Review: The Two Popes

Quickie Review: The Aeronauts

The Aeronauts is one of those movies that plenty of folks will like, but a lot of critics will wrestle with. It’s good, but it’s also disappointing. I saw The Aeronauts at the Middleburg Film Festival immediately following a screening of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and that may have clouded my foray into the clouds with Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. Mister Rogers is a tough act to follow! Redmayne and Jones (co-stars in The Theory of Everything) play a pair of adventurers trying to set a world record – and prove you can predict the weather – by sailing a hot-air balloon thousands of feet up into frigid skies in 1862. Oxygen deprivation is never a good thing. The Tom Harper-directed film, inspired by true events, has some great special effects and cinematography but overall drifts more than it soars.

Review: The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open

This is a total indie gem. It’s the story of two Indigenous women who meet by chance on a street in Vancouver as one of them is fleeing domestic abuse. What follows is told in real time as Áila (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, also the co-writer/director) tries her hardest to help Rosie (Violet Nelson) see her situation for what it is. The film was inspired by Tailfeathers’s real life experience in a similar situation. It’s a story told from the perspective of a middle-class Indigenous woman who is trying to bond with another Indigenous woman of a lower class. Though they share a deep cultural connection, their lives could not be more different. It’s a powerful film.

Review: Knives Out

I caught this one at Middleburg, and sadly it was my biggest disappointment of the festival. As whodunits go, the jig is up pretty early on. But it has so much going for it, with a killer cast — Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette and Ana de Armas — and a fun setup, that I kept hoping.  It is of course difficult to review since it depends on the element of surprise, and director Rian Johnson (Star Wars:The Last Jedi) even filmed a “don’t tell anyone the secret” spot to go before the movie. So here’s what I can tell you:

Review: The Two Popes

At the Middleburg Film Festival this year, The Two Popes was my top pick and if that’s any indication, it will win the Oscar. My favorites won the last two years. This sure to be a crowd pleaser is a somewhat imagined tale of the friendship that developed between the most recent Popes, Benedict and Francis, after beginning as rivals, and stars two actors at the top of their game — Anthony Hopkins as Benedict and Jonathan Pryce as Francis. And it’s by turns warm and funny and heartfelt. A total delight.

Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood sticks with me today as much as it did a month ago when I pegged it as one of my favorites at the Middleburg Film Festival. Cheesy and sentimental as it may sound, there’s no denying the power of – and need for – the film’s inspirational and aspirational message that it only takes one person to inspire a world of kindness. It doesn’t hurt to have that message conveyed by Hollywood’s Mr. Nice Guy, Tom Hanks, channeling children’s television icon Mr. Fred Rogers.

Review: Frozen II (aka Frozen 2)

Oh c’mon, did you really expect Frozen 2 to be as good – or even better – than its predecessor, the highest-grossing animated film of all time in worldwide box office? Did you really expect, or even want, another “Let It Go”? If so, you’re in for a bit of a letdown with this perfectly safe and pleasing sequel to the 2013 mega-hit that introduced us to royal sisters Elsa and Anna and the picturesque, Norwegian-esque Kingdom of Arandelle.

Review: Synonyms

Based on the real-life experiences of writer-director Nadav Lapid (The Kindergarten Teacher), Synonyms is the strange story of a young Israeli man named Yoav (Tom Mercier) who comes to Paris to escape his Israeliness and meets French couple Emile and Caroline who become his best friends and more. You’re never really sure who he is and what he wants, but you’re along for the ride as he walks the streets of Paris memorizing his French vocabulary (particularly synonyms), dancing in his tiny apartment and in streets and clubs, and doing everything he can to shed his former skin.

Review: Waves

Mainstream Chick and I both watched this one at the Middleburg Film Festival. It’s a family melodrama with a capital “F.” At its center is the African-American Williams family, whose patriarch is a driven man who made something of himself and expects nothing less from his son, pushing him to the breaking point. It’s an emotional roller coaster of a film that shocks and aches and takes a deep dive into the meaning of love and family. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s definitely worth seeing for its insistent style and excellent performances.

Review: The Report

We Chicks both saw The Report at the Middleburg Film Festival last month. We were both fans of this political thriller that should be seen widely, and agreed that its audience may be limited by the subject matter. And that’s unfortunate, because it’s an important story, extremely well done, that could very well change hearts and minds about a very dark moment in our country’s all too recent past.

Review: Charlie’s Angels

The new Charlie’s Angels movie is not quite a reboot. Or a sequel. Or even a reimagining of the classic franchise. It’s more of a continuation, expansion and rebranding of the female-driven crime drama that launched a thousand magazine covers and at least one iconic hairstyle when the detective series premiered in 1976 with Jill Munroe (Farrah Fawcett), Sabrina Duncan (Kate Jackson) and Kelly Garrett (Jaclyn Smith) employing a combination of beauty, brains, bikinis and athletic prowess to chase down bad guys. Angels came and went over the course of the series, which lasted five seasons and later spawned two harmless yet forgettable big-screen adaptations, Charlie’s Angels (2000) and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003) featuring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu, and directed by McG.

Charlie’s Angels (2019) pays homage to all that came before it, while modernizing and expanding the brand, and introducing a new group of angels for a new generation. It doesn’t suck; but no need to rush out and see it.