Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! I was just scrolling through some of the 2021 Emmy nominations and wins and am so far out of the loop without streaming channels!
Closed for Storm (2020)
Starring: Jared Black, Ryan Bordenave, Jason Cambre, Colt Connell, Patricia Franicevich, Kenney g Guidry, Jr., Troy Henry, Christian Kelly, Roy Mouledous, Tonya Pope, Efrem Towns, George W. Bush (archival footage)
Director and Writer: Jake Williams
Synopsis: Giant amusement park corporation Six Flags built and opened Jazzland in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2000. In 2003, it was rebranded and named Six Flags New Orleans. In August of 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit the area and tore the park up and flooded it terribly which closed it down. It’s been closed ever since, despite the efforts of various entities to find the resources needed to get it back to its former glory. The documentary interviews interested parties, from representatives of the city to neighbors who consider it an eyesore that is bringing their property values down. There are a lot of archival photos and video footage as well as current footage taken while exploring the abandoned property and buildings.
Impressions: It’s an interesting documentary that makes me wonder what the politics were in choosing that location – some suggestion arose that the land was a swamp – and how it changed hands quickly and how was that possibly connected to Six Flags declaring bankruptcy and leaving their horrible mess behind for the city to clean up. (Let’s face it, how many times have horrible corporations made messes in communities then did some shady footwork and abandoned them for local municipalities to clean up?) For a small-budget independent documentary it’s pretty good video journalism.
Etc.: 1 hour and 18 minutes long; The director, Jake Williams, from Welland, Ontario, Canada, has a YouTube channel (Bright Sun Films.) On that channel he has a long running series called Abandoned with videos about other place that have been abandoned. From mansions to resorts. This is his first full length feature on that subject.
Here is a trailer, but the full documentary is available on youtube.
Love, Weddings, and Other Disasters(2020)
Starring: Maggie Grace, Diane Keaton, Jeremy Irons, Diego Boneta, Andrew Bachelor, Todd Stashwick, Dennis Dugan, Veronica Ferres, Jesse McCartney, Chandra West, Richard Kline, Kimberly Howe, Elle King, Melinda Hill, Anne Reardon, and many more.
Director: Dennis Dugan
Genres: romance, comedy
Synopsis: Synopsis lifted from imdb:
It is a multi-story romantic comedy about the people who work on weddings to create the perfect day for a loving couple – while their own relationships are outlandish, odd, crazy and far from perfect.
Impressions: It’s a lovable mish-mash that has a movie-of-the-week feel to it. The old TV series, “Love Boat” comes to mind – without the boat. There’s a lot of positive feel-good energy in it.
Etc.: imdb trivia: The film was shot in 26 days; The film was inspired by director Dennis Dugan’s wife who had asked him to write a wedding movie. He had begun writing the film as a ode to his wife fifteen years ago. Coincidentally, it was during a family trip to London where his wife and kids had ended up meeting Jeremy Irons who would later star in the film all those years later.
Awards: none known
Stardust (2020) make sure you find the 2020 movie.
Starring: Johnny Flynn, Marc Maron, Jena Malone, Derek Moran, Anthony Flanagan, Julian Richings, Aaron Poole, Monica Parker, Ryan Blakely, Gord Rand, Paulino Nunes, Richard Clarkin, Brendan J. Rowland, Jeremy Legat, Annie Briggs, and many more.
Director: Gabriel Range
Genres: biography, drama
Synopsis: The plot revolves around David Bowie’s first visit to the United States in 1971. The story begins back in England, where David’s growing more popular, but he needs to get better known in the US. The rocky road he travels, starting from his being held up unnecessarily at the airport, to being restricted in where he can play, to the sh*tty places he ends up playing, to the wrong type of audience who doesn’t “get” him, to his poor attitude about it all (who can blame him!) There is a parallel story line about David’s family and their history of mental illness and David’s anxiety about being struck by it.
Impressions: I was surprised to learn that Johnny Flynn is the actor (and musician!) playing David in it. I had no idea before or after watching it. I know his music from the theme song of, “The Detectorists” British TV show, and he was excellent in 2017’s, “Beast” but had no idea that was him. He truly channels a young Bowie. Anybody who is a fan of Bowie or Flynn must see this one. Marc Maron, another favorite of mine, plays Ron Oberman, the guy who drives David cross-country in his station for his “tour.” Although it’s not listed as a comedy, there are some pretty funny moments in it (courtesy of Maron.)
Etc.: filmed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; The film was created without official permission from Bowie’s family and therefore is not licensed to include any of his songs. Instead, Stardust has Bowie performing covers the real Bowie performed in this period, such as “I Wish You Would” by The Yardbirds and “My Death” by Jacques Brel.
Awards: 1 nomination
Mark Beaumont gave the film four out of five, writing that it worked better as a “revelatory road-trip movie” rather than a biopic. He felt the lack of Bowie’s music “robs the film of the sense that Bowie’s glowering talent was being criminally ignored”.
Beckett (2021) Netflix (aka Born to Be Murdered in Europe and Brazil before Netflix acquired the rights and changed the name)
Starring: John David Washington, Alicia Vikander, Yorgos Pirpassopoulos, Filippos Ioannidis, Lena Kitsopoulou, Isabella Margara, Omiros Poulakis, and many more
Director: Ferdinando Cito Filomarino
Genres: action, crime
Synopsis: Beckett and April (Washington and Vikander) are on vacation in Greece. They are staying in a big city there where massive crowds are gathered for an election and so decide to rent a car and drive out to the rural areas to sight-see. They get into a bad car accident which also stumbles them upon part of a nefarious gangland political intrigue. From then on Beckett is fighting to stay alive long enough to get back into the big city and seek asylum at the US Embassy.
Impressions: Talk about a vacation going horribly wrong! One minute enjoying a beautiful vacation with your loved one and the next trapped in a place where you don’t understand the language and deadly assassins are committed to permanently silencing you. “Beckett” made me a little squeamish for the plot and for all of the injuries he suffered along the way on his scramble for survival. It was both exhilarating and anxiety-producing to watch, as time and again it felt like he wasn’t going to make it. Very few developed characters in it; Washington has virtually all of the screen time.
Etc.: filmed in 5 different locations in Greece, in Greek and English languages; first Netflix original film to be shot in Greece.
Awards: too soon
Misha and the Wolves (2021) Netflix
Starring: Misha Defonseca, Laura Liberatore, Candy O’Terry
Director and Writer: Sam Hobkinson
Genres: documentary, drama
Synopsis: The story begins where Misha and her husband movie into a small New England town. As she and her neighbors talk, Misha tells a fantastic tale about how she escaped from the Holocaust and then became determined to find her parents who had been taken away by Nazis by running away from her foster family and into the forest, then being adopted by a pack of wolves. One of the New England neighbors is an author and publisher and helps Misha write and publish her story. As the popularity of the book skyrockets, suddenly things took a strange turn when Misha sues the neighbor and accuses her of exploitation and theft, then moves to Europe where she then begins promoting the cherished children’s tale. After that there are multiple unexpected plot twists that reveal a more sinister aspect to the fairy tale that Misha has been telling for so long.
Impressions: The story and its myriad plot twists is well-told, with lots of archival photos, videos, and interviews with interested parties on all sides. I commend everyone involved with it in putting it together. The real story could have easily fallen through the cracks, which would have been unfortunate.
Etc.: 90 minutes long
Awards: 2 nominations