Here are some films that recently opened in area theatres.
August 28, 2020:  Three look interesting – escapist fare ranging from Iannucci’s take on Dickens’ Copperfield to the 30-yr-old Bill & Ted motif. There’s also a well conceived story about teenage mental illness – Bathroom Walls.

The other five, IMO, are not worth the risk of a trip to a megaplex. A couple – Bill & Ted and Fatima – are concurrently streaming. The others will be online, probably sooner than later.

Click on each title for film descriptions, scores, and review links.

Aug 28 - The Personal History of David Copperfield, 2019, PG, 110 min.

Comedy, drama, starring Dev Patel, Hugh Laurie and Tilda Swinton.  Excellent review by Anthony Lane
Director Armando Iannucci weighs in on the task of bringing Dickens’ comedy, melodrama and tragedy to life, as well as casting blacks and asians in the film. The wild characters and up-and-down power dynamics of Charles Dickens are an unexpected but ultimately natural home for Iannucci and his co-writer, Simon Blackwell, who breeze through a massive novel with a particular attention to its comedy and its exploration of class and ambition. But rather than doing something as garish as updating David Copperfield with Iannucci’s modern, expletive-laced vernacular, the director has proven how modern David Copperfield has felt all along.  T-meter: 93%
The Personal History of David Copperfield puts a fresh, funny, and utterly charming spin on Dickens’ classic, proving some stories truly are timeless.”   77/100  B+   B+  4.0/5.0

Aug 28 - Words on Bathroom Walls, 2020, PG-13, 111 min.

A sensitive teen dramedy about the challenges of living with mental illness.   T-meter:  87%  4.0 / 5.0   3.5 / 4.0
The core issue is mental illness – schizophrenia. But at its essence it is a story about what all teenagers—and all people—want: to be independent, to have satisfying work, and to love and be loved. The specifics work, with superb performances from an exceptional cast, and that illuminates the universal themes of identity and intimacy.”     2.5 / 4.0

Aug 28 - Bill & Ted Face the Music, 2020, PG-13, 88 min

** Also streaming online via various VOD outlets. **

“Escapism at a time when needed  – winningly modest, harmlessly silly and perpetually optimistic…”
Adventure, comedy, starring Keanu Reeves; Alex Winter and Kristen Schaal.
“Just like its protagonists, it’s sweet, stupid, and imbued with an earnest belief that a broken world can be unified through music. Even in an era stuffed with sequels that no one asked for and franchises that cannot be stopped, it’s a marvel that Bill & Ted Face the Music exists.”  T-meter: 80%
“As wholesomely goofy as its heroes, Bill and Ted Face the Music is a rare long-belated sequel that largely recaptures the franchise’s original charm.
After 30 years, Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves return as middle-aged dads in an amiable, sloppy attempt to reassert the value of friendliness.”  Metacritic: 66 / 100  4.0 / 5.0   2.0 / 4.0

Aug 28 - The Eight Hundred (Ba Bai), 2020, R, 147 min.

China’s $80 Million tentpole release about war and jingoistic nationalism, starring Zhi-zhong Huang, Zhang Junyi, Hao Ou.   T-meter:  80%  3.0 / 5.0  2.0 / 4.0

Aug 28 - Fatima, 2020, PG-13, 114 min.

** Also streaming online via various VOD outlets. **

Faith-based drama, starring Alba Baptista, Harvey Keitel and Goran Visnjic.

While Fatima has good intentions, it echoes, and pales in comparison to The Song of Bernadette, starring Jennifer Jones and Charles Bickford, winner of four Oscars in 1943.  4.0 / 10.0
The film is a plodding cinematic recounting of reported visions that the Roman Catholic Church deemed a miracle. One-note characterizations aren’t helped by a fashionably desaturated palette, which contributes to an unvaried, solemn atmosphere. While the film may speak to viewers with a spiritual investment in these events, it does little to bring them alive for others.”   T-meter: 65%   23 reviews   Metacritic  52 / 100

Aug 28 - Still Here, 2020, NR, 99 min.

Crime, drama, starring Johnny Whitworth, Afton Williamson with a cameo by Zazie Beetz.  T-meter: No score  2.5 / 5.0

“While Zazie Beetz is a treasure in everything she appears in, she pretty much serves as stunt casting in Still Here as she’s only in the movie for one scene to help advance the plot towards its conclusion.”   3.0 / 5.0
Some aspects of this movie feel off the mark, others are spot-on, and the finished product, while not a particularly good mystery, at least becomes a decent, earnest social drama. The feature directing debut by Vlad Feier, Still Here relies on multiple characters with varied success. Perhaps the most troubling is Christian Baker, a ‘White savior’ character who’s remarkably clueless when it comes to communicating with the movie’s Black characters. Eventually he writes about ‘kindness,’ which is a positive message, but he himself doesn’t seem to express any.
“Detective Spaulding, meanwhile, is a White man who’s shown being a good father and having a comfortable relationship with his Black partner, Evans — but Spaulding is horribly racist and violent when dealing with Black suspects.”

Aug 28 - Unhinged, 2020, R, 90 min.

Suspense drama, with strong violence and language, starring Russell Crowe and Caren Pistorius.
“This story of road rage run amok unleashes 90 minutes of senseless, vivid violence.”    1.0 / 4.0
Unhinged is no reason to return to a movie theater.  Follow Russell Crowe on Twitter. Find another film to bring you back to the theater.” 1.5 / 4.0
“A tightly wound but increasingly repellent picture … Some people are desperate to see a movie in a theater. It’s hard to imagine anyone desperate to an ‘Unhinged’ degree.  Unhinged also includes violence against women, violence against a child, and some violence against adult males that seems kind of ho-hum by comparison (except when lighter fluid is involved).”   T-meter:  48%
“Russell Crowe makes for a compulsively watchable villain, but Unhinged lacks enough intelligence or depth to get sufficient mileage out of its pulpy premise.”

Aug 28 - The New Mutants, 2018, PG-13, 98 min.

Action, horror, sci-fi, starring Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy and Charlie Heaton.   Marvel Comics’ final installment in the X-Men series with soundtrack by Marilyn Manson.   2.0 / 5.0   Grade: “C”
This much-delayed ‘X-Men’-related film from Josh Boone features five teens with not-so-great powers. Can a slight genre film with one location and no name-brand characters pass itself off as a franchise blockbuster?”  The New Mutants Isn’t Worth a Trip Back to Theaters    4.0 / 10.0
“When a movie sits on the shelf for two years, it’s usually a sign the picture isn’t very good.”   T-meter: 31%  Viewer reviews  5.8 / 10.00


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in the Mark Painter Screening Room 
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