Opening this week on a screen near you:
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The Card Counter (2021) R
William Tell (Oscar Isaac) is a card counter, making a living going from casino to casino, playing in small stakes card games. He meets Cirk (Tye Sheridan), a young man, at a security convention, and they form a bond over a tortured past. The Card Counter Website
What to Watch For: The film is from writer/director Paul Schrader (First Reformed (2017), Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980)).
Word on the Street: The cast includes four-time Oscar-nominated Willem Dafoe (Platoon (1986), Shadow of the Vampire (2000), The Florida Project (2017), and At Eternity’s Gate (2018)).
My Take: I think Oscar Isaac has become one of our best actors.
Malignant (2021) R
Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is having horrible nightmares, visions of grisly murders. Maison discovers that these visions, this nightmare are just from her dreams but, in fact, are becoming true. Malignant Website
What to Watch For: The film is from filmmaker James Wan, known for his horror films Saw (2004), Insidious (2010), and The Conjuring (2013).
Word on the Street: Annabelle Wallis worked with James Wan once before when he was a producer on the horror film Annabelle (2014).
My Take: The cast includes McKenna Grace (The Handmade’s Tale), Paula Marshall (Spin City), and Maddie Hasson (Twisted).
Small Engine Repair (2021) R
Three lifelong friends Frank (John Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal), and Mackie (Shea Wigham), love the Red Sox, bars (rowdier the better), and Frank’s teenage daughter Crystal (Ciara Bravo). Their friendship will be changed when after a night of drinking, they are asked to do a favor for Crystal. Small Engine Repair Website
What to Watch For: The film is written and directed by John Pollono, who wrote the stage play of the same name that the film is based on.
Word on the Street: The film was part of the SXSW Film Festival’s narrative Spotlight and was one of the most highly anticipated films of the festival before the 2020 festival was canceled due to the COVID crisis.
My Take: Jon Bernthal is best known for his work on the Marvel TV series Daredevil and The Punisher as Frank Castle, aka The Punisher.
Queenpins (2021) R
A suburban homemaker, Connie (Kristen Bell) and her best friend, JoJo (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), stumble upon a way to create an illegal coupon club that allows them and their followers to scam millions from mega-corporations. However, all is not right as a Los Prevention Officer (Paul Walter Hauser) from a local supermarket chain and a U.S. Postal Inspector (Vince Vaughn) are hot on the trail of the newly-minted ‘Queenpins’ of crime. Queenpins Facebook Page
What to Watch For: The film is inspired by a true story.
Word on the Street: Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste, previously starred together on the hit TV series The Good Place.
My Take: The outstanding supporting cast includes Joel McHale, Nick Cassavetes, Stephen Root, Jack McBrayer, and Bebe Rexha.
Language Lessons (2021)
Adam (Mark Duplass) is given a gift of 100 Spanish lessons by his partner Will (Desean Terry), to be taught remotely by Cariño (Natalie Morales). This starts a friendship that neither one expected. Language Lessons Website
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What to Watch For: The film is directed by Natalie Morales and co-written by the film’s two stars, Morales and Mark Duplass.
Word on the Street: The film was a big winner on the film festival circuit, including winning the Narrative Spotlight award at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
My Take: I am a big fan of both Natalie Morales (The Middleman, Parks and Recreation) and Mark Duplass (The League, Togetherness).
Kate (2021) R
Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is one of the world’s greatest assassins. After a night on the town, Kate realizes that she has been poisoned and has only 24 hours to find and kill the person responsible for her soon-to-be death. Along the way, she will need the help of her operative (Woody Harrelson) and a young teen, Ani (Miku Patricia Martineau), who is the daughter of one of Kate’s past hits. Kate Website
What to Watch For: The Japanese all-female hard-rock group Band-Maid appears in the film at a club that Kate hunts down Ani in.
Word on the Street: This is the second feature film directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, who was nominated for an Oscar for his Visual Effects work on the 2012 film Snow White and the Huntsman.
My Take: I have loved Mary Elizabeth Winstead since she played Sophia Donner on the TV series Wolf Lake.
On Broadway (2019)
Documentary on the inside story of theatre on Broadway, from the crime-infested days of the 70’s to the revival of the legendary center of theatre in New York City in the 90s. On Broadway Website
What to Watch For: The film includes performances from some of the legends of Broadway, including Patti Lupone, Bernadette Peters, Mandy Patinkin, James Earl Jones, and Lin Manuel Miranda.
Word on the Street: There are interviews with Helen Mirren, August Wilson, James Corden, Alec Baldwin, John Lithgow, Hugh Jackman, and Ian McKellen.
My Take: I am a huge theatre fan, so I can’t wait to see this film.
Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali (2021) PG-13
Documentary about the relationship of Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, from a chance meeting to a historic and tragic fallout. It was a bond of two men that fell under the weight of distrust, shifting ideals, and how important the two men were in that time and now. Blood Brothers Website
What to Watch For: The film is based on the book Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith. Smith is Professor of Sports History at Georgia Tech.
Word on the Street: The film is produced by Black-ish creator Kenya Barris.
My Take: Having seen their relationship portrayed in the fictional film One Night in Miami, I look forward to a better understanding of their unique relationship.
The Alpinist (2021) PG-13
Marc-Andre Leclerc is a man who likes to be alone. He doesn’t own a car or a phone and always climbs solo, testing his limits with no one around. Filmmaker Peter Mortimer sets out to understand what drives Leclerc and to try to convince him to let the filmmakers shoot him as he sets off on his most dangerous solo climb ever. The Alpinist Website
What to Watch For: Co-directors Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen have created award-winning documentaries, including the 2014 film Valley Uprising about a group of climbers who clash with the National Park Service in the Yosemite valley.
Word on the Street: Legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog was so impressed with the film that he wanted to introduce the film at last year’s Telluride Film Festival, which unfortunately was canceled due to the pandemic.
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My Take: Rock/mountain climbing is something I will never do, but I always enjoy watching films made on the subject.