Soul

“Soul” is the new Pixar movie. Once again the studio has produced a beautifully written story about a man pursing his dream and helping another find their place. In some ways it reminded me of “Inside Out” from a few years ago, but it is different enough to stand on its own. As with most Pixar films the characters are well developed and feel real. They are spot on. This time a jazz musician is about to get his big break, but ends up in purgatory. He spends the movie trying to get back to his life. Another great movie from Pixar.

Promising Young Woman

From the previews I was not looking forward to “Promising Young Woman”. It stars Carey Mulligan, who has never impressed me, and it seemed like just another revenge/slasher film. I read some of the reviews and they were glowing, so I decided to give it a shot. Boy was I surprised. First it is not a slasher movie, but it does involve revenge. The main character is a medical school drop out who seems to be drifting through life after her best friend dies. She seeks her revenge on men by acting blind, stinking drunk and letting them take her home, only to sober up. There are a lot of plot twists and the acting is outstanding. And this is Carey Mulligan’s best performance. This is one of those movies that makes you think about what happened after its over. It is different and entertaining.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is a new film on Netflix starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman in his last role. It’s the story of a recording session of a blues singer in the 1920’s. The film is based on a play by August Wilson and is a follow-up to “Fences” from a few years ago. Davis is transformed into a blue singer who is a star to her people. She is mesmerizing as a tough, single minded woman with immense talent and is ahead of her time. Boseman plays her horn player with his own past. while he looks frail, he is a powerhouse in this role. Both of the leads are being touted for awards and deservedly so. Great movie and the blues are great.

Ava

Jessica Chastain stars as a contract killer with a past. She goes home to visit her family in Boston and confront that past. At the same time her bosses are not happy with her. This is an action film. Chastain is a bad ass and she racks up an amazing body count. The middle of the movie lags a little bit. The action scenes are well done. Ava is definitely not one to mess with. Also starring Geena Davis, John Malkovich and Colin Farrell, this is a fun,

The Prom

“The Prom” is a movie musical with a message that was recently on Broadway. Meryl Streep and James Corden star as two narcissist Broadway stars who are looking for a publicity stunt to help revive their careers. They decide to help a high school girl in Indiana who wants to go to her prom with her girlfriend, but it is forbidden. Nicole Kidman as a chorus girl and Andrew Rannells as an out-of-work actor agree to go along. The plot is just an excuse for some outstanding production numbers. The stand out in the cast is Meryl Streep, playing a diva, sings incredibly. I knew she could sing, but not like this! And for a woman of of 71 she looks amazing. Andrew Rannells, who starred in “Book of Mormon”, is also quite good. Corden are Kidman are O.K., but not up to the other two. The Indiana teenagers are a bit cliche, but enjoyable in the production numbers. This is a likable piece of fluff. The production numbers are fun to watch and well produced. A nice way to spend an evening.

Mank

It’s been nine months since I posted on Moviereviewsbymark, but I am going to try to start writing again. Let’s start with “Mank” a film written and directed by David Fincher and starring Gary Oldman. It’s the story of the man who wrote “Citizen Kane” which is one of my favorite movies. Oldman’s character, Herman Mankewicz, was a talented writer and a raging alcoholic. Most of the film takes place in 1940, but there are flashbacks to the early 1930’s when he was a successful writer. The film is in black and white to give it an early ’40’s feel and the acting is quite good, especially Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies. If you are an old movie buff you will love this film. If you are not it is an interesting story with compelling characters. Look for this film to get nominated for a bunch of Oscars.

Emma

The latest version of Jane Austen’s comedy of manors, “Emma” is more faithful to its author’s style. Anya Taylor-Joy is perfect as the title character who meddles in everyone’s business. She dominates the women and intrigues the men with her outspoken manner and confidence. This version is different from the 1996 film starring Gwyneth Paltrow; not so much better but different. For those of you who enjoy period films and Jane Austen this is not to be missed. A warning for the guys: There is very little action. A lot of talk and beautiful scenery and costumes. Well done.

The Way Back

In “The Way Back” Ben Affleck plays an alcoholic man who is just existing. A former high school and college basketball star, his wife has left him and he lives for his next beer. He is offered the chance to coach his high school’s basketball team. It’s a Catholic school going downhill and the team sucks. Along the way he regains a reason to exist, but still has a problem with alcohol. There is more to his back story, making him more complicated. As he did in the “The Accountant” a few years ago, Gavin O’Connor directs a tight story that does not go in the direction you think it will. Affleck is quite good as the sad sack coach and the kids on the team are realistic as they grow under his guidance. The ending isn’t what you expect, but it is very satisfying. Well made and worth seeing. It’s sort of a “Hoosiers” for the 2020’s.

Dolittle

I wasn’t looking forward to the latest take on the Dr. Dolittle books. I read most of them when I was a boy. They were kind of whimsical, while the various film versions were not. The latest version, starring Robert Downey, Jr., was better than I thought it would be. Downey, using a British accent, is natural as he talks to various animals. It is the actors who voice the animals that really make the movie. They are funny, with differing personalities. Dolittle and crew go off on a quest. They encounter Antonio Banderas as a middle eastern ruler who has it in for Dolittle. Much better than I thought it would be. It may be out of theaters by now, so see it when it is on Netflix.

Bad Boys for Life

Probably the most enjoyable film so far in 2020 is “Bad Boys for Life”. This third installment takes place seventeen years after the last one, but Martin Lawrence and Will Smith have lost none of their charm. The action is great with a large body count but the real reason to see this film is the two stars. There is an interesting storyline that goes into Smith’s character’s past. Lawrence is looking to retire, but Smith won’t let him. Very enjoyable action buddy flick.