Opening this week at a screen near you:
The Croods: A New Age (2020) PG
Your favorite prehistoric family, the Croods, are back! There is a new family in the neighborhood, the Bettermans, led by Hope (Leslie Mann) and Phil (Peter Dinklage), who claim to be better and more evolved. Can Grug (Nicolas Cage) and Ugga (Catherine Keener) keep their family on the right track, or will their kids lose their way when shown how the Bettermans live? The Croods: A New Age Website
What to Watch For: The voice cast includes Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke, and Kelly Marie Tran.
Word on the Street: This is the first feature film for director Joel Crawford, who worked on the animated films The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019), Trolls (2016), and the Kung Fu Panda movies.
My Take: We have had to wait quite a while (7 years) to see the Crood clan again on the big screen.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) R
In 1927 Chicago, tensions rise between Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), her ambitious horn player, Levee (Chadwick Boseman), and the management determined to control the headstrong Ma Rainey, the ‘Mother of the Blues.’ Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Website
What to Watch For: This is the last film of the late, great Chadwick Boseman’s career.
Word on the Street: The film is produced by Denzel Washington, a mentor to Chadwick Boseman since Boseman’s college years.
My Take: Could this be Boseman’s Oscar-winning performance?
A young David Bowie (Johnny Flynn) comes to America for the first time in 1971 on a trip that inspires the invention of Bowie’s iconic alter ego Ziggy Stardust. Stardust Website
What to Watch For: The film is directed and co-written by Gabriel Range, who brought us the award-winning TV movie Death of a President (2006) and the BAFTA Award-nominated films The Day Britain Stopped (2003) and I Am Slave (2010).
Word on the Street: Johnny Flynn recently appeared as Mr. Knightley, with Anya Taylor-Joy in the 2020 film Emma.
My Take: I am a big David Bowie fan, so I have to see this one.
Last Call (2020)
Before there were rock stars, there was writer Dylan Thomas (Rhys Ifans). In 1953, Dylan Thomas is on his final tour, where he was captivating audiences with his poetry and stories. In New York City, Thomas walked into a Tavern and pondered his life as he downed eighteen doubles scotches. Last Call Info
What to Watch For: The cast includes John Malkovich, Rodrigo Santoro, Tony Hale, Romola Garai, and Zosia Mamet.
Word on the Street: Rhys Ifans won Best Actor for his performance in the film at the 2017 Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.
My Take: I’ll see anything John Malkovich is in.
Uncle Frank (2020) R
In 1973, college professor Frank Bledsoe (Paul Bettany) and his Eighteen-year-old niece, Beth (Sophia Lillis), journey back to South Carolina to attend Frank’s father’s funeral. Frank has many secrets that he wishes would remain hidden, but this trip home will be painful, and those secrets will spill out. Uncle Frank Website
What to Watch For: The film won the Audience Award at both the Deauville Film Festival and the Mill Valley Film Festival.
Word on the Street: The supporting cast includes Steve Zahn, Judy Greer, Margo Martindale, Lois Smith, and Stephen Root.
My Take: The film is written and directed by Alan Ball, responsible for two TV shows that I love, Six Feet Under and True Blood.
Happiest Season (2020) PG-13
Harper (Mackenzie Davis) and Abby (Kristen Stewart) are in love, so much so that Abby is going to propose to Harper when they go to Harper’s childhood home for Christmas. The problem is that Harper’s family doesn’t know Harper is a lesbian, and now Abby will have to pretend that she and Harper are just roommates. What could go wrong? Happiest Season Info
What to Watch For: The cast includes Aubrey Plaza, Mary Steenburgen, Victor Garber, Mary Holland.
Word on the Street: This is the second feature film for writer/director Clea DuVall, known for roles as Marjorie in Veep and Sylvia in The Handmaid’s Tale.
My Take: I am a big fan of Kristen Stewart, and it will be fun to see her in a romantic comedy.
Hillbilly Elegy (2020) R
The story of J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso), who goes back to his Appalachian home to revisit his childhood and the two women, his strong-willed grandmother (Glen Close) and his troubled mother (Amy Adams). Hillbilly Elegy Website
What to Watch For: The film is from two-time Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard.
Word on the Street: The film is based on a true story told in the best-selling book of the same name by J. D. Vance.
My Take: Could this film finally get an Oscar for Amy Adams and/or Glenn Close, who between them have thirteen Oscar nominations without a win.
Documentary that looks at the life and work of legendary rock musician and composer Frank Zappa. Zappa Website
What to Watch For: The film is from Alex Winter, who, while known for portraying Bill in the Bill & Ted films, has for the past five years been directing documentaries, including this year’s Showbiz Kids.
Word on the Street: The film contains behind the scenes home movies, concert films, and un-aired television shows that have never been seen before.
My Take: A testament to how much his fans loved him, a Kickstarter was done to fund the film and got over 8,000 backers and raised over a million dollars.