There’s nothing groundbreaking or unique in Michael Lembeck’s ‘Queen Bees.’ In fact, most everything in it feels familiar – you have seen all of this before. But there is something oddly satisfying about it. It’s the masterclass in acting being displayed by the cast that makes it not only watchable but immensely enjoyable. Most times, everyone – Ellen Burstyn, Ann Margaret, Jane Curtin and Loretta Devine – feels like they aren’t acting – they act so natural and comfortable in their roles. While the film won’t end up in the pantheon of the greatest songs of all time, it’s a nice enjoyable time at the movies.
I am starting off my Pride Month with Mari walker’s ‘See You Then,’ an intimate film between two ex-lovers seeing each other. The twist? One has transitioned. In a course of an evening, we see them reconnect, try to hash out unresolved issues, and get some kind of closure. Or not?
The screenplay, co written by Walker and Kristin Uno is a little awkward, a little insightful, and all heart. You feel like they are asking questions that you want to ask yourself, which can sometimes be uncomfortable, but necessary. Even though the film takes place in one evening, it feels cinematic enough, and never feels claustrophobic (the cinematographer gives it a specific feel) Lynn Chen and Pooya Mohseni play the ex-lovers, and you can sense the familiarity between the two characters. the film can be a little eye-opening experience to those unfamiliar with trans people. I hope the right eyes get to see this.
Christian Petzold’s ‘Undine’ is based on the fairy tale that I have honestly never heard of. In the fable, a water nymph falls in love with a mortal, and she herself becomes human. However, if he falls in love with someone else, she has to revert back to hat she was before. In the opening scene of Petzold’s film, a man and a woman is trying to be uncoupled in a café. When he threatens to leave, Undine, the woman says, “If you leave me, I would have to kill you.”
Much more happens to Undine, played here with extreme care by Paula Beers. Shortly after that scene, Undine meets another man, Christoph (Franz Rogowski) and a delicate and complicated dance of love ensues. The story and sequences do veer on the ‘weird’ side of things at times, but the chemistry between the two leads is palpable, and you get swept in their story, and do kind of root for their relationship to succeed. But of course, nothing in Petzold’s films are ever what they seem, and I will stop speaking now and won’t give any spoilers. But this is a truly engrossing film – you will find yourself in the middle of the maze and will come out gasping for air. If that floats your boat, then sail on.
If you are in the mood for a genteel British drama, look no further than ‘To Olivia,’ which dramatises the family life of author Roald Dahl and Patricia Neal. This film is based on Neal’s book, and is the kind of family saga that used to be filmed all the times. In these times, it feels quaint, almost dated, but it has a nice heart that could touch you. Dahl andNeal’s marriage gets tested when they hit a family tragedy, and int hose times they find themselves triumphing: Dahl write a certain book about a chocolate factory while Neal wins an Academy Award. This is a sweet film that is kind of forgettable, but watch it with the right mood and it will be fruitful.
Fresh from Glenn Closes’s another Oscar defeat comes ‘Four Good Days,’ which is another bait-y role for her. I don’t know why the Academy just won’t let her win as she certainly deserves one for her body of work (I thought she was very good in ‘The Wife’ and should have won for that) Yes, I know that sometimes she can be on the over-acting side. But then again they gave one to Al Pacino, and he is the poster child for that, so…
Anyway, I liked this film. It veers more towards a PSA, After School special, and is a little on the soapy overwrought side but both Close and Mila Kunis, who plays her drug addicted daughter, are believable enough to sell the story. It shows addiction as an ongoing process, and something that can not be solved quickly. I have to say that the story can sometimes be exhausting, but maybe that’s the point. That’s how you would feel if you were in that situation. As a film, though, it’s okay but probably not something you want to see over and over.
Brian Baugh’s ‘Finding You’ has a very cute trailer, and I am a sucker for rom coms so I got sucked into watching it. It’s not a bad film – surely I have seen worse – but it is also not that inspired. I know some people have called this as the ‘millennial Nothing Hill’ but it just doesn’t have the charm and star power of that.
The story is also a bit…dated, focusing on an actor who is ‘trapped’ in a situation where he pretends to be in love with his leading lady. That premise is a little bit last millennium, to be honest. I don’t think that kind of situation will realistically exist.
The film plays out exactly how you would think it would play, although its two hour running time can probably be trimmed a bit. Jedediah Goodacre, the male lead, plays his role like a little bit like a wet noodle but I guess that’s fine since the film is set in Ireland and it always rains there. On a nice summer day, the film could be a bit of a refresher, but you will forget it right way.
Steve Basilone’s ‘Long Weekend’ is a romantic comedy with a twist. Bart (Finn Witrock) meets Vienna (Zoe Chao) when he is down and out, and he gets charmed by her quirkiness, and they fall for each other. But there’s just a little hitch: she is from 2052, and is just traveling back to pre covid LA to buy stocks so she can pay for her mother’s cancer treatments. The film is a well-meaning love story that is surprisingly tender and touching. I normally do not like sci-fi elements in anything, but both Witrock and Chao really sell this, and in the end, I was more than convinced. I wish the screenplay was better written. For example, I thought the twist was revealed too early and it seemed like the film did not know where to go afterwards, but for the most part, I was convinced because of the good acting.
I guess it says something about my age when Billy Crystal, who starred in one of the most famous romantic comedies of my time, is now playing characters in early stages of dementia. But star power is still power, and he commands the screen in ‘Here Today,’ which he also wrote and directed.
And it’s an old-fashioned kind of movie, like the ones they probably do not make anymore. First of all, it stars and is about adults, and adult issues. Crystal is Charlie Bernz, a consultant/writer in a Saturday Night Live type of show. He’s been there since be the beginning, and knows the ins and outs of writing for it. He lost his wife a while back, and his kids do not know his deteriorating health conditions.
He then meets Emma, played by Tiffany Haddish. Their relation ship has all the conceits of a romantic comedy, but they aren’t really a pair. Later on, when hid doctor asks them what their relation ship is, they both shrug. Maybe because Crystal and Haddish have an easy breezy chemistry that we think they are more (or less) what they are to each other. What matters is they characters both care about each other.
This is quite a touching movie, especially if you are a certain age, but it’s also all over the place. The work scenes at the show aren’t really interesting, and the movie only works when Crystal and Haddish have scenes together. Props to the latter for giving us close to real character even if it is underwritten – you can see she is a real move star with her magnetic presence. But thsi is Crystal’s vehicle through and through. If he stops making movies, and I hope not, this would be a great swan song.
I won’t lie – I really had no interest in watching this film, but teh attractive cast, specifically Fionn Whitehead and Tye Sheridan, lured me into seeing it. Why not, I guess. Well, it’s not the worst movie I have ever seen, and the beginning was interesting enough to catch my attention. But about halfway through this, I totally lost interest and even the cute boys weren’t enough to keep me involved. It’s a group of young people stuck in spice who have to fend for themselves and navigate power seekers and politics – stuff we have all seen before. Basically, it’s Lord of the Flies set in a space ship. I’m sure it appeals to a certain group of people, just not for me.
A comedy about Syrian refugees en route to London? Why not? Scottish director Ben Sharrock’s ‘Limbo’ crafts a film with very dry comedy and aching melancholy. In it, a young man, Omar (Amir El-Masry) is part of a group trapped in the Scottish isles. It’s sort of a halfway home for refugees. In there, they are in ‘limbo.’ Most of them have escaped the Syrian war, and is in the process of getting acclimated before plunging into their new homes (they are also waiting for their paperwork to be processed) Call it the Island created by red tape. Omar is an accomplished musician in Syria, and he is carrying with him his grandfather’s oud, which is a combination tambourine and guitar. Omar’s parents are in Istanbul, and his brother is left in Syria fighting the war. He is not only physically in limbo, he is emotionally hanging as well – a part of him wants to stay home and fight, another wants to be with his family, and another wants to move on in the world. Sharrok balances the comedy and absurdity and drama pretty well – you feel the longing in all their meanings here. Masry is great, able to show sadness in just his eyes, You find yourself smiling but also feeling his ache.