester (Disan Brown). Ma is furious with Levee’s persistent arguing and fires him. Following the recording, Levee confronts and physically attacks Toledo. Stand outs are two marvelous monologues by probable Oscar nominees Boseman and Davis, who offers her philosophy about power. She knows black characters are demeaned and exploited by whites, and ends her monologue with, “They don’t care nothing about me. All they want is my voice.” Unfortunately there isn’t enough music. (Netflix) 
THE MIDNIGHT SKY (1hrs 58min) **  “In the aftermath of a global catastrophe, a lone scientist in the Arctic races to contact a crew of astronauts with a warning not to return to earth.” That  is the summary of actor/director George Clooney’s ponderously disappointing “sci fi thriller”  compared to the superior Gravity, the Revenant and Ad Astra. In 2049, a cataclysmic event wiped out most of the Earth, killing almost all of the population with powerful radiation. Thirty years earlier, young scientist Augustine Lofthouse, at a presentation gala, met and had an affair with Jean Sullivan (Sophie Rundle). She left him following a pregnancy scare and when they next met he discovered that they had had a daughter, but he didn’t introduce himself. Back to 2049 white bearded Augustine (Clooney), working in the Arctic with a terminal illness requiring dialysis, knows the earth’s atmosphere has become toxic, he decides to stay behind, tracking spaceship Aether, returning to Earth after a long mission to determine if human life can be sustained on Jupiter’s recently-discovered moon K-23. The photography and production designs are excellent but the pacing is uneven and often drags. (Netflix)
NEW: OUR FRIEND  (2hrs 4min) ** ½  How does a father break the news to his young kids that their mother is dying of cancer?  The original award winning true story was written by journalist Matthew Teague and published in Esquire as ‘The Friend: Love Is Not A Big Enough Word.’ In the book Matthew’s 36 year old wife Nicole died of cancer in their home in Fairhope, Alabama. Friend Dane from New Orleans had moved in indefinitely to help Matthew and his two young daughters cope with her illness. The film opens with Dane (Jason Segal) playing with the kids, Molly (Isabella Kai) and Evie (Violet McGraw)..Indoors, Matthew Teague (Casey Affleck) sits sombre and thoughtful. The third shot is of cancer-ridden Nicole (Dakota Johnson). The film regularly goes annoyingly backward over 15 years and then forward to present time. Each chapter is marked with a caption such as ‘Spring: 2013: One year since diagnosis.’ In the beginning good friends Nicole and Dane worked with a local theatre group. She as an actress / singer and Dane a stagehand, hoping for a career as a stand-up comedian, Dane proposed a date and was surprised to find out Nicole was married. Working on the local newspaper, Matt received an offer from the prestigious New York Times to act as their war correspondent in Lahore and then Libya. Now best of friends, Dane had planned a short fortnight stay but the need for the family requiring his services as shopper, driver for the kids to school, keeping them entertained and just moral support became a necessity. Disaster struck when Nicole discovered she had cancer followed by treatment in hospital. Dane noticed the disastrous mess the house was in and stayed on in the guest bedroom to clean up. In time he lost his job back home and his girlfriend. When the cancer returned, Nicole was virtually housebound and experienced mood swings. There was ever-increasing tension and squabbles between the couple and occasionally even with Dane. When Matt was told that Nicole had just six months to live, he collapsed and Dane was there to pick him up. We are back to ‘how do we tell the kids?’ The film has countless, mostly pointless, mini-subplots which result in an unnecessary two hours, some of it boring. Still, have your tissues at the ready for the last tear-jerking 20 minutes. Admittedly all three leads give commendable performances. (VOD)
PIECES OF A WOMAN  (2 hrs 6 min) *** Brit Vanessa Kirby (Princess Margaret in The Crown Season 2) at the Venice Film Festival won as Best Actress. The first half hour is an extraordinarily grueling sequence of a real-time birth in one unbroken shot, making this worthwhile seeing. In Boston, pregnant Martha (Kirby) and partner Sean (Shia LaBeouf) are home when Martha’s water breaks and she has early contractions. Sean phoned their mid-wife only to find her in the midst of another birth.  She recommended as backup Eve Woodward (Molly Parker) who reassuringly guided Martha through the birthing process. The couple wanted a home birth, with the hospital only in emergency. Unfortunately what follows doesn’t match up to the opener. In hospital, the baby turned blue and died. Depression and tension set in, changing the couple’s feelings, and not helped by Martha’s bossy wealthy mother Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn) who disapproved of Sean and insisted Eve was to blame, leading to a lawsuit. This is Kirby’s deserved entry into the big time. (Netflix) 
POSSESSOR (1hr 44min) *** ½. David Cronenberg is principal originator of the body horror genre, his films exploring visceral bodily transformation, infection, technology and the intertwining of the psychological with the physical. His writer/director son Brandon (Antiviral) is following in dad’s footsteps with his unique science-fiction horror film receiving rave reviews at Sundance this year. An agent works for a secretive organization using brain-implant technology to inhabit other people's bodies, ultimately driving them to commit assassinations for high-paying clients.  A woman bores a metal rod electrode into the top of her skull, implanting her thoughts into someone else’s body, approaches a man, stabbing him repeatedly. The agent then signals the secretive corporation to remove her consciousness from her host body just before she forces her host to self-terminate. The more time agent Tasya (Andrea Riseborough) spends in other bodies, the more she seems to lose control over her mind. Her target is vile tech millionaire John Parse (Sean Bean) via the mind of Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott). Strange things happen: her mental strain intensifies, their minds merge, and she loses control. One of the best recent sci-fi films.
THE PROM (2hrs 11min) *** Originally on Broadway in October 2018, here two self-absorbed musical actors, Dee Dee Allen (superb Meryl Streep) and gay Barry Glickman (James Corden), are shocked that their new musical Eleanor! has been cancelled. "It's not the show. It's you two. You're just not likable. Nobody likes a narcissist." They need a cause to help overhaul their tarnished image. At a bar with Julliard grad Trent Oliver (Andrew Rannells) and chorus girl Angie Dickinson (Nicole Kidman), they agree a cause like the rights of LGBTQ teens would make them seem caring and selfless. In Edgewater, Indiana, the High School PTA Mrs, Greene (Kerry Washington) has cancelled the High School Prom as same-sex prom dates are forbidden. Lesbian student Emma Nolan (Jo Ellen Pellman) wants to invite her secret girlfriend Alyssa (Ariana DeBose), daughter of Mrs Greene, and the Broadway stars decide to make them their cause. The story is interspersed with about 17 big production numbers with typical Broadway songs. (Netflix)
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (1hr 53min) *** ½  This black comedy thriller is my Sleeper Hit of 2020, featuring a stunning performance by Carey Mulligan (An Education) as “Cassie” Thomas, determined to right the wrongs from the past. At a popular bar, former med student Cassie, provocatively dressed and acting drunk, attracts the attention of a group of young studs, and Jerry (Adam Brody),offers to buy her a drink and to drive her home with a stop at his place. When she suddenly snaps out of her facade, she has a shock for him,. Weekly she’ll dress up alluringly and go clubbing, attracting horny “nice guys” who have one thing in mind. Leading each on, she’ll eventually turn cold stone sober and berate them with a devastating message. She is wholly consumed by her need for revenge as her close fiend Nina’s life and career were destroyed by this group who got away with gang rape (it was taped) and her accusations fell on deaf ears, from which she never recovered. Enter Med School classmate now a pediatric surgeon, Ryan (Bo Burnham), disarmingly goofy and charming, and they start a relationship. But was he part of the destructive group she has targeted for revenge? Be forewarned of an unexpected clever but shocking climax. 
REBECCA (2hrs 1min) ** In 1938 Daphne du Maurier’s Gothic novel Rebecca was released and two years later it became British director Alfred Hitchcock’s first American project, receiving 11 Academy nominations and winning Best Picture and Photography. Vacationing on the French Riviera, a naïve young girl (Lily James), companion to socialite widow Mrs Van Hopper (Ann Dowd), met wealthy Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer), and after cozy meals and car rides, she became his second wife. They returned to Manderlay on England’s southwest coast where she was introduced to icy, menacing Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott-Walker), a close confidante  obsessed with deceased Rebecca. The new Mrs De Winter in time believed Maxin was still in love with Rebecca, as any mention of her touched a raw nerve, producing outbursts of anger. Organizing a massive costume party, Maxim was furious when his wife appeared in a copy of Rebecca’s last dress, not knowing conniving Danvers had persuaded the naive girl to wear it. When a decomposed body from a sunken boat is found, was this Rebecca and had she been murdered by Maxim? Production values are excellent, but this adaptation is underwhelming, dull and ponderous. It’s OK, only if you haven’t seen the superior original with Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine.  (Netflix)
SAVE YOURSELVES! (1hr 33min) *** How about an apocalyptic romantic comedy?  Writer/directors Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor D. Wilson’s screenplay is about The Year Human Kind lost Planet Earth.  Brooklyn millennials, Su (Sunita Mani) and Jack (John Reynolds), are glued to cell phones and laptops all day. They accept friend Ralph’s (Ben Sinclair) offer that they relax at his remote lakeside cabin. They advise everyone they’re going off line till June 9th.  They leave New York, unaware there was an invasion by alien pouffes with sticky 15 foot tongues which destroy and even kill! Su had sneaked her cell phone into the luggage and learned of the murderous alien attack on the city. They got Ralph’s car out of the garage and, arming themselves with a gun and food, they took off, but how far can they get? It is quite funny and worth seeing.   
THE SECRETS WE KEEP (1hr 37min) ** ½  In the late ‘50s, former Romanian Maya (Noomi Rapace), physician Lewis (Chris Messina) and son Patrick (Jackson Dean Vincent) live happily in the suburbs. One day Maya was startled to see a familiar face from 15 years ago, and she followed the stranger to identify him, eventually to the Refinery where he, Thomas (Joel Kinnarman), worked. She persuaded him to stop and look at her broken down car and bashed him unconscious, bundling him into the trunk of her car,  She identified him as sadistic SS Nazi officer Karl who caught up with Roma gypsies fleeing a concentration camp, raping them. And murdering Maya’s sister, while Maya was raped by Karl, now her unconscious prisoner. Maya asked shocked Lewis to help move the bound and gagged man to their basement to interrogate him. He insisted he was Thomas (Joel Kennerman) from Switzerland and had a wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and two young children. Maya befriends Rachel, questioning their past. She promised to free Thomas if he admitted to being Karl, and if not, she will shoot him. (DVD)
TOTALLY UNDER CONTROL (2hrs 3min) **** Recommended.  Kudos to producers / directors Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, Suzanne Hillinger for one of the Best Documentaries of 2020. The jam packed history of the airborne virus makes compelling viewing, and takes us back to the very start nine months ago when on January 20th America’s first patient posted positive for COVID 19 on the same day as the first case was posted in Seoul. Chinese authorities identified human cases with symptoms in December 2019 with a link to a food market in Wusan. In January the Wusan Municipal Health Commission reported several cases with no deaths. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January, and a pandemic on 11 March. In journalist Bob Woodward’s interview, Fake Trump admitted he knew weeks before the first confirmed U.S. coronavirus death that the virus was dangerous and his relentless downplaying of that threat (totally under control), technical flaws, protective shortages, bureaucratic logjams and his disdain for science has led over 200,000 citizens to where they are now – dead. Essential viewing! (Digital & VOD).
THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7  (2hrs 9min) **** Recommended. Here’s a strong contender for Best Picture of the Year and Screenplay by brilliant writer/director Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing). The story of 8 anti-Vietnam War protesters, Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins), John Froines (Daniel Flaherty), and Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen 11) who set out to protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and ended in a six month courtroom trial for “the transportation of violence across state lines.” Nixon’s Attorney-General John N. Mitchell (John Doman) appointed Tom Foran (J.C. MacKenzie) and Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as the Federal Prosecutors. 7 of the defendants were represented by William Kunstler (Mark Rylance) and Leonard Weinglass (Ben Shenkman). The biased authoritarian presiding judge was Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella) and there are some amusing barbs between the two Hoffmans, Abbie antagonizing Julius and receiving the first of several Contempt of Court citations.  The casting and performances are superb and Sorkin can chalk up another winner. (Netflix)
THE TRIP TO GREECE (1hr 52min) ** ½ We followed popular British comic performers and co-writers Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as fictionalized versions of themselves through the Lake District in England (2010), Italy (2014) and Spain (2017) on their culinary tours, stopping at luxurious hotels for fancy meals while arguing about democracy and history, movies and personalities, tragedy and comedy, bickering and mocking each other while continually interspersing their conversation with impressions of celebrities, by now excessively repetitive. The scenery and photography are breathtakingly beautiful including Delphi’s Temple of Apollo, the Ancient Agora of Athens, the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, the Island of Hydra, the Caves of Diros, Nestor's Palace, Niokastro Fortress in Pylos, and Ancient Stagira. This 6 day trip, starting in Turkey and continuing through modern Macedonia and Greece, was commissioned for an article in which they retraced the steps of Odysseus, a legendary hero in Greek mythology. The constant petty arguing is exhausting for viewers but Brits will understand the one upmanship game being played non-stop by these two blokes. (VOD/DVD))
THE WAR WITH GRANDPA (1hr 34 min) ** When it’s obvious recently widowed Ed (Robert de Nero) is incapable of looking after himself, his daughter Sally (Uma Thurman) insists he moves in with her family, husband Arthur (Rob Riggle), two daughters, Mia (Laura Marano) and Jenny (Poppy Gagnon) and young son Peter (Oakes Fegley). But that meant Peter giving up his room to Grandpa while he moved into the attic. After a miserable first night in his new room, Peter declares war. Ed agrees to war, as long as they follow the rules of engagement: they cannot damage other people's belongings and cannot tell the family about this. Peter pulls a series of pranks, including replacing Ed's shaving cream with quick-drying foam and Ed retaliates with pranks including removing the screws from all of Peter's furniture and rewriting his school report, and turns to friends Danny (Cheech Marin) and Jerry (Christopher Walken) for more help. That’s the bulk of the so-called comedy!  De Nero can do anything but why this? (EST, VOD, DVD)
WILD MOUNTAIN THYME (1hr 42min) ***  “Outside Mulingar” was a 2014 Broadway play by John Patrick Stanley (Moonstruck) which had a limited run. Stanley, on reaching 60, decided to write about his family farm. He adapted and directed it with the title Wild Mountain Thyme, a beautiful Irish/Scottish ballad. Set in scenic Co. Mayo, Ireland, two farmers live side by side, separated by a gate. Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt) has been interested in neighbor shy Anthony Riley (Jamie Dornan) her entire life, but he is totally unaware. He doesn’t like farming and his father, Tony (Christopher Walken), decided to leave the farm to his brother's son, New Yorker Adam Kelly (John Hamm) who expressed interest in becoming a gentleman farmer. The stilted dialogue appears to be taken directly from the play and to foreign ears it sounds unnatural, the accents mixed. In an unusually tender sequence, Tony stops criticizing his son and expresses his pride and love for him. Rosemary flies to New York for a day and asks amorous Adam to take her to the ballet Swan Lake. Will he propose? In a delightful pub scene Rosemary sings “Will ye go, lassie, go.”  By that time every negative thought I had about the charming film had evaporated. And yes, the performances are flawless.    
WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS (1hr 51min) *** ½ Adam (Charlie Plummer) is a high school senior diagnosed with schizophrenia and with an ambition to become a master chef. With his father gone, Adam lived with supportive mother Beth (Molly Parker) and her boyfriend Paul (Walton Goggins). “At first I thought there was something wrong with my eyes, and a year after, I started hearing voices. Cooking was the only thing that could make me shut up … so I cooked and cooked and the meals became my crutches and I got really good at it,”  But then he experienced a violent psychotic breakdown at school and was diagnosed with devastating schizophrenia and went into treatment. He had visions of three talkative companions, Rebecca (AnnaSophia Robb), Joquim (Devon Bostick) and The Bodyguard (Lobo Sebastian), and a dark threatening negative voice in a black cloud. He met valedictorian Maya (Taylor Russell) when he was enrolled in St Agatha’s Catholic School, and they formed a bond without her knowing his mental illness. To free himself from hallucinations, he took a new experimental pill but side effects includied muscles twitching. Don’t be put off by the title, this film will have you going through all your emotions, from laughing to crying, thanks to a marvellous script by Nick Naveda and a brilliant performance by Plummer. (DVD)

                                                              NEW DVDs....


NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday January 19
ALWAYS AND FOREVER Wood Harris, Loretta Devine, Lauren London, Robbie Jones, Deborah Ayorinde
Michael Angelo Covino, Kyle Marvin, Gayle Rankin, Judith Godrèche, Talia Balsam
COME AWAY David Oyelowo, Anna Chancellor, Angelina Jolie, Derek Jacobi, Michael Caine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw
DREAMLAND Finn Cole, Margot Robbie, Travis Fimmel, Kerry Condon, Darby Camp, Lola Kirke
HEARTS AND BONES  Hugo Weaving, Andrew Luri, Hayley McElhinney, Bolude Watson.
THE KID DETECTIVE Adam Brody, Sophie Nélisse, Sarah Sutherland, Wendy Crewson, Peter MacNeill
MAX CLOUD  Scott Adkins, Tommy Flanagan, Lashana Lynch, Elliot James Langridge, Sally Collett
MISS JUNETEENTH  Nicole Beharie, Kendrick Sampson, Alexis Chikaeze, Lori Hayes, Marcus M. Mauldin
SPIRAL Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Ari Cohen, Jennifer Laporte, Ty Wood, Chandra West, Lochlyn Munro
WANDER Aaron Eckhart, Tommy Lee Jones, Katheryn Winnick, Heather Graham, Raymond Cruz

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday January 26
BATMAN: SOUL OF THE DRAGON  Animation. David Giuntoli, Mark Dacascos, Kelly Hu, Michael Jai White.
BORN A CHAMPION  Sean Patrick Flanery, Katrina Bowden, Dennis Quaid, Currie Graham, Reno Wilson
COME PLAY  Azhy Robertson, Gillian Jacobs, John Gallagher Jr., Winslow Fegley, Rachel Wilson
JU JITSU Nicolas Cage, Alain Moussi, Frank Grillo, Rick Yune, Marie Avgeropoulos, Tony Jaa
PRINCESS OF THE ROW Martin Sheen, Jacob Vargas, Ana Ortiz, Blake Michael, Edi Gathegi, Tayler Buck

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday February 2
THE 2ND  Ryan Phillippe, Casper Van Dien, Jack Griffo, Lexi Simonsen, Richard Burgi, Samaire Armstrong
BREACH  Bruce Willis, Rachel Nichols, Kassandra Clementi, Thomas Jane, Cody Kearsley, Corey Large
HORROR NOIRE: A HISTORY OF BLACK HORROR.Tony Todd, Rachel True, Ernest Dickerson, Rusty Cundieff
HOST  Haley Bishop, Radina Drandova, Jemma Moore, Caroline Ward, Emma Webb, Edward Linard
Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Lesley Manville, Jeffrey Donovan, Kayli Carter,  Will Brittain
LOVE, WEDDINGS AND OTHER DISASTERS Diane Keaton, Jeremy Irons, Maggie Grace, Andrew Bachelor
WILD MOUNTAIN THYME Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Jon Hamm, Christopher Walken, Dearbhla Molloy

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday February 9
FREAKY  Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Celeste O'Connor, Misha Osherovich, Uriah Shelton.
GREENLAND   Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, Scott Glenn, Hope Davis

LOST GIRLS AND LOVE HOTELS Alexandra Daddario, Takehiro Hira, Carice van Houten, Andrew Rothney
SPUTNIK  Oksana Akinshina, Pyotr Fedorov, Fyodor Bondarchuk, Anton Vasiliev
WANDER DARKLY Sienna Miller, Diego Luna, Beth Grant, Vanessa Bayer, Brett Rice, Aimee Carrero

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday February 16.
ARCHENEMY  Joe Manganiello, Skylan Brooks, Zolee Griggs, Paul Scheer, Amy Seimetz, Glenn Howerton
A CALL TO SPY  Sarah Megan Thomas, Radhika Apte, Linus Roache, Rossif Sutherland
FEAR OF RAIN  Katherine Heigl, Madison Iseman, Israel Broussard, Harry Connick Jr., Eugenie Bondurant
THE INFORMER Joel Kinnaman, Rosamund Pike, Ana de Armas, Clive Owen, Common, Victor McLaglen
SYNCHRONIC Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Katie Aselton, Bill Oberst Jr., Shane Brady, Walter Babington
THE VERY EXCELLENT MR. DUNDEE Chevy Chase, Olivia Newton-John, John Cleese, Paul Hogan