Thursday, April 28, 2022


 Gita Reddy     Zenobia Shroff     Karan Soni     Geraldine Viswanathan

            This production executive produced by the Duplass brothers and Roshan Sethi (the latter also the director) and written by Sethi and the star Karan Soni seemed to have promise but turns out to be less interesting than expected.  I realize that I was anticipating something like The Big Sick (starring Kumal Nanjani and Zoe Kazan), a rom-com written by the two stars that speaks across cultures.  

            The idea of making a movie about matchmaking that is prodded by Indian born parents in today’s age would be a challenge for sure.  Setting the film during the recent and ongoing pandemic is likewise intriguing.  But whereas the acting in 7 Days by Karan Soni (as Ravi)  and Geraldine Viswanathan (as Rita) is really fine, the script is not so much.  Pitching a naïve, compulsive, over-achieving mama’s boy against an impulsive out-of-work, impish woman could be funny, I suppose, but their situation becomes so unlikely it strains credulity.

            I admit I did laugh out loud a few times (guess-who jokes through a locked door), but most of the time this couple spends together is not entertaining or even interesting.  I ended up having no sympathy at all for the Rita character and only a little for Karan who is such a neurotic wimp I lost respect for him, although at least his heart was in the right place.  That these two people who are so different from one another could end up together in a marriage is completely incomprehensible to me.

            I presume that 7 Days will be of interest to people whose values are still with the “old country”, but it’s doubtful many young people of today will find it something they want to watch.


Matchmaking by parents in a time of covid should be comedic, but in this case, it is not.


Grade:  D                              By Donna R. Copeland

Wednesday, April 27, 2022


 Liam Neeson     Monaca Bellucci     Guy Pearce

            No justice?  Well…maybe…  That’s the subject of this thriller starring Liam Neeson in the role of a paid assassin; that is, is justice ever served, really?

            The extra twist in this movie based on an earlier Belgium movie entitled The Memory of a Killer is that the paid assassin is suffering from progressing Alzheimer’s Disease.  In this case, Alex Lewis (Neeson) is in his later years and planning to retire.  No more “jobs.”  But as a favor to an old friend, he agrees to take on one more.  “Famous last words” and all that.

            The beginning of the intrigue is a bit confusing at first, with six different people in different places introduced right away.  Keep track because you’ll encounter all of them later.  The upshot is that Alex has been persuaded to take on another job.  We quickly move from Guadalajara to El Paso to Mexico City and back to El Paso.  Essentially, the plot addresses the fundamental issue of whether justice can ever be served.  There are different kinds of justice, of course—what happens to those caught up in something in which they have no control—and true justice in which perpetrators of cruelty are given their comeuppance.  Those who are complicit in injustice are likewise addressed.

            Vincent Serra (Pearce) is a committed FBI agent who takes an interest in a child, Beatriz (Mia Sanchez in a top performance), caught up in something she cannot possibly understand.  She’s the daughter of a trafficker snared by Serra and his team.  He recognizes her innocence (an emotion we later learn is possibly based on his own experience) and tries to see that she is protected by U.S. child protective agencies.  Here, the issue of the treatment of undocumented people is touched upon.  (A strength of this film is its ability to layer related social issues.)

            The history of the plot itself is based on first a book by Jef Geeraerts, a film, “De zaak Alzheimer” by Carl Joos and Erik Van Looy and a screenplay by Dario Scardapane.  Director Martin Campbell with his collaborators cinematographer David Tattersall, musician Photek, and the actors Liam Neeson, Guy Pearce and the rest of the cast deliver a thoughtful action film that is worthy of the genre.  

            Memory is a thriller through and through where we see a paid assassin acting on personal limits (which are explained in the end) creating such an uproar he ends up being on the side of the FBI agent he deems to be moral and committed.  I liked that in the end justice can be served.


An unlikely thriller in which moral limits are tested and found to be among those least admired.


Grade:  A                              By Donna R. Copeland

Thursday, April 21, 2022


 Nicholas Cage     Pedro Pascal     Tiffany Haddish     Sharon Horgan

Neil Patrick Harris     Demi Moore     David Gordon Green

            This is a curious mixing up of reality and fantasy, though mostly fantasy.  It seems that writer (with Kevin Etten) and director Tom Gormican intended to make a spoof of Nicholas Cage and his movies by weaving in and out of both in a multi-layered piece that oftentimes uncannily mirrors Cage’s own life and career.  To enmesh the plot further, Cage’s double named Nicholas Kim Coppola (the actor’s given name before he changed it) appears periodically urging him to be true to himself as an actor.  Confusing?  It’s meant to be.

            When the movie opens (after a quick scene of a kidnapping unexplained), Nicholas Cage the character is in a career slump, which he does not want to acknowledge.  Neil Patrick Harris playing his agent Richard Fink tries to get him any job he can, even those beneath him.  But the offer that most intrigues him is the one in which he will go to a super fan’s birthday party for which he’ll earn $1 million.  This makes Cage vulnerable to a major scam and provide a perfect opportunity for an action film, which the character Cage is eager/desperate for.  

            In the beginning, the film portrays Cage the actor as someone so self-involved, he cannot celebrate his teenage daughter on her birthday without directing the guests’  attention to himself.  This part of the movie is hard to watch because he is so obnoxious.  But it transitions to Javi Gutierez’s (Pascal) villa in Mallorca where Cage will be caught up in his host’s luxurious living and an intrigue that involves the CIA (Haddish).

            Bright and knowledgeable people are likely to enjoy thoroughly the references to movies (highlighted are Cage’s Guarding Tess, Moonstruck, and others) and filmmaking (Cage and Gutierez wanting to make “a character-driven adult drama”, stealing lines, going in and out of character).  The audience I was with seemed to enjoy most the usual kinds of goofiness that many people seem to love, like pratfalls, a car backed up so fast it crashes into another car, and hair-raising car chases.  So, in these senses, the film will appeal to a broad span of viewers.

            I admire the actor Nicholas Cage for agreeing to support a movie that portrays him with many of his flaws…and he acts in it, no less.  His genuineness and willingness to allow himself to be seen in such a light is unusual and reflective of his decision to change his name from Coppola to Cage early on in his career and fund numerous charitable projects through the years.

            I also admire the skill, cleverness, and humor that Tm Gormican and Kevin Etten brought to bear on such a complex, multi-layered work that is meant essentially as entertainment.  But it might be more than that in both the filmmaking world and in psychoanalytic efforts to understand the individual in the contexts of origin, development, and achievements.

            Nicholas Cage as himself is of course the penultimate of any acting career, and he does it so easily.  Pedro Pascal is a talented actor in many different kinds of roles, and he pulls off the transitions required here.  Tiffany Haddish as a CIA agent is not so convincing, but her role is meant to be comical more than real, and for that she does a good job.  


Nicolas Cage?  See him here in all his facets, both real and imagined.


Grade:  B+                            By Donna R. Copeland

Wednesday, April 20, 2022


 Alexander Skarsgard     Nicole Kidman     Claes Bang     Ethan Hawke

Anya Taylor Joy     Willem Dafoe     Bjork     Gustav Lindt

            Oh, those Vikings!  They’re a brutal lot, and Director Robert Eggers with his co-writer Sjon (a poet and novelist as well as screenwriter) have presented us with an extraordinary drama that gets into all kinds of substantive issues of the ages—war (of course!); vengeance; family belonging, loyalty, and entanglements (including incestual); romance; and more—all against the backdrop of sweeping countryside vistas, blood, and gore.

            We get a brief picture of a happy royal family—King Aurvandil (Hawke), Queen Gudrun (Kidman), and Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak the younger, Skarsgard as the older), maybe with some raising of eyebrows, but with the King making his wife and son mindful of the burden of royalty.  He starts training Amleth bigtime in warrior ways, which includes dog-type faceoffs, and making him promise he will avenge his father’s death if it comes to that.  We’re told that honor is above all the highest virtue.

            The tale goes on, pitching the viewer into the 895 A.D. Vikings world through not only the plot, but also expert cinematography (James Blaschke), production design (Craig Lathrop), music (Robin Carolan, Sebastian Gainsborough), and special effects (too many to mention) as well.  The plot transports you along making you feel as if you are there, thanks to that and all the crafts supporting it.

            Quotable quotes are sprinkled about liberally, such as, “You have the strength to break men’s bones; I have the cunning to break men’s minds” and “My earth magic will stoke the flames of your sword”, both spoken by the fetching Olga to Amleth.  Still, some metaphorical references are humorous such as the cleverly inserted “kiss my butt” action.

            The most gripping part comes when Prince Amleth is confronted with elements of the prophecy told to him as a child that at some point, he will have to make a choice between the protection of loved ones and honoring a promise.  

            This is not only a visually beautiful film, it taps into fundamental beliefs we all have about family, war, and conscience, elevating it above your regular adventure film by allowing us to experience some of those real dilemmas that many people must face even now as in the past.  Some are publicly heroic, but some are simply the everyday experience of a reality a person did not plan to encounter.

            This is an exquisitely conceived film that tells a story for the ages.


If you like adventure with intelligence and cleverness and can stand the gore, go to this movie.  You will be rewarded.


Grade:  A                              By Donna R. Copeland

Thursday, April 14, 2022


 Odessa Young     Josh O’Connor     Colin Firth     Olivia Colman

Some Dirisu     Glenda Jackson


         A romantic tryst in a mansion on a sunny day between lovers who have been seeing each other for seven years seems like it will be a lovely story, except that it’s bittersweet; this will be their last time together because Paul (O’Connor) is getting married the next day to someone else.  Jane (Young) seems to be taking it seriously and calmly, and one wonders what is going through her mind.

    The movie is set in 1924 in Britain when class boundaries are clearly defined.  Jane is a housemaid for the Nevins, a family close to Paul’s, and it is in his parents’ manor that the two have met.  Paul is upper-class, and he is engaged to marry a childhood friend.  He and his parents, she and her parents, and the Nevins (played by Firth and Colman) are scheduled for a lunch the day before the wedding.

     The story can only be understood in the context of a time and place when class divisions were strictly maintained; for instance in today’s world it is likely that Paul would rebel against the social order, refuse to marry his betrothed, and run off with Jane, with whom he is in love.  But not then; it’s apparent even in the conversations between Jane and both of the Nevins that a prescribed social distance is maintained, and that Paul is well socialized to conform to expected social norms.

      It is clear that the story, based on a novel by Graham Swift, is about class relationships, although, unfortunately, that is not addressed specifically.  All the characters—except for the snippy bride-to-be, whom we meet only briefly—seem to accept the social order and are not inclined to question it.  I wish the film had addressed this more specifically, along with more about the background of the main characters.  Jane’s history is spelled out, but only a brief reference to the importance of picnics in Paul’s family is mentioned.  Three of the close-knit families had lost sons in the war, and it is obvious they are still grieving, but we only learn that incidentally.  There are only brief spurts of bitterness expressed by the Olivia Colman character, and it is only after some time we learn why she behaves as she does.

     Odessa Young, who carries most of the film, is beautiful to watch, both physically and observe her acting talent and skill, which has drawn much praise from her native Australia.  I hope I will be seeing her in future productions.  Josh O’Connor is in a less appealing role but lives up to his fame in portraying Prince Charles in television’s “The Crown.”  As always, I enjoyed Firth’s performance; his acting is so eloquent, he enriches every scene he’s in, conveying underlying turmoil while maintaining outward aplomb.  Olivia Colman epitomizes the bitter (as in The Lost Daughter) and grieving mother who has lost her son on the battlefield.  

      Cinematography by Jamie Ramsay is artistic in portraying love scenes with novel sequences and in certain reflections, such as a blood stain reflected on a wallpaper pattern.  Music by Morgan Kibby is exquisite in capturing the period with lovely piano music and then with more modern-age dissonance during distressing scenes.  Director Eva Husson has put all the elements together for a moving, engaging story.

        I have to complain about two characteristics which are unfortunately not unique to this film.  One is the constant scenes of cigarettes that make it obvious they’ve paid for a good part of the picture.  The other is the mixing up of times so one must figure out the time frame.  Why can’t filmmakers film their stories in chronological order?  I don’t mind a bit of reckoning back but jumbling up time frames is getting to be so annoying. 

Mothering Sunday is about an unusual Mother’s Day in 1924 when WWI is still fresh in the minds of British people and the social order still influences people’s behaviors and relationships.


Grade:  C+                                        By Donna R. Copeland

Thursday, April 7, 2022


 Jude Law     Mads Mikkelsen     Eddie Redmayne    Dan Fogler

Ezra Miller     Alison Sudol     Callum Turner     Katherine Waterston

            This umpteenth version of the Fantastic Beasts series begins on a rather sinister note with Albus Dumbledore (Law) and Gellert Grindelwald (Mikkelsen) meeting for tea and revealing their significant history.  However, during the brief meeting they have major differences that will reverberate throughout the world of magic.  Dumbledore explains to Newt (Redmayne), Theseus (Turner), and Jacob Kowalski (Fogler) that they must exert their powers in thwarting Grindelwald’s plans for wizarding world domination.

            Mikkelsen is made up to bear a resemblance to Hitler and shows him rallying the people around him in ways reminiscent of the German Nazi of WWII.  Grindelwald has become power hungry and knows that Dumbledore will do everything he can to stand in his way, so he sends out resentful outcast Credence Dumbledore (Miller) to kill the older Dumbledore.  

            Most of the story is about these two factions trying to out-maneuver one another.  Unfortunately, there are few surprises (if any) in this production, and although there are a few pearls of wisdom cast (“Do what is right; not what is easy” and “Trying to make things right is more important than perfection”), real substance in terms of ethical and moral values is missing.

            The production is visually beautiful, and it is always fun to see magical powers rendered in CGI (the two major protagonists fight a brilliant battle with one another), but this plot is so thin and lacking any punch, the viewer is likely to question its 2+-hour length.

            Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Mads Mikkelsen, and the rest of the supporting cast are skilled actors who are consistent in their performances.  Music by James Newton Howard and cinematography by George Richmond contribute to the entertainment value.  It seems that the script (J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves) is the main drawback, although it’s also likely that the filmmakers have simply extended the series too long.


This latest production in the Fantastic Beasts series adds nothing new, especially given the length.


Grade:  C                              By Donna R. Copeland


Jake Gyllenhaal     Yahya Abdul-Mateen II     Eliza Gonzalez     Moses Ingram

Garret Dillahunt     Jackson White     Cedric Sanders

             There are thrillers, and there are thrillers.  But when the plot is so outlandish it becomes utterly unbelievable, the thrill goes…goes…it’s gone.  Imagine a case in which a criminal (38 banks robbed in the last 10 years) is so good-hearted he wants to aid his adoptive brother by stealing money from a bank so the man’s wife can get medical treatment.  Right from the beginning, the bank job has problems, after which an ambulance is commandeered with an EMT and a wounded policeman aboard.  All the while the two heist brothers Danny (Gyllenhaal) and Will (Mateen) argue with each other repeatedly.              
         Sometimes they are arguing with Kim (Gonzalez) the EMT attempting to treat the wounded officer while the ambulance is careening around the city.  The police and an FBI agent are after them with helicopters overhead, and they bicker as well.  There’s so much machismo all around trying to establish who’s the alpha dog, one could almost smell the testosterone.
           One of the most bizarre sequences is when Kim decides the wounded officer needs to have surgery, and Danny knowing that it’s crucial for them to keep the man alive, whips through her phone and finds the names of doctors who can guide her through it.  The one he gets hold of has to consult two trauma surgeons on the golf course to assist.  Can you believe she is able to get the bullet out?  Fantastic.
         Normally, I’m more lenient with films in which a favorite star like Jake Gyllenhaal is involved; however, this is a time where about all I remember of his character is that he is yelling.  None of the nuanced, uncanny portrayals that are his usual show of talent and skill.  Yahya Abdul-Mateen and Eliza Gonzalez are given a few more chances to show other kinds of emotions, which were a relief, and they both do well.
            A few humorous moments are in the film to pull up some laughs in the audience, but basically, this is a two+ hour car chase with constant vociferous challenges.     
              Producer/Director Michael Bay is known primarily for his six Transformer (2007-2018) movies, none of which were well received, except for Bumblebee in 2018.  I haven’t seen all of them, but of the ones I am familiar with, I was struck by his tendency not to portray strong human emotions in a convincing light.  It’s the same here, where all the characters are pretty much one-dimensional, stereotypic figures. 

There is almost nothing to recommend in this overly long movie consisting primarily of an endless ambulance/car/helicopter chase with implausible scenes in the forefront.


Grade:  F                              By Donna R. Copeland

Wednesday, April 6, 2022


Michelle Yeoh     Stephanie Hsu     Ke Huy Quan

James Hong     Jamie Lee Curtis     Jenny Slate

            Everything can happen everywhere in a cartoon, and this is the wackiest one ever done.   Real people are acting out in a way that is only seen in cartoons doing impossible feats.  It’s funny at times, insightful or mysterious at other times and often confusing.  More than a few critics plan to see it at least one more time to pick up on things missed in the first viewing.

            The story is about a Chinese-American family with tax woes.  They run a laundry, but the mother Evelyn (Yeoh) is a Jack/Jill of all trades, so they have other businesses as well.  It’s a bickering family with the mother way too stressed and often harping at family members, consisting of her husband Waymond (Quan), daughter Joy (Hsu), and her dear old father Gong Gong (Hong)—who must be pleased at all costs.  Waymond has just informed Evelyn that he is thinking about divorce.

            Before the family’s visiting IRS agent Deirdre (Curtis), Waymond starts acting strange and pulling Evelyn into an other-universe reality, which is not only confusing for her, but to us the viewers as well.  Then the script changes drastically at the IRS.  We’re switched to the broader world of multiverses.  Waymond transverses between himself and someone from the alpha universe.  He seems to have some awareness of what is going on and tries to counsel his wife, telling her she has abilities of which she is completely unaware and needs to develop.  This is very different from his usual persona, and she is thoroughly mixed up, not even recognizing herself and the feats she can suddenly perform.  This switching around happens to everyone.

            It’s almost impossible to describe, certainly without giving too much away.  The more naïve one is about the plot, the more delightful the surprise.  And it’s not all fun and games, some serious work is accomplished both in the husband/wife relationship and in the mother/daughter relationship, and ultimately there is even a certain amount of understanding achieved between Evelyn and Dierdre who have been antagonistic to one another throughout.  

            Michelle Yeoh is a wonder here, richly deserving of her centerpiece place in a film after accruing so many accolades in supporting roles.  She has had an impressive journey.  From emigrating from Malasia to the UK, training for ballet, getting a part with Jackie Chan that eased her way into action movies, serious injuries from doing her own stunts, and gaps in her career.  But at 60, she finally has a starring role that proves once again her talent and skill in acting.  Joining her in fine performances are Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, and James Hong.  Jamie Lee Curtis shines in her portrayal of a cheeky IRS agent, in which she is almost unrecognizable.  Slate’s cameo role is very effective as well.

            The Daniels (Kwan and Scheinert) prove their merit in writing and directing this unusual production which pulls the viewer so neatly into altered realities and then  selecting a cast that fits seamlessly into their characters.  

            Everything Everywhere All at Once is clearly a landmark in moviemaking, both in action and in comedy films.  Sprinkled throughout are little witticisms such as, “What is the truth?...Nothing matters”, “You’re living the worst you”, a bagel representing a halo, a raccoon perched atop a chef’s toque, and perhaps the best of all:  wiener fingers.


As a testament to the movie’s relevancy, Michelle Kwan says, [nowadays] “I think all of us feel like we [are] everything everywhere all at once.”


Grade:  A                              By Donna R. Copeland