Malcom & Marie

Malcom & Marie is a character driven story, revolving around a destructive and emotionally draining argument that takes place after an awards ceremony where Malcom, an up and coming filmmaker, played by John David Washington, forgets to thank his girlfriend Marie, a model and former drug addict, who is played by Zendaya. This leads to a series of hurtful and I will use my friends term “spirit murdering” arguments where the two lovers bring up past events and trauma to gain an argumentative advantage over the other. The characters themselves do not have much redeeming about them, and its hard to see how their relationship could survive even one night of such vicious emotional assaults. Yet somehow this defective couple thrives on the conflict, and go from loving one moment, to fighting and loving again throughout the course of a night.

Although the characters are exhausting, the artistic presentation, and great acting, make the film worth watching. Choosing to shoot the film in black in white, with a flair for 60s styles nostalgia in a modern setting was a creative and visually appealing choice. The house the couple stayed in was awesome, but the acting is really what makes the film shine. Washington really showcases a range of believable emotions, as he embraces the role of the narcissistic, loving and emotionally abusing boyfriend, who means well, but cannot help attempting to destroy his girlfriend Marie’s psyche in their arguments. Initially, Zendaya appeared uncomfortable in this adult themed role initially, but maybe that was just my own discomfort seeing Spiderman’s high school girlfriend become a woman. Zendaya attacked this role with relish as she played the supportive girlfriend who, also had a series of emotional breakdowns as she swayed from loving to hating her boyfriend Malcom throughout the film. The movie takes place solely in the house and only has two characters, which was great artistic choice. This creates a sense of claustrophobia, as Malcom and Marie continually orbit each other in small spaces, although they have a large house and yard, they could use to get away from one another.

I would definitely spend the cash to see this one, just due to the acting, but you will be drained by the end of the film. Grade B.

Fast Color

I have circled around this movie showing on Amazon Prime, for a few months. The premise seemed interesting, but I always seemed to find something better to watch instead. Last night I finally clicked the link and gave it a shot. I liked the backdrop world for Fast Color, which involved the Earth going through an 8 year drought, in which no rain has fallen on the planet. The film is set in present day, and the world is on the verge of collapse with grocery stories barely stocked with any food stuffs and water selling for high prices. Although the world is teetering, everything is much like we know today, everything still functions, there is law and order, but there is just less, and everything is dirty. Think the COVID toilet paper shortage, but with everything. Now this by far was the most interesting aspect of the film. Now the film starts off with Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) on the run, from who knows what, and she takes temporary shelter in a seedy hotel. All of a sudden she begins to seizure, and a tremendous earthquake, rocks the hotel and surrounding areas. Eventually we discover she is being pursued by the government who is aware of her abilities, and are attempting to capture her for experiments. (The movie never explains any of this.) Ruth returns to her mom’s house that she left years ago when she was addicted to drugs. There is tension in the household because we learn that Ruth also had a daughter that she abandoned when she left her mom’s house. The movie then sheds light on the fact that Ruth’s powers are generational, and are passed down from mother to daughter. The power manifests as colors, which they can use to reconstruct and build things. For a reason we learn later, Ruth’s powers are blocked, which cause her seizures and the earthquakes. The rest of the movie, is more about the reconnection of Ruth with her mother, and her now pre-teen daughter. She attempts to reconcile with her mom, while trying to teach her daughter to avoid the mistakes she made. I liked the premise of the film, but it moved slowly, and left many story angles dangling that would have been exciting to pursue. How did the government learn about her? Why was she running? What led to the drought? So many questions, but the creators of the movie seemed more interested in the reconnecting relationship with Ruth and her family, than exploring the bigger issues. Nothing wrong with that, but if left me feeling that the film was incomplete. YOU CAN SAVE THE CASH AND DASH ON THIS ONE! Grade D+

Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep is actually a sequel to The Shining, so if you haven’t seen The Shining or are not familiar with it, then this movie will have a lot going on that you are not going to understand. Although there is a lot going on, a new person seeing this film for the first time, will realize that the movie is referencing a past event, which may create interest in seeing The Shining, or it may not. Doctor Sleep takes places decades after the events at the Overlook Hotel where Jack Torrance lost his mind to the ghosts of the hotel. Jack’s son Danny, (Ewan McGregor) has the gift of the Shining, and he is now a grown man and an alcoholic. The Shining is some form of telepathy. Danny comes across a young girl named Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran) who is also endowed with the Shining, and the two begin to communicate via writing on a black board using their mental powers. What they don’t realize, is that there is a group of people, led by a woman named Rose who feed on the Shining. Rose and her “Crew” spend much of the movie tracking down kids with the Shining and feeding on them. Rose discovers that Abra exists, and she realizes Abra is one of the most powerful wielders of the Shining she have ever seen. The crew begins to track Abra’s whereabouts, so they can have a feast of feasts on her. Abra with the help of Danny proves to be more capable than Rose or the Crew imagined, and a game of cat and mouse ensues. By itself, the movie doesn’t bring much new to the table with this genre. In a sense, the villains in this movie are vampires, but they don’t drink blood, they inhale “steam” the actual power that is the Shining. Rose and her crew look like traveling gypsies, and they are not scary. The only thing special that you see about them is that their eyes glow when they feed. The film eventually makes its way back to the Overlook Hotel for the grand finale, but the ending is never really in doubt and there are no real surprises. This is not a scary movie, nor is it really suspenseful. Typically, I would dismiss this film, however, if you are a fan of Stephen King and the worlds he has created via his books, then you know everything he has written has some connection to a larger universe. Since I read the Dark Tower series, I spent much of the movie wondering about the connection these vampire like creatures had to the overall Dark Tower Universe. There were so many ideas in this film that I would like to see explored. Where did Rose and the Crew come from? How does the Shining work? What will Abra do next? So many questions, but no answers. My wife and I enjoyed watching it, but you could definitely Save the Cash and Dash on this one. Grade C-.

MA

A group of high school teens find a woman who is willing to buy them alcohol and let them party in her basement. They dub her MA, and her basement becomes the hotspot for all the local high school teens. The parties are fun at first, and she is pretty cool for an old lady, but she starts to get too attached to them and wants to party more than them. When they start to brush her off, MA shows flashes of a dark side. They realize too late that MA has an agenda, and it doesn’t bode well for them. MA is a not a grisly horror movie, but you could definitely see something like this happening in the real world. Its pretty straightforward, but it is a good couple’s movie, that will entertain you. Spend your Cash on this one. Grade A.

The Midnight sky

George Clooney directs and stars in this film as an astrophysicist named Augustine who monitors the heavens for a returning spaceship the Aether, which was on a deep space mission to discover a habitable planet for humanity. While in the Artic, the Earth suffers a catastrophe, and the human race is dying. Many of the researchers at the outpost choose to leave the facility, so they can spend their remaining days alive with their families. Augustine chooses to stay, so he can warn the Aether to turn around and go back to the planet they have discovered. Augustine soon discovers that he is not alone, and a young girl has somehow stayed behind. Now he has to watch her, and keep her safe as he has to trek across the frozen wasteland of the Artic to another research base miles away that has the proper equipment that will allow him to communicate with the incoming space vessel. The movie follows both Augustine on the ground, and the crew on the spaceship who are oblivious to the events that have unfolded on Earth. This is not a popcorn movie, but a strong character driven tale, that finds elements of hope, joy and friendship in brief moments as the characters struggle to survive the dangers on Earth and in space. Spend the Cash on this one! Grade B+

wonder woman 1984

I loved the first Wonder Woman movie, and I enjoyed Wonder Woman’s roles in Batman vs. Superman and Justice League. Unfortunately, Wonder Woman 1984, drops the ball on what could have been another outstanding outing for Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. The film takes place in 1984. The director gets everything right, the clothing, cars, attitudes, music, culture, everything screams 1980s. This was one of the coolest aspects of the movie. The story revolves around an artifact called the Dream Stone, which grants wishes to a person, but exacts a price in exchange. Wonder Woman, her friend Minerva (Kristen Wiig) and the main villain, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) make wishes that began to have effects on themselves and people around them. Wonder Woman’s wish brings back her old flame Steve Trevor from the first Wonder Woman movie. Maxwell Lord starts to make wishes to make him the most powerful person on Earth with Wonder Woman in hot pursuit. Although, why didn’t Maxwell just wish all his enemies to be gone, including Wonder Woman? Minerva makes a wish that leads her to becoming Tigris. Her storyline just seemed to center on her gaining power over a man that harassed her on the street. Wonder Woman had potential, but the story just didn’t work. Nevertheless, Gal Gadot is still awesome as Wonder Woman, but she didn’t have much to work with. The most interesting story line in the film, actually was the interaction between Maxwell Lord and his young son, who was vying for his attention. The last ten minutes when Maxwell realizes his son may be killed and he sacrifices everything to get to him tugged on my heart strings, but that is about all that elevated my emotions with this film. Audiences have higher expectations for their superhero fare these days and Wonder Woman doesn’t deliver. Just because the movie is made in the 1980s doesn’t mean it has to follow 1980s superhero storytelling. Wonder Woman 1984 is like a mix of Superman III with Richard Pryor, Batman Forever, with Jim Carrey, and the Amazing Spider Man 2 with Jamie Foxx. All three of those movies tried to make their movies funny by bringing in comedians, and they failed. Wonder Woman follows this same path, without a comedian, and the results are the same…fail! Wonder Woman 1984 is too hokey, and the story too weak to spend cash on! MAKE THE DASH! Grade D.

soul

SOUL is a quaint story of a Jazz musician who has never gotten his big break, and goes through life as a part time music teacher with unfulfilled potential. Minutes into the story, Joe comes to a crossroad, where he is given the offer of a full time job as a middle school band teacher, or a once and a life time opportunity to play with a well renowned Jazz saxophonist. Unfortunately, Joe dies before he gets to make his choice, and on his way to the “Great Beyond”, he escapes and arrives to the “Great Before”, where conspires with 22, a pre-soul that has not been placed in a body to escape back to Earth to get his body back. Some funny hijinks occur, which involve a body switch with a cat, and a soulful tale is born! SOUL has beautiful music and a nice moral story about selfishness, giving to others and pursuing your purpose in life. It didn’t knock my socks off, but it had some funny moments, good story and great animation. I would SPEND THE CASH on this film. Grade B

Ma rainey’s black bottom

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a movie that tells the story of Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), a sultry, Harlem Renaissance singer in the late 1920s, from the South who comes to Chicago to make a record with Hot Rhythm Recordings. The film is based on the real life Ma Rainey, who was unknown to me until I saw this film. In the movie, Ma Rainey has achieved success, and good financial standing as she enters the twilight of her career. She is fiery, demanding, insecure, but confident in her ability to sing, and knows that her voice is the commodity that gives her leverage when dealing with the record label. She doesn’t tolerate any foolishness from the white label executives, nor her own band members who at times attempt to impose their own will on her vision of what her music should be. Her band is made up of four colorful individuals, Cutler, Toledo, Slow Drag and Levee. The movie is really about Levee (Chadwick Boseman) and his struggle to gain the limelight as a trumpeter for Ma Rainey’s band. Levee is an ambitious and talented musician, who wants to lead his own band, but his own tragic experience with racism leads to catastrophic conflict within the band itself. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom comes across as a one act play with two primary sets, the band room and recording studio, where the tense interactions take place between Ma Rainey, the record label executives, Levee and his band mates. This leads to some powerful stories on how these individuals have struggled and adapted to survive the racism, predatory practices of music labels and the regular human turmoil that comes from personal interaction in 1920s America. One could place this in modern times and see similar results! You will want to SPEND THE CASH on this one. The acting is powerful! Grade B

Underwater

Underwater gets rolling five minutes into the movie, with explosions and water cascading everywhere as Norah (Kristen Stewart), who minutes before was brushing her teeth, attempts to escape the seven mile sea deep mining facility where she works and calls home. After several near death experiences, she reunites with surviving crew members, and they make their plan to escape the doomed underwater mining rig. This all occurs in the first ten minutes! The survivors discover deep sea diving gear and use that to exit the collapsing rig. Once they get outside, they realize that there is more going on than they thought, and their sigh of relief upon getting away from the mining rig is short lived. Norah and her fellow survivors attempt to traverse one mile of treacherous landscape in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part on the Earth, trying to find sanctuary on another mining station. During their near pitch black journey across the ocean floor, they attempt to fend off an unknown foe that picks them off one by one. Underwater is a claustrophobic, action pick that borrows heavily from Alien and The Abyss, but it is well worth SPENDING THE CASH on this film.

Spell

If you like Omari Hardwick from POWER, then his presence alone will be enough for you to see this film. SPELL is actually a pretty good mystery/horror film. Hardwick’s character Marquis is a wealthy business man who learns his father, whom he hated because of abuse has died. Marquis flies his family, wife, daughter and son in his private plane to the funeral, but they crash during a storm. He wakes up in a bed, on the farm of an older couple Eloise and Earl, who said they found him in the crash. He asks for his family, but they say that nobody was with him. Marquis soon discovers that the couple practices some form of Christian/Voodoo and he witnesses and experiences some strange and painful events at the hands of Eloise and the Boogedy that she makes of him. The movie reminds me of play Misty for Me or the classic Misery, but with a supernatural twist. You figure out what is going on pretty early, but watching Marquis try to get out of his situation is engaging. You can definitely SPEND THE CASH on this film, but make sure it is the rental price and not the full price of admission.