TEXAS, USA —
A HAUNTING IN VENICE
It's never too early to have a little Halloween haunt.
"A Haunting in Venice" is the third in a trilogy of Agatha Christie stories brought to the big screen by Kenneth Branaugh. He's back as the crafty Detective Poirot and also directs ... adding new horror elements as he plots 'who dunnit.' Branaugh has gathered an all-star cast of suspects including recent Oscar-winner Michelle Yeoh, "Yellowstone's" Kelly Reilly and Tina Fey in a different role for her.
Also on board, Jamie Dornan and Jude Hill ... from Branaugh's movie "Belfast," once again cast as father and son. Reilly owns a Venetian palacio, the scene of her beloved daughter's death. She arranged a seance to try to get closure, then more people start dropping dead.
This is almost exclusively shot inside the palacio in the darkness of night. That adds to the creepiness, though it also tends to bog things down. I enjoyed this, but I can't say it actually stuck with me. I actually guessed right on the killer. See if you do, too!
(20th Century Studios. Rated PG-13. Running Time 1 hr. 43 mins. In Theaters Only)
Leonardi da Vinci moved to France for the last three years of his life at the invitation of King Francis ... never to return to his Italian homeland again.
It's one of the things you'll learn in the very creative new animated movie, "The Inventor."
Jim Capobianco, Oscar-nominated for writing "Ratatouille," wrote and directed this delightful study. He brought da Vinci's golden years to life in both 2-D and stop motion animation because he thought they best represented the master's work in drawings and inventions. We also learn that French Princess Marguerite was one of his biggest fans and a Renaissance woman herself.
There is a whimsical joy to this film, and when da Vinci does some soul-searching at the end, I dare you not to be moved.
(Blue Fox Entertainment. Rated PG. Running Time 1 hr. 32 mins. In Theaters Only)
A MILLION MILES AWAY
"A Million Miles Away" is the ultimate inspiration.
Based on the autobiography by Jose M. Hernandez, it's the story of the first and only migrant farm worker to become a NASA astronaut! As a child from Mexico, Hernandez picked produce in California, showing promise in math as a student and dreaming of heading to space. Eventually becoming an engineer, it took 30 years and a dozen rejections before NASA accepted him. At age 47, he was part of the shuttle mission that followed the ill-fated 'Challenger.'
The always-appealing Michael Pena plays Hernandez as an adult. This is a story of unwavering determination that will have you asking yourself why you didn't strive harder to realize your own dreams. It's also a beautiful love story about marriage and family. There are some pacing problems, but stringing it all together is the innate goodness of this man... who reached for the stars and got there.
(Prime Video. Rated PG. Running Time 2 hrs. 1 minute. Streaming Only)
Here's another true story I was not aware of! Saul Armendáriz was a real-life luchador in El Paso and the apple of his mother's eye. As a gay man, he decided he wanted to remove the mask, don the makeup and transform into an 'exotico,' playing up his flamboyance. Exoticos traditionally lose their matches to the macho luchadors, but Cassandro wanted to upend that, too. He becomes hugely popular but is still empty inside.
Gael Garcia Bernal plays the performer dubbed the 'Liberace of lucha libre' and does a fantastic job, so charismatic. When his personal partner, also a luchador, refuses to go public with their relationship, he's also heartbreaking. Look for rapper 'Bad Bunny' as his manager's assistant. Another satisfying biopic, this one with flair!
(Prime Video. Rated R. Running Time 1 hr. 47 mins. In Theaters Only for a week, then Streaming)
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