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Sunday, September 19, 2021



A onetime rodeo star and washed-up horse breeder, in 1978, takes a job from an ex-boss to bring the man's young son home and away from his alcoholic mum. Crossing rural Mexico on their back way to Texas, the unlikely pair faces an unexpectedly challenging journey, during which the world-weary horseman may find his own sense of redemption through teaching the boy what it means to be a good man.

Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Dwight Yoakam, Eduardo Minett, Natalia Traven, Fernanda Urrejola, Horacio Garcia Rojas

Release Date: September 17, 2021

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Western

Rated PG-13 for language and thematic elements.

Runtime: 1h 44min


Clint Eastwood’s latest film plays like a swan song of his cinematic persona.  Its ready made to be a moving meditation on his iconic western character in a neo western send off.  Eastwood has shown an impressive ability to deconstruct the western drama and delve deeper into the tough guy psyche.  Unfortunately, Cry Macho is a shockingly inert piece of a filmmaking from an acclaimed director and actor.  Eastwood’s film moves at a molasses pace with very little actually happening in terms of action or character development.  The film clocks in at an hour and forty four minutes but it feels much longer than that due to its inability to connect you to these characters.  The main issue is that newcomer Eduardo Minett just isn’t a capable actor at this time. He’s the lynch pin of the entire film and serves as the primary motivating force for the entire story.  He and Eastwood share little to no on screen chemistry which hampers the film as their interactions are far more painful than touching.  Eastwood himself is surprisingly ineffective as a performer in this piece leaving a massive emotional disconnect for the entire film.  It’s a shame that Cry Macho failed on its main emotional story thread because the story is so simplistic that it can’t prop up the uninspired performances. 


Friday, September 17, 2021



In the 1970s, Tammy Faye Bakker and her husband, Jim, rise from humble beginnings to create the world's largest religious broadcasting network and theme park. Tammy Faye becomes legendary for her indelible eyelashes, her idiosyncratic singing, and her eagerness to embrace people from all walks of life. However, financial improprieties, scheming rivals and a scandal soon threaten to topple their carefully constructed empire.

Director: Michael Showalter

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield. Cherry Jones, Vincent D'Onofrio, Fredric Lehne, Louis Cancelmi

Release Date: September 17, 2021

Genre: Biography, Drama, History

Rated PG-13 for sexual content and drug abuse

Runtime: 2h 6min


The Eyes of Tammy Faye, based on a documentary of the same name, is an engrossing biopic that's heavier on style than actual substance.  Michael Showalter's film has a candy colored approach to its primary subjects which is appropriate even if it glosses over some of the grimier realities of their actions.  His film is visually engaging and entertaining throughout especially as everything becomes increasingly garish and outlandish.  The lynchpin of the entire film though is Jessica Chastain who sports chipmunk cheek prosthetics and increasingly layered on make up which leaves her nearly unrecognizable by the end.  Chastain's performance is the type of transformative turn that's ready made for awards season.  She displays an impressive bit of versatility by playing against type with a turn that's heavy on wide eyed naivety and optimism with breakthrough moments of pain underneath it all.  It's difficult to take your eyes off her bombastic turn but Andrew Garfield is just as strong with a slightly more subdued turn. Garfield paints Bakker as a weaselly huckster who's going through his own personal battles while defrauding millions in the process.  A climatic fight lets both actors put their talents on full display.  Cherry Jones and Vincent D'Onofrio turn in solid work in supporting turn which would have been forgettable in lesser actors’ hands.  While the film has plenty going for it you can't help but feel that it's only scratches the surface of these people.  The script takes too broad of an approach to dig deeper in the pair with Tammy being treated with kid's gloves more or less absolved of any blame.  Even with a pedestrian script, The Eyes of Tammy Faye deserves to be seen for its singular performances from Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield.


Sunday, September 12, 2021



A frustrated suburban housewife and her best friend hatch an illegal coupon-club scheme that scams millions from corporations and delivers deals to legions of fellow coupon clippers. Hot on their trail is an unlikely duo -- a hapless loss-prevention officer and a determined U.S. postal inspector -- both looking to end their criminal enterprise.

Director: Gita Pullapilly, Aron Gaudet

Cast: Kristen Bell, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Paul Walter Hauser, Bebe Rexha, Vince Vaughn

Release Date: September 10, 2021

Genre: Comedy, Crime

Rated R for language throughout

Runtime: 1h 50min


Queenpins is a breezy slice of life crime drama that's smart enough to make great use of it cast.   Writers/directors Gita Pullapilly & Aron Gaudet give these film an easy sensibility that makes its subject matter easy to digest.  At the center of it all is Kristen Bell who has perfected the damaged overachiever.  Bell is right at home in this role that allows her to use her considerable comedic talents with an air of sadness behind her beaming smile.  She and costar Kirby Howell-Baptiste share a natural likeable onscreen chemistry together.  Their character's relationship serves as the lifeblood of the film and ultimately what makes the film so watchable.  Paul Walter Hauser and Vince Vaughn also share a parallel story arcs as investigators on the tail of the two couponing criminals.  The film biggest issue is that film frames the characters as heroes and it mostly absolves them of any real blame or responsibility.  It's a strange bit of framing for what was a real criminal enterprise but based solely on it's cinematic merits,  Queenpins works as fun dramady buoyed by it's game cast. 




Paralyzed by fear from shocking visions, a woman's torment worsens as she discovers her waking dreams are terrifying realities.

Director: James Wan

Cast:  Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, and Michole Briana White

Release Date: September 10, 2021

Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and language

Runtime: 1h 50min


James Wan's return to the horror genre is a film destined to divide audiences.  Wan delves deep into cult horror history to deliver a film that so niche that I'm genuinely surprised it was greenlit. Needless to say the film is made for a specific audience who will appreciate how the look and dialogue are inspired by Italian Giallo horror classics like Suspiria and Deep Red.  It makes for a visually striking film especially in its first two acts where it plays more like a gory murder mystery than a horror film.  Those looking for more traditional scares will be left wanting since the film uses atmosphere more than cheap jump scares.  Annabelle Wallis leads the film with a performance that echoes Barbara Steele in Mario Bava's Black Sunday.  It's a fascinating which makes her the most interesting person on screen throughout. The film's third act's reveal will ultimately be what divides audiences.  While everything that preceded it was inspired by Italian horror masters, its final act is clearly pulling from cult horror film from the 80s that lived on the bottom shelves of video stores.  Regardless of whether the turn works or not you have to respect Wan for swinging for the fences and embracing what made him love the horror genre.  


Friday, September 3, 2021



Martial-arts master Shang-Chi confronts the past he thought he left behind when he's drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.

Director:  Destin Daniel Cretton

Cast: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng'er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, Ben Kingsley, Tony Leung

Release Date: September 3, 2021

Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and language

Runtime: 2h 12min


Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, much like Black Panther, expands Marvel's ethnic make by delivering a fun and colorful comic book exploration of heritage, destiny and legacy.  Director Destin Daniel Cretton film is a kinetic experience right from the start pausing only here and there for quieter character moments.  His action set pieces are wonderfully staged and choregraphed allowing you to see every bit of the impressive action.  Those moments, especially in the first two acts, are the highlights of the film.  Cretton uses inspiration from old school Kung Fu films while adding his own modern sensibilities.  Simu Liu leads the almost exclusively Asian cast with relative ease.  Liu is instantly likeable and magnetic even amongst the coordinated comic madness around him.  He and Awkwafina make for a fun onscreen duo since they share excellent comic chemistry.   Meng'er Zhang though is the scene stealer as Shang's sister, so much so that you wished the film spent a bit more time with her.  Asian acting legends Michelle Yeoh & Tony Leung add just the right amount of gravitas to the proceedings with each getting ample time to leave their mark on the film.  While the film works on visceral level the story does feel like it's lifted from the original Star Wars in that inside all the fantastical elements, it's ultimately a family drama between siblings and their father whose chosen the wrong path.  As such, there aren't a ton of surprises in store with each beat being fairly predictable.  Additionally, those who have complained about superhero films turning into CGI fest in their final acts will have the same issues here as this film turns heavily into fantasy action to the point of attrition.  Small complaints asides, Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings is one of the more enjoyable cinematic entries in the Marvel monolith that actually brings something new to the table.  


Sunday, August 29, 2021



In present day, a decade after the last of the Cabrini towers were torn down, Anthony and his partner move into a loft in the now gentrified Cabrini. A chance encounter with an old-timer exposes Anthony to the true story behind Candyman. Anxious to use these macabre details in his studio as fresh grist for paintings, he unknowingly opens a door to a complex past that unravels his own sanity and unleashes a terrifying wave of violence.

Director: Nia DaCosta

Cast: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, and Colman Domingo. Vanessa Williams, Tony Todd, Virginia Madsen

Release Date: August 13, 2021

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Rated R for bloody horror violence, and language including some sexual references

Runtime: 1h 31min


Nia DaCosta’s spiritual sequel to the 90s cult favorite is visually impressive with a thematically timely message even if it’s overly didactic in its delivery.  The original film was the type of horror film that worked because its general premise was incredibly strong even if the actual execution was a lacking. This sequel has an art house feel to it which gives the overall story a stylish overhaul which makes for a beautiful film to look at.  The story itself suffers from its clunky social justice message and horror roots.  DaCosta is trying like crazy to make a stronger overall point by reworking the Candyman mythos but it doesn’t feel as organic as it should, instead there are multiple moments where the film feels the need to beat the message into your head.  At the same time she’s attempting to deliver a slasher film that leans on body horror a more than jump scares.  The cast is incredibly committed which makes the film an easy watch.   Yahya Abdul-Mateen II leads the film with relative ease even though his character commits every horror movie mistake you can think of.  He’s able to overcome the scripts deficiency and delivers a fascinating portrayal of a man decent into madness.   The supporting cast is just as strong with Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and Colman Domingo all leaving a strong impression.  Tony Todd and Virginia Madsen both have roles in the film but your left thinking that the director and script could have made better use of Todd who is the embodiment of the character in the original films.  Even with its fault, Candyman delivers an entertaining refresh/reboot of the series that leaves the door open for future installments. 


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