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Quick Reviews: Week Of 04.29.2022
Flash Reviews Of The Upcoming Weekend's Movie Releases
Here are my thoughts on the movie releases from the weekend of 04.29.2022 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.
365 DAYS: THIS DAY
- Plot: Laura and Massimo are back and hotter than ever. But the reunited couple’s new beginning is complicated by Massimo’s family ties, and a mysterious man who enters Laura’s life to win her heart and trust - at any cost.
- Review: Lets get the elephant out of the room first. Most of us, I included, loathed 2020’s 365 Days. In fact that film is one of the rare movies to have earned the dreaded F grade from me. A film based on Fifty Shades fan fiction in which a man KIDNAPS a woman, sleeps with other women IN FRONT OF HER, and then basically MENTALLY TORTURES her into becoming his new girlfriend.
Unfortunately a sequel was expected as the source material is a whole series, and I came into this follow-up at least hoping that the fact the whole “woman begging to be let go by her captor until she starts sleeping with him” part of the first film would no longer be factor in the story would at least somewhat help elevate this sequel. Kind of like when you learn of a friend meeting someone romantically in a very controversial fashion or setting but come to get over it the longer that relationship lasts and you realize they’re happy with one another.
Nope. Even with our lead protagonist, Laura, now married to her former captor, Massimo, the film still seems to be unable to put together a cohesive plot of any kind and instead consistently keeps returning to tawdry scenes that at one point had me wondering if this is more of a softcore porno flick than a proper film. The motivations continue to be laughable between the characters, the dialogue makes me cringe almost every time, and the relationship oozes disgust more than sexy even after it became more legit in this new arc of this “romance” (I feel like I need to go take a shower after labeling this that).
This film is just as awful and insulting to watch as the previous one was. These movies make the Fifty Shades films look like masterpieces in comparison. I’m no prude and I’m a hopeless romantic, but these are without a doubt among the worst movies ever made. And the worst part? I believe we have one more of these left to go! Damn it Netflix!
- Initial Grade: F
- Plot: Harry Haft is a boxer who fought fellow prisoners in the concentration camps to survive. Haunted by the memories and his guilt, he attempts to use high profile fights against boxing legends like Rocky Marciano as a way to find his first love again.
- Review: This bio-pic initially came out at some film festivals last year and I kept hearing good but not great word of mouth for it. HBO Films picked it up and released it on their network and on HBO Max this week giving me an opportunity to finally see this one for myself.
One thing I was not anticipating were the names attached to this. I knew this was directed by accomplished director, Barry Levinson. I had heard about Ben Foster’s lead role and the praise he earned for his performance - which I am in complete agreement with others on. But it somehow completely bypass me that great actors and actresses like Vicky Krieps, Peter Sarsgaard, John Leguizamo, and Danny DeVito all show up here in supporting roles with varying importance to the story.
And their presence actually kind of shows off the major flaw that I found with the film. It feel like it was made for TV even though it wasn’t shot with that kind of audience in mind; and HBO acquiring it as a mainly network release makes all the more sense given that. I couldn’t help but be reminded of when I was a kid and HBO had these sort of bio-pics as original programming. I’ll also note there are a lot of forced accents on here from the American actors and at times it was distracting even though I understood they needed to drive home the fact these are first generation immigrants.
But the story of Haft elevates the entire thing (And again with help from a pretty damn good performance from Foster). I wasn’t much aware of this real-life figure so the movie was able to keep my attention throughout because of my curiosity. Furthermore Gant’s struggle to overcome demons as a Holocaust survivor and the emotional battle to have a better life for himself is something many viewers will find themselves entranced by. And the third act surprises us by showing us the aftermath after Gant’s big fight all leading to an emotional climax in which the man in a way finally finds some peace albeit bittersweet.
It may not be the flashiest film, but its certainly worth a watch if you’re a history buff or just happen to be intrigued by Gant’s story. Spoiler alert, its easily my pick for the best new film I saw this week.
- Initial Grade: B/C
- Plot: When an aspiring young artist is forced to join her high school track team, she uses it as an opportunity to pursue the girl she’s been harboring a long-time crush on. But she soon finds herself falling for an unexpected teammate, and discovers what real love feels like.
- Review: Take my review of this teen driven coming of age film with a grain of salt as I am just but a boring straight guy. How this plays with those of the queer community is infinitely more important than how I experienced this.
And how I felt about this movie was pretty much how I expect to feel about every movie about this kind of subject that showed up on a streamer. Its not something I’m over the moon about, but its not something I loathe either. Its just there. A harmless, standard, predictable, first love movie for teens.
Obviously the biggest difference from this one and other movies like this is that we get to see some queer representation where as previous films of this nature were dominated by straight couples. And I will say watching this that I never felt the acting was awful and as formulaic as it was the script didn’t annoy me either.
But even with that representation I couldn’t help but see this as just another one of these teen films that will quite frankly likely be forgotten by most of its viewers before the end of the year. Granted as a romantic I did enjoy watching our main protagonist Paige chase her crush all the while as another opportunity for romance is right under her nose, but I’d say that about other films like this.
However I once again must remind you dear reader that I am but another straight guy. This may play much better to someone who’s been begging to see themselves in a film like this, especially queer teens who are growing up in an age where the fact they simply exist is under attack by political leaders more busy fighting cultural changes than trying to figure out how to lessen the impact of inflation. And this script was supposedly based on real life experiences by the writers, Kirsten King and Casey Rackham.
It was kind of like any other teen romance flick to me, but perhaps it’ll mean so much more to a queer teen who wanted to see themselves on screen.
- Initial Grade: B/C
- Plot: Alex, an assassin for hire, finds that he’s become a target after he refuses to complete a job for a dangerous criminal organization. With the crime syndicate and the FBI in hot pursuit, Alex has the skills to stay ahead, except for one thing - he is struggling with severe memory loss, affecting his every move. Alex must question his every action, and whom he can ultimately trust.
- Review: I’ll give Memory this - it ain’t as god-awful as Neeson’s other action flick Blacklight from earlier in the year. But that doesn’t excuse it from not being very good.
As I stated in my review for that disastrous film from back in February, I’ve given these subgenre of “Neeson hunts down bad guys” films some passes. In fact just last year I gave C+ grades to two films of his that weren’t well reviewed. But these movies have gone from formulaic and predictable to boring slogs to get through.
God bless Monica Bellucci and Guy Pearce for showing up in this and trying to elevate it somewhat, but they can only do so much with this mediocre material. An action movie should be fun, even if its just dumb fun, or have sequences that thrill and excite the audiences. Rehashing different versions of Neeson’s current career as “the Taken guy” just makes anything he’s in of late stale.
I’m going to save you from the millionth joke about this movie’s title and how I’ll forget about it by the end of the year but for the sake of all of us who know he can do better, someone tell Neeson to stop making these and Hollywood needs to stop allowing it. Don’t see this at your local theatre, just wait until it shows on a streamer and put it on for background noise. Just because its better than Blacklight doesn’t mean it should get your money.
- Initial Grade: C-