‘The Secret Garden’ doesn’t quite bloom

“The Secret Garden” – After a prolonged, winding political road, India gained independence from Great Britain in 1947. This historical moment scooped up Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx), a 10-year-old girl living in India at the time.  This young Brit – nestled in the lap of financial luxury as a child ex-pat – suddenly lost her parents.  She also gained her independence, but in the most unwanted way.   Now, this newly orphaned girl baths, sleeps, and eats on her schedule, but she soon discovers that proper sustenance, direction, and boundaries become…

‘The Secret: Dare to Dream’ isn’t a nightmare

“The Secret: Dare to Dream” – “My whole life, my gut feeling is that something really bad is going to happen, and it does.” – Miranda Wells (Katie Holmes) These days, Miranda carries a ton – possibly two – of responsibility on her narrow shoulders.  Her husband passed away a few years ago, and she’s raising three kids on her own.  Not entirely by herself, because her mother-in-law Bobby (Celia Weston) regularly swings by and watches the kids.  This helpful soul is also the only character – in this movie…

‘Radioactive’ is a bit hazardous, because it packs too much story

“Radioactive” – “I want to tell you about Radium, a most peculiar and remarkable element, because it does not behave as it should.” – Marie Curie (Rosamund Pike) Marie Curie – born as Maria Salomea Sklodowska in 1867 Warsaw – did not behave as she should as well.  A physicist and chemist, Marie earned physics and mathematics degrees, and picked up her doctorate at the Sorbonne, where she became the university’s first female professor.  To say that Ms. Curie was ahead of her time is the understatement of the century,…

Make room for ‘Four Kids and It’

“Four Kids and It” – “Here’s the story…of a lovely lady…who was bringing up (two) very lovely girls.” Alice (Paula Patton) is a struggling single mom, and her primary source of distress emanates from her oldest daughter Samantha (Ashley Aufderheide).  She goes by Smash and is duly named because this tyrannical teenager is angrier than Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) after classmates infamously humiliated her at the prom.   Yea, Smash is that irate, although mass murder – rest assured – is a stretch and not included in this narrative. Still, her…

‘Irresistible’ successfully explores big, twisted political practices in Small Town, USA

“Irresistible” – “He’s a church-going Bernie Sanders with bone density.” – Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) Mr. Zimmer, a Democratic strategist, describes Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) of Deerlaken, Wisc. with the enthusiasm of an obsessed teenager yearning for a dance with the prom queen.  Jack, however, is no demure beauty.  He’s a farmer, a retired U.S. Marine Colonel, and a widower.  In other words, Gary sees this man as a perfect candidate, one who the Dems could use after Donald Trump’s 2016 famous – or infamous, depending upon your perspective –…

It’s okay to walk away from ‘You Should Have Left’

“You Should Have Left” – “Violent or upsetting dreams are the mind’s attempt to release the pressures of our daily thoughts and fears.” Theo Conroy (Kevin Bacon) frequently listens to self-help audiobooks these days.  You see, he has bad dreams, and the latest includes his 6-year-old daughter Ella (Avery Tiiu Essex):  a creepy man, who partially conceals his face with a baseball hat and glasses, attacks Ella in her bedroom.  This horrible visual would undoubtedly send any semi-caring father into a tizzy. Theo, however, is a full-caring father, and outside…

‘7500’: Take a number and get in line for this claustrophobic thriller

“7500” –  “How would an event like this go down in real life?” – director Patrick Vollrath, August 2019 at the Locarno Film Festival “Nice airplane.  Two wings and two engines.” – Capt. Michael Lutzmann (Carlo Kitzlinger) It’s 5:23 pm at the Berlin Airport, but it is unclear which one (Schönefeld or Tegel), and security cameras offer several viewpoints throughout this sprawling locale: the check-in area, various hallways, gates, and even a bathroom entrance.  During this montage, one clip focuses on five everyday men – in their 20s or 30s…

‘The King of Staten Island’: Davidson and Apatow proudly roll out their royal comedy

“The King of Staten Island” – “My dad, if you don’t know, was a fireman, and he died on 9/11.  He was a very good dude, and I have a lot of jokes about it.  If you don’t like the first one, you probably won’t like the rest.” – Pete Davidson Yes, “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson’s father died on 9/11, and this talented comic and uber-producer/director/writer Judd Apatow partnered on “The King of Staten Island”, a sprawling comedy (almost dramedy) about an unmotivated, pot-smoking 24-year-old tattoo artist whose…

‘The High Note’ is flat

“The High Note” – Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross) is a superstar!  This 11-time Grammy winner has burned up the charts and live shows for decades.  Director Nisha Ganatra showcases this woman’s voice and showwomanship during the film’s opening minutes.  With Grace’s on-stage entourage in tow, she sings her lungs out in front of sold-out audiences from Detroit, Miami, Dallas, and more. Wow! The production values soar off the charts and pop from our small screens.  Promises of bold musical numbers fill our heads, until they don’t.  It turns out…

‘The Vast of Night’ is an impressive achievement, but not a satisfying one

“The Vast of Night” –  Fay (Sierra McCormick) and Everett (Jake Horowitz) are a couple of enterprising teens.  They attend Cayuga High School but hold grownup jobs in the evenings.  Fay is a devoted switchboard operator, and Everett is a radio personality at WOTW with a Highway Hits radio show from 7 pm to 11 pm.  If Fay’s work sounds bizarrely dated, that’s because director Andrew Patterson’s “The Vast of Night” is set in the 1950s, and the kids’ hometown of Cayuga, N.M. is a blip on the radar screen…