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Quick Reviews: Week Of 05.06.2022
Flash Reviews Of The New Weekend's Movie Releases
Here are my thoughts on the movie releases from the weekend of 05.06.2022 in alphabetical order of their respective release dates. Plus, I caught up on two overseas films. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I grade films when I review them.
ALONG FOR THE RIDE
- Plot: The summer before college, Auden meets the mysterious Eli - a fellow insomniac. While the seaside town of Colby sleeps, the two embark on a nightly quest to help Auden experience the fun and carefree teen life she never knew she wanted.
- Review: Based off the young adult novel from celebrated YA novelist Sarah Dessen, Along For The Ride ended up being a less painful experience to get through than I anticipated but unfortunately certain flaws kept me from outright liking it too.
As those who have read my previous writings on the matter or have followed me on social media know, I’m not the biggest fan of the subgenre that are YA adaptations. Usually giving me very bland dialogue and over the top melodrama that feels like its trying too hard to get an emotional reaction from me that isn’t there. So I came into this ready to be underwhelmed.
The good news is that there was more to like here than I anticipated. While that over the top melodrama was sprinkled here or there, the character writing was much stronger than typical for these sort of films with our two leads played by Emma Pasarow and Belmont Cameli having the most interesting character arcs of the whole film. It also (spoiler alert!) doesn’t go for the typical dramatically tragic ending this subgenre always goes for but instead allows the story to have a finish that neither does that or tries to shove in a forced “they all lived happily ever after” vibe between the romantic interests. It leaves things in a pretty realistic and satisfying conclusion if anything.
Unfortunately that doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t falter in other ways either. Side characters are introduced and even randomly brought in and out of the plot. Appearances from Andie MacDowell and Kate Bosworth being the highlights. However because the film is focusing centrally on our two leads and their budding relationship much more so than the supporting ensemble’s character arcs, the extra stuff feels forced, messing with the pacing of the film at times. There were more than a few times I felt like I was missing certain pieces to making their moments feel more earned. I have to think the source material balanced that out better.
I can see teens enjoying this as a one and done watch on Netflix, and again there are some glimmers of a better movie in this. But overall I found this to be more mediocre to okay than anything that’s going to give me more reason to give this subgenre a chance. This is where it belongs on Netflix for any super fans of the book or if you’re just looking to have something on in the background that you won’t hate but you won’t remember watching by year’s end either.
- Initial Grade: B/C
DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS
- Plot: Doctor Strange, with the help of mystical allies both old and new, traverses the mind bending and dangerous alternate realities of the Multiverse to confront a mysterious new adversary.
- Review: When we’ve reached that point where we’re getting 3-4 MCU films a year, one needs to be careful as to whether to over-react to placing every one of these movies on a top tier list among so many movies from one cinematic universe, or to succumb to cynicism and put down every film as just one cog in a multi-billion dollar machine. For me Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness sort of straddles the line between both type of reactions - and thus why I think you’ve seen this be the first MCU sequel to get a mixed response since Iron Man 3 and Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
First lets get all the good things out of the way. No franchise out there better creates fun, popcorn flicks meant to be seen with an audience than the Marvel Cinematic Universe and this movie is no different in delivering laughs, thrilling fight scenes, and gasps from major reveals and fan-friendly cameos. Director Sam Raimi’s direction certainly shows and Danny Elfman’s score is perfect for the tone of the film. Raimi’s vision to mix the subgenre of superhero movies with his trademark campy horror especially shines through in the climatic scene of the movie. I’ve seen some refer this to being a horror film that isn’t for younger kids but personally I would say its fine for the younger ones as the horror is more aesthetic than actual scares.
As for what might make some mixed on this one, Wanda’s character arc will be a major decision point on how one feels about this newest outing form Marvel. As someone who has no time to watch the Disney Plus MCU shows, I felt as if I was missing pieces to her character arc so I was able to more easily go with the drastic turn they took with her but others might understandably not. There’s also been complaints in regard to a new character, America Chavez, and from what I’ve gathered a lot of what made her popular in the comics is stripped off from her film adaptation. I can’t comment myself as I literally knew nothing about the character going into this, so those who are much more aware of her might have gripes.
The negatives for me is that the script feels much more rushed than I expect from an MCU flick, its bogged down in a lot of exposition and stops at certain points for fun cameos but cameos that feel like they’re just there for fan service much more so than having meaning to the story like Spider-Man: No Way Home offered. Also the multiverse concepts this plays around with is incredibly underwhelming compared to what we just got from the earlier multiverse film from this year, Everything Everywhere All At Once. Finally when it was all said and done and the film’s runtime was up, I came out of my screening feeling like this was more of a filler story than not which unfortunately comes with the territory when it comes to the most popular movie franchise in the world these days.
Overall there was a lot I enjoyed about the new Doctor Strange, but there were also things I can see others being mixed on, and things that I myself felt underwhelmed by. This is worth the trip to the local theatre in my opinion, but I would certainly place this as low to mid tier MCU than anything that will have a shot to make my Best of the Year list come December. Go and enjoy the latest that Marvel has to offer, but don’t be surprised if “the madness” doesn’t always live up to the hype.
- Initial Grade: B-
- Plot: Great Dane Marmaduke epitomizes the overgrown lapdog, with an irascible streak and a penchant for mischief that is tempered with a deep sense of love and responsibility for his human family, the Winslows.
- Review: Once again we get an attempt at a movie on the famous Great Dane, this time in animated form with such names as Pete Davidson (as the namesake of the film himself) and J.K Simmons attached. This film was reportedly tossed around in some post-production hell for some time before it landed a home as a straight to Netflix release.
I have to admit the movie got a couple chuckles from me and I found myself amused more than once by the supporting cast of characters as they interacted and reacted to Marmaduke’s escapades. I also found the voice work to be commendable and honestly Davidson impressed me with his; and I got the sense Simmons was having some fun with his as the rival dog Marmaduke competes with at a competition.
However the movie can’t help but lean into beyond childish humor at times, even resorting to bathroom and fart jokes in one key story beat mid-way through the film. There’s also some questionable and lazy writing of cultural representation in the final act. The animation is also incredibly bare bones and at times I wondered how much was this a proper movie and how much was it an audition for a would be TV series.
This could have been much worse than it is, but lazy writing and animation still weight it down below an outright recommendable level to me. If anything, this is yet another one of those forgettable movies you put on for the kids to keep them busy but that they themselves won’t be growing up with.
- Initial Grade: C+
- Plot: In an abandoned Tokyo overrun by bubbles and gravitational abnormalities, one gifted young man has a fateful meeting with a mysterious girl.
- Review: After the year began with an anime film of the quality of Belle, I was looking forward to seeing what the next major anime flick that was getting some buzz would have to offer. I got that chance when I caught up with this movie which actually releases last week.
Premiering at the Berlin Film Festival, Bubble is a post-apocalyptic tale that also stands as a sort of re-telling of The Little Mermaid. It has absolutely stunning animation that is pure eye candy and the score includes some beautiful music composition. There are but a few action sequences, but those that exist are a thrill to watch unfold.
Unfortunately for me the entire story felt like a chore to get through regardless of all these positives. Part of it might be the fact that I confess to having very little appetite for stories of any kind being set in a post-apocalyptic world. Another might be the fact that all the characters in this just felt very dull, with our lead protagonist brooding in a corner for too long to get to know him and the mysterious girl that enters his life just feels like a standard copy of the archetype that we‘ve seen in other anime shows and movies. The supporting ensemble of characters doesn’t help much either as they seem to be there to react to what the leads are doing and to just spout exposition (and boy does this movie over-do it on the exposition, to the point it all becomes a garbled mess by the end).
There’s a lot of great things in this movie in terms of animation, scoring, and just overall presentation; but all that can only elevate bland story with bland characters so much. This is an extremely soft average movie at best and easily the weakest of the new recent anime films I’ve seen over the last few years.
- Initial Grade: C+
- Plot: A fictional history of two legendary revolutionaries’ journey away from home before they began fighting for their country in the 1920s.
- Review: Rise. Roar. Revolt. These three words create the title to an Indian cinematic blockbuster that within a month plus of its release has become a bit of a global phenomenon - and after seeing it for myself I’d say for good reason.
I caught up with this late on Friday afternoon and into the evening and even with the movie having been out for over a month, a smaller screening, and a limited audience, the reception this film got as it played was like that on a opening night for a new MCU flick. There was one woman at my screening who was losing her mind and just having a complete blast with this.
While it does over-indulge a bit here or there, RRR delivers a little bit of everything Indian cinema has to offer. There’s a little bit of romance, there’s amazing action scenes that will blow you away featuring everything from mid-air shooting to wild animals striking at heroes and foes alike, there’s an incredible dance sequence, and the patriotic pride this movie showcases for its mother country oozes from its pores through its entire three hour runtime. But the main highlight is the friendship and brotherhood that develops through highs and low between our two main leads, fictionalized versions of Indian real life heroes played excellently and without anything held back by N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan.
This is the kind of movie that can inspire other cinephiles, and I’d even dare say some casual movie go-ers, to seek out other films from the country’s century plus catalog. Its a long epic, intermission included and all, that will take you on an absolute ride and stands out as one of, if not the best, international cinema has to offer in 2022.
- Initial Grade: A-