Saturday, July 31, 2021

Movie with Abe: Stillwater

Matt Damon and Abigail Breslin star in “Stillwater,” which is loosely based on the Amanda Knox story and is now playing in theaters. I reviewed the film for ShockYa - head over there to read my review.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Weekend Movie Recommendations with Abe

Every Friday, I'll be uploading a Minute with Abe: Weekend Movie Recommendations Edition, surveying new releases on DVD, and on streaming services. Check it out, and subscribe to the movieswithabe channel!


New to Theaters: Nine Days, The Evening Hour, Stillwater, The Green Knight
New to Theaters and VOD: Sabaya, Lorelei
New to VOD: Fully Realized Humans
New to DVD: The Birthday Cake, The God Committee
New to Netflix: The Last Mercenary

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Interview with Abe: Benedict Wong

It was a true pleasure speaking to actor Benedict Wong for Cinema Daily US about his role in the film Nine Days, which I saw at Sundance in 2020 and am so thrilled is finally being released this Friday. Watch our conversation in full below, and check out my review and video review from Sundance too!


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Movie with Abe: The Birthday Cake

The Birthday Cake,” which arrives today on DVD, is a familiar and relatively standard mob movie. I reviewed the film for ShockYa - head over there to read my review.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Movie with Abe: Settlers

Brooklynn Prince is the best reason to see the standard sci-fi drama “Settlers,” now out in theaters and on demand. I reviewed the film for ShockYa - head over there to read my review.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Movie with Abe: Broken Diamonds

Lola Kirke and Ben Platt star in “Broken Diamonds,” a sibling drama that's now out in theaters and on demand. I reviewed the film for ShockYa - head over there to read my review.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Movie with Abe: Joe Bell

Mark Wahlberg stars in “Joe Bell,” which is out in theaters now and doesn't do a great job bringing its true story to the screen.. I reviewed the film for CinemaDailyUS.com - head over there to read my review.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Weekend Movie Recommendations with Abe

Every Friday, I'll be uploading a Minute with Abe: Weekend Movie Recommendations Edition, surveying new releases on DVD, and on streaming services. Check it out, and subscribe to the movieswithabe channel!


New to Theaters: Old, Joe Bell
New to Theaters and VOD: Here After, Settlers, Broken Diamonds
New to VOD: Film Fest
New to DVD: Die in a Gunfight, Gully, Dream Horse
New to Amazon Prime Video: Jolt

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Movie with Abe: Old

Old
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Released July 23, 2021

Few filmmakers have established such a distinct – and temperamental – reputation for building up audience expectations as M. Night Shyamalan. His breakthrough feature, “The Sixth Sense,” was released when he was only twenty-nine years old and earned multiple Oscar nominations and a high bar for twist endings. This horror-averse reviewer hasn’t screened any of this filmmaker’s work from the past decade, especially following the miserable “The Last Airbender,” but a return trip to a screening room was in store for his latest high-concept piece that delivers more in terms of its ideas than its execution.

Several families on a tropical vacation are given a recommendation for a hidden, private beach that will make their stay infinitely more relaxing. When they arrive, they are horrified to find a dead body in the water. Two parents (Vicky Krieps and Gael Garcia Bernal) are startled to realize that their children Maddox and Trent, formerly eleven and six, have now aged several years (Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff). Other guests on the beach include a cocky doctor (Rufus Sewell), his wife (Abbey Lee), elderly mother (Kathleen Chalfant), and the couple’s young but aging daughter (Eliza Scanlen), a nurse (Ken Leung) and his epileptic wife (Nikki Amuka-Bird), and a lonely rapper (Aaron Pierre). As the hours drag on and the impossibility of their situation becomes clear, they wonder if they can do anything to stop time from passing far too quickly.

This film’s poster reveals its general premise by showing a woman’s legs on the beach, one normal and youthful and the other with a skeletal foot. How this can be a possible isn’t important, but what these characters do want to figure out is exactly what’s going on and what the “rules” are that might enable them to escape a fate that will certainly kill them all. That process is cumbersome and messy, and the dialogue involved is far from convincing. Characters walk up and down the beach without urgency and seem to get too easily distracted from the very urgent task at hand. Additionally, there’s no real consistency to how the aging process works, and there’s an overindulgence in gruesomeness that doesn’t feel at all necessary since the true horror of this scenario is that time is passing too quickly for any of them to be able to stop to figure out how to combat it.

Like Shyamalan’s previous films, this one relies on a major twist. Fortunately, when that moment inevitably arrives, the film becomes infinitely more compelling, but that doesn’t justify the time spent to get there. This is an intriguing concept but one that gets stuck too much on the shock of its reveal and the tediousness of the conversation that seeks for far too long to deny its truthfulness. This is a strong cast with plenty of impressive credits, yet they’re not given a fantastic platform here, relegated to arcs that don’t feel terribly emphatic and then recast with other actors if they survive long enough to make it to the film’s end. It does present tremendous food for thought, but burrowing out of the uninviting and unremarkable middle for a worthwhile end isn’t entirely satisfying.

C+

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Movie with Abe: Jolt

Kate Beckinsale stars as someone with a deadly anger management problem in the generally enertaining action movie “Jolt,” which comes to Amazon Prime Video this Friday. I reviewed the film for CinemaDailyUS.com - head over there to read my review.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Interview with Abe: Christina Ricci

I got to speak with actress Christina Ricci about her new film “Here After,” which opens in NY and on demand this Friday, for Cinema Daily US. Watch our conversation in full below:


Monday, July 19, 2021

Interview with Abe: Film Fest

I got to speak with director Marshall Cook and star Matt Cook about their new movie “Film Fest,” which expands wide to major VOD platforms this Friday. Here's our conversation about their send-up of the film festival experience:


Saturday, July 17, 2021

Movie with Abe: Pig

Pig
Directed by Michael Sarnoski
Released July 16, 2021

There are people who prefer to live away from society, and because much of civilization stays within such close proximity to others, that manner of existence can be seen as unusual, and to some, objectionable. Anyone accustomed to being around others at all times may find it difficult if not impossible to understand how someone who hasn’t had that experience might not want or be prepared for it, even if circumstances force it to be the case. Any immersion back into a life long left behind can be trying and full of conflict.

Rob (Nicolas Cage) spends his time hunting for truffles with his loyal pig by his side, content to interact only with those he absolutely must, which is mainly Amir (Alex Wolff), the man who purchases what he’s selling. Rob’s peaceful routine is brutally disrupted when his pig is stolen, prompting him to pursue every possible avenue to find it. His search brings him back into the culinary world, a more polished and urban environment that he’s used to given his wilderness lifestyle. Rob has no desire to reacquaint himself with his past but wants nothing more than to find his beloved pig.

Cage is an actor known for over-the-top performances in action and genre movies, but he has a history of truly quality roles scattered in between the showier paycheck roles. The Oscar winner for “Leaving Las Vegas” and nominee for “Adaptation” delivers a grounded turn as Rob, a man whose patience for other people is minimal and who has deliberately chosen the way he wants to live, only to be drawn back in because he wasn’t left alone. It’s most reminiscent of his focused portrayal of anger in the extremely underrated “Joe,” absent of much happiness and probing the motivations and emotions of a man living on the fringes of society.

Cage is the only actor with a good deal of screen time, though Wolff and Adam Arkin do turn in fine work as his most frequent associates. This film’s title is indicative of what Rob cares about, and as a result there’s not too much else which is featured over the course of the film’s ninety-minute runtime. Like an acclaimed film from last year, “First Cow,” this film explores the bond between men and animals in a way that’s far more intellectually expressive than actually full of watchable or invigorating content.

B-

Friday, July 16, 2021

Weekend Movie Recommendations with Abe

Every Friday, I'll be uploading a Minute with Abe: Weekend Movie Recommendations Edition, surveying new releases on DVD, and on streaming services. Check it out, and subscribe to the movieswithabe channel!


New to Theaters: Mama Weed, Roadrunner: A Film about Anthony Bourdain, Pig
New to Theaters and VOD: Die in a Gunfight

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Movie with Abe: Gunpowder Milkshake

I really enjoyed the action movie “Gunpowder Milkshake,” which is now playing in theaters and streaming on Netflix. I reviewed the film for CinemaDailyUS.com - head over there to read my review.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Movie with Abe: Die in a Gunfight

Die in a Gunfight
Directed by Collin Schiffli
Released July 16, 2021 (Theaters and VOD)

Many people spend a great deal of time thinking about how they will be remembered when they are gone. For some, their legacy is intricately connected to how it is that they die, because the manner in which their life ends says something about how they lived. That may be more due to unrealistic expectations and ideas created by popular culture, but a confident sense of mortality can inform an attitude of invincibility. Those who walk around as if they are untouchable and wouldn’t be bothered by death usually don’t live long, but their time is most certainly memorable.

Ben Gibbon (Diego Boneta) has never had a good relationship with his wealthy family. The discord is rooted in his eagerness to provoke, and the return of the woman he never stopped loving, Mary Ratchart (Alexandra Daddario), who happens to be the daughter of his parents’ generations-long rivals, only further ignites his passion for civil disobedience. Ben’s determination to be reunited with Mary puts him on a collision course with an obsessive security guard (Justin Chatwin), a hippie hitman (Travis Fimmel) and his girlfriend (Emmanuelle Chriqui), and his loyal best friend Mukul (Wade Allain-Marcus) that seems destined to end in bloodshed.

This film is heavily stylized, introducing its story first with animation and voiceover narration. While there isn’t anything particularly unique about either Ben or Mary, the framing of this story absolutely presents it as such, utilizing colorful graphics to explain who characters are and jumping in to the most interesting moments of their lives to show who they truly are. That cinematic quality enhances a plot that isn’t all that creative, infusing energy and a wondrous moodiness into the misadventures that befall its ensemble. It isn’t afraid to follow its narrative wherever events might take it, subverting expectations while at the same time fulfilling them.

The entire cast in this film is well-utilized, starting with the charismatic Boneta and the reliable Daddario. From their first scenes, it’s clear that they shared a passion, and whatever happened in between their previous time of closeness and the current moment may as well be irrelevant since those feelings have returned again and are strong as ever. Fimmel and Chriqui are having a lot of fun, and Chatwin shows true commitment to his role. This film is full of violent and blunt encounters, but the way in which it is constructed make it well worth watching and, like its protagonist always hopes, not easy to forget.

B+

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Movie with Abe: Mama Weed

Mama Weed
Directed by Jean-Paul Salomé
Released July 16, 2021 (Theaters)

There are reasons that stereotypes exist, and they usually stem from what someone has experienced or what someone believes they have experienced. Those two may not be one and the same, but the idea of having had a negative interaction with an individual of a particular class or ethnicity may prejudice someone against working with other people they think share the same heritage or values even if that irresponsible and closeminded perspective couldn’t be further from the case. General expectations can often be used to one’s advantage since, in all likelihood, not conforming to what others are looking for can allow someone else to operate completely under the radar and unnoticed.

Patience Portefeux (Isabelle Huppert) works an interpreter for the Paris police, translating between the French authorities and the Arab population that often finds itself in their crosshairs. She also devotes a considerable amount of time to caring for her elderly mother (Liliane Rovère) and engaging in a romance with her captain (Hippolyte Girardot). When her worlds collide and she ends up with a large supply of drugs no one knows she has, she finds herself in a unique position to set up a side business that she can ensure no one else is able to monitor since she is the one doing the translating for the very people looking for her.

This film is based on the novel “The Godmother” by Hannelore Cayre. It’s a story that, similar to Clark Kent’s classic Superman costume, relies heavily on the idiocy of Patience’s police peers who hear her own voice on a recording and have no idea that it’s her, and who don’t realize that she’s purely making things up when she translates her own words and those of the people she’s working with from wiretaps. There’s a tremendous suspension of disbelief necessary to take this narrative seriously, but fortunately it’s full of comic touches that make it light and entertaining, making its legitimacy not of paramount concern.

One of the best reasons to see this and most films is Huppert, who continues to deliver marvelous performances that show what she’s capable of doing. It’s particularly fun to see her become this allegedly Moroccan drug kingpin and infuse humor into the moments in which she’s dodging security cameras and trying to work with less-than-subtle partners who don’t closely follow her instructions. This film boasts a few surprises along the way, leading to an enjoyable conclusion that leaves enough open-ended to make its contents memorable and enthralling.

B+

Monday, July 12, 2021

Movie with Abe: In the Heights

In the Heights
Directed by Jon M. Chu
Released June 11, 2021 (Theaters and HBO Max)

Bringing a beloved musical to the big screen isn’t an easy task, and merely trying to do so is bound to create a horde of unhappy customers. There is an understandable tendency to amplify the songs and scenery to create an immersive experience that is quite different due to the natures and environment of cinema and theater. But film as a medium also has a tremendous amount to offer, and when used well, it can bring about a fully involving and celebratory experience, one that’s a marvel to enjoy both in theatres and at home.

Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) lives in Washington Heights, where he owns a bodega and saves every cent he makes to fulfill his dream of returning to his birthplace of the Dominican Republic. As his plans begin to solidify, a potential romance with ambitious hairdresser Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) appears on the horizon. Nina (Leslie Grace) comes back home from Stanford University, prompting clashes with her businessman father (Jimmy Smits), who reminds her of everything he’s done for her, and a reignited connection with his top employee, Benny (Corey Hawkins). The neighborhood’s resident Abuela (Olga Merediz) advises all the young people she has seen grow up, while another staple, salon owner Daniela (Daphne Rubin-Vega), prepares to move to a new location as the summer heat begins to become unbearable.

onvey This musical is best described as epic, full of a fabulous cast of characters, all of whom contribute to the story and many of whom get their own songs to really shine. While Usnavi is the protagonist, there are so many other stories at play and so many rich, entertaining personalities who get ample screen time. One ability that film has which theater does not is the opportunity for close-ups and a true focus on each character that invites even more than a solo musical number can convey. The scope of the large dance scenes with many participants are equally compelling and fantastic.

While the show he wrote after this one, “Hamilton,” ended up being released on television as a filmed version of the play, this adaptation of the first Lin-Manuel Miranda production, which debuted more than fifteen years ago, invites an almost entirely new cast for this effort, with the notable exception of the endearing Merediz. The result is truly successful, bringing many incredible talents to center stage. The use of onscreen effects in certain scenes should serve as a reminder to audiences that they’re watching a movie, but one that brings a winning and wondrous story to life in a fantastic and memorable way. All elements combine here to deliver a much more than satisfactory experience.

B+

Friday, July 9, 2021

Weekend Movie Recommendations with Abe

Every Friday, I'll be uploading a Minute with Abe: Weekend Movie Recommendations Edition, surveying new releases on DVD, and on streaming services. Check it out, and subscribe to the movieswithabe channel!


New to Theaters: Summertime
New to DVD: Since I Been Down
New to Amazon Prime Video: Our Friend
New to Hulu: Leave No Trace, In a World, Moffie
Emmy Awards: CoveragePre-Emmy Panel


Sunday, July 4, 2021

Movie with Abe: No Sudden Move

The period crime film “No Sudden Move” is now streaming on HBO Max. It didn't impress me all that much. I reviewed the film for CinemaDailyUS.com - head over there to read my review.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Weekend Movie Recommendations with Abe

Every Friday, I'll be uploading a Minute with Abe: Weekend Movie Recommendations Edition, surveying new releases on DVD, and on streaming services. Check it out, and subscribe to the movieswithabe channel!


New to Theaters: Zola
New to Theaters and VOD: First Date, The God Committee
New to DVD: The Perfect Candidate
New to Amazon Prime Video: The Tomorrow War, The Last King of Scotland
New to Hulu: Band Aid, Donnybrook, Grandma, I, Daniel Blake, Sweet Virginia, Take Shelter, Wolves
New to HBO Max: No Sudden Move

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Movie with Abe: The Tomorrow War

The future-facing sci-fi film “The Tomorrow War” premieres tomorrow on Amazon Prime Video. I didn't love it, but some things appealed to me. I reviewed the film for CinemaDailyUS.com - head over there to read my review.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Tribeca with Abe: Ultrasound

For my final Tribeca coverage, I got to interview actresses Breeda Wool and Chelsea Lopez and director Rob Schroeder about their film “Ultrasound,” for Cinema Daily US. Watch the conversation below!


Friday, June 25, 2021

Weekend Movie Recommendations with Abe

Every Friday, I'll be uploading a Minute with Abe: Weekend Movie Recommendations Edition, surveying new releases on DVD, and on streaming services. Check it out, and subscribe to the movieswithabe channel!


New to Theaters: F9: The Fast Saga, Werewolves Within, I Carry You With Me
New to DVD: The Man Who Sold His Skin, Nobody, Georgetown
Israel Film Center Festival: Asia, Here We Are, Honeymood, Kiss Me Kosher, Sublet

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Israel Film Center Festival Spotlight: Here We Are

Here We Are
Directed by Nir Bergman
Screening Information

Not every person faces the world with the same skillsets and abilities. There is an array of social prowess that ranges widely from those who thrive in public settings to those who retreat back within themselves when they are surrounded by even one unfamiliar face. There are different ways that people can cope with social anxiety, and in some cases, it may not be possible to do much other than to try to avoid such situations. Having someone who understands those cues and can help set a friend or loved one up for success can be critical, though they sometimes may overshadow the potential for growth or development that could be better fostered away from their watchful eye.

Aharon (Shai Avivi) is a father devoted exclusively to his autistic son Uri (Noam Imber). His careful routine and knowledge of what causes Uri stress has enabled them to craft a working dynamic, one that involves great effort on Aharon’s part but also satisfaction because he knows that Uri can function within it. When Uri’s mother arranges for him to move into a group home, Aharon is resistant, and even after he agrees to take him there, decides that he’s still the best person to be able to take care of his son and spirits him away on an adventure to an unknown destination that just involves the two of them continuing to stay together.

This film is just as much about who Uri is and how he goes through the world as it is about his father, who can’t see all the sacrifices he has made for his son as anything other than normal. Even when everyone else in his life tells him that he needs to let go and give Uri a chance to be on his own, he holds on to the instances that, in his mind, prove that he must be by his side at all times, and that only he knows what’s best for his son. It’s a powerful story of love and attachment, a relationship that has become far too dependent on both sides, with Aharon needing to be Uri’s guide and guardian in order to give his own life purpose and direction.

This film took home four Ophir Awards, Israel’s equivalent of the Oscars, including prizes for Avivi and Imber, who are the grounding constants that make this film very relatable. Its script includes humorous moments and rich supporting characters, and most of all, it succeeds in showcasing the delight Aharon gets from seeing how, whether through his preparation or not, Uri is adjusting to what life could be like without him. It’s a heartwarming film that is both entertaining and emphatic, conveying who its characters really are in a compelling and endearing way.

B+

Israel Film Center Festival Spotlight: Kiss Me Kosher

Kiss Me Kosher
Directed by Shirel Peleg
Screening Information

Meeting a partner’s parents for the first time is often a stressful experience for many reasons. Even under the best of circumstances, there can still be issues to overcome, especially something that has already been dealt with by a couple but might be reopened when family members come into the picture. A true connection between two people might be enough to weather the potential conflicts that emerge, but they can also do serious damage to that bond. Two partners from completely different worlds can still find happiness, but it’s often a rocky and difficult road to get there.

German Maria Müller (Luise Wolfram) arrives in Israel to see her girlfriend Shira Shalev (Moran Rosenblatt) and accidentally proposes to her, a decision she hadn’t yet arrived at for a relatively young relationship. Shira being a lesbian isn’t an issue for her family, which includes her videographer brother Liam (Eyal Shikratzi), soldier sister Ella (Aviv Pinkas), overbearing mother Ora (Irit Kaplan), and American father Ron (John Carroll Lynch), but the fact that Luise is German poses a bigger problem, particularly with her Holocaust survivor grandmother Berta (Rivka Michaeli), who is involved in a controversial flirtatious romance of her own with an Arab neighbor, Ibrahim (Salim Dau).

This film, originally released as “Kiss Me Before It Blows Up,” is a comedy above all else, heightening its scenarios so that the odds are really stacked against Shira and Maria at all times. Within moments of arriving, Maria meets the first of a revolving door of Shira’s omnipresent exes, and Liam’s eagerness to make a documentary about their love highlights unfortunate truths that are better not said. Luise’s wholehearted attempts to learn Hebrew and blend in with her newfound culture aren’t always received well, and Shira is far more casual about the noteworthiness of their differences that might serve as an impediment to their strength as a couple.

This film is full of fun performances, led by Rosenblatt, a familiar face from “Wedding Doll” and “Red Cow,” and Wolfram, who certainly stands out from the rest of the cast physically but matches them in talent. Kaplan and Michaeli are particularly entertaining in supporting roles, and Dau, recently seen in “Oslo,” is an endearing delight. There are moments in which this film ventures too far into absurdity, particularly in its portrayal of Ron, who speaks absolutely no Hebrew and doesn’t feel at all fleshed out as a character, and the eagerness with which people spew half-considered reductive statements. But, overall, it’s enjoyable and a perfectly decent and memorable piece of entertainment.

B

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Movie with Abe: F9: The Fast Saga

F9: The Fast Saga
Directed by Justin Lin
Released June 25, 2021

One of the key aspects of a franchise is dependability. Like diners at a chain restaurant, audiences want to know what they’re getting before they buy a ticket, and that, even if it’s nothing new or revolutionary, it’s worth another trip to the theater. When a movie series arrives at its ninth installment, when its title is shortened enough to only include one word of its original’s moniker, it’s hard to imagine that audiences don’t know just what it is that they’re signing up for and expect to see. To think that a ninth film could be just as entertaining and enthralling as any that came before it is a stretch, but this blockbuster sequel delivers tremendously.

Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) have settled into domestic life far from the chaos of the world that brought them together, but they can’t sit on the sidelines when Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) show up looking for their help in tracking down a missing Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell). An international adventure ensures, bringing back old enemies and other ghosts, including Jakob (John Cena), Dom’s estranged brother, and Cipher (Charlize Theron), along with a new power-hungry villain, Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen).

Plot details almost don’t matter in this movie, because audiences show up for the car racing and the action. This film adds an equally alluring and absurd new device, which is electromagnets that each member of the team uses frequently to catch their pursuers and targets off-guard by jolting any metal on or near them across the road or room. It’s a fun concept that becomes even more frequent as the film progresses, and even if it might not make all that much sense, that’s never been the idea here. Those eagerly awaiting a handful of gravity-contradicting stunts will also not be disappointed.

After two decades of movies, this franchise knows what audience expectations are and is fully aware of how to take it to literal and figurative new heights, never skipping a beat and providing constant entertainment along the way. Any downtime is brief and fleeting, and the oversentimentality that comes off as corny serves sufficiently to fill the gap between action sequences that are startling and seemingly impossible. There isn’t even time to process the craziness of certain twists or plot developments since this film just goes there and fully delivers. The cast includes plenty of comic relief and some truly enjoyable dynamics. Two hours and twenty-five minutes has never gone by so quickly, and while it’s satisfying enough in its own right, it absolutely makes an argument for more and more of this superbly successful formula.

B+

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Tribeca with Abe: 7 Days

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

7 Days
Directed by Roshan Sethi
Viewpoints – Screening Information

Many cultures facilitate arranged marriages as a way of matching up those that families believe will be good for each other. This tends to have a negative connotation since the assumption is that the betrothed have no say in who they will marry, and a chance at modern happiness may be missed in favor of the preservation of what some see as an antiquated tradition. In some cases, one member of a potential couple may be all for the existing system, while the other is absolutely not in favor of it. In drama, the result is usually miserable, but in comedy, it can be gold.

On March 20th, 2020, just as the pandemic is beginning, Ravi (Karan Soni) and Rita (Geraldine Viswanathan) meet and go on a date set up by their parents. Ravi has a clear idea of what he wants from his future wife, and Rita seems like the perfect match. But when Ravi’s car rental gets cancelled and he’s forced to stay with Rita, he quickly discovers that she’s nothing like the perfect Indian-American woman she pretends to be. Forced to spend time together in close quarters, two initially very incompatible people slowly build a friendship that confronts their differences and embraces their similarities.

This is, like so many others, a film that takes place during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that’s merely a subplot that serves as the catalytic event for these two to have no choice but to get to know each other. Many opportunities for humor about masks or protocols are avoided in favor of the truly worthwhile moments, and there’s more than enough comedy to be milked simply from the way the two of them interact with each other and the world.

Soni and Viswanathan have worked together before, playing two of the only intelligent characters on TBS’ anthology series “Miracle Workers,” and it’s great fun to see them take on completely different roles here. Their performances are purposefully subdued so that their personalities come alive, and it’s remarkably entertaining to listen to their banter. This film starts with stereotypes but doesn’t stop there, and both Ravi and Rita feel like they could really exist. Its plot could follow any number of predictable trajectories, but at every turn, the script, co-written by Soni and debut director Roshan Sethi, instead chooses to enhance its content with enticing and immensely entertaining developments. This film is funny and heartwarming, a fantastic ode to love under the unlikeliest of circumstances.

B+

Interview with Abe: Jena Malone

As part of my Tribeca coverage, it was great to be able to speak with actress Jena Malone about playing a complicated mother in “Lorelei.” Check out my great conversation with her at Cinema Daily US.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Tribeca with Abe: The God Committee

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

The God Committee
Directed by Austin Stark
2020 Official Selection – Screening Information

Organ donation is a process that, in many cases, takes one loss of life that has already happened and turns it into an opportunity to prolong another life. It can be a rewarding and truly transformative act, and so many people benefit from the receipt of a desperately-needed component. But there are also limitations and complications that make the use of a particular organ for one intended recipient more complicated, including the geographical possibility of utilizing it in time and the physical condition of the new host. Another important factor, depending on available information, may be whether the recipient’s historical behavior makes them likely to misuse that which they have been given and ultimately lead to its rejection.

Dr. Andre Boxer (Kelsey Grammer) is a respected doctor at a New York City hospital who also serves on its heart transplant committee, which is run by Dr. Valerie Gilroy (Janeane Garofalo). On the first day that she is selected to join the committee, Dr. Jordan Taylor (Julia Stiles) faces a complex case, where a powerful and influential man (Dan Hedaya) has offered a large donation to the hospital, alleging that it is not contingent on his son being selected for an available heart following an accident. Father Dunbar (Colman Domingo) sits with the committee as a supposedly neutral representative of the would-be donor as they deliberate over what the right choice is.

This film is based on the play of the same name by Mark St. Germain. Its theatrical roots speak to the inherently dramatic nature of people sitting in a room and discussing the value of someone’s life as it compares to another and based on factors that they can’t know are entirely true. As a film, it’s not as clearly compelling, especially because it jumps back and forth frequently between moments in time, including several years in the future after whatever consequential decision comes at the end of the film has already been made. It’s a device that doesn’t aid the storytelling but instead distracts from it, diluting the urgency and distracting audiences by pushing them to guess what may have happened rather than remain intently focused on it.

While both Grammer and Stiles are skilled actors who have, in the past, delivered strong performances as characters with questionable morals, neither of them are memorable in these parts. There isn’t enough character development to make them as interesting as that which they are discussing, and the addition of charismatic scene-stealers like Garofalo and Domingo doesn’t help much since they’re just as unexplored. This is a case where a television series with the opportunity to actually flesh out its protagonists and invest in them as much as in the drama they face might have been a better fit, since the premise is intriguing but not satisfyingly investigated here.

B-

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Tribeca with Abe: The Death of My Two Fathers

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

The Death of My Two Fathers
Directed by Sol Guy
Viewpoints – Screening Information

It isn’t always possible to get to know someone after they’re gone. Children of any age are often left with unanswered questions when they lose a parent, whether it’s something of extreme consequence that they never knew or only later learned, or something far less significant, like a subject of preference they didn’t think to discuss. In rare cases, there is an archive available that allows for the living to establish a new connection with the deceased, hearing directly from them in a way that will likely speak much louder and more emphatically upon review than it would have at the time of its creation.

Sol Guy is a father of two who lost his own father to kidney cancer two decades ago. He knows that his father, William, recorded six VHS tapes recounting the many experiences he had in his own life so that his children would know who he was. Twenty years later, Sol is finally ready to watch them, and to do so with his own family, which leads to the examination of his own life. Along the way, he also explores how he relates to his mother, his stepfather, and the family members he either fell out of touch with or didn’t even know existed.

This is a highly contemplative film, one that invites audiences along for a trip inspired by curiosity and tinged with pain and longing. As he addresses the camera, William is straightforward and open, but there’s no opportunity for Sol to talk to him and ask him follow-up questions, or comment on how something he says makes him feel. Instead, that’s saved for his reflections to a new camera that are part of this film, a deeply meaningful and heartwarming process of documenting how he responds to what his father did, creating a new version of that as he does so.

This film is reminiscent in many ways of last year’s “Time” in part because of the format on which much of it is filmed, but also in the nostalgia for a different path that serves as the catalyst for its compilation. Sol knows that he cannot control or change the events that happened which resulted in his father making the tapes and no longer being in his life when he was fifteen, and this is his best and only hope of getting to know him now and transmitting his legacy to his grandchildren. It’s an extraordinary and personal journey, one that speaks to the universality of loss and the individuality of this one man.

B+

Interview with Abe: Essie Davis

As part of my Tribeca coverage, it was great to be able to speak with actress Essie Davis about her powerhouse turn in “The Justice of Bunny King.” Check out my great conversation with her at Cinema Daily US. Read my review of the film here.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Tribeca with Abe: Roadrunner

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

The documentary “Roadrunner” presents a fascinating window into the life of chef Anthony Bourdain. I reviewed the film for Cinema Daily US - head over there to read my review.

Tribeca with Abe: The Price of Freedom

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

The Price of Freedom
Directed by Judd Ehrlich
Spotlight Documentary – Screening Information

It’s unlikely that there is anyone living in the United States without a stance on gun control. Those who believe it is too easy for someone to get a gun without being properly vetted and see the horrifyingly high number of mass shootings that occur every year tend to be in favor of creating obstacles and checks to ensure that only certain people can even own guns, while those who see other causes such as mental illness or inadequate security champion their rights to bear arms and not to have the government tell them what they can and can’t carry. This documentary takes a distinct and unyielding position on the issue but does so with a surprising amount of access to both sides of the debate.

The main focus here is on the National Rifle Association, which over the course of the past few decades has taken an increasingly offensive stance on ensuring that their membership stands in the way of any attempts to pass legislation that would make it more difficult for anyone to acquire a gun. The roots of the “good guy with a gun” concept are explored, as is the relationship that presidents like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump have had with the gun lobby as it has transformed into an even bigger beast intent on defending its constituents’ alleged rights to be armed as they see fit.

This is absolutely a hot-button issue that will only continue to intensify as minimal action is taken on the government level to create any lasting change. Parents who lost children in school shootings in Sandy Hook and Parkland, names that are all too instantly recognizable to most Americans, convey their devastation that what they have experienced will happen to other parents because nothing is being done, and footage of an Obama press conference shows him vividly angry that his reform efforts were blocked by Republicans in Congress. It’s easy to understand the damage that can be caused by the widespread availability of weaponry and the complete lack of appropriate vetting of potential owners.

While that may be true for the average liberal voter, who is likely to be the audience of this film, that’s certainly not how everyone in the country feels. This film smartly enlists NRA representatives and other conservatives who likely see their participation as a platform to broadcast their defense of their civil liberties and freedoms. Yet this film doesn’t enable their opinions to be anything other than context for the way in which the NRA has systematically campaigned to ensure that guns will not be restricted. It’s both fascinating and infuriating, and it’s effective because even those who speak about their contrary viewpoints don’t try to hide or mask what they’re doing. This is an extremely uphill battle, and for it to be won, this film should be seen by as many people as possible to understand what is meant by the tasteless and unfeeling expression “the price of freedom.”

B+

Friday, June 18, 2021

Tribeca with Abe: Werewolves Within

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

Werewolves Within
Directed by Josh Ruben
Spotlight Narrative - Screening Information

The concept of a werewolf is one of a layered villain, someone who may not know the threat that they pose since they transform from man to beast at night, likely unable to control their actions and the destruction they might yield as a result. The fact that it’s not easy to identify who might be a werewolf or to prove that a suspect is in fact guilty of that dual identity can put townspeople on edge, rushing to vilify those who may not be liked and to stop them before they can wreak havoc. It’s a subject particularly well-suited to horror, but also effective in a more comedic parody setting.

Overeager park ranger Finn (Sam Richardson) transfers to a new post and meets mailwoman Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), who clues him in to the eccentric personalities in town. When a storm hits and a dog is found dead, the locals begin to turn on each other. Stuck inside an inn, everyone is a suspect, and emotions run high as each person feeds into their own preconceived notions about the others and jumps to conclusions that tend to be woefully incorrect.

This adaptation of a popular VR game makes for a great movie, immediately establishing itself as winning thanks to the humorous banter that builds between Finn and Cecily. Richardson and Vayntrub are both talents equally capable of cracking jokes and playing the straight man, and they’re surrounded by a truly terrific ensemble. Among the cast are Michaela Watkins, Michael Chernus, Catherine Curtin, Cheyenne Jackson, Harvey Guillén, Sarah Burns, and Glenn Fleshler, all of whom contribute tremendously to the wild insanity of this film.

In a film and television world that’s all too populated by werewolves and zombies, this film doesn’t reinvent the genre but does manage to breathe fresh life into it by keeping audiences engaged with a decently involving mystery and plenty of comedy along the way. In this struggle for survival, it’s fun to see that those who are likely most equipped to make it out alive are able to confront and acknowledge the absurdity of their situation and how focused others remain on ridiculous and important things in the face of certain grisly death. If most of the characters in a movie are going to die anyway, isn’t it more fun if they get to make fun of each other along the way? This entertaining ride certainly makes a strong case for yes.

B+

Tribeca with Abe: Building a Bridge

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

Building a Bridge
Directed by Evan Mascagni and Shannon Post
Viewpoints – Screening Information

There is a feeling many people have that the faith they were raised in is incompatible with who they are, and that to attempt a return to religion won’t be successful because they are not welcome. There is good reason for this given that biblical texts tend to be discriminatory and outdated, and while modern interpretations cast a wider and more inviting net, traditional readings are often quite exclusionary. This notion can be incredibly painful for members of the LGBTQ+ community who have been told over and over that there is no place for them within Christianity – or other religions, for that matter – and find open-minded preachers and churches to be all too rare.

Father James Martin is an exception to the rule, a man whose devoutness drove him to make a controversial decision to endorse extending the hand of friendship to the LGBTQ+ community. His book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity was not received well by many of his peers, but the choice to meet people where they are and accept them has made a huge difference to the many who were cast aside by parents and communities because of their identities.

This documentary has an affable, energetic protagonist, one fully aware of the uphill battle he faces to confront a powerful and vocal group within the church that calls him a heretic and seeks to discredit him for what they see as blasphemous teachings. He supports Pope Francis’ example of not judging LGBTQ+ people who seek to have a relationship with Christianity, and continues with his mission despite all the naysayers who say that all he stands for is incongruent with a true religion vision.

This film showcases the outreach by Father Martin, but also allows those who fight fervently against what he stands for to speak. The way that their opinions are presented and expressed doesn’t overshadow his work or threaten to give them a platform that could encourage audiences that perhaps this is a two-sided issue where their opinion could be regarded as anywhere near as valid or acceptable as Father Martin’s. His ability to respond and hold fast to his beliefs that bringing in any member of the community who wants to be a part of it is only made stronger by their lack of desire to consider what he says or does. At some point in the future, this story should be so common that this documentary need not exist, but for now, it’s an important and spirited message that change like this absolutely must be happening.

B+

Weekend Movie Recommendations with Abe

Every Friday, I'll be uploading a Minute with Abe: Weekend Movie Recommendations Edition, surveying new releases on DVD, and on streaming services. Check it out, and subscribe to the movieswithabe channel!


New to Theaters: A Crime on the Bayou, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, 12 Mighty Orphans, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard
New to DVD: Eat Wheaties, Voyagers, French Exit
New to Hulu: The Outside Story, The Obituary of Tunde Johnson

Video Review: The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard

I was thrilled to be able to participate in a video review with fellow critic Matthew Schuchman for Cinema Daily US as part of the site's Above the Line vs Below the Line series. Check out our discussion of the film “The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard,” now playing in theaters, below:


Thursday, June 17, 2021

Tribeca with Abe: Queen of Glory

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

Queen of Glory
Directed by Nana Mensah
US Narrative Competition – Screening Information

The bond a child has with their parent isn’t consistent across all relationships. Those raised with kindness may in turn distribute that to the world, though not everyone responds well to nurturing and love. But there are also dynamics that aren’t necessarily negative or volatile but do come with their degree of baggage, and it’s often not until something serious happens and creates a breakdown of normal activities that the true strength and endurance of a connection is tested. In some cases, that may only begin to be explored after a parent’s death.

Sarah (Nana Mensah) is a scientist and doctoral student at Columbia University who is set on leaving New York City to move to Ohio with her married boyfriend, who is constantly telling her that he’s ready to separate from his wife. Her plans are disrupted when her mother dies, and she is the one who needs to plan the funeral as her father, who lives in Ghana, arrives to pay his respects and leave all the work to her. She also learns that she has inherited the Christian bookstore in the Bronx that her mother owned, which introduces her to Pitt (Meeko), the ex-con who reveres her mother and keeps up the store.

This film depicts Sarah as an assimilated American woman who hasn’t spent much time in the Ghanaian culture that meant a great deal to her mother and whose traditions dictate what the funeral must look like. She receives considerable input and instruction from members of her extended family and the Ghanaian-American community, and also interacts with a Russian friend and her family whose customs and bedside manner look very different. Sarah isn’t any one thing, and the circumstances in which she finds herself force to her to have many identities at once, none of which seem to go together and find a common support system, certainly not from her hapless and noncommittal boyfriend.

Mensah makes her debut behind the camera as writer and director of her first feature, immersing herself in this character’s world and conveying her experience in an accessible and relatable manner. While there are elements of her culture that are unique and distinct, and on full display in a positive and meaningful way during this film, there is also a universality to what she goes through, which is the reconciliation of heritage and secularism for someone who doesn’t feel as if she’s rebelled against her upbringing but also has chosen to engage with at her own comfort. It’s a film that touches on familial relationships and individuality, weaving an engaging narrative with a rich, dynamic character as its center.

B+

Tribeca with Abe: With/In

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

With/In Vol 1 and Vol 2
Various Directors
Movies PlusScreening Information

The pandemic has had an incredible effect on every industry, and that’s absolutely true of film and television, which in most cases had to shut down production for more than a year. While that has produced many delays of highly-anticipated projects and put actors and crew members out of work, it has also given birth to an unexpected creativity. Those with energy, ideas, and even a little bit of technology have been able make media that speaks to what’s brewing in their minds and showcases just some of what they’ve been experiencing during an increased period of time away from others.

This is a two-volume anthology collection comprised of shorts written and directed by actors and filmmakers. The subjects and styles vary greatly, though they all make distinct reference to what’s happening in the world around them and how things are definitely not normal. Among the standouts are a comedy about a one-night stand that turns into bathroom quarantine, two children driven crazy by their father’s obsession over strangers touching his fence, and two friends checking in virtually with each other every week.

What’s most fun about these shorts and differentiates them from some of the other pandemic filmmaking that’s emerged is that they mostly include families. It’s a delight to recognize married actors, like Alessandro Nivola and Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Marvel and Bill Camp, Morgan Spector and Rebecca Hall, Debra Winger and Arliss Howard, and Julianne Nicholson and Jonathan Cake, playing together on screen. When they include their children, the enjoyment level is only increased, and it’s nice to see that increased time together has only led to enhanced cooperation and productivity, at least in the finished product.

Like any anthology, the overall quality hinges on the strength of each specific short. The first volume includes just four films and runs 73 minutes, while the second includes nine and lasts 123 minutes. There isn’t any consistency to the lengths or themes, which makes for an uneven experience but one that has its high points. There are also performers who are clearly talented, like Carla Gugino and Adrianne Palicki, in truly strange and odd segments. Some take advantage of pandemic trends and turn them into waking nightmares, be it a loss of connectivity or an overindulgence in sourdough. The result is ultimately intriguing and occasionally involving, but it might have been more resounding with more purposeful structure and sequencing.

B

Tribeca with Abe: The Novice

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

The Novice
Directed by Lauren Hadaway
US Narrative Competition – Screening Information

Competitive sports can drive people to extraordinary lengths as they do everything in their power to excel, pushing themselves to dangerous limits in pursuit of success. Motivations for being the best can vary, and may be influenced by the experiences people have had growing up at home or in an educational or social setting. They can also be driven by a dependence on scholarship or fame as their only pathway to a prosperous future, and the decisions made as a result of such pressure can be disastrous and irreversible.

Alex Dall (Isabelle Fuhrman) begins her freshman year at college and joins the rowing team. Though she has no training, she is determined to become the top performer, meticulously training and working herself to the bone to beat out any of her fellow novices. Working harder than even her coach (Jonathan Cherry) advises, Alex closes herself off from the rest of the world to focus on winning, revealing a tremendous passion and resilience that will allow her to put everything else, including a burgeoning relationship with her TA, Dani (Dilone), second to triumphing over anyone who would dare stand in her way.

This film showcases the dark side of the pressure to succeed that inflicts so much pain and misery on those who work too hard and end up hurting themselves in the process. Part of that comes from the treatment of newcomers that often turns into harassment and hazing, which can only further deepen a need to show proof of talent and an ability to “toughen up” when pushed and tormented. Added to the way that Alex cannot accept anything short of perfection, it makes for a very volatile recipe that threatens not only Alex’s livelihood but that of those around her who may be adversely affected by her reckless choices.

Fuhrman, whose breakout role in “Orphan” came at a very young age, is formidable in this part, completely conveying the isolating passion that Alex feels and how she simply isn’t able to turn off that part of her, unwilling to listen to anyone who tells her that she’s done enough or that she’s going too far. Her performance alone is sufficient as a reason to see this film, which feeds off her energy and takes audiences on an involving, chilling ride that, like Alex, doesn’t let up even when it feels like it’s getting to be too much. It’s both a cautionary tale and a strong character study, one that travels a disturbing path in a film that feels both larger-than-life and all too realistic.

B+

Tribeca with Abe: All My Friends Hate Me

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

All My Friends Hate Me
Directed by Andrew Gaynord
International Narrative Competition – Screening Information

It’s often nice to reconnect with old friends after a period of time spent apart. The reason for a gap in get-togethers may be purely due to uncontrollable life factors like geography, work, and building a family, and reunions can be sweet opportunities to bask in nostalgia and remember the good old times. But people do inevitably change over the course of any period of time, and reencountering one another can be awkward if worldviews and interests no longer add up, and if some have matured while others have remained the same.

Pete (Tom Stourton) is going away for his birthday to celebrate with his friends from university who he hasn’t seen in a number of years. His girlfriend Sonia (Charly Clive) is coming to join them, but the festivities begin with just Pete and his former classmates gathered together at the large country home of his buddy George (Joshua McGuire). The unexpected presence of someone Pete doesn’t know, Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns), puts Pete on edge when he starts to believe that Harry has it out for him, first making jokes at his expense and then contributing greatly to a growing sense Pete has that something is very wrong.

This film is billed as a horror-comedy, and that’s because it presents a situation which at first seems perfectly harmless. Pete is getting to see those he likes a lot for the first time in ages, but of course he’s doing it at a giant mansion with many mysterious rooms that takes him plenty of time to find on his solo trip out there. Where the terror – or at least the very unsettling mood – seeps in is in Pete’s increasing isolation, inviting only the audience along for his frightening descent into madness, made to seem like he is the one who is seeing or assuming things when, as this film’s title suggests, all his friends don’t appear to like him very much at all.

Even if this wasn’t a psychological horror movie, it would be one that succeeds well at capturing the discomfort of not being seen. Pete’s friends plan activities for him that reflect a complete lack of understanding of what he would want to do, and then blame him when he doesn’t seem excited or grateful enough that they’ve been lavishly orchestrated. That element of the film should be most relatable to audiences, and the unnerving journey it takes culminates in a clever finish that only further cements the loneliness Pete feels that the audience gets to experience through him. It’s not an easy ride, but one that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do.

B

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Tribeca with Abe: Do Not Hesitate

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

Do Not Hesitate
Directed by Shariff Korver
International Narrative Competition – Screening Information

There is a concept that what happens while someone is away from home can stay there and not have an impact on their everyday life back home. It’s a notion that’s utilized in comedy when people make drunken decisions that they regret and would rather not follow them permanently, but also one that can be applied in a much more serious context. Being in a different mindset or mode may also affect behavior and can lead to irreversible actions that can’t even be truly understood by those who haven’t experienced it, and that’s certainly true of a warzone.

In the Middle East, Erik (Joes Brauers) is a soldier in the Dutch military in a convoy that breaks down in the middle of the desert. One of his fellow soldiers accidentally shoots a goat thinking that it is an advancing enemy, and the local owner of the goat, a fourteen-year-old boy (Omar Alwan), comes looking for compensation. When Erik’s supervising officer leaves to find an outpost, he is left in charge with Roy (Spencer Bogaert) and Thomas (Tobias Kersloot), out alone in an unknown and treacherous landscape, and watched constantly by the boy who won’t leave without getting what he believes they now owe him.

The premise of this film doesn’t suggest a positive outcome, and real-life stories of very problematic and violent interactions between supposed peacekeeping presences in Middle Eastern countries and the local population foreshadow a miserable trajectory. While this film is definitely grim in certain respects, Erik does do his best to treat the boy as a human being (not that it should be a high bar by any measure), trying to communicate with him despite not speaking his language and to do more than merely give him American currency as a way to make up for the taking of his livelihood.

There are strong performances featured in this film, particularly from Brauers and Alwan. The other two primary members of the ensemble, Bogaert and Kersloot, emphatically illustrate the ways in which boredom and immaturity can lead to consequential and disturbing moves with lasting reverberations. This film has a distinct point of view that manages to bring its audience into the environment inhabited by its characters, and while it’s certainly intriguing, the ultimate course of the film isn’t quite as vivid or inviting as its premise or early stops along its journey, still interesting but also unsettling and unfulfilling.

B

Tribeca with Abe: On the Divide

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

On the Divide
Directed by Leah Galant and Maya Cueva
Documentary Competition – Screening Information

It’s not easy to relate to someone else’s point of view, especially if it stands in stark opposition to what one person believes. There are key conflicts in how people from the same neighborhoods, religions, and other communities see the world, and the increasingly polarized, politicized nature of society makes it difficult to even try to find common ground on controversial subjects. What might help is an understanding that the passion those on one side of an issue feel can be just as strong as what those on the other side feel, a concept explored in this eye-opening look at the city of McAllen, Texas.

McAllen is located on the US-Mexico border in Texas, and is home to Whole Woman’s Health, the only abortion clinic in the area. Denisse, who has four children, is one of several volunteers who serves as an escort for the women who come to seek services, while Rey serves as a security guard for the clinic despite his strong religious beliefs. There to protest the alleged killing going on within and counsel the women who try to enter is Mercedes, a former gang member who was since turned to Christianity, following the leadership of church organizers intent on saving every baby in their city.

Though it’s tempting to take a clear point of view, which most audiences watching this film likely will given that it spotlights the last remaining abortion clinic in a deeply conservative region, this film does a remarkable job of giving equal time to those on both sides of this divide. Some might argue that equal time shouldn’t be doled out, especially given the considerable resources of the church as compared with the clinic, but this film, more than anything, seeks to understand why these people are so driven to do what they do. The purchase of a building three doors down from the clinic as a home for a new pro-life crisis pregnancy center is devastating for those who operate and support the clinic, but the church members believe they are doing God’s work, just as determined to provide what they deem an essential service.

This film is most poignant when it gets to hear directly from its subjects, letting them expound on what they have been through in the course of their lives and why they believe what they do. It’s a good example of keeping an issue local, not making it about how political leadership in southern Texas affects the entire country. If it wasn’t already apparent, the deep conservative bent of the area is definitely on display, and this film succeeds at showing everyone’s humanity even if its investigation of the pronounced separation may not be able to change any minds of those who actually live there.

B+

Interview with Abe: Catch the Fair One

As part of my Tribeca coverage, I got to interview boxer-turned-actress Kali Reis and director Josef Kubota Wladyka about their film “Catch the Fair One,” for Cinema Daily US. Watch the conversation below!


Tribeca with Abe: No Man of God

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

Luke Kirby stars as Ted Bundy opposite Elijah Wood's FBI profiler in “No Man of God.” I reviewed the film for Cinema Daily US - head over there to read my review.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Movie with Abe: Eat Wheaties!

Eat Wheaties
Directed by Scott Abramovitch
Released April 30, 2021

Not everyone is able to see how they’re perceived by the world. It’s also possible that people put too much weight into what others think, and allow their lives to be guided by societal pressures and a need to be liked and admired. Whether it’s good or bad, there are certain things that are defined as normal behavior, and those who do not practice them are often judged, mocked, or shunned by an unaccepting public. Typically, such individuals do mean well, and taking the time to get to know them can offer a very worthwhile and important new perspective.

Sid Straw (Tony Hale) is an overeager man without any real friends who gets put in charge of his college reunion. Told by his co-chair that he needs to have an online presence, he signs up for Facebook, where he comes upon a fan page for his old classmate, actress Elizabeth Banks. Unaware that his messages to her aren’t private, he begins writing a series of notes about his life to her, signing each one with the token line he accredits to her, “Eat Wheaties!” As the reunion approaches, Sid’s life spirals out of control as he learns the harsh truth about the unforgiving nature of a world unwilling to accept those who don’t conform.

This film boasts an outstanding cast, ensuring that no scene is absent a familiar face to join the affable Hale. Among the highlights are David Walton as Sid’s sympathetic brother and Elisha Cuthbert as his wife, who really detests Sid, Paul Walter Hauser as a lawyer sympathetic to Sid’s experience, Sarah Burns as a prospective love interest, and Danielle Brooks as a waitress at Sid’s go-to restaurant. The ensemble helps to make this an entertaining experience, even if it’s one that involves many cringe-worthy moments where Ted’s questionable decisions and actions are made even worse by the harsh response they receive from those within and outside his orbit.

There is a tremendous amount of heart to be found under the surface layer of this film, which doesn’t paint Sid in a great light and shows the depressing journey he takes from being perfectly content to watching his life fall apart. Fortunately, his story isn’t one that travels only downwards, and it’s fun and affirming to see him fight for himself, even if he still isn’t able to fully grasp what it is that he didn’t do right. As a call for acceptance, this film works well, and it’s good to have this lighthearted opportunity to root for the underdog.

B