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Quick Reviews: Week Of 04.15.2022
Flash Reviews Of The Upcoming Weekend's Movie Releases
Here are my thoughts on the movie releases from the weekend of 04.15.2022 in alphabetical order of their respective release dates. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I grade films when I review them.
- Plot: The true life story of boxer turned priest, Father Stuart Long, whose journey from self destruction to redemption inspired countless people along the way.
- Review: Any time a movie like this is released with this kind of subject matter, I can’t help but wonder how much its religious context hurts it with what is honestly a very secular minded group in the modern film critic and cinephile circles. I absolutely expect this to be a movie that ends up a bigger hit with general audiences than with those of us watching to review it.
As a God fearing man myself who happens to love films and want to opine on them, but also as one of those who finds faith based films to come off too preachy for their own good more times than not, I was relieved to have never felt this was a film that preached to you. Its certainly more accessible to non-Christian audiences than other films with similar subjects are. It focuses more on the central character’s personal journey rather than what helped him get there. And yet at the same time I never felt like it was trying to shy away from his faith either.
However the film does have other glaring flaws. The ensemble, who I think are trying hard and care for the project, all feel miscast to some degree or aren’t clicking with certain scenes; and the movie’s tone and pacing make it a sloppy story to follow. You can tell this was a bit of a rushed project and that the backers never saw this as anything but a small commercial play. This can be done better with a more polished script and consistent pacing and tone, just look to last December’s American Underdog.
By the time the movie ends you feel like you can appreciate and respect the real Father Stu, but you also feel like as a movie you watched a pretty mediocre product that was better off being sent to streaming rather than being a theatrical exclusive given the realities of the modern box office environment. As much as I respect Mark Wahlberg’s intentions with this and would like to see more modern films focusing on the positive aspects of religion and faith, this is ultimately a forgettable asterisk in his filmography. If you’re super curious about it, I’d say just wait a little while to check this out as a rental.
- Initial Grade: B/C
CHOOSE OR DIE
- Plot: In pursuit of an unclaimed 125,000 dollar prize, a broke college dropout decides to play an obscure eighties survival computer game. But the game curses her and she’s faced with dangerous choices and reality warping challenges. After a series of unexpectedly terrifying moments, she realizes she’s no longer playing for the money but for her life.
- Review: Given some of the names involved in this I was actually taken a bit aback on how cheap this whole production felt, especially for a film about a haunted video game. The writing is pretty lazy too and the entire film felt dreadfully dull with a third act that was more confusing than satisfying. I can see why Netflix dropped this with no marketing at all.
I kept trying to find SOMETHING good about this, but I just kept drawing a blank. Its a cheap fly-by-night straight to Netflix horror film that isn’t scary and does absolutely zero with what, on paper, could have been an interesting concept. I might forget this movie even existed by the end of the year.
- Initial Grade: D-
- Plot: A terminally ill woman opts for a cloning procedure to ease her loss on her friends and family. When she makes a miraculous recovery, her attempts to have her clone decommissioned fail and lead to a court mandated duel to the death.
- Review: Heard about this small sci-fi flick back when everyone but me was checking out the Sundance Film Festival’s slate of movies. It sounded intriguing but somehow lost in translation was the fact this is also a comedy which I think for the most part worked well with the rest of the film’s tone.
I can’t say I’ve been blown away by Karen Gillan’s lead performance vehicles these last few years, not so much because of her but the poor to mediocre products that are the films she’s lead. This felt like a step up especially after the disaster that was The Bubble, and the films’ themes regarding our mortality and leaving something behind will strike a cord with many.
But ultimately it also felt a bit hollow at times, I felt like a lot of the story was going through the motions and ultimately I couldn’t help but think this was better off dropped in some streamer rather than going theatrical. This was okay to decent-ish depending on your taste for sci-fi.
- Initial Grade: C+
FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE
- Plot: In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans of raising pure blood wizards to rule over all non magical beings, Albus Dumbledore enlists his former student Newt Scamander - who agrees to help though he’s unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world.
- Review: This franchise that seems to be contracting into a simple trilogy has had a roller coaster ride in the court of public opinion. Critics and audiences were mixed on the first film, both hated the second, and the third looks to be one of those were critics are mixed but audiences generally like it more if Rotten Tomatoes is anything to go by. In many cinephile circles this is a slate of movies that are “pointless” and lesser than the original Harry Potter series of films its spun off from. A shameless IP product made to make more money.
And while they are undoubtedly made for those reasons, for myself, I’ve always enjoyed these movies more than many out there seem to. So you’ll have to take this review with a grain of salt given I’m in the minority on it. The first film, released in 2016, is legitimately one of my favorites from that year; and the second was flawed and yet enjoyable enough to get a B+ from me. I’m happy to say the series ends on a proper note with many admittedly sloppy plot holes dealt with in this third one.
The beasts are featured more prominently in this than the last film and one is central to the plot. Mads Mikkelsen takes over the part of Grindelwald and makes it his own, not bothering to try and emulate how Depp had done the character in the past. Jude Law also stood out as we get to know Dumbledore more than we ever had before. The protagonists are lovable enough, Newt included, but the heart of the story which is the Jacob and Queenie arc is handled wonderfully here with a satisfying conclusion.
That said its not without its faults even for a defender of the franchise spinoff like me. It is a bit overlong, it takes a little too much time to set things up, and its certainly feels like a slower paced film than any from the “Wizarding World” series before it. Not to mention one central character to the last two films is barely used in this finale leaving me to wonder what the behind the scenes story is on that matter.
Overall, I don’t think this movie is going to change minds on the these three films. Either you see them as a failed pointless IP marketing ploy or you’re among those of us who enjoyed them for the popcorn films they were. I’m pretty sure this will be the last of these but if a miracle happens and we get a fourth one, many of you will groan - but I won’t.
- Initial Grade: B+