House of Gucci

I was looking forward to seeing “House of Gucci” because of the cast, director and story. The former did not disappoint. Adam Driver, Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons were very good. However Lady Gaga and Jared Leto were outstanding. Gaga is phenomenal. She carries the movie, giving a confident performance, and ends up dominating the film. Jared Leto plays a Gucci cousin who is not too swift. His makeup makes him unrecognizable and he completely submerges himself into the role. The movie itself is not quite as good as the acting. I found it choppy and a bit too long. I would have expected a smoother flow of the plot. The story, based on fact, is compelling and interesting, a true crime drama of the rich and famous. Worth seeing, but not necessarily in the theater.

King Richard

“King Richard” is the true story of Venus and Serena Williams and how their father Richard taught, pushed, guided and obsessed over making them tennis super stars. Will Smith gives what is probably his best performance to date. He makes Richard pushy, difficult, obsessive and at the same time loving and warm. Richard set extremely high standards for his daughters and against all odds they make it because of their skill, but also because of their father’s chutzpah. Even though we know the ultimate outcome the film is suspenseful and compelling. Smith’s greatness in this role shines because at times you love him and at other times you hate him because of the way he treats his daughters. This film is two hours long and I was not bored at all. A great story with a one-of-a-kind performance. Don’t miss it!

The French Dispatch

“The French Dispatch” is one of the films I have been looking forward to seeing. It is Wes Anderson’s latest and it does not disappoint. Anderson is known for making films that are a bit off-center and odd, but funny. Not everyone gets his sense of humor, but those of us who do appreciate its uniqueness. This is not a main stream movie. The French Dispatch is actually a magazine, similar to the New Yorker and the film covers the writing of a few of its stories. Bill Murray, an Anderson regular, plays the editor, and each of the stories stars some great actors like Benicio Del Torro, Adrian Brody, Frances McDormond and Timothee Chalmete. The stories keep your interest and keep you guessing. A worthy contribution to the Wes Anderson collection. I enjoyed it.

Eternals

“Eternals” is the latest attempt by Marvel to establish a new franchise. A whole new set of characters are introduced. They are a race of super beings who use their powers to protect the human race from creatures out to destroy them. Their orders are to not interfere with human conflicts such as wars. The new heroes have some humor as well as flaws. Their master controls them until they find out his ultimate goal. Intriguing and well filmed by Chloe Zhao, who won an Oscar last year for “Nomadland”, “Eternals” is as different a project as she could find. The actions sequences keep coming and are well done. Lots of special effects. In the end the film did not leave me wanting more. Compared to the Avengers it is lacking something. This film should be seen on the big screen to get its full effect.

Belfast

I am way behind on my movie reviews. “Belfast” is Kenneth Branagh’s latest film and it is his most intimate one so far. It is his “Roma”. The autobiographical story takes place in Northern Ireland during the conflict between the Protestants and Catholics. It is told through the eyes of a little boy, played by newcomer Jude Hill, and he is phenomenal. He is an innocent, caught up in the fighting and hate while he tries to live his life as a ten year old boy. His parents argue about moving away from Belfast, their life long home. He is especially close to his grandfather. Well acted, beautifully filmed in black and white and a compelling story, this film will likely be recognized when awards time comes. Jamie Dornan, of Fifty Shades of Gray, plays the father and this role may redefine his career. Caitriona Balfe plays the mother and she is outstanding. The grandparents are played by Judi Dench and Ciaron Hinds. All of these cast members deserve recognition. This film will probably make many of the top ten lists for 2021.

Spencer

“Spencer” tells the story of one Christmas toward the end of Princess Diana’s and Prince Charles’ marriage. They are with the entire Royal Family for their traditional three or four days. Diana, who is played convincingly by Kristen Stewart, is in pain and probably going through a mental breakdown. I was struck by how impersonal the royals were to each other. Diana’s anguish is very understandable. Her scenes with her children are warm and playful, but with most of the other adults they are cold and distant. Stewart does a better job than I expected with a spot on British accent. Lucky for her that the part did not require much smiling because she is not known for that. She is being mentioned for acting nominations. While interesting, this movie is slow. It’s more about manners and doesn’t have much action.

The Guilty

“The Guilty” is a one person thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a cop demoted to answering 911 calls, he answers a call from a young woman being abducted. Gyllenhaal’s character keeps referencing that he is going to court in the morning, hoping to be cleared of the charges against him. This film is very suspenseful and keeps you guessing without leaving the room that he is in. All of the other characters are portrayed by voices; we only see Gyllenhaal. Best of all is a plot twist at the end that you won’t see coming. Don’t miss it!

Tina

“Tina” is a new documentary showing on Netflix. It tells the life story of Tina Turner, going into a lot more detail than “What’s Love got to Do With It”. Much of the film focuses on Tina’s marriage to Ike Turner and how he controlled all aspects of her life. The one constant throughout is Tina’s incredible talent. She could sing and dance like no one else. Supposedly Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart learned their moves on stage from her. Turner is interviewed and serves as a kind of narrator. As you would expect, the music is the best part of the film. What a talent! I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary.

Wrath of Man

Anytime I see a film that stars Jason Statham, I know it will be action packed, short on dialogue and has a huge body count. “Wrath of Man” lived up my expectations. It had the extra bonus of being directed by Guy Ritchie, the British director known for action, if not subtlety. In this film things are not as they seem. Statham goes to work for a armored car company, but not for the reasons he professes. I do not think that he uttered one full sentence in the whole film and he only had one facial expression throughout. In other words he was perfect, He doesn’t use his martial arts much this time. Most of the action is with guns. There are a number of plot turns as the story is explained. And did I mention that there is a huge body count? A very satisfying action/adventure film. Not one that will be remembered at awards time. Again it was great to see it on the big screen.

A Quiet Place, Part II

A few years ago “A Quiet Place” was a surprise hit; a unique, suspenseful horror film. Besides the different plot and very little dialogue it had an almost unseen predator and a lot of surprises. I love when a movie catches me off guard by being better than anticipated. So when I saw that they were making a sequel I wasn’t thrilled because they usually are not as good as the original. Once again I was pleasantly surprised because Part II is almost as good as the original. Instead of telling the same story by just changing around the scenes, this sequel’s plot is new and different. It moves the story along and is as suspenseful as the the first film. John Krasinski once again directs, but is only seen in a few flashback scenes. This time Emily Blunt carries the film. Like Part I, I was on the edge of my seat. The invaders are still scary and by conversing in sign language and pantomime throughout, it is even more suspenseful. The makers ended the movie at a point where they can make a Part III. If you liked the first one you will enjoy Part II. And it was great to see it on a big screen.