MR. MALCOLM’S LIST (2022)

June 30, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. At this point, I believe it’s fair to say we have a Jane Austen sub-genre for film, TV, and books. After all, it’s been more than 200 years, and her novels have remained in print, have also been adapted too many times to count, and inspired countless writers and filmmakers to follow in her footsteps. The success of the “Bridgerton” series is a testament to the Jane Austen realm, despite being adapted from the novels of Julia Quinn. For this first feature film from director Emma Holly Jones, Suzanne Allain has adapted the screenplay from her own novel, and interestingly, this is a feature length version of Ms. Jones’ 2019 short film, with most of the cast and crew returning.

The film opens in 1802 England as youngsters Julia and Selina solidify their BFF bond. Flashing forward to a majestic castle in 1818, we find it’s mating season for high society, and Julia (Zawe Ashton) has her sights set on the catch-of-the-year, Mr. Jeremy Malcolm (Sope Dirisu). Their first date to the opera tells Malcolm everything he needs to know to rule out Julia as a prospective match. Her ignorance on current affairs and overall personality prevent any type of love connection. Though her feelings are hurt at the rejection, Julia likely would have moved on if not for a public humiliation related to the date, but not caused by Malcolm. When Julia discloses her embarrassment to her cousin, Lord Cassidy (an excellent Oliver Jackson-Cohen), he confides that Malcolm has crafted a list of requirements for his future bride. Instantly, Julia begins scheming to turn the tables of ‘humiliation’ on Malcolm, hoping to regain her reputation … one tarnished by four previous seasons without a match.

Julia’s scheme requires two co-conspirators. Lord Cassidy has already been bullied into the ring, and next up is her childhood friend, Selina (Freida Pinto). Selina is of a lower class than Julia, and against her better judgement (and sweet demeanor) agrees to the plan: playing the role of the perfect match for Malcolm before humiliating him by exposing his ‘list’. Of course, anyone who has ever watched a movie or read a book knows where this is headed … and that’s exactly where it goes. Selina and Malcolm do prove to be a good match, and she is overwhelmed by guilt.

Like Mr. Malcolm, I have a list … only my list is for the issues I have with the film:

  1. Julia is neither smart nor nice, and would be a poor match for most men
  2. Her plot for revenge proves her mean streak, as Malcolm never publicly humiliated her
  3. Malcolm has good looks and lots of money, but otherwise doesn’t seem like much fun
  4. Selina is smart, but we never see why she falls for Malcolm – other than his looks and money
  5. Selina seems too nice to ever go along with Julia’s devious plan against a guy who did nothing wrong
  6. The twist with Captain Henry Ossory is totally unbelievable and fabricated strictly for a happy ending
  7. The cast diversity plays like a gimmick and totally ignores genetics. There are more legitimate ways to achieve diversity

My list is longer than Mr. Malcolm’s, but you get the point on why the film didn’t work for me. Julia is unlucky in love because she is not likable, and Mr. Malcolm is a bit dull, and is only a “catch” because of looks and money. We never care about either of these characters. And shouldn’t everyone have a ‘list’ of characteristics they desire in a mate? It’s probably for all these reasons that I found the movie uncomfortable to watch and entirely too long. That said, the cast is superb and the performances are admirable in spite the issues I have with the script and story. Many viewers will likely ignore what bugged me here, and I contend the best of the recent entries in this genre continues to be EMMA. (2020)

Opens in theaters on July 1, 2022

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GREEN GHOST AND THE MASTERS OF STONE (2022)

June 30, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Next up in this prime era for Superheroes comes “Green Ghost”, a struggling south Texas car dealer who moonlights as a Lucha Libre wrestler with untapped mystical powers linked to the Mayan Apocalypse! Does that sound preposterous? Sure it does. But really, is it any more ridiculous than Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet? With an overall budget that was likely less than that AVENGERS powerful glove prop, writer-director Michael D Olmos and co-writers Charlie Clark and Brian Douglas deliver their version of a gently comical, semi-serious genre film saturated with martial arts moments and finding meaning in life. While certainly no cinematic masterpiece, what’s obvious about the film is that it was a labor of love … a true passion project.

Charlie Clark stars as Charlie Clark, aka “Gringo”, aka “Green Ghost” (the latter two make for an easy to decipher play on words). The real Charlie Clark is a car dealer in Brownsville, Texas. He’s also the star, producer, and co-writer of this project, so obviously it is very personal to him. This movie is not meant to be compared to big budget productions. In fact, it feels more like a bucket list item for Mr. Clark, and he was fortunate enough and committed enough to fulfill his own wish of making a movie (very) loosely based on his life. In real life, Clark was raised in the Mexican culture by his Nana … photos are shown over the closing credits. This plays as a tribute to her and his upbringing.

In the film, Charlie’s dealership is floundering, mostly because he’s quick to shirk his duties and head to the latest underground wresting match for his adoptive brother, Marco (Kuno Becker). Charlie supports Marco by donning his Green Ghost spandex costume – one that the crowd loves to jeer, and that causes fellow wrestlers to cringe. At a very high level (and low bar), the story involves a plan by evil forces led by Drake (Marko Zarar), the son of Nana’s sister, to obtain the magical and mystical emerald and rule humanity. The defenders of humanity are the trio nicknamed, El Trio de la Luz, and it consists of Marco, his sister Karina (Sofia Pernas), and to his surprise, Charlie. The group’s leader is Nana (screen veteran Renee Victor, who voiced Abuelita in COCO). To prepare for battle, Nana arranges a training program featuring Master Kane (MMA fighter Cain Velasquez), Master Hung (renowned stunt coordinator Andy Chang, “Rush Hour” films), and, best of all, Master Gin, played by the always great Danny Trejo … who even gets a “Machete” punchline. A “Rocky” montage technique is utilized, replete with a Spanish version of “Eye of the Tiger” performed by (director) Robert Rodriguez’s band.

An inordinately high percentage of scenes involve martial arts fighting, and some of the stunt work is much better than we’d expect. And then there are the moments that are meant to ensure we understand the filmmakers are in on the joke … like the flinging of tortillas, and a protective force field negated by fancy eyewear. We are never really sure how all of the mystical powers fit together, but the issue of corruption by power is pretty obvious, even within a family. The film’s best line is, “Every family’s not perfect, Charlie. Sometimes, we just have to make our own.” While watching, a few other films came to mind. This includes Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM, and Jack Black’s NACHO LIBRE. Perhaps that will help you find the right mindset for this one.


available VOD beginning June 28, 2022

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OFFICIAL COMPETITION (2022, Spain)

June 16, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Satire is one of the most challenging cinematic genres to get right. The script and performances are crucial, and the director must walk a fine line between too subtle and over-the-top. The long-time collaborative filmmaking team of co-writers and co-directors Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat, along with co-writer Andres Duprat, strike just the right chord and deliver a gem that is funny, insightful, and quite entertaining. The film was well received at last year’s Venice Film Festival, but is only now getting distribution.

We open on Don Umberto Suarez (Jose Luis Gomez), a wealthy pharmaceutical businessman, as he peruses the many gifts that have arrived for his 80th birthday. He’s in a reflective mood and wonders what he can do to secure his legacy so as not to be forgotten. Suarez debates between building a bridge or financing a “great” movie, one that will stand the test of time. He knows nothing of the film industry, and doesn’t bother to read the best-seller book he secures the rights to. He then meets with eccentric film director Lola Cuevas (Oscar winner Penelope Cruz, VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA, 2008), yet seems oblivious to what we see – her vision runs contrary to his, as evidenced by her production notebook that looks like a teenager’s scrapbook from summer camp. She buys in to his “best cast” demands and leaves him believing “his” film is in good hands.

Ms. Cruz is so perfect in this role that even her giant frizzy flame-red wig is simpatico with director Lola’s intense personality as an auteur. Things really take off when rehearsal begins and her two lead actors arrive. Antonio Banderas plays Felix Rivero, a global movie star who lives the rock star life with women and sports cars. He’s the personality antithesis of his co-star Ivan Torres, played by Oscar Martinez, a self-absorbed stage actor who views his world as prestigious, while mocking the glitz, glamor, and money that rules Felix’s world. An architecturally stunning art institute funded by Suarez serves as the rehearsal site, since it sits empty and unused.

Felix and Ivan are to play rival brothers, and the tension that develops between the two men is hilarious … and further spurred by Lola’s acting exercises. She prods Ivan on the simple line, “Good evening”, forcing him to repeat it multiple times, just as she toys with Felix on his level of intoxication (a range of 1 to 10). To increase the tension, Lola has the men rehearse underneath a giant boulder dangling overhead by crane. As the two actors battle it out for respect from the other and favoritism from Lola, the humor escalates at the same pace as egos are wounded. After scoffing at the mention of Felix’s awards, Ivan secretly practices his Oscar-acceptance speech in his dressing room. It becomes clear that each of the men want what the other has: Felix wants prestige, while Ivan wants recognition.

There are so many terrific scenes and moments here, including a foreshadowed twist and a sequence that combines industry awards, an industrial shredder, and the strength of Saran Wrap. All three lead actors are having a blast, and the supporting cast lends authenticity to this skewering of wealth, ego, art, and the film industry. Especially effective in support are Irene Escolar as Suarez’s daughter who has been cast in the film, and Pilar Castro as Violetta, Ivan’s equally pretentious wife. This is satire at it’s finest, and the filmmakers (and Ms. Cruz) even nail the ending. Kudos to one of my favorite movies of the year.

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GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE (2022)

June 16, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Normally when we see a movie where the focus is almost entirely on two characters conversing while in one room, we expect it to feel like something better served in live theater. But director Sophie Hyde does succeed in keeping it cinematic, despite the dialogue-centric script from writer Katy Brand and a setting that is 95 percent within the confines of a single hotel room. An extraordinary performance from two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson and solid complimentary work from Daryl McCormack keep us interested in the characters.

Nancy Stokes (Ms. Thompson) is a middle-aged woman fidgeting in a hotel room when Leo Grande (Mr. McCormack) knocks on her door and asks if he may kiss her on the cheek. It turns out Nancy is two years a widow and has hired sex worker Leo to assist with knocking a few things off her to-do list of unfulfilled intimate activities. See, Nancy has only ever had sex with her husband, and now she longs to feel young and excited again, and hopes this pay-for-it adventure will scratch that itch in just the right way.

Their initial meeting is fascinating to watch. Nancy, a former religious studies teacher, is a planner, list-maker, and steps-follower. She’s also filled with nervous energy and a bit embarrassed by the situation … clearly wanting to move forward, while trying to convince herself she doesn’t really want it. On the other side of this would-be tryst, Leo is the master of calm demeanor and smooth talk. He’s a professional who takes pride in the “service” he provides, and he recognizes what to say (and when) to try and put Nancy at ease. It’s clearly not his first rodeo. In this initial meeting, Nancy and Leo literally dance around the sex, and instead focus on conversation. She wants to know all about him, while he just wants to the job he was hired for.

Subsequent meetings (jobs, hook-ups, trysts?) between the two occur in the same room at The Duffield Hotel, and Nancy continues to poke the personal boundaries that Leo tries to uphold. As happens with human nature, barriers begin to break down. This intrusion changes the dynamics and causes quite the mood shift as personal lives and relationships open wounds that are probably best left to a situation where one hasn’t contracted for the sexual services of another.

Most of the dialogue seems believable and true to the characters, and Ms. Thompson does much of the heavy lifting. The only exceptions to this would be Nancy offering to talk to Leo’s mother (What the heck? That’s ridiculous even for a former teacher.), and when Nancy recalls asking her class about the impact of pay-for-sex … a discussion that seems a bit too on point for the film. A truly annoying song plays over the opening credits, but later an Alabama Shakes song plays with perfect timing. When Nancy’s real name is revealed, that too produces a cringe, but mostly we are reminded that the perfect fantasy sex partner will always be just that – a fantasy. Ms. Hyde’s film leaves us with this thought … will “empirically sexy” become the go-to compliment for romantic partners?

Opens in theaters on June 17, 2022

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THE PHANTOM OF THE OPEN (2022)

June 16, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Scott Farnaby co-wrote the book with Scott Murray and then adapted that book into the screenplay directed here by Craig Roberts (ETERNAL BEAUTY, 2019). Mr. Farnaby also wrote the excellent screenplay for PADDINGTON 2 (2017), as well as for the upcoming Disney version of PINOCCHIO. Director Roberts is also known for his acting, taking the lead in the underrated SUBMARINE (2010).

We are informed that this is based on the true story of Maurice Flitcroft, a name you likely don’t recognize. Flitcroft (played here by Oscar winner Mark Rylance, BRIDGE OF SPIES) is known for posting the highest score in history at the 1976 British Open. He shot 121. It was the first round of golf he ever played. Now if you wonder how that could happen, the filmmakers are happy to explain. We meet Flitcroft as an unassuming crane operator at the shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, a workplace he describes as “going in on your feet, and out in a box.” This is also where he meets and subsequently marries an unassuming secretary, and single mom, named Jean (played by the always great Sally Hawkins). The two marry and have twin sons to join Jean’s son, Michael.

There is really no need to dig in deep here as it’s a light-hearted, dry comedy based on an accidental celebrity who gained folk hero status over pursuing his dream … in a clueless and talentless manner. The big question remains: was Flitcroft a naïve man whose dream was inspired by watching a few holes of golf on TV, or was he a sly huckster who took a bit of enjoyment in sticking it to the system? Rylance gives the least subtle performance of his career as he dons a bucket hat and some protruding false teeth to create an exaggerated overbite that is as much of his character as the quirky facial expressions and down-to-earth philosophy he spews: “Practice is the road to perfection.”

Christian Lees and Jonah Lees appear as Maurice’s and Jean’s disco-dancing twins (and sometimes caddy), while Jake Davis stars as Michael, their more career-minded son. It’s an under-utilized Rhys Ifans who takes on the main villain role as the director of the British Open, and the man responsible for exposing and banning Flitcroft. Ash Tandon plays Lloyd Donovan, the journalist who sniffs out the Flitcroft story and actually follows through (like journalists once did) … even ten years later when the Flitcroft family is invited to the U.S. for the annual Maurice Flitcroft tournament, where the high score wins.

Isobel Waller-Bridge (EMMA., big sister to Phoebe of “Fleabag” fame) composed the score, and we do get archival footage of Maurice and family over the end credits. Perhaps EDDIE THE EAGLE (2015) is the best comparison for this film, as Flitcroft bore the label, “the worst golfer in the world” … something he vehemently denied. Maurice did manage to inspire others to follow their dreams, and his six sugars in tea may correspond to the level of saccharine the movie develops as it strives to be this year’s feel-good story – and we all know we need one.

Opens in theaters on June 17, 2022

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HUSTLE (2022)

June 7, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. As a sports fan and movie fan, I approach every sports movie with trepidation and low expectations. Let’s face it, most actors aren’t great (or even good) athletes, and most athletes aren’t great (or even good) actors. We would have no interest in a western where the cowboys can’t ride horses, just as we have no interest in watching John Goodman portray a baseball legend in THE BABE (1992). I tell you this to convey my state of mind while preparing to watch this basketball movie from director Jeremiah Zagar and co-writers Will Fetters (A STAR IS BORN, 2018) and Taylor Materne. It gives me pleasure to say that even though the premise is kind of similar to Kevin Bacon’s 1992 film, THE AIR UP THERE, this one should satisfy most sports and basketball fans.

Adam Sandler stars as Stanley Sugermen, a long-time scout for the Philadelphia 76’ers. An opening montage gives us a taste of why he’s worn out and beaten down after so many years on the road. Rushing to catch flights, too many fast-food meals, crashing in one hotel after another, and chasing down tips on the next great player … it all adds up to frustration and too much time away from his wife Teresa (Queen Latifah) and teenage daughter (Jordan Hull). Feeling unappreciated and questioning his professional future, Stanley is ecstatic when the long-time Sixers owner played by (Oscar winner) Robert Duvall promotes Stanley to assistant coach. Unfortunately, the dream-come-true turns into a nightmare when the beloved owner dies, leaving his cocky son Vince (Ben Foster) in charge of the team. Vince has little respect for Stanley and promptly sends him back on the road.

It’s in Mallorca, Spain where Stanley stumbles on a nighttime game at a local outdoor court. Immediately catching his eye is an intense, lanky player in work boots. NBA player Juancho Hernangomez stars as Bo Cruz, a true previously undiscovered diamond in the rough. The dream of all scouts is to be the first to find a transcendent player, and once they hear the NBA minimum salary, Bo’s mother and young daughter are on board with Stanley taking Bo to the United States. Of course, things don’t go according to plan. Vince rejects Bo, and a history of anger issues comes back to haunt Bo. Stanley ignores the naysayers, trusts his instincts, and takes on the project of preparing Bo for the scouting combine. The training montage is very well done, as Sandler and Juancho are both believable and draw us in for support.

Cinematographer Zak Mulligan and director Zagar deserve credit for filming the basketball sequences in a style that highlights the athletic talent without resorting to cheap editing tricks. Of course it helps that the basketball sequences are loaded with actual NBA players and playground legends. These guys look like they can play because they CAN. I’ll leave the closing credit montage to highlight most of those involved, but a couple of standouts include Boban Marjonovich and Anthony Edwards, the latter playing Bo’s head-game nemesis, Kermit Wilts. Also making appearances are Kenny Smith as a player agent, and the great Julius “Dr J” Erving, who has a couple of scenes.

When most people think of Adam Sandler, his long list of sophomoric and absurd man-child movies come to mind. Certainly, he can’t be blamed for giving the masses what they want. It’s made him a very rich man. However, his talent in more dramatic roles should not be ignored. The recent UNCUT GEMS and THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES are examples, and going back further, his turn in PUNCH DRUNK LOVE remains one of his best. As Stanley Sugermen, Sandler injects humor into his love of basketball, tossing in a couple of ‘soccer’ and ‘geezer’ jokes. Overall, he successfully captures the essence of an everyman seeking redemption for his self and his family.

Streaming on Netflix beginning June 8, 2022

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EMERGENCY (2022)

May 20, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. When we discover someone in the midst of a medical emergency, most of us wouldn’t hesitate to call 911 for assistance. In this film, developed from their Sundance award-winning 2018 short film, director Carey Williams and writer K.D. Davila remind us things aren’t always quite so simple. Two best friends and college students, return home to find a white girl passed out in their living room. Since the two young men are black, and their roommate is Latino, their discussion revolves around how the situation will be viewed by paramedics and law enforcement. It’s a terrific premise, and one handled deftly by the filmmakers and cast.

The first act is outstanding as we quickly get a feel for the friendship between Sean (RJ Cyler, “I’m Dying Up Here”) and Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins, “The Underground Railroad”). Sean is the fun-loving one who is constantly vaping for effect, but also paranoid and aware. Kunle is the strait-laced son of two African immigrant doctors. Kunle has been accepted to the PhD program at Princeton, while Sean’s big plan is ensuring he and Kunle become the first black students at Buchannan to attend that evening’s ‘Legendary Tour’ … seven invitation-only frat parties held over the course of one night. Kunle wants to hang with his buddy – just as soon as he finishes with his bacteria specimens (his “babies”) in the campus laboratory.

The early buddy-comedy banter is spot on, and leads us to make assumptions about the type of movie this will be. It’s only after Sean and Kunle stop by the house and discover the girl, that we realize this is a rare buddy-comedy loaded with social commentary. Their gamer-obsessed roommate Carlos (Sebastian Chacon, “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels”) joins the mission on how best to handle the situation. Carlos catches grief for his fanny pack, which is always filled with granola bars. Sean enjoys teasing Kunle, calling him an “Oreo” for being too white inside, and we hear Kunle described as “Black excellence”. As these three men of color debate the next step – how to provide care to the girl (who has since thrown up on their floor), while also protecting themselves from possibly dangerous racist reactions.

What they don’t know is that while they are arguing, the unconscious girl’s big sister (Sabrina Carpenter) has rallied two friends to go searching. Rather than improve the situation, racial profiling plays a part at just about every turn. The tone of the film shifts when Emma (Maddie Nichols) wakes up and freaks out at the situation. It becomes a comedy of errors in the mode of ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING (1987), only with fear and risk involved. Two sequences in particular standout: when they stop at Sean’s brother’s house to borrow a car, and when they do finally encounter the cops. Both scenes present the paranoia and constant uneasiness felt in these situations.

When utilizing comedy to express social commentary, there is a fine line between effective messaging and too-obvious. Both of these occur during the film, but for the most part, Williams and Davila and the cast are superb in making their points without preaching. The commentary on friendship and racism blends well into entertainment, despite the messages never leaving the screen.

In Select Theaters May 20th

Available worldwide on Amazon Prime Video May 27th

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TANKHOUSE (2022)

May 12, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. A couple of months ago I reviewed Tim Federle’s new movie, BETTER NATE THAN EVER, and described it as a real treat for young theater students. Now, just a few weeks later, comes the first feature film from writer-director Noam Tomaschoff and co-writer Chelsea Frei … one for the grown-ups still trying to make a go of it on the live theater scene. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes motivational, and sometimes painful to watch. While the film really boils down to finding one’s place in life and staying true to your own dreams, it takes quite an unusual path with oddball characters.

Sandrene St Jean (Tara Holt) and Tucker Charlemagne (Stephen Friedrich) lead a group of avant-garde performers in a display of rooftop immersive art. Things go swimmingly right up until a tragedy that results in the couple being booted from the company by their mentor, Burford Slezinger (Christopher Lloyd), and blacklisted from the NYC theater scene. Making things seem more hopeless for Sandrene and Tucker, a dinner with her parents (Andy Buckley from “The Office” and Joey Lauren Adams and her distinctive voice) leaves their free-wheeling artistic lifestyle lacking further funding.

The pretentious Sandrene and the brash Tucker admit they can’t possibly get “real jobs”, so they head to her hometown of Fargo, where a contest will decide which performance group will win the rights to takeover the historic downtown theater. The competition boils down to an established group led by Morten (Richard Kind), Sandrene’s former high school drama teacher, or the quickly assembled troupe of oddball locals she and Tucker cobble together from the local pub. Recruits are drawn in by Tucker’s proclamation of a “theatrical revolution” … one of his many articulate statements that carry no significant heft.

Most of the story takes place in Fargo, with the rivalry between the two theater groups driving things forward. There is a terrific parody of the WEST SIDE STORY gang face-off that involves high-speed dueling “Modern Major General Song” (from Pirates of the Penzance) versions – accompanied by finger-snapping! What we witness is how one person’s passion and commitment can both unite and divide, and how individual dreams should be pursued when the opportunity presents. Richard Kind’s Morten is a fine example of how bitterness can leech in when someone doesn’t achieve their goals and struggles, and still find happiness with the hand dealt. All of these life lessons are wrapped in a comedy with oddball characters that will likely appeal most to those who have chosen the theater life. In fact, the story is semi-autobiographical for writers Tomaschoff and Frei. While we would have liked more development for the supporting characters, this ‘personal’ aspect for the writers explains a great deal. Whether you view this as a parody or cautionary tale, it does remind us that each person must seek their lot in life.

Available May 13, 2022 on VOD

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THE DUKE (2022)

April 26, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. It made headlines in 1961. Francisco Goya’s ‘Portrait of the Duke of Ellington’ was stolen from London’s National Gallery. Director Roger Michell, with a screenplay from Richard Bean and Clive Coleman, dramatize the story so that it’s part comedy and part love story, and thanks to screen veteran James Broadbent, full of charm.

Oscar winner Broadbent (IRIS, 2001) stars as Kempton Bunton. We first see him in the midst of his courtroom trial. Pretty quickly, the film flashes back to 6 months prior. Kempton hasn’t had much luck in keeping his job as a cab driver, or a baker, or any other. He’s a bit of a rabble-rouser, quick to share his unsolicited opinions, and on a constant mission to look out for ‘the little guy.’ He is also a would-be writer who cranks out novels (“Susan Christ”) and plays that never get published, all of which adds to the chagrin of Kempton’s wife, Dorothy, played by Oscar winner Helen Mirren (THE QUEEN, 2006). Dorothy works as a maid, and only desires a simple, steady, and predictable life with her husband … who delivers quite the opposite.

Living in a working-class neighborhood with one of their sons, Jackie (Fionn Whitehead, DUNKIRK), Kempton and Dorothy have an interesting relationship … one that includes contrasting methods of grieving over the death of their daughter. She internalizes while he writes about it. Kempton’s latest protest is against the government buying back the Goya painting while so many citizens suffer the indignity of paying a television licensing tax. He insists the government should spend the money on the people, not on frivolities like art. It’s during this phase when we wonder if son Jackie is learning more from dad than we originally suspect.

Director Michell includes some fascinating shots, including the theft of the painting, which leaves Edvund Munch’s “The Scream” in the video wake. We also see the scene in the 1965 James Bond film DR NO which features the Goya painting and a little inside humor. There are also numerous shots with Broadbent superimposed into archival footage of 1960’s London, and actual newsreels from the era. The tone shifts when Kempton turns himself and the painting into the authorities. His courtroom behavior plays like a stand-up comedy routine, while his barrister (played by Matthew Goode) uses Kempton’s everyman-likability to his advantage.

Director Roger Michell passed away in September 2021. He’s best known for NOTTING HILL (1999) and VENUS (2006), and unfortunately, he didn’t get to see his final film released in theaters. Broadbent’s charm is on full display here, and the film easily could have gone deeper into the topics of social inequality and governmental mismanagement. Instead, it’s more sentimental and funny than enlightening … an outlandish heist story that plays just as well as a gentle love story. And that’s a pretty good cause for Mr. Michell the filmmaker.

Opens in NYC and LA on April 22, 2022 and nationwide on April 29, 2022

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“Bring a Friend Back to the Movies” will provide one complimentary ticket to customers who purchase a ticket directly from the Angelika website, app or in theaters to see “The Duke” during the first week of its release. Select Angelika locations will also offer each ticket holder for “The Duke” a specially priced split of bubbly to share with their friend in celebration of their return to the movies


THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT (2022)

April 21, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Calling all Nicolas Cage fans! Put the bunny back in the box and get ready for the most fun you’ll ever have with Nicolas or Nic or Nick or Nicky. And if one Cage isn’t enough for you, you’re in luck. This film has Nicolas Cage playing the (somewhat) fictional Nick Cage, and Nicolas Kim Coppola (Nicolas Cage’s birth name) playing imaginary alter-ego Nicky, a younger version of Nicolas Cage from the WILD AT HEART era who spends the movie constantly reminding Nick that he’s a movie star.

If you can’t make much sense out of all that, don’t worry, writer-director Tom Gormican and co-writer Kevin Etten have created a film that is sure to strike a chord with Nicolas Cage fans. What we see is a parody going meta in a surreal way. Very few get to star in the tribute to their own legend, but that’s what happens here. Nicolas Cage goes ‘inside baseball’ on the career of Nicolas Cage … only he does so as struggling actor Nick Cage, an actor so desperate for “the role of a lifetime” that he improvs a reading for director David Gordon Green (Cage’s director on JOE) in the parking lot of Chateau Marmont.

Having been kicked out of his rental after falling behind $600,000 in rent, Nick agrees to take a humiliating job pitched by his agent, Fink (Neil Patrick Harris). For one million dollars, he is to fly to Mallorca and hang out at the birthday party of rich super fan, Javi Gutierrez (a terrific Pedro Pascall, “The Mandalorian”). The twist here is that CIA agents played by Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz suspect Javi of being a notorious gun dealer who has kidnapped the young daughter of the Catalonia President. Spy-type shenanigans ensue as Nick and Javi develop a bromance that finds the two new buddies writing a film script together. And if that’s not quite enough subplots, you should know that Nick is at a breaking point in his relationship with his ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan) and teenage daughter Abby (Lily Sheen, real life daughter of Michael Sheen and Kate Beckinsale).

The zaniness includes nods to more than a dozen Nicolas Cage movies, and much of the fun is derived from recognizing these. Easter eggs are everywhere for fans, and Nic expertly plays Nick (and Nicky) as a loving tribute to the characters we’ve seen in so many iconic films over the years. Additionally, on screen love is provided for the 1920 classic, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, as well as the more recent gem, PADDINGTON 2 (2017), making this a tribute to cinema lovers, Nicolas Cage fans, and comedies in general. I will admit to disliking director Gormican’s 2014 movie, THAT AWKWARD MOMENT, so much that I hoped he was done as a filmmaker. It turns out, he’s back (and much improved) … not that he ever went anywhere.

Opens in theaters on April 22, 2022

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