All posts by Vince Leo

Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) | Dean Parisot



The story involves the Bill (Alex Winter) & Ted (Keanu Reeves), now married with one child each, suffering a mid-life crisis, realizing that they never united humankind through their music as foretold. In fact, contrary to the end montage of Bogus Journey depicting their success, Face the Music shows the duo jaded after a career where they are more laughing-stock than the most popular band on Earth. The pressure to fulfill their destiny finds their marriage on the rocks, seeking couples therapy, but one where both couples are involved simultaneously; the duo’s inability to separate their codependency is one of the issues. Someone from the future tells them they need to write the song within the next 77 minutes to achieve global peace and harmony, or the universe will come apart in a cataclysmic event called the Unraveling. Their plan: use the phone booth time machine to travel forward in time to steal the song from their future selves. Dean Parisot directs this third entry in the Bill & Ted series.


The One and Only Ivan (2020) | Thea Sharrock



The story centers around Ivan, a silverback gorilla who lives in a cage as the star of a struggling animal show at a suburban shopping center called the Big Top Mall & Video Arcade at Exit 8. Ivan’s main schtick is to roar and look intimidating, but behind the scenes, he is a thoughtful and sensitive soul. Other talented animals under the care of beleaguered ringleader Mack include a baseball-playing chicken, a sassy poodle, a bunny, a seal, a parrot, and an elderly elephant named Stella, plus a stray mutt called Bob.

Ivan befriends the young daughter of the mall cleaner who hands him supplies to draw, and it becomes something he takes an interest in doing, which has Mack seeing dollar signs to save his floundering circus attraction. An adorable baby elephant named Ruby arrives to become the latest attraction, under the tutelage and loving guidance of Stella. The drawing and painting, plus Ruby’s arrival, trigger Ivan’s memories of his childhood of freedom in the wild with his family, and Stella doesn’t want Ruby to live a sheltered life as she has had. Ivan plans to break free and deliver Ruby to a life of freedom.

Featuring Bryan Cranston, Ariana Greenblatt, Ramon Rodriguez, Owain Arthur as live actors. Voice work by Sam Rockwell, Danny DeVito, Brooklynn Prince, Angelina Jolie, Chaka Khan, Ron Funches, Helen Mirren.


Queen & Slim (2019) | Melina Matsoukas



In this potent and socially relevant dramatic thriller, Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) is a jaded criminal defense attorney and Slim a devoutly Christian retail clerk Slim (Daniel Kaluuya). They’re on a Tinder date in a Cleveland diner. On the way to drop off Queen, Slim gets pulled over by a pushy cop (Sturgill Simpson), then things escalate into an intense altercation that results in Slim killing the cop in self-defense. From then on, the two become fugitives, relying on whatever help they can on the down-low to avoid being caught and find their way to Cuba. Lena Waithe scripts from an idea by James Frey. Melina Matsoukas directs.


Bad Boys for Life (2020) | Adil and Bilall



In this third entry in the long-gestating franchise, Mike Lowery (Will Smith) gets gunned down by up-and-coming Miami crime kingpin Armando Armas (Jacob Scipio) who pops a few rounds into the cop at the direction of his ruthless mother Isabel (Kate del Castillo), getting revenge on all of those cops and lawyers who took down her drug-lord husband years before. Due to Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) making a pact with God to hang up the “bad boys” life if Mike pulls through, he refuses to join forces with his longtime partner on exacting revenge on Armando. To help supplement the cover, loose-cannon Mike teams up with the by-the-book ‘AMMO’ division of the force, a group of young guns with high-tech weapons. Of course, when tragedy strikes once again, Marcus gets off of his recliner for one more chance at the guts and glory of the “bad boys.”


Onward (2020) | Dan Scanlon



In this Pixar film, two teenage elf brothers in a town called New Mushroomton go on a quest that requires them to tap into the long-forgotten magic in the world to have one more day with the father who passed away before his youngest was born. The father left behind a gift for them to have when they both reached the age of sixteen, a wizard’s staff and an ultra-rare Phoenix Gem they can use to bring him back to life, but only for one day. The spell is cast, but the process gets interrupted halfway, leaving only dad’s animated legs to get to know. If they want to talk to him or give him so much as a hug, they’ll have to find another Phoenix Gem before the spell runs out. Voice work by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. Directed by Dan Scanlon.


Parasite (2019) | Bong Joon-ho



Song Kang-ho plays Kim Ki-taek, the father in the poor family that has no breadwinners due to the lack of good-paying jobs (the latest gig finds them folding pizza boxes). Poverty has become so pervasive that the family works overtime to find ways to not spend money, hijacking wifi from neighbors and resorting to forgery to gain credentials from schools they couldn’t even dream to be able to afford. They even leave the window open as the bug exterminator draws near to get “free fumigation”, inundating their basement apartment (and boxes meant to carry pizzas) with unhealthy chemicals. Things take a turn for the better when Ki-taek’s son, Ki-woo, gets a temporary job replacing a good friend as the tutor for Da-hye, a teenage daughter of a well-to-do family. In their palatial home, Ki-woo woos the young woman who develops a crush on him, just like she did the prior tutor, and convinces the naive mother that he has the skills necessary for the job. When Ki-woo learns that the young son in the rich family, Da-song, needs an art tutor, he brings in his sister for the job, pretending to be Ki-woo’s old college friend, then his dad, then his mother. But their taste of the high life makes it a place they want to stay for good.


Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) | Jeff Fowler



Sonic the Hedgehog (voiced by Ben Schwartz) flees homeworld due to possessing powers that make him a fugitive carrying a bad full of rings that are portals to new dimensions, is typical road-movie adventure comedy we’ve seen many times in a variety of forms. Sonic ends up teleporting to Earth, specifically the flyspeck town of Green Hills, Montana, where he encounters a sheriff so bored with the town’s lack of crims that he’s taken to having conversations with his donuts, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), who is hoping to not make another day a waste by waiting patiently to nail someone speeding. He gets it in Sonic, who clocks in at a speed that makes Tom question his radar gun. Tom dreams of doing some real crime-fighting, with a goal to move him and Maddie (Tika Sumpter), his ever-supportive veterinarian wife, to San Francisco to join their more active police department. It turns out when Sonic loses all of his other rings through an open portal atop the city’s Transamerica Pyramid, he’ll have to tag along as well.

However, when Sonic’s energy burst ends up causing a massive power outage to the entire Pacific Northwest region of the United States, the government sends in a secret weapon, Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), a mad, megalomaniacal genius with an army of sophisticated flying drones who tenaciously will find a way to exterminate the blue alien thing once and for all. Robotnik chases Tom and his new companion Sonic as they make their way to California.


Birds of Prey (2020) | Cathy Yan (aka “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey”)



The storyline picks up with Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) just following her dastardly dreamboat, The Joker, breaking up with her, with the spinout of their toxic relationship leaving her in shambles. An oft-unhinged club owner named Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), whose alter ego is another powerful villain in Gotham City known as Black Mask has secured a rare diamond worth so much that he could afford to up his protection racket operation to become the biggest crime kingpin in Gotham City. That diamond is stumbled onto and taken by a pickpocket extraordinaire named Cassandra Cain, who ends up swallowing it to avoid having to give it up when frisked by police, making her the most sought after person in the city, especially after Roman places a half-million-dollar bounty on her.

All of this leads to Harley forming a ramshackle team of women with grievances with Black Mask to finally put an end to his murderous ways. That team includes Huntress, aka Helena Bertinelli (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a Punisher-type mafia princess-turned-vigilante who rides a motorcycle and shoots a crossbow – Black Canary, aka Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). Leading the case for the Gotham City Police Department is Renee Montoya, played by Rosie Perez, and newcomer Ella Jay Basco portrays Cassandra Cain. Cathy Yan directs.


Little Women (2019) | Greta Gerwig



As a novel, “Little Women” had been published in two volumes, one in 1868 and the other in 1869, but the volumes are combined in the film, interwoven together in a rearranged timeline that jumps back and forth, spotlighting their hopes and dreams as teenagers, then tempering those ambitions with the grimmer realities of the real world in their adulthood. It spins the yarn of four young sisters with artistic and romantic ambitions – Jo, Amy, Meg, and Beth – living with their mother Marmee while their father is off fighting in the Civil War. Much of this film adaptation by writer-director Greta Gerwig concentrates on Jo’s story regarding her ambition and struggle to become a published writer. Throughout the course of the film, we see her maturation by finding her voice, both as a woman and as a writer. Featuring Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Timothee Chalomet, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, and Meryl Streep.


Uncut Gems (2019)



Set in 2012, Uncut Gems is a part crime drama and part character study, following the dealings of Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), a New York jewelry merchant doing business by appointment in his highly secure private showroom. Not all is peachy-keen in Howard’s life, as his marriage is on the rocks, his mistress has begun to make him feel insecure, his lack of work ethic beginning to sour customers, he just might have colon cancer, and his gambling addiction has gotten him into a lot of debt that he can’t pay back easily. He’s a sucker for get-rich-quick schemes to keep him out of trouble; his latest involved the procuring of a large uncut Ethiopian black opal that may be worth up to a million dollars.

Enter Boston Celtics star, Kevin Garnett, who takes an immediate interest in purchasing the rare jewel upon seeing it, but is denied a sale because Howard already has it set up to auction within a few days. Garnett ends up borrowing the opal in exchange for one of his championship rings and has one of the best games of his career on the basketball court, making it the good-luck charm he has to have at the tail-end of his career. In the meantime, Howard has ended up pawning off Garnett’s ring and used the money to bet big on Garnett’s performance.

Directed by Benny and Joshua Safdie.