Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Posted By on Tue, Apr 27, 2021 at 11:30 AM

After more than a year of outdoor and online events, the Loft Cinema is planning to reopen for indoor screenings beginning Friday, May 7. To begin, screenings will only take place in their main auditorium, and will include staggered seating and mandatory masks for customers and staff (when not eating or drinking).

The Loft is reopening with the "Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street," the new documentary about the groundbreaking children's series. The rest of The Loft Cinema’s reopening programming schedule will be announced soon.

"It’s been difficult and draining to have been closed for almost 14 months," said Peggy Johnson, executive director of The Loft Cinema. “We can’t wait to welcome our audiences back to watch films indoors at The Loft."

In addition to indoor screenings, The Loft is continuing their online screenings and outdoor "open-air" cinema for the time being. For show times, visit loftcinema.org

Monday, April 12, 2021

Posted By on Mon, Apr 12, 2021 at 4:00 PM


The Arizona International Film Festival returns this week with 12 days of online and outdoor film screenings from comedy to drama to documentary. The 29th festival kicks off opening night at the MSA Annex on Wednesday, April 14, with an outdoor screening of Dustwun, a drama about a friendship between an undocumented migrant lost from her group traveling toward the United States and a troubled American veteran building his own "wall" out of trash in the desert. Filmmaker Genevieve Anderson will be present at the screening.

The 2021 AIFF includes 24 feature films and 75 shorts. This year’s films range from a bipolar love story to a hike across Utah to an experimental “film poem” about democracy. In addition to feature length films, there are also blocks of short films and panels where film professionals discuss cinematography, international film, independent films, and their own work.

While multiple festival films were shot here in Arizona, other entries range from Italy to Turkey to Sudan.

The 2021 Arizona International Film Festival runs from Wednesday, April 14, to Sunday, April 25. To view the full schedule and to buy tickets, visit filmfestivalarizona.com.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Posted By on Tue, Apr 6, 2021 at 9:03 AM

Two weird movies are now playing at local theaters. One of them is an arthouse offering that takes some bizarre twists, while another is as big as movies get on the dollars scale. Both...pretty damn weird.

MOVIE REVIEW: GODZILLA VS. KONG
Now Playing at Roadhouse Cinemas and Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18 (also streaming on HBO Max)

The Monsterverse goes full-tilt bonkers with Godzilla vs. Kong, a good enough smackdown between the infamous big boys, as long as they are punching each other or somebody else. As for the humans in this series, I wish they would just shut up.

Well, let’s step back for a second. Gareth Edwards started the Monsterverse in 2014 with his Godzilla, which did fine on the human front because it had Bryan Cranston, albeit only for part of its running time, delivering some real acting. Since Cranston kicked the bucket in the series, the likes of Aaron Taylor Johnson, Millie Bobbie Brown and a confused Sally Hawkins have had to handle the drama, and they, for the most part, have sucked.

Human suckage continues in this installment, with dopey subplots involving Brown, an embarrassed Rebecca Hall and Alexander Skarsgard that provide nothing but opportunities for the producers to save on huge special effects scenes.



Monday, March 29, 2021

Posted By on Mon, Mar 29, 2021 at 12:30 PM

FILM REVIEW: NOBODY
Now Playing at Roadhouse Cinemas and Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18


Bob Odenkirk has been one of my comic idols for the past 30 years. His impersonation of Charles Manson on The Ben Stiller Show had me hooked, and his run on Mr. Show with partner-in-crime David Cross solidified him as one of my heroes.

It was a great pleasure to see him pop up on Breaking Bad in a pure dramatic acting role as sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman, and later on the spinoff Better Call Saul as Jimmy McGill (Saul’s real name). The guy should have a shelf full of Emmys for his work on that show.

Nobody, an ultra-violent thriller from writer Derek Kolstad (creator of John Wick) and director Ilya Naishuller, takes Odenkirk in a direction nobody could’ve seen coming. In it, he plays Hutch Mansell, a mild-mannered husband and father who has his house invaded by a couple of nervous crooks. This event ignites an old, buried aspect of Mansell’s personality, an aspect that results in deserving people losing their teeth and getting their tracheas crushed.

Hutch has an assassin’s past and, like a deprived vampire smelling blood or a heroin addict near a pile of drugs, he can’t resist the chance to dive back in. This results in a lot of John Wick-like badassery in which Odenkirk shows he more than has the chops to throw down convincingly on screen. He trained hard for this movie, and it shows with every stunt he partakes in (it’s seemingly always him on screen). Kudos to the fight choreographers for this film, and kudos to Odenkirk who rises to the challenge in majestically bloody fashion.

The plot involves the Russian mob and gold bars, much like Wick, but this film has a very different, more grounded tone. Connie Nielsen is on hand as Hutch’s mysterious wife (she’s pretty darned good at patching up his wounds), and Christopher Lloyd has some of his most on-screen fun in years as Hutch’s also very mysterious dad.

Seeing Odenkirk breaking arms and performing emergency tracheotomies is just about the most bizarre theater-going experience I’ve had in the last decade. It’s also a total blast. I doubt this is the start of an action hero phase for Odenkirk, but who knows? Maybe he has himself a franchise now. I would certainly line up for Nobody: Chapter 2.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Mar 26, 2021 at 11:50 AM

While the governor may have kicked the state mask mandate to the curb, our friends at the Fox Theatre are reminding us to mask up with their new "hacked" movie poster series hanging outside the venue.

Created by Sante Fé artist Mattew Chase Daniel, the Masking Movie Posters project features several doctored iconic movie posters—from classic Zorro and the Lone Ranger to the 1994 Jim Carrey comedy The Mask—now wearing masks to promote mask use and getting vaccinated as the pandemic continues.

“As the Crown Jewel of Downtown, we feel that the Fox is ideally positioned to take a lead in encouraging everyone to work together cooperatively to move the needle," Fox Executive Director Bonnie Schock said. "Being able to fill our poster cases with such meaningful images to the public obviously fits into our messaging.”

Daniel approached the theater about displaying his recently completed work last February, which was made possible by a grant from the Sante Fé CARES initiative. As a part of the grant, the artist has to distribute his unique posters to theaters across the country.

His posters currently grace the poster cases of movie houses in Sante Fé and  Albuquerque, New Mexico; Austin, TX; Charlotte, NC; Pasadena, West L.A. and North Hollywood, CA.

The Fox is currently scheduling shows and events for September on a limited basis, Schock said.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Posted By on Tue, Mar 23, 2021 at 10:05 AM

Some Oscar-nominated films are still getting screen time here in Tucson:

Nomadland, nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture, continues to screen at The Loft as part of the Open Air Cinema series and at Roadhouse Cinemas. Minari, nominated for 6 Oscars including Best Picture, is also screening at The Loft and Roadhouse Cinemas.

Nomadland still screening at Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18 with another Oscar-nominated film, The Father. Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman both received Oscar nods for their fine work as a father and daughter dealing with the ravages of dementia.


The biggest news on the new release front is the arrival of Zack Snyder's Justice League on HBO Max.

Here's a review:

ZACK SNYDER'S JUSTICE LEAGUE

Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a new 4-hour cut currently streaming on HBO Max, is a definite improvement over the 2017 Justice League part-authored by the recently disgraced Joss Whedon.

Whedon’s cut, a ridiculous attempt at Marvel-izing the DC Universe, was a total disaster. This cut? Certainly not a disaster, but nothing to get too excited about, either. Snyder's Cut is an almost forgivable behemoth, while Whedon's essentially stalled his big screen career.

For starters, whoa, hang on there Zack, this didn’t need to be 4-hours long! Many of the new scenes do a lot to flesh out the story but, good Christ, do you get carried away with the slo-mo. Too many scenes drag on and on via slo-mo and dreary music. There were too many times where I had to stop down and take a lap around my apartment out of pure frustration.  This cut could’ve been a comprehensible 3 hours…easily.

The beauty of getting it on streaming is that you can watch it in parts. Still, even divided up (6 parts not including a prologue and epilogue), too many sequences drag in a hellishly boring way.

Big improvements include a much better Steppenwolf visual experience. The villainous Steppenwolf has some new armor that makes him look less like a California Raisin and more like a demon warrior capable of destroying humanity. He's actually kind of scary instead of being an unintentionally comic travesty.

That stupid opening scene with Henry Cavill and his bizarre, CGI scrubbed face (he had a mustache that needed to be removed in post) is gone. Cavill’s Superman gets a more substantial role here and gets to sport the black Superman suit. The Superman stuff in this cut is actually, dare I say, kind of cool, and that’s coming from somebody who didn’t like Snyder’s prior takes on the character, Batman v Superman and Man of Steel. I've come to accept that the Superman of Snyder world is just sort of dark and whiny, and I just need to put the Christopher Reeve iteration out of my head while watching him. Cavill is good here, and I think it's time for a new Superman movie with him in it provided it has a new director.

Cyborg gets a lot more screen time, and that’s not a good thing. The character was drab before, and remains bland here, with a lot more cinematic minutes and exposition to put you to sleep. Characters like Martian Manhunter and Darkseid are added. Martian Manhunter feels tacked on and useless, while Darkseid is a nice add, giving the apocalyptic Steppenwolf a better sense of purpose. The much ballyhooed appearance of Jared Leto's Joker towards the end is not as stupid as I suspected it would be.

Upon ingesting it, the new cut left me feeling that I had definitely seen a more cohesive story. It makes more sense. It’s also an over-baked, far too padded, sometimes tedious story. The awful, discordant humor of Whedon’s cut is gone (The Flash doesn’t hump Wonder Woman in this one), the vibrant color correction of the prior cut has been replaced by the more typical, darker Snyder tone. Some will gripe about the new cut’s 4:3 aspect ratio (closer to a square) than that HD screen-filling aspect ratio we’ve all grown used to. I know this because my friends have been texting me that the new aspect ratio is pissing them off (I'm okay with it).

So Snyder got this out of his system, and can move on to bigger and brighter things. As for the DC Universe, it's still all over the place tonally. Looking forward to that alleged team up of Ezra Miller's Flash and Michael Keaton's Batman. Happy that Snyder and Whedon won't be directing it.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Posted By on Thu, Mar 18, 2021 at 11:45 AM

An independent romance film created here in Tucson with a local cast and crew is continuing its run at Harkins’ Tucson Spectrum 18 this week. The film, which debuted in late February, was written and directed by local filmmaker Edgar Ybarra, who works as a photojournalist at KVOA News 4 Tucson.

“Tucsonans have and continue to come out in full force to see this Tucson original story, assembled by a heavily local cast and crew,” Ybarra said.

All We Have is a feature-length film following the relationship of Andres and Natalia, and complications from their past. The film stars local actors Stefan Oropeza and Karen Marroquin.

The film screens at 1:15 p.m. and 4 p.m. Friday, March 18, at Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18, 5455 S. Calle Santa Cruz.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit the Harkins website.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Mar 12, 2021 at 3:00 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY PATRICK MCARDLE
Photo by Patrick McArdle

Tucson photographer and filmmaker Patrick McArdle has spent years documenting the life and struggles of homeless populations. First spending six months photographing the homeless in San Diego in stark black and white, McArdle says that project felt unresolved because of the city’s lack of effort to fix the problem. But in Tucson, an army veteran’s work to help inspired McArdle’s latest project, “Here Comes That Dreamer.” The full documentary will be screening at the MSA Annex from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 18.

McArdle filmed his documentary on the streets of Tucson from 2015 to 2020, taking two years off in the middle during his own struggles with cancer. While covering a variety of people, the documentary partly focuses on Jon McLane, an Iraq war veteran with PTSD who is leading the Veteran Rescue Mission, with the objective of minimizing veteran and civilian recidivism and suicide rates.

“My intent is to show the public that there are solutions, you just have to be active and be willing to make it happen,” McArdle said. “I hope this documentary changes something.”

McArdle met McLane right at the beginning of filming, originally interested in McLane’s project “Safe Park.” The effort saw multiple boxes set up in Veinte De Agosto Park downtown to provide shelter for the homeless, but was eventually closed after a legal fight with the city.

McLane, now an ordained minister, helped introduce McArdle to the homeless population for filming.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 12, 2021 at 10:53 AM

There are two high-profile animated movies in theaters right now, and both of them also have streaming options.

One of those movies is a total piece of garbage, the other is a heartwarming, rousing adventure that is very much worth the money you will plunk down to either see it in a theater or rent at home.

See which one is which in the reviews below:

RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON
Now Playing at Roadhouse Cinemas
(Also available for home rental on Disney+ Premier Access)

The latest Disney animated movie checks off all of the boxes when it comes to what Disney fans are looking for in an animated adventure, and then it checks off a few more, unexpected ones.

Title character Raya is the latest addition to the “Disney Princess” sub-franchise, a terrific character creation voiced by Kelly Marie Tran of the last two Star Wars movies (the second of which her character was brushed aside…oh, don’t get me started). She lives in the ancient land of Kumandra, a world once inhabited by happy dragons but currently cursed by a plague that has turned most of the animal life (including the dragons) to stone.

Raya’s mission to restore her land leads to the awakening of Sisu the Dragon, voiced by Awkwafina in the sort of vocal triumph that reminds of Robin Williams in Aladdin and Eddie Murphy in Shrek. Sisu can also morph into human form, and both her dragon and human forms  look quite like the actress voicing them (the wide smile, the big eyes, those awesome eyebrows). And, of course, both have her distinctive vocals, tailor made for this kind of movie.

The four directors who put this movie together, along with a quite the roster of writers, have inhabited this film world with enchantment, great action, and solid laughs. One of the film’s best running gags would be the “Con Baby,” an infant plague survivor who manages to display superhero qualities while occasionally throwing her diapers at those who dare to chase her.

The story winds up being a terrific take on redemption, and the finale (which owes a little bit to Avengers: Endgame) will leave the family in the kind of tears. Brightly animated, cleverly written, and masterfully constructed, it’s a movie that will put a smile on your face and get your young daughters interested in martial arts and dragons.




TOM & JERRY

Now playing at Roadhouse Cinemas, Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18 and Harkins Arizona Pavilions 12, while also streaming on HBO Max

I hated Tom & Jerry when I was a kid. And, as things turn out, I hate them equally as a grown up adult-typed person thing. It’s just a cat being mercifully tortured by a mouse, a one-joke slog-a-thon.

Granted, Itchy and Scratchy, the spoof of Tom & Jerry that has long appeared on The Simpsons is classic, and wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Tom & Jerry, so I guess I have to be a little grateful to the duo.

On second thought, nope…Tom & Jerry can go to Hell.

Director Tim Story tries to bring some life to a long (thankfully) dead franchise by pulling a Roger Rabbit and mixing traditional animation with live action. Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse, along with all other animals other than humans in this film, are animated, with little effort to really integrate them into the real world. As a result, this movie has a very dull visual palette to go with its crap script.

The original cartoon shorts never had significant plots, and their cinematic vehicle has a thin one that works as nothing but an excuse to see Tom falling out of buildings and crashing into shit.

A young events planner wannabe (Chloe Grace Moretz) goes to a fancy Manhattan hotel looking for a job, fakes a resume (making her instantly unlikeable), and gets a gig planning the big wedding of the year. Jerry the mouse moves into the hotel, with Tom following him there because he’s pissed and all that, so there’s your plot. The planner needs to catch the mouse and uses the cat in her trapping scheme. Now that the thin story is established, let’s break things over Tom’s head.

The humans look miserable, as are we. This is a film that manages to make Michael Pena unfunny. It’s also a movie looking for comedic acting chops from SNL writer Colin Jost, who just has to know he screwed up royally signing on for this one. He plays the guy getting married, and just looks like he is hating life the entire time. Most assuredly, Michael Che should skewer him on Weekend Update for this one.

Rest assured that the wedding in this movie will have elephants so that we can get that classic joke of elephants being afraid of mice. You can also go to bed tonight safe in the knowledge that at some point in this movie Jerry is going to leave a wise-assed note to somebody in a mouse trap. You know, something like “Haha…I’m a mouse and I figured out this is a trap, and I took your fucking cheese anyway. Fuck you!”

Minus the swear words of course. This is a PG movie for kids where you can see Ken Jeong clearly having the word “asshole” dubbed over in his dialogue. Noticing that was the funniest part of the movie for me. Everything else was about as funny as a wise-assed note left by a rodent in place of cheese chunk in a mouse trap.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2020 at 1:50 PM


While the next Arizona International Film Festival is still a few months off, film fans can enjoy a select cut in the meantime. The film Wheels won the award for Best Indie Film at the 2019 Arizona International Film Festival, which is held annually in Tucson.

Wheels, described as a coming of age story, follows a Brooklyn teen struggling to balance personal relationships, urban strife and a dream of becoming a DJ.

Directed by Paul Starkman, who has worked on programs like Project Runway and Top Chef, the film also won awards at the 2019 San Francisco Black Film Festival and 2019 Harlem International Film Festival.

After success on the film festival circuit, Wheels is available on online via Amazon Prime, Vimeo, iTunes and more.

The next Arizona International Film Festival is slated for April 14 through 25, 2021.