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Infidel

If “inspired by true events” is meant to suggest that you’re about to watch a true story, then labeling a food as “light” will help you lose weight. So, no,  Infidel  is not a true story. And that’s good, because if the two main characters were truly as reckless as portrayed in this film a more appropriate title would have been “ Imbecile .” Doug Rawlins, a famous evangelical Christian blogger is invited by a friend to travel to Cairo to be a guest on a popular talk show. His wife Liz who works at the State Department warns him not to make the trip, double dog dares him not to evangelize while there, and then equips him with her seemingly CIA-like skills so he can send her a secret encoded message if necessary. Doug is played by Jim Caviezel, the tall, dark and deadly Mr Reese, from the successful television show  Person of Interest . He has also had his share of religious themed roles, as the apostle Paul and as Jesus himself in Mel Gibson’s brutal 2004 telling of  The Passion of the
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The New Mutants

When a movie starts with the graphic flipping pages of a Marvel comic book I’ve come to assume it will be a top-notch film and an enjoyable couple of hours. So much for that theory. This is an origin story of a handful of young “new mutants” who have been sequestered for their own protection by Doctor Cecilia Reyes, played by Alice Braga. The secret facility allows monitoring and guided development of superpower skills that put the mutants on a path to someday becoming X-men. This is obviously a world in which X-men are known and mutants are still feared and marginalized. Problem one: they’re troubled teenagers. Problem two: the newest recruit (or prisoner) is Danielle Moonstar played by Blu Hunt. I think Blu Hunt is a better name than Danielle Moonstar but, oh well. She has the ability to materialize everyone’s worst fears. She is Native American and believes that inside every person dwells two bears, one good and one evil. The evil bear makes an appearance late in the film. Charlie H

Tenet

A palindrome is a word or phrase that reads the same backward as forward. “Tenet” is a palindrome. There are entire scenes within this movie that are palindrome-ish. The movie is utterly confusing and exhausting to decipher for the entirety of its two and a half hours. It is also brilliantly written, if complexity gets credit, and the editor(s) of this beast should win an Oscar. I could tell you the entire plot and key scenes of this film without spoiling it. I love good time travel movies, but they are simple by comparison to this looping, parallel timeline action film in which John David Washington, known as “The Protagonist” and his strangely familiar partner Neil, played by Robert Pattinson, set out to save the world from something they don’t understand. Washington recently starred in BlacKkKlansman , which was a walk in the park compared to this very physical role as a CIA type who has been tested for inclusion in a secret organization that operates outside of time and national in

The Broken Hearts Gallery

On our latest outing to the “new normal” intensive care unit known as going to the movies in the year 2020 I wanted to see  Tenet  but it wasn’t my turn to choose. That’s ok, since a steady diet of Netflix eventually grows tiresome and just isn’t the cure for cabin fever or whatever we now call being trapped by an invisible enemy. We needed to get out of the house. Something light hearted actually sounded appealing, and a Rom Com is about the lightest level movies can attain, short of  Blazing Saddles  or  Superbad . But be clear, this is a chick flick, fulfilling all criteria of that species – catering to a youthful, female demographic on topics of love and romance. But this is not  The Big Sick  or  When Harry Met Sally . It’s cute, but not even close. The only familiar actor in this film is 72 year old Bernadette Peters who is not only still living but has retained that pinched, cute little face and voice that plays well in drama or comedy. She is an insanely talented singer who bra

Unhinged

In  Unhinged , an almost unrecognizably overweight Russell Crowe stars as a deranged assailant in pursuit of a young mother who honks at him when he fails to proceed at a green traffic light. Granted, she lays on the horn hard three times and he sits through the entire light. Road rage ensues, but quickly becomes something far more sinister. Consider this film a cross between  Falling Down  and  Duel . Although not all of the action is in vehicles, much of it takes place behind the wheel. A staccato tap, tap, tap, tap musical/mechanical score during a relentless pursuit accompanies the action, similar to  Duel  and eventually you expect Rachel’s station wagon to start smoking and breaking down, just like Dennis Weaver’s car did on a long uphill climb. If Crowe gained a ton of weight for this script I feel bad for him. It wasn’t worth the pain and suffering he’ll endure if he wants to trim down. He does a great job of playing a deranged killer, but the script has numerous flaws, mostly

The Personal History of David Copperfield

Those who may be mistakenly drawn to this film as fans of the magician David Copperfield will be disappointed. But as a huge Charles Dickens fan, it was a must see as soon as I heard it was released. It was also our first time venturing out to a theater since about February. I’m happy to report that the experience was safe and sanitary. Being virtually the only two people in the theater helped a lot. Contactless ticketing and concessions, masks, gloves, cleaning between features and social distancing were all in play. So, a brief note about the magician we’ve unfortunately all come to know better perhaps than this classic character from Dickens’ own favorite and most successful book. Magician David Seth Kotkin changed his name to the Charles Dickens character David Copperfield because he liked the sound of it. The book is magical, but that’s about all the two have in common. Dev Patel of  Slumdog Millionaire  plays David alongside several other memorable cast members. Not least of thes

Swallow

If you’re looking for a short movie reminiscent of   Ordinary People   or   Good Will Hunting , this film shares a couple of themes with those longer, better known films. In all three the main character is in therapy, has an abusive or emotionally distant parent and comes to grips with demons, thus resolving a lifetime of struggle. Now factor in a rape and the desire to eat dangerous objects and prepare to watch  Swallow . Haley Bennett wonderfully plays Hunter Conrad, a sort of Stepford Wife to Richie Conrad (Austin Stowell,) heir apparent to the family business and a perfectionist who just wants Hunter to step up her game and behave. Richie’s parents are no help, supporting and increasing the pressure on Hunter to be everything their boy deserves. “Richie likes his girls with long hair,” quips his mother, suggesting that Hunter grow out her neatly coiffed short style. Hunter journeys from family pressure cooker to therapy, through multiple hospitalizations and eventually comes face t

First Cow

This is another potential casualty, at least on the big screen, of the Covid pandemic. We had trouble finding a way to watch   First Cow   despite good reviews and recommendations from friends. We finally resorted to watching it on a laptop through iTunes. We do not have an Apple TV and our ancient (four year old) Smart TV was just short of smart enough to cast this movie from a phone. Despite those limitations, this beautiful film has an art-house feel, a simple story line and quiet, engaging dialogue between its two main characters. The feel is immersive, softly focused under the smoky forest canopy with audio engineering that brings to life every twig cracking under foot, the snap of a mushroom’s stem and the sounds of quietly chewing bites of biscuits. This contributes to an anxious experience for audiences who have been conditioned to expect sudden action on the heels of silence. John Magaro plays Cookie, an expert East Coast baker accompanying fur trappers in the Oregon Territory

Yellowstone (Series)

Sit back and enjoy vistas ready made for postcards, a cinematic feel that spans episodes and intriguing opening credits embedded in a steaming, sulfurous counterpoint of the old and new west. Welcome to the Yellowstone Ranch. Meet rancher/patriarch John Dutton. He is your host. Do not try to escape. I heard a lot about this series from the Paramount Network, but it wasn’t until our local Xfinity service rolled out the Peacock channel that we had the ability to stream the first two seasons. Now that we’ve binged ourselves into a stupor, it’s time to take a look back and decide if season three is worth purchasing.  The star of the show and one of its executive producers is the legendary Kevin Costner. He’s one of the much older Newman/Redford Hollywood genre of hunks that cause misty-eyed lasses to temporarily forget all about their feminist ideals and leave us normal guys saying, “Hey, did you hear what I just said?” But what does he have that I lack, other than, well, everything. And h

Radioactive

When I was in fourth grade I acquired a huge chemistry set from someone who had tired of learning science and gaining knowledge. Or maybe they set their basement on fire as I recounted  here . In the set was a small black device that looked like the eyepiece for a microscope, or maybe a printer’s loop. I discovered that it was actually a spinthariscope, a toy version of a tool that allows a viewer to observe the nuclear disintegration of ionizing alpha radiation on a surface coated with radium or other phosphor. The Gilbert Company, maker of the Erector Set, created the  U-238 Atomic Energy Lab,  parts of which had been combined with the chemistry set I enjoyed.  Can I just say, toys were really cool in the 1960s! Toy Spinthariscope This is the long way into a review of a movie about Madame Marie Curie, but allow me to finish by saying that I still have my toy spinthariscope. Late at night, long after your eyes grow used to complete darkness, looking into the eyepiece reveals frequent

Dark Waters

Mark Ruffalo plays real life corporate attorney Rob Bilott in this true story about Dupont Chemicals Company’s atrocious poisoning of the farming community of Parkersburg, West Virginia over a period of decades. Through a series of unlikely connections, Bilott exposed and brought to account the largest chemical company of its day. Ruffalo also steps into the Producer role for this film, with co-star Anne Hathaway as Bilott’s wife Sarah. Tim Robbins plays Bilott’s reluctantly supportive boss Tom Terp, who becomes crucial to the eventual success of Bilott’s extensive research. The use of several actual characters from the community that were poisoned by Dupont’s blockbuster product called Teflon, lends the film additional credibility. One baby, born disfigured from the effects of “C-8” in the drinking water and on the production line where a number of pregnant women worked, appears as an adult late in the film. This is not a wild ride or even that exciting, but throughout the film you ho

The King of Staten Island

Perhaps I can save you twenty dollars. This is my second review of a Pete Davidson film in a month. And I have a feeling that when I think back I’ll get the two confused. This one is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Davidson has already been typecast as a twenty-something stoner who lacks desire and direction. His current movie could be a sequel to his role in  Big Time Adolescence , though that film ended lacking a sense of closure when it came to his main character. You mean he stays that way? Yet I can’t help admiring his wit and real life achievements. How does an emotionally damaged, sickly looking twenty year old become a regular on Saturday Night Live? He has an endearing quality and an openness about his problems that makes you worry about him. Perhaps Ariana Grande thought she could fix him when they were briefly a couple. Those qualities factor heavily into the character that has emerged in his two films to date. The latest, produced by Judd Apatow, who gave us  Bridesmai

My Spy

Currently streaming free for Amazon Prime members,  My Spy  seems like a Disney movie for adults. Dave Bautista, a professional wrestler who has made a smooth transition into the world of movies, much like Dewayne "The Rock" Johnson, appears here as JJ, a CIA operative who struggles to keep things under control. On a recent assignment he blows his cover and proceeds to kill everyone the agency was hoping to track more subtly and strategically. The killing is all accomplished bloodlessly and in pseudo comic book fashion. As a last chance he is assigned to a surveillance project along with computer analyst partner Bobbi (“you’re not my partner”) played by Kristen Schaal. We know Schaal as a commentator on  The Daily Show  and as Carol, alongside Will Forte on Fox’s  The Last Man on Earth.  Here she provides lots of comic relief and is clearly the more capable of the two member team. Bautista is no stranger to humor, also like Dewayne Johnson. In 2019’s hilarious  Stuber  he pla

Big Time Adolescence

We’re running out of movies that aren’t horrifying or disturbing, so we searched for lighter fare. Pete Davidson is funny, but we should have known that his own dark side would feature prominently in  Big Time Adolescence . After viewing this occasionally humorous but deeper coming of age story about twenty-three year old Zeke and his high school buddy Mo we found ourselves wondering if there was more to this film than a casual viewing reveals. You have to go back beyond  Superbad  to find a possible genre match for this movie. It is certainly a twenty-first century “smart kid/dumb parent” movie, the origins of which go back to  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off . In fact, if a remake of that classic is ever made, 17 year old Griffin Gluck who plays Mo looks quite similar to Allan Ruck, Ferris’s friend Cameron back in 1986. Zeke is a heavily tattooed, drug-using post-high school slacker who at age seventeen becomes friends with his girlfriend Kate’s adoring nine-year old brother. That’s sort of

Vivarium

If ever there was a metaphor for the hopeless, isolated and trapped experience of pandemic confinement,  Vivarium  might be custom made. A vivarium is an enclosure prepared for keeping animals under semi-natural conditions for observation or as pets. But there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye. In brief,  Vivarium  is the story of Gemma and Tom, played by Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg, who are exploring options for the purchase of a home. The showroom of a planned development called "Yonder" is their first and only stop. Following a brief and bizarre description of this “perfect” community, a robot-like salesman drives along with them to the model home at number nine. The neighborhood is comprised of row upon row of identical homes, not unlike some gated communities here in Florida, or other more upscale versions we saw on the North Shore near Chicago. But these homes are utterly identical, all the same sickly shade of green inside and out, situated bene

The Lovebirds

  Meet Jibran and Lailani, smitten with each other and flashing that “I want to kiss you” face at every turn. Now fast-forward five years. The magic is gone, they are at each others’ throats, and just moments after they realize they have inadvertently broken up, the movie begins in earnest. A random event embroils them in a one-night attempt to clear their names of a crime they did not commit. This brief synopsis serves as a metaphor for my experience viewing this film, having so looked forward to it based on a very funny trailer. And then the movie let me down somewhat. The best laugh lines and sight gags were compiled in the preview. A couple of our favorites were dropped from the final cut and were not replaced by other lines. We found ourselves saying, “What about when he says…?” So, that’s disappointing, but the movie is still a fun ride mostly because of the onscreen chemistry between Kumail Nanjiani as Jibran and Issa Rae as Lailani. They are a comic odd couple, a wond

The Half of It

We have a winner! Now if people would just start watching and recommending this Netflix gem we found hidden in a grid of choices clearly being influenced by factors beyond viewer control. It falls within the RomCom genre, a coming of age film with a rating of PG-13 that is watchable for families locked in with young teens. Ellie Chu is a brilliant high school senior who rides her bike, seemingly always uphill and taunted by bullies, through fictional Squahamish, Washington, the kind of town that either traps you for life or provides the catalyst for escape. Actually filmed in upstate New York, Ellie is played by Leah Lewis, a multi-talented, adopted Chinese-American from Orlando, who has appeared in Disney films, on  The Voice  and even sang a solo at her own high school graduation. Her singing is put to use in a  Napoleon Dynamite  moment that serves as a bridge to her eventual acceptance at school.  She is almost boyish, plain and hiding behind glasses and pulled back hair in 

High Life

I also like good Science Fiction, but this strange 2018 Amazon Prime offering just gave me an excuse to make multiple trips to the kitchen for snacks. Somewhere in the not too distant future, criminals are being sent on voyages of rehabilitation from a ravaged planet to a black hole approximately eight light years from Earth. Well, surprise, it’s a one-way ticket to the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Everyone knows you can’t fly into a black hole and hope to come out intact. The premise for recruiting crews is the concept of circling the black hole to investigate the possibility of harnessing its energy to augment Earth’s own diminished resources. This French produced film stars Robert Pattinson as the father of an infant daughter, apparently alone on a large vessel that recycles waste, grows plants and can approach light speed. But what happened to the crew? Hold on, you’ll find out. It feels at first very much like 1972’s  Silent Running  with Bruce Dern. But here we don’t

Bone Tomahawk

I love a good Western. This 2015 film popped up in our Netflix assortment recently and we gave it a chance. We’re now in treatment for PTSD. The movie starts strong. Great sets and acting, some brutality early on, but nothing we couldn’t handle. The dialogue was punchy and had that formal-English dialect that wouldn’t be entirely out of the realm of possibility given the recent emigration during this period of most pioneers from the East Coast and beyond. Dark humor permeated early scenes, and then it just got deeply dark. Kurt Russell plays a no nonsense sheriff in ironically named Bright Hope near the border of Texas and New Mexico. He is known for his trademark shot-to-the-leg when confronting bad guys, resulting once again in the summoning of cattle rancher Arthur’s wife Samantha, who seems to have some medical expertise, or at least a bag of tools. Samantha and two others are kidnapped by a rogue group of Native American cannibal Troglodytes early in the film. The subsequen

Waves

If you liked 1979’s  The Great Santini  this film might be one you enjoy. It seems that Sterling K. Brown is in danger of being typecast as intense father figures, and for this role he is perfect. But unlike his character in  This Is Us , the loving father of the second generation Pearson clan whose type A angst turns mostly inward, the  Waves  character Ronald (no last name) is laser-focused on improving teen son Tyler. His pep talks are abusive, manipulative guilt trips steeped in racial insecurity and the need to “do ten times more” to gain equal footing with privileged whites. Set somewhere in southeast Florida, near the mega-wealthy South Beach excesses of glitz, drugs and Art Deco Hip Hop, colors and music form an immersive backdrop for what is essentially a teen coming of age movie. Once again, Smartphones are a key plot device, if not a character, that are an end-run around the need to convey much information that would traditionally need to be spoken or acted out. As writ